My husband’s hometown, a small city in western Pennsylvania, is currently undergoing its own Harvey Weinstein moment, as decades of sexual abuse by a teacher has finally been let out into the open. Every year, the teacher would select his “favorite” student and prep them for college. That preparation involved sexual abuse. This man, using his position of power, compelled students into his range of molestation with manipulation. That manipulation was so effective it took decades for this teacher’s misdeeds to come out, to the point that he was even elected to the school board.
It is quite obvious who his victims were, but I didn’t realize there was another set of victims to add. On top of the trauma faced by these kids who were teenagers being exploited by a devious man was a litany of people who were somehow embroiled in it but also not.
My husband was one of those students who the teacher selected, but because my spouse was openly gay at school and proudly wears some feminine mannerisms (and clothes, to be quite honest), the teacher absolutely ran from him when he figured out there was no putting the jack back in the box. The teacher was terrified of having the gay label attached to him, and so overnight he rejected my husband and began to bully him in front of his classmates, directly yet subtly pointing to his homosexuality, using it as a weapon to show his distaste. Not only did he abandon my husband and try to tank his entry into college, he sunk his claws into another child that year, who is still so fucked up he has chosen to live a celibate life in a country very far away.
My husband wasn’t alone. Turns out there were multiple children rejected by the teacher, and they knew what he was all about. And here, 20 years later, sit all of these people who were unable to prove what he was trying to do to them, and who shed tears because they blame themselves for what happened to others, because they chose not to speak up.
Anyone who has seen what happens when sexual harassment, assault and trauma victims come forward cannot surely blame children for not doing the same. This teacher was an institution in my husband’s hometown. To accuse him of molesting children with no proof wasn’t even an option.
And yet here these adults sit wracked with guilt from their childhoods for something that was no fault of their own. They are excess victims in the slew of sexual assault that beleaguers this nation. Al Franken’s legislative and campaign staff will pay the price for his sexual misconduct.
People who work for the Weinstein empire will lose out because Weinstein is, quite rightly, poisonous. Charlie Rose ended careers. Louis CK ended careers. And the careers that ended are the children and woman who couldn’t be forced into long-term sexual assault, like Gretchen Carlson by the thankfully passed Roger Ailes.
Those who use their power to abuse others into sexual victimhood have multiple categories of victims. They have trashed the lives of people directly and indirectly. They have robbed people of dignity, their self-worth and in many cases their livelihoods and their jobs.
It finally took a Facebook post by a family man during #MeToo, which ended with the name of the teacher and “you will steal from me no more.” What these types of men did was theft. And their hordes of victims can never be compensated.