When I was a vocal performance major at Idaho State University, I had a vocal scholarship. Unfortunately, my voice professor was very inappropriate with me.
He sexually harassed me through several semesters. It got so bad that I felt like I was going to have a breakdown. I eventually left the university and my scholarship rather than tolerate anymore touching and harassment by him.
He made comments about how my body looked and that he was “No Spring Chicken, but if he was he would be all over me.” He commented that some days my stomach was bigger than other days.
He watched me in public and told me, “Don’t hold hands with your dates and definitely don’t kiss them because you will get sick and not be able to sing”–as if he owned me and could dictate my behavior. (Stalker behavior)
He was very explicit. One day he said to me, ”I thought I should let you know I’ve had a vasectomy. So if you want to……(you know)…we’ll you don’t to worry, you won’t get pregnant” And there it was. He was trying to seduce me! He was married!, and in his late 40’s, and I was 19!
This abuse of power, through his age and position, are classic predatory behaviors.
He was in control of whether or not I had enough money to pay for my college. I was on a scholarship that he could pull away if I didn’t cooperate.
Then it got worse, he started finding creative ways to touch me sexually.
He began showing me various “breathing exercises to strengthen my breath capacity and make me a better singer”.
One day in my private voice lesson, (They were always private) he said, “I want you to really focus here and breathe from here”, and he touched my breasts! I thought, nobody breathes with their boobs, and I started getting really scared to be alone with him. I moved his hands but I was pretty shocked.
I talked to my mom about it and she said, “He’s in charge of your scholarship, and I’m not going to pay for college! So don’t cause a problem and lose your scholarship!” OK. There would be no parental support, emotionally or financially if I just said no.
Things were getting progressively worse and one day when I went in for my private voice lesson he said,“ Today I’m going to teach you a new exercise. I need you to lay on the floor.” I immediately remembered the theme of our last “breathing exercise.”
Oh, I don’t think so. But he insisted, “I’m going to teach you a new resistance exercise.” I thought, Like hell you are, and I wouldn’t lay down.
So he explains, “It’s going to strengthen your diaphragm.” Now I thought, exactly what is he talking about? He says “I’m going to have you lay on the floor and I’m going to push this heavy dictionary into your diaphragm, and you are going to push back with your diaphragm and the resistance will strengthen the muscles– and help you be a better singer!”
And I was having that bad feeling… like I always get just before I get assaulted.
And then I hear my mom’s voice in my head saying, “Don’t do do anything to lose your scholarship! So I laid on the floor…
He is immediately on top of me. He jumps on my hips and is grinding into me and pushing more than the dictionary into me!
And I’m really scared. And he’s pushing and I’m resisting …And then…
He pushed too hard! And I passed gas! I was mortified. But that ruined everything for him. His little fantasy went awry. The mood was spoiled and he got off of me. But he didn’t get to “get off on me” that day.
Luckily I was saved by a body function. Even though I was terribly embarrased, I shudder to think what he would have done without that involuntary action.
I made sure I was never alone with him after that. I brought a friend into every lesson I had with him after that.
I never reported it because my mother told me not to and I was more afraid of my mother than I was of my professor.
Shortly after that I left the University so I didn’t have to deal with him anymore. In fact, I left the state.
After I left I learned he had been dismissed from the University also. It seems I was not his only victim.
Take Away Points:
Predators go where they have an imbalance of power and you are likely to submit to their behavior.
Don’t feel trapped believing that continuing in an abusive situation is really your only, or your best option. You deserve more, but you can’t get more until you make a change!
Some people suggest that not following the “fantasy script” of your attacker can save you from assault. You can vomit, urinate or defecate in an attempted rape. It might happen involuntarily because fear dumps chemicals into your body that may cause these reactions. It happened for me organically.
Learn Basic Self-Defense skills including setting boundaries with your voice and your body!
If you are being sexually harassed, talk to someone who will support you and take you seriously. If the first or even second person doesn’t support you, keep talking until you find someone who will.
My harassment incident happened before Anita Hill testified before the Senate about her experience with sexual harassment in the workplace, bringing sexual harassment more into public awareness. Even at the hearings she was challenged and treated as if her claims were untrue– but her voice made a difference and laws were passed to help stop sexual harassment.
Now more than ever before people-both men and women, are coming forward to bring abusers into accountability. Now is a good time to speak your truth.
Be prepared for the possibility that your perpetrator may never face appropriate consequences for what they did to destroy your trust, create fear, and make your life far more difficult.
Sometimes the best you will get is to pick yourself up and move out of the situation.
Use your own tenacity and willpower to create a better life for yourself.