Why didn't I come forward?

In the empty, upper hallway of my high school, my best friend and I stood at our lockers gathering up our belongings. We had just finished our last exam and we were looking forward to summer holidays.

A teacher came out of his classroom and asked to speak with me privately. My girlfriend said she would wait for me. I’ll never forget her words when I exited his classroom. She said, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” I forced a smile, but said nothing. Although we had been friends since Grade 3, I couldn’t explain what had just transpired.

I didn’t have the life experience, a context, a framework by which I could handle the situation. And who would believe me, anyway? He was a rising star basketball coach, a loved-by-alI teacher. I, on the other hand, was a somewhat typical 15-year-old year old. I had braces and hadn’t yet had a long-term boyfriend. But, I was also being raised by a single mother, I didn’t have any siblings, and I sought attention and acceptance.

I don’t remember if my friend said, or asked me anything else; I just remember wanting to get out of the hallway, out of the school, and breathe in some air from outside.  But, it wasn’t just that day in June of 1983 that was traumatic; the teacher, my basketball coach, made my life hell the following school year.

It was supposed to be a wonderful graduation year, full of possibilities including a basketball scholarship. However, once he realized that his advances were not being reciprocated, he screamed at me in practices, made me run more lines than other players and limited my playing time. Eventually, I quit the team. I had never before quit anything.

I was told by teammates that he said I was a coward and disrespectful. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but most of all, I couldn’t believe that other teachers were not asking questions. I was screaming inside my head to all the adults around me, “Why would a poor kid blow a basketball scholarship? Why would I, as high school president, quit, when I am all for commitment and dedication to the school? Is it all about winning?”

I wanted to come forward, but I can understand why so many people do not. I can understand why some come forward years, or decades later. I empathize deeply with Theo Fleury and Dr. Blasey Ford. I told my husband the full story when I was 30. I told my girlfriend, the one with me that day, when I was 47. A couple of years ago, at 50, I wrote to my then principal of my high school and life mentor. I divulged the ugly behaviour of the coach, and I also stated that I knew of at least one other woman, now in her 40s, who was subjected to the same disgusting treatment as a teenager and basketball player.  I have not yet heard back.


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