Editor’s note: This letter was published anonymously to protect the identity of the survivor and the attacker, who was convicted for similar crimes outside the Bonney Lake/Plateau community.
I have wrestled with my feelings regarding the Brett Kavanaugh, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and other public sexual assault cases in the news. Decades before the #MeToo culture I had the displeasure of experiencing the pre-internet #YouMustBeALiar culture in the early 1990s.
My high school coach, someone who was adored and held in the highest regards attacked me and other students. My belief that adults were there to protect me was shattered. During this time, I had to question my own sanity. Is this really happening? Am I dreaming? How can someone be a monster and be well respected all at the same time? It can happen and it can mess with your psyche.
We told! We were also shamed and treated as teenage girls with a nefarious agenda. We walked into the school office and expected to be heard. No one, including the principal took us seriously and it was promptly swept under the rug. We were branded liars.
This coach was allowed continued access to children by the school district and his abuse continued for years! Knowing he was still there, doing the same stuff with no way to stop it, was the introduction of anxiety in my life.
Walking the halls of my high school after this was a blur. I felt dead inside and couldn’t wait to graduate. Entering the school gymnasium after it happened would quickly induce nausea and panic. PTSD is a badge no one likes to wear. It’s not “cool,” it’s devastating. My high school coach stole my childhood and the others, now women, would likely say the same.
What I know now after processing this for well over 20 years is that humans are not all good or all bad. This is not a black and white thing, even though most of us want or believe it to be.
There is an uncomfortable area we all need to acknowledge. People are messy and complicated.
I once thought my coach was a smart, funny and wonderful human who was a champion for kids… until that day. He was a husband, father, teacher, coach and now my attacker. How do I process and file away the goodness I saw and experienced before the incident? Do we throw out the baby with the bathwater? I still wrestle with my own brain when I think about that.
I understand why some victims don’t tell. If you’re violated by someone who’s the community “saint,” the majority of the public will simply not allow themselves to believe the person could be capable of such a heinous offense. They just don’t want to believe people are broken and capable of harm, despite an overwhelming lifetime of goodness.
I don’t know who did what in these very public cases but what I do know for certain is one thing: the truth of what happened is known by the parties involve. The rest of us will never truly know.