That was over 40 years ago.
It has taken me decades to fully process that experience, and understanding came incrementally.
My incident isn't remotely on the scale of what was endured by James Safechuck and Wade Robson as told in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland. They were children and I was a very young adult. Their abuse lasted years. Mine maybe 10-15 minutes.
But to those critics who are dubious about how long it took for these victims to speak up, I would say this:
- You cannot imagine, or maybe you've forgotten how sheltered we were before the Internet and social media. At 18, I was probably more naive than a ten year old is today. I had not been schooled in "bad touch" as today's children are in elementary school. And if I'd been asked, would have pictured perpetrators as obviously evil strangers. Most of the topics discussed openly today - cancer, incest, rape, suicide, etc. - were taboo in the seventies and even beyond.
- Thus when we the naive were victimized by a charming, admired, trusted perpetrator, we were shocked and confused. We had a sense of disbelief. "Did this just happen?", we asked ourselves. Maybe we misinterpreted the situation?
- It took me a longtime to understand that being heroic or amazing in one context doesn't mean you can't be profoundly flawed and sick in another. Coming to that realization is devastating.
- It took the recent "Me Too" movement for me to label what happened to me "sexual assault." I had never thought about it before in that way.
- It took this documentary for me to fully realize the psychology of "grooming" targets.
- We are handicapped by the fact that incidents are seared in our memories from when we were very young. It takes time, therapy, having children and/or education to step out of your young mind and revisit what happened from the perspective of a sophisticated adult.