“Sexual Abuse Cost Me My Love Of Music”

May 23, 2013

The psychological trauma from sexual abuse is usually so profound that it takes victims years before they are able to talk about it and start healing. It took the writer of this story more than 30 years before she was able to confront what her music teacher—who she had thought was wonderful—did to her. The sexual abuse robbed her of her childhood and her love for music. At this point in time, the writer prefers to remain anonymous.

Photo credit: MITO Settembre Musica at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mitosettembremusica/2839965900/

I remember the first time I met my music teacher. I had been fascinated by music and used to watch my dad ‘conduct’ orchestras on TV with his headphones on. It all seemed so magical and I wanted very much to be part of that magic.

I was about eight or nine when my mother first brought me to meet my teacher. He played a tune, smiled at me and told me that I would be able to play that same tune by the end of the lesson. My face shone with excitement. I was completely drawn in. This man was my hero. He would make my dream come true.

Things went well until I was about 12. I remember the first time it happened. My teacher came up behind me and grabbed my breasts as I was sitting at a table in his studio working on music theory. I was speechless with shock and horror. I think this happened quite a few times, because I clearly remember sitting at that table for subsequent lessons and dreading the sound of his footsteps.

Then the three worst incidents happened. They took place three weeks in a row. The first week he pushed me against the wall, groped me all over, grabbed at my breasts and held my face while trying to kiss me. He kept pressing himself against me. Afterwards he would say that this was our little secret and there was no need to tell anyone. He was always so gentle and kind afterwards and would be full of praise for my playing.

The second week I stopped him and told him I was afraid. He immediately stopped and again was very gentle and told me not to be afraid and again said that this was our little secret.

The third and final occasion is the most difficult one to recall. Although I cannot remember the third incident, I can remember its aftermath. That day I had a terrible row with my mother at the lunch table, which ended with her banging her hands on the table in anger and frustration. I remember laughing at her, which only infuriated her more, and I remember thinking that if only she knew what had just happened, she would know that there was nothing ever that she could say or do that could ever hurt me as much as I was hurt at that moment. There was nothing in the world that could ever be as bad, and so I could never be hurt by anyone ever again. More than that, the music in my soul was utterly destroyed.

Photo credit: John Liu at http://www.flickr.com/photos/8047705@N02/5377303476/

My life started to fall apart. I gave up all extra-curricular activities—competitive swimming, diving and ballet, which I loved. I refused to go to any of them, and told my mother that I had to concentrate on my studies. I really don’t remember much of my teenage years after that.

Eventually, the sexual abuse got shoved into the darkest recesses of my mind. My family emigrated and I was able to start a new life. I married a much older man, a good man, but definitely a father figure for me.

By any account, the next couple of decades were wonderful but my life was slowly unravelling, and I knew that I had to get to the bottom of it. It took a while for me to realise that the sexual abuse I had experienced was at the heart of what was troubling me.

I had purposely stayed away from Malaysia for almost 30 years when I decided to go back five years ago. At the time, my marriage was in trouble, I had suddenly lost a lot of weight and I was struggling to work things out. I decided one day that I would track down my former teacher and tell him what he had done to me.

I was advised to put all the things I wanted to say to my former teacher in a letter and to read this out to him. In the letter:

  • I made it clear that on at least three occasions he sexually abused me when I was a child of 12.
  • I told him that it had cost me my love of music for 30 years.
  • I told him that he didn’t have to say anything, and he should just listen to what I have to say.

I brought two trusted friends along with me to the meeting. A deathly calm settled over me. I thought that this was how women must feel as they go to their execution knowing full well they have done nothing wrong.

My teacher was friendly when he arrived, saying, “Ah, yes! I remember you.” I asked him to sit down and started to shake as I read the letter out to him. His face turned red and angry and I thought he was going to hit me. He grabbed the letter, stuffed it in his pocket and walked away. He came back later and made a scene as my friends and I were having tea. I held on to my friend’s arm as he shouted at me while my other friend led him away.

Well, that certainly was a life-changing event. It gave me the confidence to know I could tackle anything, and it took away the fear that had stayed with me for over 30 years. I have since divorced, and I had the strength to make sure that my husband and I remain friends, no matter how difficult it was.

I also found the courage to tell my sons about the sexual abuse, and to believe that their love for me would not waver. While I was not able to face making music of any sort for three decades, I am now enjoying music once more, having started lessons again a few years back.

I have made my peace with the past and although there is the occasional sad day, I now feel ‘whole’ and have the courage to pursue deep friendships. I look forward to the future and all that it has to offer.



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