How I Learned To Play The Piano #metoo

“There are about forty cats and dogs on my property.  One cat can open doors. All those animals see us going in and out of doors every day but only one animal learned how to do it. He jumps up on the door handle and it pushes down. The door opens. He walks through.  If I didn’t see one cat open doors, I would never know that a cat could do that.”    Al Wei Wei“

When I was ten years old I was molested by my piano teacher. I did not know how to handle it or how to stop it. I knew that I did not want to talk about it to anyone. In my ten-year old wisdom, I decided that I could handle it for five months until the end of year concert at Carnegie Hall. Everyone knew that I wanted to play there. I would “choose” in the summer to stop taking piano lessons. If I quit before, there would be too many questions. Eighty per cent of childhood sexual abuse happens from family members or someone you know. It is usually not done in a scary way.

I remember this day. After the concert I thought – I did it.  This is finally over and no one knows anything. My mother walked into the bedroom and said, “Everyone was so good at the recital. Next year I will start your brother and sister with piano lessons.” I blurted out, ”But you will go with them. You shouldn’t let them go alone.” My mother thought that was a weird response. I wouldn’t explain and she wouldn’t stop asking. Several hours later, I put my face under the covers and told her.

Everything happened really fast after that. My father went to his house to kill him and my mother took me to the police station. That was so much worse than being molested. I remember lying on a cold metal table having my first physical exam with a lot of people and police in the room. I was staring at the ceiling with the exposed light bulb and ugly green paint, pretending to crawl out of my skin and be anywhere else.

My father had walked into a large family dinner with his accusation and the piano teacher sued us for slander. My parents counter sued. Now the story that I did not want to tell even once, got repeated many, many times to lawyers. This was not going away so quickly.  If you were wondering why women don’t talk, telling was definitely much worse than not telling.

The lawsuit kept getting postponed. The story was repeated and practiced every time we got a new court date. I kept thinking that if I had not told, it would have been buried in the dark somewhere and not following me around for years. A kid can only carry so much before it starts to unravel. I was lucky in the way that my family stood behind me and never doubted me for a second  – even though the neighborhood turned against me for a while.  He was the best piano teacher the area. I wasn’t the only one it happened to. I could see it in the eyes of kids who had heard the story. I have found that victims can recognize each other. But no one else was talking-especially after they saw the reactions. Predators pick their victims carefully. I had taken piano lessons for two and a half years before it happened. They know who lacks confidence and who won’t tell. The people who it didn’t happen to never understand that.

I was fourteen years old when I finally went to court. He was found guilty and his punishment was that he had to stop giving piano lessons. Sexual abuse was not even a category for children until 1984. He was eighty years old and died a year later.

I was not the same person I was before. I had learned at ten years old that anything can happen when you are in a room alone with a man.The dark side had taught me the signs to watch out for.

Men seem to be much more shocked than women about all these current sexual accusations. It is called living in the world while female. Every woman I know has sexual harassment stories.  I have these stories but I have learned not to be the victim ever again.

As a child, you feel that the best way to survive something is to do nothing. As a woman up until now, it has been the same. Telling your stories, makes you a survivor and not a victim. It makes others feels that they aren’t alone. But the scars never go away.

When I had kids I wanted to be a stay at home mom because I had a working one at a time when mother’s didn’t work. It was also because I knew the world could be unsafe for children and I wanted to protect them. I sat in every private dance lesson with my daughter. I had them take self-defense classes and put them in programs like kid power. I forced myself to give my children piano lessons. i interviewed many teachers.  I rented a piano and stuck it in my open dining room (where it did not fit). I could see it from any angle in the house. Once a week, I relived the story with every wrong note. Luckily they gave it up after ten months.

I never listened to classical music. I never played it for my children. I thought  that I did not like it but I had forgotten until now that he used to listen to it. The music made me feel invisible. Your mind sometimes puts memories that are too hard into your unconscious to protect you.  I listen to it now. Eleven years ago I got a dog who loved classical music. I downloaded music for him to stay alone and realized how beautiful it was. I have recently added some piano concertos. I am ready to let it go. It wasn’t my fault. I was ten years old.

Fly safe,
JAZ

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8 thoughts on “How I Learned To Play The Piano #metoo

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I agree it does need to be published to help other children who may be put in a similiar position.
    Elaine

  2. Profoundly moving story. And you are right: many, many young girls & women have similar experiences. Thankfully the climate is such today that these stories can be told and change is beginning to take hold in all of our minds.

  3. Me too !!! Well I can write that now after reading your blog Jayne. Your words struck many notes with me. Acquaintances and relatives should never be considered safe or OK. There is a high percentage of child moleststion in those groups of people. I was one of ten children and it is easy to get lost in a group. I was much younger than ten and it effected me badly.
    With behavior, self worth and anxiety I struggled for years….
    Many years later I too sat in on every dance rehearsal my daughter had for years. I loved to watch her bloom with the love of dance , which I never allowed myself completely to do.
    I loved your story Jayne and am happy I have your blog to read all the time…

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