there but for the grace of simply everything go i
I went to Washington Episopical School for grades 6-8. At the time, the head of the middle school was a man named Chris Kloman. He taught me geography (well, sort of, I never really learned much…) and he gave me a discipline notice, I think, or at least a warning, for wearing a non-uniform sweatshirt. It was at WES that I my tumultuous adolescence began and it was Mr. Kloman who told my parents about my self-injury, that very first time.
Yesterday, my sister (also a WES alum) shared a link to a news story. Mr. Kloman–my middle school principal–was arrested for child molestation charges, including “abduction with intent to defile” (they are using charges based on the laws written at the time of the alleged abuse, in the very late 60s).
It was such a weird feeling. I want to state at the outset that I was certainly never abused by Mr. Kloman, or anyone else. I never witnessed abuse. This is NOT a witch hunt, and I have absolutely no personal knowledge, whatsoever. And yet I find that I am not particularly surprised, despite the lack of evidence that I personally possess. Part of it is statistics: false accusations are rare, its not exactly uncommon for victims of child sex abuse to wait many, many years before reporting, schools and religious institutions are notorious for hiding–intentionally or not–sex offenders, and many sex offenders come across as professional, good people. So the statistics are not on Kloman’s side. And although again, I want to be completely, utterly clear that I NEVER witnessed anything, on some visceral level I am not surprised.
What it really makes me think about, though, is narrow escapes.
If the accusations are true–and I have no reason to doubt them, and in fact the comments on this piece make me believe them even more–then it makes me wonder why I was not a victim, why as far as I know no one I know was a victim. It makes me think about all the narrow escapes in my life. My adolescence went badly wrong in several places, but it was never irredeemably so. I was lucky. It’s the same finally I get when I hear about another teenager who attempted suicide: I don’t know what put me into the category of not trying that; by all rights I should have. All I can do is feel grateful that I was not.
And also, I do not want to hear any victim blaming nonsense. I don’t know for sure that Kloman is guilty, although as I said I certainly believe it. But I also know that false accusations are rare, that coming forward is very difficult, and that victim blaming is as much a cultural meme as McKayla is Not Impressed, only much much more dangerous.