Again, I didn’t say anything. Diane’s dad was the kind of man my father, a former college boxer, had contempt for. I imagined that if I told my father, he wouldn’t call the police but instead would go to Diane’s house and punch her father in the face. That would make things unpleasant in school the following day. A part of me thought her father was pathetic. High school boys were more adept at making passes.
For years my memory of that episode stopped at my front door, as if the whole thing were just a brief snippet of video that then goes blank. But of course that wasn’t the end. Diane and I remained friends through high school, and we were at each other’s houses many times. Sandusky’s lawyers have tried to impugn the credibility of the victims by pointing out that their testimony is sometimes more detailed than the accounts they first gave to the grand jury. Victim 7 explained, “Talking about different events and through talking about things in my past, different things have triggered different memories.” I know exactly what he means. Thinking about it this week, I remembered for the first time in years that Diane’s father continued to offer me rides. I always refused unless she came along, as she often did.
One night her father said he’d drive me home, and Diane said she’d join us, so I said yes. Her father turned to Diane and said she needed to stay home and finish her homework. She protested that she only had a little reading left and wanted to come. He became adamant, insisting that she stay home. Diane’s mother seemed to sense something was amiss. She said firmly, to her husband’s clear frustration, that Diane was to come along with me. Did she suspect what her husband was up to? Did she know?
The last incident was not child abuse, because I was no longer a minor, though I was still a teenager of 18 or 19. Several years earlier, my family had worked for the election of our congressman, Father Robert Drinan, an anti-Vietnam War, pro-choice priest. He was in town for a fundraiser or town meeting, and I went. Afterward he offered me a ride to the subway. (You’d think I would have learned.) He was in his 50s, and as he drove we chatted about college. We got to where he was letting me off, he turned off the engine, and he began jabbering incoherently about men and women. Then he lunged, shoving his tongue in my mouth while running his hands over my breasts and up and down my torso. It seems like the set-up for a joke, a Jewish woman being molested by a Jesuit. As we tussled, I had probably the most naive thought of my life: “How could this be happening, he’s a priest!”
As I shoved him off and opened the car door to get out, I saw I had left a smear of my pink lipstick on his clerical collar. Again, I told no one. It was embarrassing, revolting, and I had no desire to make accusations against a congressman, especially one I admired.
Maybe because I grew up in a chaotic household, knowing adults were unpredictable and unreliable, none of these incidents had an innocence-destroying effect. When I spoke to David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, he understood why silence was my instinctive reaction. “Kids have an intuition this might be taken as a big deal by adults, and are not sure they want it to be. It means confronting the adult who did it. For you, it involved your friend. What are you going to get out of it? You escaped, you feel it won’t happen again. You’re not thinking it will happen to someone else. From a cost-benefit analysis, it makes a lot of sense not to disclose.”