- We have removed identifying information from this story submission: this information has been replaced with XXX and in some cases initials have been changed to pronouns.
This is a story about sexual abuse, harassment and bullying of female students in XXX. The problem lies in the hierarchy of power among the male tutors and tolerance to sexual relationships with students within the educational institution. As this continues to exist, numerous victims are silenced and live in fear of the crushing effects of the local media attention and social judgement on the insufficiency of proof in their accusations for crimes that were done to them in the past.
For at least two years (2008-2010) I’ve been sexually abused, shamed and bullied by a locally known XXX.
As a nineteen-year old high school student I attended to the preparatory courses for the exams at the XXX, where he was teaching xx. He was exceptionally praising my works and told me I was talented, and this motivated me to work more. I used to stay up after classes to finish xxx. He would stay with me and a few other students, talk about our etudes and art and sometimes offer us alcohol. In the preparatory course, he created a hierarchy among the students and specifically trained the ones he was in favour of to pass the entry exams. Throughout the year, he grew up to be an authoritative figure I looked up to.
I finished high school and passed the entry exams for the Bachelor at XXX. I met him to celebrate my attendance and he invited me to visit a summer school plain-air with the second years in September. I accepted the invitation and took an easel-case with me, eager to work. The students and staff stayed in the former territory of XX. Back then there stood a concrete building with a ramp that previously was used for fish-smoking production. In the living quarters, he had his room with two separate beds.
I didn’t know the older students back then, therefore most of the time was spent with him. He was drinking daily and heavily, and so did I in his company. During the movie screenings at the ramp, he put his hand around my shoulder, when other students were around. It felt strange as I grew to trust him and expected it to be nothing but a friendly gesture. On the last evening of my visit, I was nauseous. He made me soup for dinner and gave me vodka. We were eating in his room as he was going through a pile of old papers, images and publications. He was talking in abstract phrases like “an artist is a fighter, not a kinder garden teacher”. Then he sat down next to me on the bed, and started kissing me and undressing me. All I remember was that suddenly I wanted to escape him and leave the room at that moment, but I was too drunk and dizzy to resist.
Next morning I felt like I couldn’t look him in the eye anymore. He said this should stay only between the two of us. After that day, I lost my ability to speak up to him. I started drinking heavily and kept silent for hours as he stayed in my presence, asking me to sit on his lap so he could tell me how unique he is to the local art world and others are not. He would talk down and shame other students, give examples of “bad cases” and “degradation”. After his monologue, he would satisfy himself on me and I would go home from the university.
He gave me excellent grades and took me along to all of the field trips that only best selected students would go while leaving the rest unaware. Telling someone about this was unthinkable firstly because he was considered the best tutor in the painting department, and his students – the most perspective and talented. It seemed then that opposing him would affect studies, my future career or have me expelled from the academy. Secondly, it was useless to resist because most of the staff silently knew or suspected what was going on, but no one questioned his behaviour. Rumours of his previous student-girlfriends began to appeared, while I was socially isolated from other students and gossiped about. I felt highly self-destructive as it seemed like the only way to make him suffer.
He was jealous and suspicious while I didn’t have had any awareness of his sexual life, marriage and children. After he discovered that I was attracted to a boy my age, he took me to a bar, made me confess and called me every dirty word he could think of. After that he said it’s all over, asked me to leave and sat down on the table with other tutors, bragging and humiliating women. Intellectually manipulating students into having sex was considered to be normal among the tutors, having an affair with one – even prestige.
Next morning I was painting in the studio. He came in, grabbed me on my behind and said: “Once you’re my age, you will understand why I still want to be with you”. After that day, he continued to be my tutor, but the relationship between us became even more distorted and asymmetric. He was entitled to manipulate me by making me stay with him, drink with him, have sex with him, because he was my teacher and knew “what’s better for me”. Several times I cried during sexual intercourse with him that took place in the studios of the academy. Once he took out his penis and said: “Look at it. It’s curved. It didn’t use to be like that before you”. He convinced me that I was mentally disabled as he constantly belittled my attempts to be good in my studies, caricatured my personality, shamed me for being too stupid, helpless and pathetic to paint.
Slowly, I managed to take distance from him, which affected my grades. I was diagnosed with depression, felt constant nausea and hyperventilation in public. I went for therapy that year (2009), but I was too terrified to tell what happened even to the psychologist. My parents saw the symptoms of my depression but they were completely unaware what was happening and thought that it was stress from intense studies. It took me two years so I could tell this story to my mother, six years to tell it to my father. Their advice was to forget this experience and they still do not support my decision to talk about it.
After graduating, I chose to leave the country to avoid any possible infliction with him and the community that surrounds him. People may ask why I didn’t contact the police immediately after it happened and say that it’s my own fault that I let him do this to me the entire time. I accept these accusations and do not negate them. Nevertheless this experience closed any career perspectives in my own country and cost a lot of time to recover from a trauma, caused social and confidence problems and insecurities. Back then I felt like I was guilty for everything he did to me, because I was completely under his power. He is a respected figure in XX and the XXX scene. For some time, he was the chief of the XXX and still (informally) is a decision maker in hiring the staff, admissions and evaluation. I kept silent because an attack on a person of his status would require legal attention and expenses, while writing about it and remembering it is already painful enough. I am sharing my story to raise awareness among other possible victims of such abuse in educational institutions. Say NO to sexual harassment from tutors. It’s not worth it.