Obviously I can’t comment on what is going on in Hollywood right now with this case but I wanted to share my own personal experience of something similar to what the victims are claiming and what I learnt about abuse as a result of that experience. Part of that is to unburden myself but mainly to show that you don’t have to be a movie star or high powered executive to experience an abuse of power.
Back in 2007 I was in my second year of my Social Work course and on work placement. I had loved my assignment. My practice supervisor, who was the professional assigned to guide me through my placement and assess my capability to be a social worker, had been brilliant throughout. He had supported me and become a friend. I almost saw him in a father figure role. I trusted him with some personal things during the 10 weeks and he had shared the same. It had felt like a really great professional relationship with genuine care for one another.
A few other students had been in the same setting on placement but with other practice supervisors, and as a farewell, we all planned on going out for a meal and drinks together. There was a large group of us. My fellow students had told me they had bought “thank you” presents for their assessor so I took their advice and bought him an engraved pen. I took him to one side and gave it to him. He almost started crying which I felt was a bit odd but as we had worked together for a while, I just assumed he felt sad that it was coming to an end.
We all went off together, jolly and having fun. His wife had come along with us and everything seemed great. A few of us were dancing in one pub and my assessor came up and asked me to dance with him. His wife was stood close by so I wasn’t alerted to anything. Then he leaned in and told me he loved me. At first I thought he meant like a friend (I have told friends I love them after a few drinks plenty of times) so I naively said “love you too” back. It was then that he looked at me and said “you do? What do you want to do about it?” and looked at his wife. Suddenly I realised that he meant romantic love.
And I did a really cowardly thing and ran off. A few of the others followed me and I told them what had happened. They stayed with me to reassure me and calm me down and eventually came and told me he had left with his wife.
I couldn’t quite comprehend it all but over the next few days I began to feel really violated. Like he had taken advantage of me. I spoke to university who basically told me I should meet him (apparently he was devastated) and couldn’t understand that I no longer felt safe being around him on my own. He then sent me an email explaining why he loved me and how hurt he was now that I couldn’t talk to him. The office he worked at was opposite my flat at the time and I was terrified to leave the flat or answer the door in case it was him.
But no-one understood. People actually laughed when I told them. So then I started to think maybe I had over-reacted but my body was telling me differently. My body was telling me that this wasn’t right and that he had abused his position of power.
And I got my proof a few weeks later when he failed my placement. He took everything I had told him in confidence and used it to smear my name. He was trying to ensure I didn’t pass my course because I had rejected him. Luckily because I had told the uni what was happening they got another member of staff to assess me and they wrote me a glowing report.
It took me a long time to recover from that and if I’m honest I think I still have some wounds. I struggle with authority now and followed this experience up with an experience with a bullying female boss. As a result i have worked hard to build up my own business, to be by own boss and to distance myself from people in positions of power but that is changing. I am learning to trust MYSELF and that means trusting my instincts again. I’m not always right and probably act over cautiously, making sure I put very clear boundaries in place quickly, but I am no longer letting this experience dictate my professional life.
It has lead me into the field of Narcissistic Abuse and to help others who may have experienced similar and worse. So in the bigger scheme of things, it did me a huge favour but at the time it caused me a lot of pain and anguish.
That is why I have shared my story. To let anyone who is experiencing this know that they are not alone and that it can happen to anyone, you did nothing wrong. And to trust your instincts. If it feels like abuse then there’s a good chance that it is and there is no shame in that. If you need more one:one support or would like to chat, please do contact me at email@example.com