“Recent investigations into Jimmy Savile and others make me want to tell you about what happened 38 years ago.
At 15 I was ‘in love’ with a member of a glam-rock band. I’d never had a boyfriend but collected pictures of the guy (who was aged about 27 then), watched him on Top of the Pops and wore his initial around my neck.
In October 1974 my friends and I bought tickets to see the band in concert. I found out their hotel, went there and managed to sit next to my ‘crush’. Then everybody piled off to a club.
There, he put his arm around me and I felt like it was a real date. Afterwards we went back to the hotel and had more drinks — and he invited me to his room.
I seriously expected a chat and another drink. We hugged and kissed then he asked me to undress. I was a rabbit in headlights.
He took off all his clothes and persuaded me to strip to just knickers. I did it because I longed to be in a relationship with him. I also felt it wasn’t really right but couldn’t say no.
We didn’t have full sex but he groped me and asked me to touch him. Next morning he gave me taxi money to get home.
My parents believed I’d spent the night at a friend’s. Upset afterwards, I wrote to him but he never replied.
After four months the band returned, and I went to the hotel. I thought there were things to discuss and still believed I was in love.
One of the roadies invited me to his own room, saying unless I washed his hair when he was in the bath he wouldn’t tell ‘my guy’ I was there.
He obviously thought teenage girls were there for the taking. This was total abuse.
After the concert I went to the hotel, met ‘my guy’, told him I’d missed him, asked if we could talk.
He said he remembered me, kissed me, and asked me to lie on the bed with him — it was the same as before.
He asked me to perform a sex act and when I refused he got angry. I left in tears and haven’t seen him since.
Of course I was stupid — I dreamed of marrying him! He should have told me I couldn’t be his girlfriend — not take advantage then reject me. It upset me terribly for years.
He’s still performing (in another band) and I feel sick when I see their tour posters.
I don’t obsess about it and have never told anyone, but believe it affected my self-esteem all my life.
None of my relationships have worked out and I’ve been clingy, always expecting to be dumped.
It makes me so angry and I don’t know what to do about it.”
This letter first appeared in the Daily Mail.
This is a very difficult letter to read. It’s important to stress, before I start thinking about what’s going with you, that this man was abusive, that what he did may have been illegal. You are not to blame for the abuse you suffered – he was the one doing the abusing. However, he hasn’t written to an agony aunt and we can only deal with and look at your part in what went on, at your motivations and the psychological consequences for you of what happened.
The slightly strange thing about this letter is that, although this happened a very long time ago, you tell the story in almost titilating detail. It feels important to you to outline exactly what took place, saying you didn’t have full intercourse (are you defending him here?), that he ‘asked you to perform a sex act’ – the kind of language used in newspapers presumably denoting oral sex, but not the kind of thing most people would ever say. It almost sounds written up for tabloid readers who might be excited by the detail. You almost seem to describe yourself in the male gaze, suggesting perhaps that you have always thought of yourself in this very objectified way.
Of course, you were young and naive and expected to be treated well because of the idealised fantasy you’d projected onto a stranger. It’s not uncommon to project a fantasy personality onto an unknown celebrity, but neither it is uncommon to be shocked by the reality that this person isn’t a product of your imagination, but a real and potentially (in this case actually) dangerous person. In many ways you had objectified him, you imagined and wanted a specific outcome, and he objectified you, imagining and wanting a specific outcome. He got his because it was more attainable – casual sex. What you wanted from this stranger was something that perhaps nobody ever gets – instant love, adoration and a proposal. And, from what you describe, you stalked him down to his hotel to get close to him – you were determined to end up alone with him. Of course, you had your own ideas of what this would mean and you felt you knew him when you didn’t.
Again, I’m not saying he wasn’t a sleazebag – he was. But it’s important to realise that you wanted the impossible from him, saying; “He should have told me…”
We should all behave better, but it is striking that you expected such good and honourable behaviour from some man in a band and I wonder why. It seems to me that the low self-esteem that has plagued you all your life probably predates your first encounter with this man. The fact that you disappeared to such an extent into this obsession with a stranger, someone whose personality you invented, suggests that there were very serious needs not being met at home. A fantasy person who would love and treat you well was your escape from a place where you were not loved and well-treated in the first place. A guess, obviously, and you don’t say it.
You do describe yourself as a “rabbit in the headlights” though, obeying instructions for fear of offending your idol. This is an “I wish someone else was different from how they are” letter and, of course, there are probably a lot of other girls and women who wish this particular creep had been different. But perhaps you are more angry with yourself than with him – angry about having had such impossible expectations, about having been so obedient, about setting yourself up for the loss of a very precious fantasy. Afterwards, once the fantasy had crashed down around you, real relationships with real men have been very difficult.
It sounds as though you expect them to serve the same purpose this pop star was supposed to serve – to look after you and save you. The fact that you describe yourself as “clingy” suggests that you still don’t feel the equal of the men with whom you involve yourself. Are you still idolising people and feeling unworthy of them, fearing you’ll anger them if you’re not obedient? “Clingy” is a very contemptuous word to use about yourself and is, obviously, demonstrative of feelings of worthlessness. Your needs are not being met and you are still trying to get them met by prostrating yourself (by the sounds of it) in front of men you fear.
The abuse you suffered was horrible, but I suspect the root of the problem is the way you were brought up to view yourself – as something to be accepted or rejected, rather than as a person with whom to engage. I’m tempted to lurch at your father’s attitude to you, but there’s just too little evidence in your letter. In any case, you created a fantasy person (essentially objectifying a stranger and using that fantasy to feed something in yourself) and felt horribly let down and objectified yourself by the real (and very abusive) person.
I think it’s important to look at what you were up to in your obsession and what purpose it served, as well as what this man had in common with other men in your life. I suspect the pattern didn’t start here. But whether it did or didn’t, it seems very important that you process the experience either in therapy or in a group of abuse survivors. The Courage To Heal is the bible for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and there is a lot in there that might help to liberate you from your anger and feelings of worthlessness.
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