Memory of Sexual Assault in Junior High School Still Haunts Me

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a homemaker in my 50s. In the spring of my third year at junior high school, I was molested by a coach of my after-school club who was not employed by my school. I am still haunted by the experience.

At the time, I was told not to tell anyone about the incident, but in fear of seeing him, I confided in other members of the club and the coach stopped coming to the club. However, my mother disgustedly called me “filthy” and that made me feel like a hopeless failure and consider killing myself.

In high school, I felt better about myself and behaved naturally, but I couldn’t help but feel fear and resentment toward my classmates who liked me. I went on to university, got a job and got married. But a reunion in my 30s brought back the fear and despair, and I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

I have been invited to a reunion since then, but I can’t go. My classmates wonder why I don’t attend even though I enjoyed my time with them at school. I want to end my worries and suffering, but I don’t know what to do.

— L

Dear Ms. L:

Your experience in school must have brought a great deal of pain to you. Your mother’s reaction made you feel as if you were irreparable and contemplate suicide. It is natural to feel fear and despair after such a painful experience and natural to feel only fear and resentment even when someone likes you.

Despite struggling with these feelings, you have embraced life for 35 years since your adolescence. You were able to tell your fellow club members about your experience. As a result of this action, the coach stopped coming to the club.

You exerted yourself to behave naturally in high school and spent the days with your cheerful friends. You got a job and got married. You have been taking back control of your life on your own. You grounded yourself and have lived your life without losing yourself.

Believe in your power. Believe in the people who live with you now, such as your family, and cherish your life with them.

I think it is better to wait until you have a stronger desire to attend class reunions.

— Yutaka Ono, psychiatrist