The Locker Room (A Personal Story)

When I asked for people to send and share their personal bullying stories on this website, I truly never expected much more than the typical physical or emotional abuse stories to come in. As I wrote my stories on this website over the last few years, I thought, in fear, about sharing some of the ones I thought were too harsh. But now I realize that others have had to deal with much more extremes of bullying than I ever did and they are brave enough to share them here. I received this story from Adam, who is a 47-year-old successful person. Just as with the last personal story, this one is a tough read and PG-13. I truly feel for Adam and what he went through. It takes a lot of courage to put this kind of story out there for others to read and understand. Here is “The Locker Room” ~ Alan Eisenberg

When I was in seventh grade, I was a victim of bullying that crossed the line into prolonged criminal abuse and sexual assault. At the time, in the mid to late 1970s, bullying was not recognized as a serious issue the way it is today, and there was still a lot of stigma involved with being victimized in any sort of sexual way. Any sort of claims of bullying or hazing or abuse, especially among teen boys in a locker room, was dismissed as “boys will be boys,” even in extreme cases such as mine.

The locker room in seventh grade is already a tricky place for boys to navigate. Boys of all different stages of puberty and development changing clothes and even showering in front of one another, all of them self-conscious in one way or another, being in a “locker room situation” for the first time in their lives. Everyone tries to act natural but I know I was nervous and I think most of us were. I was average size for my age (13 years old), a little bit tall and reasonably athletic, but I had not begun to develop yet as far as puberty goes. I was a little bit self-conscious about this, but not truly embarrassed, and I was OK with being in the locker room in front of other guys.

About a month into seventh grade, on a day when the gym coach had told us all to “hit the showers,” two of my classmates named Deon and Jimmy – bigger and more developed than me – accused me of “checking them out” in the shower and began teasing me. They suggested that I was gay, teased me about my own body, and followed me back to my locker asking me loudly if I wanted to keep looking at them. It was very embarrassing, but I just kept my mouth shut and walked away from them. There was laughter and jokes but I tried to ignore it and I thought it would go away.

The next couple of days in gym class, these same two boys continued to tease me. While I changed clothes at my locker, they would walk past and call me names and ask if I wanted to see their private parts. One day, one of them pulled his out and suggested that I should perform a sexual act on him. I continued to ignore it silently, but it got harder and harder, and when I tried to tell him to leave me alone, my voice cracked and I had tears in my eyes. I think that was all they needed. They sensed weakness, they sensed that they were getting to me, so they kept it up. I should have told someone, but I was afraid and ashamed.

The next time the coach told us to shower, I was very nervous but I tried to just get in and out as quickly as I could. But when I came out of the shower, with my towel wrapped around me, Deon and Jimmy were waiting for me. They blocked my path to my locker, and when I tried to move past them Deon pulled my arm behind my back and whispered to me that if I yelled or cried or called for help that he was going to hurt me. Well, he was already hurting my arm and I was already scared enough, so I bit my lip and kept quiet. They pushed me into the back corner of the locker room and into a small storage room used for athletic equipment. By now I was crying my eyes out but not making a sound out of fear for what they would do to me. Deon pushed me down to my knees and told me to look at Jimmy and offer oral sex to him. He made me say it three times, and I will never forget the sound of those words coming out of my mouth. I thought that’s all it would be, just this dreadful humiliation. My towel had fallen off, so i was naked and being forced to say these embarrassing things, and they were both laughing. But than Jimmy pulled his underwear down and I realized that they weren’t just joking or threatening.

I sobbed my eyes out and I begged them to let me go, but Deon just pulled my arm harder, so I did what they wanted me to do. I didn’t know how to actually do it of course, but that didn’t matter. They made me perform oral sex and they laughed at me the whole time. When they had enough, they let me go, but they told me that they were going to do it to me whenever they wanted and that if I told anyone about it or tried to get them in trouble, they would put me in the hospital or kill me. And I believed them.

The abuse lasted the whole year of seventh grade. Several times each month I would be pulled into that storage room and forced to perform oral sex on Deon and Jimmy. They took turns. On a few occasions, they tried to sodomize me. The psychological damage was done (and some minor physical damage as well). Our coach was an older man, nearing retirement, who tended to sit in his office oblivious to what went on in the locker room. He never knew about any of this.

When I returned for eighth grade, both Deon and Jimmy were gone. I don’t know what happened to them. They were terrible students and the might have just dropped out or flunked out, or they might have ended up in juvenile detention. I don’t know and I didn’t ask. Thankfully I never saw either one of them again.

So what did I do? I never told the coach about it, or any teacher, or any counselor at my school. I never told my parents, or, god forbid, my brother or my sister. I never told my friends. I kept my mouth shut and tried to “deal with it,” which admittedly was easier to do with the two of them gone. I grew comfortable in the locker room once again, though I never went back near that back corner ever again. Amazingly I was able to keep it together well enough that no one ever suspected the torture that I was subjected to that year.

I had a very normal time in high school and college. I was a good student, played sports, had girlfriends. But I had those memories inside of me that I had never shared with a soul, and I used to have nightmares in which I relived the abuse. Finally, in my mid-20s, I went to a counselor and told him the story in all of its gory details. Simply talking about it, speaking the words, was a tremendous weight off my chest. I shed a lot of tears, but I told him everything. With time, I was able to talk to certain trusted people – a couple of close friends, and the wonderful woman who eventually became my wife. I never gave them the complete details that I gave to the counselor and that I have just given to you, but I talked to them about the fact that I had been subjected to terrifying abuse in seventh grade, that it occurred in the locker room, and that I had never told anyone about it. In each case, I told them that I would tell them as much as they wanted to know, but they understood enough that they didn’t need to ask for more specifics. I chose wisely regarding whom to tell, because each person I spoke with has been loving and supportive.

Through their support, and the understanding words of my counselor, I was able to fully put this abuse behind me. Today I am a happy, successful 47-year-old man with a good career, a wonderful wife and two awesome children. What happened to me in seventh grade is a part of my past, but it is no longer a part of my present. Every time I see a news report about bullying, I think back to what I went through – not in a terrified way, but in a way that makes me want to reach out and help other kids who go through hard times. If my story helps anyone, then I will be happy. I went through the worst kind of violence, abuse and humiliation. Though I don’t like to actually use the word, I know it is true — I was a rape victim. But I got through it, and if I can get through it, I know other abuse victims have hope, too.