DON’T TELL ANYONE

In 1964 I was nine years old and living in Brookline.  A couple of days a week after regular school I attended Hebrew school which was just a 15 minute walk from where I was living with my parents; in the “projects”.  Joanie Ryack, with her short, dark hair and smiling face was one of my very best friends.  On this specific day she was meeting me after Hebrew School and we were planning to walk home together and hang out.  I couldn’t wait to get out of class.  When it was finally time to leave, Joanie was waiting for me by the door.  We giggled and shared stories, making our way closer to home.

Up ahead I noticed a  young man standing on the opposite street corner, leaning against a pole watching us. He looked like he didn’t belong anywhere and I thought he was scary.  I remember having the feeling that I needed to look down and pretend that he wasn’t there; that by not acknowledging him he wouldn’t really see us.  By the time we had made it parallel to where I thought he was standing I looked up and he had crossed to our side of the street. Suddenly he was right in front of me.

Before I could register my surprise the man had quickly lifted up my skirt and was trying to force my tights down. Shocked and paralyzed with fear I was unable to move, call out or cry.   I knew instinctively that this was bad.  My hero; pushy, spunky 9-year-old Joanie, hit and pushed the man away. She then grabbed my arm and pulled me like a rag doll as we managed to run toward home.  I don’t remember anything that happened after we arrived at my house — what we said to my mom, whether or not we were crying — none of it.  All I remember is the fear coupled with the relief that we made it home safely.

A few days later one of my friends was physically accosted near the tennis courts at school.  She struggled to get free and was able to give a good description of the “man” to her parents.  It sounded like it was the same guy!

During a walk with some friends to Coolidge Corner some time after the “Hebrew School incident”, I could hear the sound of some one running to catch up with us.  As I turned my head to see who it was I realized that it was him…again! He was trying to catch up with us! I immediately started running as fast as I could while screaming “RUN!!!!” to my friends. I was petrified that I might get caught in the same situation as before so I made my way as far away from him as I could.   One of my friends got away from his grasp just in time!   We told our parents the horrific story when we got home.  Now we were afraid to go anywhere; he could be lurking around any corner.

With the neighborhood in an uproar, all the parents decided to get together to pool their thoughts and figure out a strategy to keep their kids safe.  One of the parents had done some research and had somehow come up with the name of the perpetrator…David. Unbelievably David went to the same Grammer school that we all attended as it went from kindergarten through eighth grade.  He was some one we might have to face every day at school and that was too scary to think about for any of us.  A few days later my mom took me aside and told me that we were going to have to go to Juvenile Court; that my friends who were also victims would be there as well.  I was too afraid to ask if David would be there, too.  All my 9-year old brain could imagine was “The Perry Mason Show” with the dramatic music and the fear of having to look the criminal in the face!

The court date came and I woke up feeling very scared and unsure of what was going to happen.  The “courtroom” consisted of a large conference table where my girlfriends and I sat quietly with our parents who had pursed lips and stern expressions.    We were all VERY relieved that David was NOT there, having been represented by his attorney.  After being sworn in we were each asked a few questions and it seemed like it all happened very fast.  We were told of his psychiatric problems and we heard the term “sexual deviant” for the first time. Finally a determination was made that David was going to be put on a one-year probation and would be placed under psychiatric care.

Carpooling was worked out between the parents so we no longer had to walk to or from school and over time we learned to get back to our 9-year-old lives.   But that feeling was always there.  Will we see David today?  Does he know who we are?  Was he ever given our names?  Are we safe?  Will he do it again?  At that time we were told to keep things to ourselves.  “Don’t tell anyone; don’t talk about it.” Sitting on the stoop of the apartment where I lived I was once caught talking openly and honestly to a good friend about what had happened.  A neighbor walked by and heard me.  “HUSH!” she said.  So the story was kept quiet and we went on with our lives.  When I found out we were moving to Natick a year and a half later, I was extremely relieved and happy to know I would be safe again.

I don’t know what ever happened to David.

As for me, David was tucked neatly away in a small part of my brain called “mini-trauma”.