The Guitar Teacher Who Took Advantage: Handling Sexual Harassment

The Guitar Teacher Who Took Advantage: Handling Sexual Harassment

The recent announcements of men taking advantage of young women has struck a chord with me. I know it has for many women. We’ve spent years burying experiences … walling them off as though they never happened.

But when Beverly Nelson tearfully described her encounter with Roy Moore when she was 16, I recalled a similar experience. My experience wasn’t as devastating, but it left its mark.

My First Story of a Man Taking Advantage

When I was 16, I badgered my mother to let me take guitar lessons. My mother called the local music school. We went to the music school to meet the guitar teacher and we scheduled my first lesson.  But a few days before the lesson, he called to ask if I could come to his home for a lesson rather than the music school. He said, I believe, that there wasn’t a room available at that time.

I had just gotten my driver’s license and my mother agreed to let me drive myself. Off I went, managing the highways and stop signs and finally, parallel parking in front of his suburban house.

I picked up my new guitar, walked down the path and rang the bell. It was a split-level home in an innocuous middle-class neighborhood.

Mr Guitar Teacher (I don’t recall his name) answered the door and greeted me in a friendly way.  He told me that his wife was out and led me to the living room.  I remember feeling awkward in the way a teenager does with someone and something new.

We both sat on the couch. He took out the guitar and moved close to me.

“Let me place it correctly,” he said, and gently tucked it in front of my breasts, rubbing them lightly with his hands as he did.

He moved my arms so that they were in the correct positions. But then he sat back and said — and I remember this as though it were yesterday — “What lovely breasts, Andrea. Tell me, do you know anything about the Preliminaries?”  And with that he started to talk about love and physical arousal. “To be a real musician,” he said, “You must be fully alive physically.”

And with that, he moved closer…

He did give me a guitar lesson and didn’t force himself on me. But I couldn’t wait to leave.

I was polite as I believed I should be. In fact, I wasn’t quite sure if I should be offended or somehow proud that he found me attractive. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know the appropriate response. I was scared and confused. His behavior wasn’t violent, but it certainly wasn’t appropriate.

But I remember crying as I drove myself home.

When I got home, I told my mother what had happened. She immediately called the music school. I believe that the incident lead to his being fired. But I’m sure that over many years to come, Mr Guitar Teacher brought women into his living room for guitar lessons and did to them what he had done to me … and perhaps worse.

An Opportunity for Important Discussions

Buried memories like these are surfacing for hundreds of thousands of women, and they give us a chance to talk with our daughters and granddaughters about them so that when they find themselves in similar situations, they will know more clearly what to do!

I must confess, though, that even now, I’m still not quite sure what the appropriate response would have been.  Should I have left when I knew I would be alone with him in his house? Should I have gotten angry and stormed out when he touched me inappropriately? Or, as I did, should I have endured politely and then reporting the behavior when I got home?

What do you think a young, inexperienced girl should and could do in a situation like that?

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How Will You Prepare Your Daughter or Granddaughter?

I have no doubt that men will continue to behave badly. That they will again and again take advantage of young women. But we can, and should, have conversations with the girls and young women in our lives to help them know how to behave.

What would you have advise someone to do in the situation I described above? How might you discuss the possibilities of this kind of inappropriate behavior with the girls in your life?

Share your ideas in the comments below. Or head on over to Facebook and share your ideas there.

  • Such an awful and ubiquitous story.

    The fact that you question your choices decades later (when it’s pretty likely that the man who molested you has NEVER questioned his) is just one of the hidden costs of sexual assault on all women.

    Another cost that occurs to me: How could this not have changed your relationship to the guitar? How much female talent, passion, genius, has been smothered beneath the burden of some man’s predatory selfishness?

    Sadly, we’ll never know.

    • Andrea Kihlstedt

      Yes… you are right. Awful and ubiquitous! Thanks for chiming in, Jezra! You are so on-point, as always. I do so appreciate you.