Anthony Rapp has told the story of being a 14 year old boy and sexually preyed on by Kevin Spacey. It's remarkably lucid and conveys just how totally normal the situation felt, right up until the exact moment it plunged into confusion.
When he arrived at Spacey's apartment, Rapp quickly realized that he was the only nonadult there — which, again, did not worry him, since he so often had found himself in similar situations as a child actor. The bigger issue: "I didn't know anyone," he said. "And I was quickly kind of bored."
Rapp said he ended up wandering into the bedroom, sitting on the edge of the bed, and watching TV well past midnight.
He's a kid that didn't want to hang around the boring adults so he watched television instead. The type of situations that could end in abuse can feel so completely ordinary. The realization that something very bad is possible often doesn't come until it's too late.
. . .
I was once a target of a pedophile. Thank God, they never actually made a move on me and I avoided the trauma of becoming an actual victim. It's been 16 years. Reflecting on it from this distance, and with the knowledge of who he really is, is confusing but helps me understand Rapp's story.
Jesse Perry was my fifth and sixth grade teacher. I knew him as the fun teacher who actually enjoyed his job. He gave out jolly ranchers. He led the math club. He had students (often me) be the flesh and blood counterpart to his skeleton dummy during biology class. He was cool, engaging, and always just a little bit creepy.
I don't know if there was ever any actual facts contributing to the collective conscious of the middle school student body, but he was the teacher that everyone lightly joked was a pedophile. The jokes were never made fearfully. I don't think anyone in the school at the time had actually been victimized by him. But obviously something accurate emerged from our collective perception of him. Kids are smart sometimes, ok?
This insinuation that Mr. Perry was a pedophile never amounted to accusations or fear, just a sense. A sense that was not strong enough for me to feel like accepting his invitation to attend a baseball game with him was a bad idea.
He asked me in school one day if I liked baseball. Yes. Baseball was my life. He asked if I wanted to go to a Pawtucket Red Sox game. Uh, weird, but I guess, I'll have to ask my mom? He'd pay for the tickets. Hell yeah.
The only part of this that seemed weird was that a teacher wanted to do something with a student outside of school. But the feeling of weirdness never escalated to wrongness. I asked my mom for permission and she said yes, but only if my year and a half older brother could go too. I don't think my mom suspected any danger. Sending my brother along just seemed like a matter of fairness more than threat mitigation. Josh would've been jealous if I got to go to a game and he didn't. Besides, Mr. Perry had taught Josh as well and was similarly a favorite student.
Mr. Perry picked us up and drove us to the stadium. Josh and I actually bailed on Mr. Perry and his third base line seats to go sit in the lawn that stretched beyond the left field wall, hoping to catch a home run. Again, we did this not out of fear, or suspicion that something was dangerous or wrong about Mr. Perry, but simply because we thought it would be lame to hang out with our teacher. We were opportunists, using someone else's money and car to get us to a baseball game where we could have fun. The game ended, we were driven home, and that was it.
I don't remember any other significant interaction with him after that. Then, in 2015, Mr. Perry was convicted of child molestation and sentenced to life in prison.
This news was mind blowing. Our middle school joke was actually correct somehow!? This man asked to bring me, as a 12 year old boy, to a baseball game alone. I just thought he was a nice, if weird, teacher. But now with some context and distance, it seems obvious that he was preying on me. It could have gone so very terribly wrong. My mom's unsuspecting wisdom of making my brother go with me could have saved me. Thanks mom!
The thing I can't shake is just how normal this stuff can feel. I was a baseball obsessed kid trying to exploit an admired teacher's offer. Anthony Rapp was a child actor, invited to a party by an adult actor, just trying to watch tv away from the adults. The blandness of these situations masks the hidden threat. This contributes to what makes being a victim so confusing. You often can't point to a moment when a normal situation transitions to one that is obviously and identifiably threatening until it's too late. If Mr. Perry had tried to molest me that day, where would be the moment where I, or my brother, or my mom, had gone wrong? Which decision in the timeline should have been made differently to prevent the unthinkable? And when most of the time the kid just enjoys the game, almost catches a home run, and goes home without incident, it emboldens the predator and lowers the defenses of the prey. Being a target is hard because most of the time you don't don't even realize it.
Thank God he didn't invite me to any more baseball games I guess.