I was 15 when I started partying with rock stars.  I never told anyone what they did to me - until now.

The author, age 14, with her father.

The author, age 14, with her father.

The author, age 14, with her father.

My friend and I had miraculously stepped on the tour bus of my favorite rock band after being given backstage passes before. I dreamed of this day for years and now, at the age of 15, it has finally come true.

A few hours ago, I was getting ready for the concert at my friend Tiffany’s house. It took me weeks to come up with a plan that was plausible enough to reach my parents. They wouldn’t let me hang out with Tiffany, who had a boyfriend, could wear makeup and stay up as late as she wanted – all of which was against the rules for me. As my parents knew, when I left home that summer afternoon, I was going to a concert with someone else entirely.

We rocked to Tiffany’s music, drank coolers of wine, and smoked her mother’s Marlboro cigars. We teased our hair, wore black eyeliner and wore matching black leather dresses. An hour later, Tiffany’s mom dropped us off at the venue. Arriving three hours before the show started, we eagerly waited in line, hoping to get as close as possible to the band – the lead singer, who I especially admire.

I grew up in a musical family – my father and brothers were in bands at one time or another – and I fell in love with music at a young age. In my basement with guitars, amps, microphones and drums, I spent hours writing lyrics and sneaking in to sing when no one else was around.

When I got cable when I was 11, MTV flooded the living room with music videos for the first time. I was obsessed with 80’s rock bands so I wanted to meet them both and be them. A band became my favorite. After I got one of the band’s albums for my 12th birthday, I scanned the pictures on the covers, memorized the lyrics, and wrote a letter of hope to the band’s fan club, hoping to find answers.

About a year later, when I was 13, I asked my mother to let me take her friends; In less than two hours he was going to the city where he was going to see the team. She said no – I was too young – but when I woke up the morning after the concert, I was delighted to find a band t-shirt hanging from my pink canopy bed. I put the shirt on too high, so I was afraid to wear it because it might get ruined.

During my teenage years, my life became challenging as I questioned the rules of my conservative Catholic parents and tried to live up to my father’s expectations. I dived into the escapism that music provides and rebelled with the intense focus of connecting with the band. In the summer of my 15th birthday, an announcement came on the radio that a band was coming to my hometown, and I knew I was going – my parents didn’t let me.

The author on her 17th birthday.

The author on her 17th birthday.

The author on her 17th birthday. “I stopped going to concerts around this time,” she wrote.

As Tiffany and I waited in line outside the arena, a tour bus pulled in and drove back. Thinking he might be in the band, we left our place in line and went to find where he was standing.

A few minutes later, looking into the dark windows of the vehicle, trying to see inside, the bus door opened. I gasped. Out came the man I knew as the lead singer. He smiled and walked towards us.

“Are you here to see the show?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Tiffany and I replied.

After talking for a few minutes, he gestured in the direction of the stage and announced that he had to go inside.

“Would you like backstage passes after the show?” he asked

Bursting with excitement, we couldn’t get the words out fast enough. “Yes!” We said.

The confidence was shattered as the guitarist and busker led us to the bus. Inside it looks like a house with a kitchen nook, long sofas adorning the walls and wooden furniture. There was a curtain separating one area of ​​the bus from another.

They gave us beers and made small talk before the roadie got up and took Tiffany to a place on the other side of the curtain. Soon the guitarist led me into a dimly lit bedroom. He sat on the edge of the bed and put his hand on my leg and gently touched it under my skirt. I left feeling scared.

“Where’s Tiffany?” I asked. He kissed me, and then pushed my head into his cock.

“She’s getting her backroom pass,” he said. “I’ll give you yours when we’re done.”

Half an hour later we reunited with Tiffany, got our back passes and got off the bus. We sat in the arena section reserved for teammates and shared similar stories. We promised not to tell anyone what we were angry about. We stayed at the event in reverse. We enjoyed our passes. Even though we know we feel the wrong that those people have just done to us, we are so caught up in being close to our idols that we push our enemy into the pit of our stomach and try to forget what just happened.

After the show, at the after party, I finally got to talk to the band’s singer. I told him I had been a fan for years and owned all their albums. A rude man with a Polaroid camera took our picture and handed me a copy. I was very happy when the singer signed. I still have it today.

In fact, I have photo albums full of photo albums of stage passes and text descriptions of all the bands I met between the ages of 15 and 17. I envied my friends who saw the photos of me playing with rock stars – but they didn’t know the dark secrets behind them. When I was 16, I was sexually assaulted by three different men from three gangs. I didn’t tell anyone what happened to me, least of all my parents, who I was afraid would blame me.

Years later, I walked into a therapist’s office. I was suffering from depression, had an eating disorder and worried about how unattractive I was. (Ten years later, this would be known as PTSD.) There was no clear label linking my mental health problems to the sexual assault, but after months of intensive treatment, a deep sense of shame rose to the surface. Eventually, I was finally able to accept what happened backstage and in hotel rooms with those bands.

At first, the more I explained, the more I felt. But when he cleared the list when I heard my voice, it turned out that I had done nothing wrong the first time. I wasn’t bad. I didn’t understand what those people did to me. I desperately wanted to tell someone everything in a safe place to release the shame that was suffocating me.

The author in December.

The author in December.

The author in December.

Recently I heard the news of the musician It was R. Kelly. He was sentenced. Up to 20 years in prison Child pornography and sexual attraction of minors. On the same day, the film producer It was Harvey Weinstein. He was sentenced. For rape and sexual assault up to 16 years. As I read the reports, the anxiety rose, reminding me of my admiration for those famous people. I hurt for these women who were held captive by men who abused their power and opportunity, changing their lives forever. I am well aware of the long term effects. And I know there are many women who are similarly affected.

But there was something more – a sense of empathy with fellow survivors, a sense of their strength to stand up to their criminals and the act of courage required to do so. Healing—and sometimes justice—can come from telling our stories.

Although I’ve written about other sexual abuse experiences in my life before, I’ve never spoken publicly about what happened to the men I worshiped years ago – until now. It took me years to get over what happened, stop blaming myself, and heal.

In the first years after those celebrity attacks, I had little idea how they affected me. I didn’t even know I had been assaulted until I walked into that therapist’s office. I lived daily in disgust and shame, struggling to get past them and not understanding the connection between what was happening and what was happening to me.

Over time I made progress, but it would fade away. Every once in a while, I hear people inside me — family, friends, or coworkers — talking about a woman who’s had the same experience as me, and I feel overwhelmed. “Why didn’t she fight?” they asked. “Why did she willingly go with the man? Why was she dressed so sexily? Why didn’t she come out sooner?” Every time I wanted to say something, but instead I filled my shame again in silence.

In the end, I found mental health therapy, continuous self-work and time to be the way out of the darkness. I have been in therapy, on and off, for 30 years. Every morning I engage in a spiritual practice that includes prayer and meditation. I read self-improvement books and repeat positive affirmations. These served as the backbone for recovery. I still have obstacles—especially after another sexual assault experience years ago that made me question myself in terrible ways—but I’m constantly working to figure them out and do my best to move forward.

Fame makes people do strange and sometimes terrible things. And the lure of fame — or being near it — can put others in situations they don’t deserve (and don’t normally want). I can’t change what happened to me. My experiences have made me who I am, for better or for worse. But now I understand that I have a choice in what I do with them. My hope is that maybe my story will reach someone who wants to hear it and make a difference.

Note: Names and some details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned in this article.

Tammy Rabideau is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, and others. She is working on a memoir based on her New York Times essay “Modern Love.” You can follow her on Twitter @TammyRabideau2 Or visit her website at tammyrabideau.com.

Need help? Visit RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline or the National Sexual Assault Resource Center website.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, call National Eating Disorders Association Hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

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