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Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Institute


GeorgeH
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I know this kind of abuse happened/happens, but I continue to be surprised at how often it was/is swept under the rug.

We can't change the past - and we certainly shouldn't rewrite it or "erase" it, but keep moving forward in order to ensure it doesn't happen again.

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This is unfortunate and happens all too often.  I have always had the naive notion that classical musicians are in an upper echelon of status--stupid me.  I am heartbroken these things happened and I am glad that they are being brought up.

This happened recently in my city by a violin teacher of the same race and gender as myself.  It made it difficult to find students for awhile.  I can't blame the parents/students.  Shame.

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So what exactly is it with men (in this instance.  Women are guilty of abuse too, if not as often)?

-Insecurity- backed by a position of power?

-Sense of entitlement - confirmed by being in a position of power?

-High sex drive with no other (apparently) outlet?

-Senility?

-Tradition?  With older men? Thinking they can take what they want because that's what powerful men do?

-Underlying pedophilia?

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Just now, Rue said:

So what exactly is it with men (in this instance.  Women are guilty of abuse too, if not as often)?

-Insecurity- backed by a position of power?

-Sense of entitlement - confirmed by being in a position of power?

-High sex drive with no other (apparently) outlet?

-Senility?

-Tradition?  With older men? Thinking they can take what they want because that's what powerful men do?

-Underlying pedophilia?

In the entertainment and corporate industries, as well as pretty much every industry in most patriarchal societies, the number of men harassing women is going to be significantly higher because of the overwhelming majority of males in powerful positions.  

In direct response to you Rue, yes.  all of the above. :(

I have been a victim of abuse by a female piano teacher when I was a very young child.  She would come to lessons with a whipping stick.  She would hit me everytime I made a mistake.  So I took up the violin.  I personally have no longing emotional scars from the experience but it was still abusive.

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4 hours ago, violinnewb said:

 I have always had the naive notion that classical musicians are in an upper echelon of status--stupid me. 

My experience was the flip side of that idea - that lots of teachers and students both kind of think they're above all the rules for common people.  But there were good people too, especially in retrospect.

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  • 2 weeks later...

To further your point, violinewb, I also used to think that music was filled with all these impeccable people, with such a high calling in life.... And there are people like that in music. 

But by and large, musicians are just normal people, with all the good and bad that goes along with typical humanity. If you get to know most musicians well, even the ones people idolize, you eventually realize that putting them up on a pedestal is a mistake. 

And putting musicians on a pedestal, and musicians feeling like they are up on that pedestal, is certainly part of why people abuse their perceived power. 

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I'm loathe to buy into the modern day fascination with "personalities" accusing the dead of any kind of abuse. Of course it happens, and probably no more or less with musicians than with normal people. 
That said, it seems cheap to accuse someone who is no longer alive to defend himself. I mean, just imagine if Brodsky was your father; would you be of the same opinion still? Just as quick to condemn?
To my mind, it could just as easily be that Ms. St. John's career is stalling, and she needed the publicity her gofers weren't getting her. I mean, what the hell is the whole point of publishing a piece of tripe like this?
(wait, don't tell me the point is to sell newspapers; say it ain't so, Joe!)

Well, that's my opinion, you're entitled to yours, I guess. Still, I think it's basically just fodder for small minds willing to blindly accept at face value anything the least bit entertaining or titillating, appealing to man's most base nature.

I personally know a man who's lost some of the highest jobs in music because of his willingness to use his power and influence to sexually assault young women, and all his friends are well aware what he's capable of. This, on the other hand, smells like a 3 day old rotting fish. At least my guilty acquaintance is still alive to defend himself, and plenty of lawyers to assist him.

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44 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

Uh, she reported it while he was alive

What George said.

No disrespect AtlVcl but did you actually read the article? Ms. St. John reported it in 1986 when she was 15. Just because she is stating it now doesn’t mean she didn’t try back then.

Also, don’t you think it might help other young 15 yr olds to have the courage to say something after having read the article? So what he is dead? He was a scum bag. Hitler is dead. Genghis Khan is dead. Mussolini is dead. They were horrible people. I would never condemn someone for speaking out against an evil dead person unless there was proof, not speculation, that the motive was not based upon greed.

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Not only did she report it, but numerous other women also reported it. I think it's important institutions deal with this, because Curtis needs to take a  hard look at itself and figure out how to deal with any abuse that might be happening now and in the future, since there will be other abusers in the future.

This isn't just happening in music, but in other educational institutions as well. There are lots of schools that are dealing with buried reports of sexual assault where men in their 60s are coming forward. (The MeToo climate has been freeing for men to report abuse as well.) Reading interviews with survivors, it seems pretty clear that people often need decades to get the therapy and help they need to recover, and the courage to confront often beloved institutions and fondly-remembered teachers who are often long dead.

Note that abusers may construct their lives specifically to obtain access to children. Many beloved teachers build a foundation in which they are loved by the administration, colleagues, parents, and children, so that when they are accused of abuse, the child will not be believed, and/or the problem will be swept under the table. This is part of the grooming behavior.

Other abusers are opportunistic. Music provides ample opportunity for one-on-one access in an intimate setting. I know a college prof (musician but not violinist) who has repeatedly engaged in sexual relationships with his students, which he views as consensual but might have an uncomfortable power dynamic nevertheless.

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11 hours ago, violinnewb said:

So what he is dead? He was a scum bag. Hitler is dead. Genghis Khan is dead. Mussolini is dead. They were horrible people. I would never condemn someone for speaking out against an evil dead person unless there was proof, not speculation, that the motive was not based upon greed.

 

Thanks for helping me make my point. Unlike a lot of other countries, we subscribe to "innocent until proven guilty." If you live by your own rules, you're welcome to it, as long as you cop to it.

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12 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

Uh, she reported it while he was alive

Uh, that's what she says today, for publication (or maybe just publicity?). You're still dealing in hearsay, with no chance for the accused to defend himself.
Keep in mind 4 (four) things:

1) Ms. St. John was once notorious for posing semi-nude for the cover of her initial CD. This speaks to a certain state of mind, mostly construed as substituting sex appeal for real talent. No issue there, it sells everything from cars to toothpaste. But that said, let's just call it what it is. It's a way to get press and attention.

2) In the age of #metoo, the whole definition of what constitutes sexual assault is different from what it was just 10 years ago, much less 3 decades.

3) Let's stipulate that to speak of someone as "acclaimed" is open to interpretation. She was once "notorious"; "acclaimed" is something very different, and could well be the wellspring for selling newspapers (or whatever...)

4) "She continued to study with him for two more years"...

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35 minutes ago, AtlVcl said:

You're still dealing in hearsay, with no chance for the accused to defend himself.

You really did not read the article, did you? Her story is corroborated by first-hand witnesses, including the person she reported it to at the time (and who dismissed it as "touchy feely").

But, yeah, go ahead and try to slut-shame the then-teenage victim ("was once notorious for posing semi-nude for the cover of her initial CD"). It is a tired old tactic.

And you say, "imagine if Brodsky was your father; would you be of the same opinion still?"

Perhaps you might try imagining if she were your daughter, and she had the courage to speak up about being sexually abused and nobody listened or cared. 

 

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1 hour ago, AtlVcl said:

Uh, that's what she says today, for publication (or maybe just publicity?). You're still dealing in hearsay, with no chance for the accused to defend himself.
Keep in mind 4 (four) things:

1) Ms. St. John was once notorious for posing semi-nude for the cover of her initial CD. This speaks to a certain state of mind, mostly construed as substituting sex appeal for real talent. No issue there, it sells everything from cars to toothpaste. But that said, let's just call it what it is. It's a way to get press and attention.

2) In the age of #metoo, the whole definition of what constitutes sexual assault is different from what it was just 10 years ago, much less 3 decades.

3) Let's stipulate that to speak of someone as "acclaimed" is open to interpretation. She was once "notorious"; "acclaimed" is something very different, and could well be the wellspring for selling newspapers (or whatever...)

4) "She continued to study with him for two more years"...

While I agree with the difficulties associated with 'she said/he said' imbroglios, and a tendency to jump on a trending bandwagon, this is different.

1.  She was 15.

2. She was brave enough to report it.  Do you have any idea how hard that is to do?

3. When the adults in charge did nothing about it - she sucked it up, and continued on.

4. Yes, she used sex-appeal to sell Bach.  Good on her.  THIS WAS LONG AFTER THE ASSAULT (10 years, she was 25).  And even then, the pose she put on the cover was mildly suggestive, but not especially revealing.  As a woman I'm not remotely offended...it's merely a take on a nude with a violin. At that point it was HER choice, as an adult, to experiment.

5.  Ask yourself though:  Did being seduced and raped, as a child, by a mature man in a position of power, that she was supposed to have been able to trust, have anything to do with this choice?

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2 hours ago, AtlVcl said:

Uh, that's what she says today, for publication (or maybe just publicity?). You're still dealing in hearsay, with no chance for the accused to defend himself.
Keep in mind 4 (four) things:

1) Ms. St. John was once notorious for posing semi-nude for the cover of her initial CD. This speaks to a certain state of mind, mostly construed as substituting sex appeal for real talent. No issue there, it sells everything from cars to toothpaste. But that said, let's just call it what it is. It's a way to get press and attention.

2) In the age of #metoo, the whole definition of what constitutes sexual assault is different from what it was just 10 years ago, much less 3 decades.

3) Let's stipulate that to speak of someone as "acclaimed" is open to interpretation. She was once "notorious"; "acclaimed" is something very different, and could well be the wellspring for selling newspapers (or whatever...)

4) "She continued to study with him for two more years"...

Before I address your enumerated points, lets start with your opening statement.  You are speculating with no corroboration.  Ms. St. John had corroborators.  On that point, you lose.  Hearsay?  Nope.  Hearsay is an out of court statement used to prove the truth of the matter BY A NON-PARTY witness.  Ms. St. John WAS a party...SHE WAS THE VICTIM.

1) Semi-nude? so what? If it is lawful, then good for her.  Sexual harassment, by the way, is NOT lawful.  Sexual harassment towards an under aged person is statutory rape.

2) While I understand where you are coming from on this point, and you have a valid point...It is NEVER okay to make sexual advances of ANY KIND towards a 15 year old.  EVEN IF SHE CONSENTS. 

3) I can stipulate to this.

4) Yes.  She continued for 2 more years because she was a 15 year old and was told by the dean that she was wrong.  In general, victims such as Ms. St. John often feel they have no other choice.

My original points were as follows:

A. Read the article.

B. Don't speculate.

 

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2 hours ago, Rue said:

 

5.  Ask yourself though:  Did being seduced and raped, as a child, by a mature man in a position of power, that she was supposed to have been able to trust, have anything to do with this choice?

 

 

The accusation is of "sexual abuse", i.e., NOT rape. Is this the typical over-reaction to these types of claims?

Thirty-three years later, all her "corroborating witnesses" are strangely silent on the question of their identity.

I'd suggest that any 15 yr old who went to the police would get a sympathetic hearing, instead of relying on her then-youth with "reclaimed" memory.

I will continue to stand with the family. 

PS I've now read the article 3 times, I have no patience for more. My points remain, whether anyone reading chooses to accept them or not. Good day.

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35 minutes ago, AtlVcl said:

The accusation is of "sexual abuse", i.e., NOT rape. Is this the typical over-reaction to these types of claims?

For the record, it was rape:

"St. John said the abuse continued, about every other week, for about six months and culminated in Brodsky’s raping her. She was 14. She said after that she refused to let him touch her again, standing in the corner of the room when she played to put as much space between them as possible."

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43 minutes ago, AtlVcl said:

The accusation is of "sexual abuse", i.e., NOT rape. Is this the typical over-reaction to these types of claims?

PS I've now read the article 3 times, I have no patience for more. My points remain, whether anyone reading chooses to accept them or not. Good day.

OMG...You just put your own reading skills at issue...She said "rape."  She was under the age of 16.  So it WAS STATUTORY RAPE.  This is insane.

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The MeToo term was coined in 2006.

It started trending in 2017.

Before 2006, little was done, when this sort of thing 'occurred'. 

Lara's incident happened in 1985, some 21 years before the term MeToo was even coined.  What was the go-to response then?  "Let's not make a fuss.  Let's downplay the incident.  Let's make it all go away." The casting couch was an accepted (if silent) perk for men.

If this attitude was the prevalent attitude at the time, and there was an old boy's club at the helm, of course this is the way things will play out.

I'm the mother of a daughter and two sons.  I'm equally concerned for both genders.  I don't want my daughter taken advantage of or shamed.  I don't want my sons finding themselves in a position where they could be accused of doing something wrong.

I'm not on any bandwagon, but I am for positive change.

 

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I only have sons and as a father, it is important to me that my boys do what is right and speak up on their own behalf and the behalf of others.

there are instances in this metoo mvt where I am sympathetic to certain men in ambiguous situations where there is very little to zero factual evidence other than the two parties. 

Where I cannot stand idle is when people speak up based solely on speculation. If there is some concrete evidence against Ms. St. John, then that is another story. Saying she is at fault or her story doesn’t add up because she wore certain brow raising clothing (or lack thereof) on a CD cover and that leads to her credibility? That’s nonsense.

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31 minutes ago, violinnewb said:

I only have sons and as a father, it is important to me that my boys do what is right and speak up on their own behalf and the behalf of others.

Exactly.

Furthermore, I am really angry that wealthy powerful men have been getting away with sexually assaulting women and girls for way way too long. Victim blaming is not a defense.

Good for St. John for speaking out. By doing so, she sets an example of courage for other girls to speak out, and hopefully makes would-be assailants think twice before committing assaults.

 

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I get the impression (pretty much everywhere) that people figure that if they just keep condemning human nature long enough, and loudly enough, they can force it to change.

It's always people who aren't good enough for some (as an abstraction) morally beautiful system (capitalism, communism, socialism, anarchy, theocracy, monarchy, feudalism) to work as intended. This dovetails nicely with Willis Carto's observation, long ago, that "Americans are monodiabolists." Everything, to them, is a cowboy movie where good guys in white hats battle and overcome bad guys in black hats. And this despite everyone pretty much knowing better when they are honest.

One metatrend over the last hundred years has been that Western culture in general (and American culture specifically) is increasingly (seemingly,  incorrigibly) utopian. And like any other form of make-believe, this collective recreation depends on the willing suspension of disbelief. Men are going to stop being, you know, so male. And their female counterparties are going to stop being in several places at once (one of which, and from early childhood, greatly enjoys and seeks to provoke attention and appreciative responses from men while feigning innocence of any such intent). But higher status alpha males are not  going to stop being sexually attractive to the female sex (at all ages), and women, sexually magnetic themselves, are not going to stop scheming ways to affiliate with them. Therein lies the rub.

It's a two-handed game.

Walt Kelly was closer to the mark ("We have met the enemy, and he is us").

FWIW

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Speaking as a woman who is not conventionally attractive, I will tell you from personal experience that it is not at all a deterrent to predatory men, and in fact, said predatory men will pretend to be doing you a favor by harassing you.

Speaking as a woman who has managed teams at tech companies, I can also tell you that sexual harassment in the workplace is rampant, and it's hard for even the best-intentioned managers (male or female) to protect the women on their teams.

And finally, I can tell you, from personal observation in the workplace, that even butch lesbians with zero interest in men and no flirtatious manner whatsoever still get the unwelcome attention of men.

Some men are just predators. A recent news article noted that we're starting to understand something really important about rape. We used to assume that "date rapists" were a totally different category from the men that committed violent stranger rapes -- that a guy who might take advantage of an ambiguous situation or a drunk woman was a "normal" guy caught in a bad situation. Rape-kit testing is now destroying that assumption. It turns out that many men who commit violent rapes have, in the past, been given a pass on a he-said she-said date-rape accusation.

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