I blamed myself silently and deeply for complying. But if I acknowledged that what happened was wrong and bad, I would be turning my back on the only thing that made me feel special. All the people, the dreams, the future I wanted as a karate teacher myself... So I flicked the switch in my mind and in my soul, turned off the lights, and I thanked him for showing me “the stretch”. Any thoughts that arose that were counter to my falsified version of events were crushed like a cigarette butt beneath a boot.

From that point on, it had nothing to do with my pleasure. He would keep me behind after classes once or twice a week to “help” him. He asked me to start giving him massages to ease his stresses, which quickly lead to him pushing me further and further beyond my limits. Over time he would have me service him in riskier and riskier locations, like supply closets when other students were training on the other side of the unlocked door; his car on a quiet highway; the front seat in front of my house. He would sometimes grope me until my body responded, as if to prove to me that I was a willing participant, that this is something that I wanted. I was becoming more and more trapped into this situation, and couldn’t find a way to make it stop even if I could hear the little voices that bubbled up from my soul begging to get out.

Despite all of the lies that I told myself that I was a willing participant in what was happening, I have now come to accept that I was terrified of him. I thought he was capable of anything… violence, blackmail, exposing me to my peers… absolutely anything.

This continued throughout and after my first relationship with a serious girlfriend, and he caused a lot of resentment and discord in my relationships by keeping me late to service his needs or calling me to come in on weekends to help with this or that. I told lie after lie to cover my lateness, my absence, how important it was for me to be there to help. He was convincing me (and I convinced myself) that I was his “right hand man”, his Number 2, and that I was the only reason he was as successful as he was. I was completely brainwashed, through and through.

This went on right up until a week before my wedding. I was buried within my own lies and fabrications… almost 8 years worth all in all. The only way I could escape was when I was told by a fellow blackbelt that almost a dozen of his students, those senior students that I idolized for so many years and were now my friends, were walking away from our collective chain of karate schools because he abused them.

In one blinding instant of clarity I saw everything that he had told me, every lie I told myself, disintegrate. He had done this to boy after boy, young man after young man. I was not special; I was just one in a long chain of many. Some of them were even being abused at the same time that I was! I went into shock again, everything I thought I knew spiraling away from me. But I turned my back on him and walked away. I was just married, and it took the courage of my peers to throw me a life-line to safety.

It is almost 10 years now since I got out. I think about it constantly. I blame myself often. I still have panic attacks when I think that I may run into him on the street or in a store. His presence hangs looming between my wife and me, silent and heavy, to cause strife from time to time.

After doing work with a therapist in EMDR, I’ve just started to accept that had these things been done to anyone else, I would have considered it abuse. If I take each situation out of the context of my life, the narrative that I built to justify it, I see how horrific it was. The instances of rape and molestation, threats of harm and violence.

And so 10 years after it ended, I have decided to put down the weight of my guilt, to begin accepting the past as what it was, and move on.