This story was left on the cutting room floor in favor of others’ stories, which landed in front of a camera and in greater detail in the legal documents because they fit into the box our society has constructed for how victims look and sound.
In early 2020, Olivia learned that her former teacher was being investigated for allegations of sexual misconduct with his students. That information sent Olivia into a triggered state as she was inundated with memories of her teen years and the man who’d once been a prominent part of her life. As the investigation progressed and Olivia told her story to advocates, lawyers, Department of Education officials, and journalists alike, she realized that she, too, had a story of victimization…one with harrowing similarities to the recognized victims in the case.
When the authorities and media associated with the case failed to recognize Olivia’s experience, she coined a new term for survivors like her—an almost-victim. She was able to identify how vulnerable she’d been, the way her eagerness for a family and social isolation had given her teacher ample opportunity to gain her trust, and the grooming patterns and tactics she’d endured. However, her teacher had left her school abruptly during her junior year, suddenly severing the pattern he’d established with her and other students, and Olivia was left to deal with the aftermath of what was grooming interrupted. That interruption was all the investigators needed to hear to dismiss her, although she refuses to be silenced.
Olivia believes that an interruption doesn’t negate the harm already done, the pain already inflicted. She’s fighting for a world in which survivors of all kinds of abuse—including victims of misconduct—are heard, validated, and empowered. A world in which trauma survivors are treated as equals, even when their trauma varies. If our #MeToo stories are about community and solidarity, then so is this, too.