Tucked carefully away, right underneath where my teacher sat, two rifles were nestled in the ceiling joists. Pulling one down carefully, I undid its ties and let the cloth cover drop as I pointed the barrel up towards the living room floor.
Written by Peter Hamer
Edited by Alyssa Saturley and produced by Kim Latreille
Searching for a hint of something in his eyes, I’m focussed down the barrel of a shotgun pointed into my Music Teacher’s face. He showed no emotion–his gaze expressionless and empty. I hoped for fear, regret, or shame for what he had done to me. Instead, his eyes returned my stare, without emotion.
His vacant look would stay with me for decades.
It was the night of our last bash before school began. My parents were camping with my younger brother, and my sister was out with her boyfriend. My friends from summer camp were in the house and everywhere–beer and wine were flowing freely. Everyone was doing what you would expect.
The summer of 1985 had been a time of change for me. I was ready to get out and explore, but in so many ways I still felt like a kid.
Tom, my buddy from across the street, was physically smaller than me—a fact that no way hampered his ability to dominate our friendship when the mood struck him. He was always ready to stir up shit with me as his wingman.
Well every time I see you dance
Hey! Where’d you get those great big pants
Just one ear, well just one eye
Just one glance and I could die
Frankie Venom’s rockabilly vocals flooded the backyard as the sounds of Teenage Head’s “Let’s Shake” lent a cool tempo to our conversation. We stood with our beers, just the two of us.
Tom wasn’t a summer camp kind of guy. We were smoking, something I only ever did with him. He was buzzing with energy, conjuring how we might get into trouble. That’s how the conversation came back to The Music Teacher. It always did when Tom was looking to push my buttons.
I had spent much of the summer free from thoughts of him and here was Tom slamming him in my face again, challenging me with his shit-eating grin.
Bringing up The Music Teacher in conversation was nothing new. What had changed was my response. Not having set foot in music class since school ended, I felt less vulnerable. Time had passed.
Somehow, ten minutes later, I found myself in my rec room holding the phone as the voice of The Music Teacher chimed back at me through the receiver. Tom had dialled the digits for me. Now he rubbed his hands together in anticipation, barely able to contain his excitement.
After some quick back and forth, I ended our call with, “Okay, I’ll be here,” and slammed the phone down on its cradle.
The next twenty minutes were a blur. Word got around that a teacher from my school was coming over, a bizarre concept for my camp friends, who knew nothing of my life at Bell High.
Suddenly, the house cleared. Tom and I were left alone with the possibility of what we had done. Looking at me, Tom said, “He’ll probably show.”
“I doubt it,” I answered.
“He can’t resist those young boys,” Tom said with a grin. “You lured him in. He won’t be able to keep himself away.”
All the happy effects of our beers and the party drained from my body as quickly as my camp friends had left the house. I realized I might be seeing The Music Teacher again. A situation I created. Caught, I returned to that familiar place of resentment for feeling powerless over what could happen.
The doorbell rang, jerking me back into now. The Music Teacher was at my house. I opened the door. He stood before me grinning awkwardly. Tom let out a yelp in the background. This was really happening.
Shutting the door behind him, he turned to me and asked, only half joking, “Where’s the party?”
The Music Teacher planted himself casually on our old brown sofa. He was dressed in the same button up shirt and pants he wore each day at school. His greasy hair, parted on the side, looked like it had not been washed in days. Yet, here he was, invited by me - enticed - to be here, with promises of things to be enjoyed.
Staring up at me through his square wire-rimmed glasses, he asked, “Where are all the boys?”
I felt my anger take hold of me. My face flushed. An image of him naked in front of me, the feeling of the time his hand inched toward my groin, the prison of his arms wrapping tightly around me; all parts of my past that readily came forward like they were happening again. I was so overwhelmed; I suppressed the urge to vomit. I needed to be stronger than that.
As I watched him, so at home in an environment where I have always felt safe, I realized what tonight meant. Nothing would ever be the same. Thinking of my brother Alex, now 13 years old, I needed to end this now. My abuse could not become his abuse.
I quickly made my way downstairs to my father’s workshop. The basement level was unfinished, exposed wooden rafters were visible where the ceiling should be.
Tucked carefully away, right underneath where my teacher sat, two rifles sat nestled in the ceiling joists. Pulling one down carefully, I undid its ties and let the cloth cover drop as I pointed the barrel up towards the living room floor.
Running the stairs two at a time, I reached the main floor and paused to catch my breath. Tom’s eyes widened at the sight of me, but only for a moment. Then they filled with anticipation bordering on glee at the thought of what would go down.
A surprising calm came over me as I moved to confront the man who had been my attacker. I was angry and I was drunk. Stepping up to the couch where The Music Teacher was sitting, I lifted the rifle, pointing it to his chest. He looked confused as he tried to make sense of the scene playing out. I felt rage pent up from years of being victimized by this man in front of me. No, not a man - this monster in front of me.
The words flew from my mouth: “Why did you do that to me?! Why did you say those things to me?! What’s wrong with you?! If you ever touch my brother, I’ll kill you!”
His empty expression betrayed no emotion. He had no answers. He gave me nothing.
I took a step back as he unfolded himself slowly from the couch and stood without averting his gaze. He shuffled sideways toward the front door. I kept the rifle pointed at him and continued to yell, rage pouring out of me.
“You’re an asshole! I hate you! Fuck you! You need to pay for what you did to me! Why did you do that to me?! Why me? I hate you!”
A tunnel of rage formed around me and my predator as the room disappeared.
The Music Teacher inched his way toward the front hall, and the back door opened.
“What the fuck are you doing?”
My older sister, Nicola, walked in from outside. The mess of empty beer bottles gave her just enough information to draw a quick conclusion that I was drunk, and things had gotten out of hand.
She ripped the rifle out of my hands and turned to The Music Teacher. “What are you doing here?” she asked him.
This moment, my first chance at a reckoning, was being taken from me. I darted back down the stairs to the basement and grabbed the second gun. In the front hall, everyone stood frozen.
I raised the second rifle and faced him down again.
Nicky grabbed this gun from me also. She turned.
“Why are you still here?” she demanded in a rhetorical way that let The Music Teacher know his exit was overdue.
Without a word, he slipped out the front door. Watching him walk away, I stood there feeling robbed, until the next time I saw him, in a courtroom–thirty years later.
Peter Hamer is a Bell High School graduate, a husband, and father of two. Currently, he’s Executive Director of the Ottawa Valley Family Health Team, a group of family physicians, specialists, and allied health professionals in Almonte, Ontario, Canada. Peter is a regular speaker at the Women and Gender Studies Program at Sir Wilfred Laurier University, and has become a strong advocate for the prevention of childhood sexual abuse. It was due to Peter Hamer coming forward that Mr. Clarke was convicted of his crimes. Visit No More Secrets to learn more about Peter’s journey in his new book of the same name.
A note from Femke magazine: If you, or anyone you know is experiencing inappropriate sexual behaviour from an adult and/or peer, please tell someone. Often, children are not aware of what actions constitute abuse.
Teachers and school administrators have a duty to report incidents of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse to the appropriate authorities. They are also obligated to report suspicions of domestic violence or neglect, regardless of having proof.
Please contact one of the following resources if you need support:
Kids Help Phone
Child, Youth, and Family Crisis Line for Eastern Ontario
For your local police department, dial 411
To report a crime against a minor person, dial 411 and contact the Children‘s Aid Society in your area. In Ontario, check the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies’ website to find one in your area.
To hear more about this story, listen to The Band Played On, a CBC investigative podcast produced by Julie Ireton. Episode One, The Gun, features the author, Peter Hamer.
Yearbook image source: Author’s own. Bell High School yearbook, Campanarius ’85. Published by Jostens/National School Services, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 1985. Produced by: Claus Vogel (Editor-in-Chief), Nupur Gogia (Editor), Nadia Porcari (Ass’t Editor/Cover Designer), Denise McKinnon (Head of Photography)
Lyric source: Artist: Teenage Head, Album: Frantic City, Song: Let’s Shake, Released: 1980. https://elyrics.net
Album image source: By Wikipedia, Fair use. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32182584
Thanks to Kim and Alyssa for their contributions and publishing of this account of manipulation and abuse to our friend and classmate Peter. There are no words to turn back the clock of time, yet it is so important to create awareness and understanding that you are not alone in your fight. Peter we stand by your side and are so proud of you, but so pained that you had to endure this torture.