Speaking to a select audience of about 20 student-athletes in the Harvard College Women’s Center yesterday, journalist and filmmaker Goldie Taylor recounted her childhood sexual assault by a football coach and her abusive relationship with an older man.
Taylor, who most recently worked as a political analyst for MSNBC, shared personal recollections at the discussion. Referring to Pennsylvania State University football coach Jerry Sandusky's child sex abuse convictions, Taylor said she and many others experienced similar exploitation as students.
As the Sandusky scandal progressed, Taylor said, she began to tweet her own sexual assault story, and eventually wrote a blog post in which she named her abuser, who is now a girls’ track coach in his 50s.
“[His] number [of victims] was all at once my shame and my protection,” she said. “Because what if I had said something back then? What if I had gone to someone, a knowing teacher or parent, a principal, or somebody?”
Taylor said that psychological damage from the abuse resulted in her moving in with a violent older man at age 18.
“When I was 18, the only way I knew that a man loved you was by his force,” she said. After accidentally turning a few of his white shirts pink in the wash, Taylor said, she panicked and attempted to flee. She struck him with a telephone when he attacked her but was stabbed in the shoulder as she ran.
As Taylor became a media personality, she said, her mother revealed that Taylor’s brother was the product of a high school rape.
Taylor implored her audience to be supportive of peers trying to leave unhealthy relationships.
“Be a safe harbor. Be that believing mirror when your friend or sister or brother calls and says, ‘Hey, I’m in trouble.’ Believe them,” she said. “That is probably the most important thing, the most important gift, that you can give them. Believe them.”
The small seminar was hosted by the Harvard Silence Hurts. Open Up. Uncover Violence. Talk About It. Campaign (S.H.O.U.T), which aims to raise awareness of domestic violence. Alicia Williams, a Harvard equity, diversity, and inclusion administrative fellow, served as moderator.
“A lot of [student-athletes] are student leaders on campus,” Williams said. “As leaders who a lot of people look at and sometimes blame or accuse, it’s important that we talk about these issues.”