Hindle’s corridor was notorious in student circles for its permissiveness. One could drink and drug with impunity on Barton III, or B-3, as it was known, with just a modicum of discretion. I listed it as my first choice when housing forms were passed out in the spring of my junior year. As a 17-year-old senior in the fall of 1982, I was assigned one of two large single rooms at the end of the hallway with more privacy than others. In keeping with his reputation, Hindle gave us ample nightly warning of his impending trips down the corridor at check-in. He would bellow from his spartan quarters, “I will be coming down the hall in one minute,” giving us just enough time to spray some Ozium, stash our paraphernalia, and remove the rolled-up towels we placed underneath our doors to keep the pungent odor of marijuana from seeping into the hallway. One Saturday night, he turned in a classmate from the Texas oil patch who was blatantly intoxicated, but otherwise it seemed nearly impossible to get written up on his corridor.
Beginning midway through the fall term of my senior year, the Czar initiated an insistent campaign to give me a back rub. I shrugged it off the first few times with a casual “Thanks anyway.” I wish I could say that I understood his aims, but it never crossed my mind that Hindle was anything other than what he appeared to be: a highly esteemed “man’s man” who was genuinely interested in the well-being of his charges. He was the last person I would have suspected of being sexually interested in adolescent boys, or in me.
I turned 18 in early December. Eventually, Hindle wore me down, and one night before fall-term exams, a little high, and for reasons that I can’t consciously explain, I answered affirmatively when he said I looked tense and seemed as if I could really use a back rub. Nothing of a sexual nature occurred; it’s clear to me now that he was probing to see if I was amenable to a sexual approach.
When I returned from Christmas vacation in early January, Hindle offered another back rub and I assented. The Cowboys and Vikings were playing a Monday night game in Minneapolis, and Dallas’s Tony Dorsett set an NFL record with a 99-yard touchdown run late in the game. I had been drinking on the plane back from Texas, where my family had relocated, and my inhibitions were lowered. That was the first time explicit sexual contact occurred, the Czar massaging my legs and buttocks and then masturbating me to climax. The abuse continued over the next several weeks, more than eight times, wordless exchanges that escalated to include Hindle performing fellatio on me. I would climax, roll over, and feign sleep. He would gather himself up, close the door, and walk down the hallway to his apartment. It was as if nothing had ever happened.
In hindsight, I believe Hindle “groomed” me over time, fixing upon me because I was troubled, vulnerable, and craving positive adult attention. I considered myself quite savvy, a budding Holden Caulfield, but like Salinger’s protagonist, when it came to the sexual and emotional arenas, I wasn’t so sophisticated. Hindle and I never spoke about what took place, and I didn’t tell a soul.
After graduating in May 1983, I returned to Texas and enrolled at Southern Methodist University. I looked forward to a fresh start, hopeful that a change in geography was all I needed to finally step into the potential that many saw but that had so far proved elusive. I felt like a huge failure, though, and embarked instead on a dizzying 14-month bender. I was slugging down drinks by myself in a Dallas nightclub just hours after leaving Deerfield for the last time, and the ensuing months were a blur of intoxication, degradation, and humiliating episodes. It’s hard to say how linked my alcohol and drug use was to what I had experienced at Deerfield, but looking back, the juxtaposition is striking. I’m extremely fortunate to have emerged from that period without having permanently harmed myself or someone else.
That all came to a screeching halt with an early-afternoon DUI arrest in August 1984 in the parking lot of a popular package store near campus. Forty-eight hours in jail knocked some sense into me, a seven-week stay at an Arizona treatment center got me dry and exposed me to the 12-step recovery model, and a three-month sojourn in a halfway house cemented the notion that there was a better way for me to live. I’ve been sober and active in recovery since early 1985.
In spite of what I experienced in that far-off dorm room, I count myself as somewhat lucky. The abuse I suffered did not involve overt threats or force, nor was it physically penetrative. Still, the harm done by Hindle’s manipulation, abuse of power, and betrayal of trust has become clearer over time. An abiding mistrust of authority figures has lingered, occasionally wreaking havoc in my professional life as a writer and journalist. I have found myself accommodating others’ needs to my own detriment at times. And my personal relationships have suffered, despite ongoing efforts to address issues in therapy. The bottom line is that I have found it hard to really trust people, as frustrating for them, I imagine, as it was for me. Continued...