How I met my first serial predator…
I was 17 and walking my girlfriend home from a Saturday dance at the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover Massachusetts. I thought of her as my girlfriend although we had only had a couple of dates. “Artemis” was a year younger than me. We were walking to my dorm when a school dean, David Cobb, approached us. He asked each of us if we had been drinking. I said “no” and she said “yes”. I usually drank alcohol on Saturdays, but on this night, I had not had a single drink. I think the reason was that I was trying to find Artemis. Remember we had no cell phones in those days so sometimes it took a couple of hours to locate someone.
Dean Cobb told me to immediately walk Artemis home and then hurry back to my dorm so I wouldn’t miss curfew which was at 11:30. I did as I was told. David Cobb was well known to me. He had been one of my advanced English instructors. He had offered to tutor me since he knew I wanted to be a writer. I learned many things from him such as “a teacher can’t really teach, but only be there when someone is ready to learn”. He was somewhat famous around school for wearing riding a black motorcycle while wearing a black leather jacket and a black helmet. One rumor had him as a Green Beret who was on in Vietnam. He was certainly very smart and intense. At that point I admired him.
However, a couple days later Artemis told me that David Cobb had gone to her dorm that night and raped her. Both she told the school as did I. I told Dean Sylvia Thayer who was my Cluster Dean – meaning she was the senior person responsible for me aside from my house counselor. She promised to look into it. A couple of weeks later I went to see her again. I remember standing on her front porch, she in the doorway, looking at me like I was an unwanted guest. I asked what was happening. She told me that they had determined that Artemis was lying since she was already in trouble for using drugs. I didn’t know that Dean Cobb was Thayer’s boss. Sometime after that, Artemis showed me flirtatious letters from Cobb. I don’t know if she showed them to anyone but both of us lost our trust in the school.
About nine years later Cobb was arrested for attempted sexual assault on a child. He would eventually be convicted of a couple of pedophilia crimes and serve nine years in jail. I contacted Artemis and told her I was sorry I had not been more supportive. Soon both her lawyers and the school wanted to hear my part of the story as they began a settlement discussion. (read about Cobb here) I also told this story to the school’s president, Barbara Landis-Chase.
In many ways this was the beginning of Strider. Because for many years I continued to ask myself these questions, “if a 16 year-old girl isn’t safe at a place like Andover, where is she safe? If the highly educated people at Andover, supposedly leaders in society, won’t do the right thing, who will?”