Mela Dailey is a performer, an accomplished soprano. She lives her life in the public eye.
But one part of her life had been a secret until one week ago, when she posted 1,111 words on her Facebook page for the world to see.
“Today is the day that I stop lying and covering up for the man who used his power to abuse me for years,” she wrote. “Twenty years is long enough.”
In the post, Dailey accuses a former Dallas Independent School District teacher and department head of sexually abusing her for two years. She said she decided to go public after she realized he was on Facebook.
“People don’t want to talk about this kind of stuff,” Dailey said. “I also felt like this was maybe the most appropriate in a way, because this was a person that felt safe enough to be on social media, so it was my way of not allowing myself to be a victim anymore.”
In 1994, Dailey was a 15-year-old high school sophomore. She was new to the district, having moved to Dallas from a small town. She said the DISD employee took an immediate interest, befriending her and her parents.
He picked her up from school. He paid her way to events. He helped her get auditions. His daughter gave her music lessons at his house.
“I thought I had hit the jackpot and I felt very special,” Dailey said. “There was a blurred boundary where he seemed just like a person who was really invested in my future.”
After about six months, though, she said he forced her to have sex with him.
“I had such guilt over not screaming, over not running away, over not yelling and kicking and fighting,” Dailey said. “I was told that was consent, and so I thought because I didn’t fight the first time that I had no longer the right to say 'no' after that. He would tell me that I had seduced him.”
Eventually, other students began to suspect. Some of them reported those suspicions to school officials. Dailey said she was called in to speak to administrators and then interviewed by detectives.
“I lied about it; I was afraid. I thought it was all my fault, so I thought it would be the most shameful thing to tell the truth," she said. "Secondly, I was told by him that he would make sure that I was sent to a foster home.”
Dailey said she felt ostracized, and other students bullied her, calling her the “teacher’s whore” and writing ugly notes.
She considered suicide.
“I hated every single minute of being at school,” she said. “I found myself lying for him and about the situation on a daily basis.”
Dailey took extra summer classes and graduated a year early just to escape him. She hasn’t seen him in nearly 20 years.
It took years before she could even talk about it and accept that what happened wasn’t her fault.
But all the pain and shame came rushing back when a former classmate tagged both of them in the same post. So it seemed fitting to use Facebook to go public.
Dailey knows she can’t file charges now. The statute of limitations long ago expired.
These days, she’s a mother, recording artist, and member of the faculty at the University of Texas, where she will be teaching vocal technique in the fall. She’s married to the conductor at the Austin Symphony, and she said he is very supportive of her decision.
“He’s very clear about who was in the wrong here, and that is very freeing," Dailey said. "I can’t help but even love him more for it."
Since she posted her revelation on Facebook, Dailey has received hundreds of messages of support, including many from former classmates.
"I'm sorry I didn't do anything to help you in a situation that was so obviously wrong," one former classmate wrote. "I wish you healing and peace."
Dailey is no longer that frightened, scared teenager.
“Maybe I can help speed someone’s healing, because that’s what really kept me in this horrible, horrible situation was that fear of being found out,” she said.
Dailey said she doesn’t want to speak to her former teacher and has nothing to say to him.
“He’ll have to deal with his own conscience,” she said. “I’m not going to lie for him anymore."
Perhaps the final two sentences of Dailey's Facebook post sum up it up best:
"I lose a piece of my privacy. This is a price I'm willing to pay in order to live in the truth."