In 2001, I was groomed, abused and assaulted by my high school teacher. Because I was 17 at the time, this constituted a crime under Illinois law, but even if I had been 18, the harm and the abusive dynamics would have been the same.
That is why I was so concerned when I recently became aware of the news story about a teacher brazenly posting about his “affair” with an 18 year old student. Of particular concern is the pornographic detail he uses to describe their sexual encounters, his insistence that they were “in love,” and the fact that he took offense to another news outlet implying that he was predatory.
I’m very concerned that if there is not more public condemnation of his brazen actions, that other predatory teachers will be emboldened to groom and abuse their students as well.
My teacher started showing me special attention when I was underage. He met with me after school. He invited me to church. He let me cry on his shoulder.
Then one day he kissed me. He continued to initiate sexual contact, and it took me until I was 21 to realize that this was unhealthy and that I needed to leave. It took me until I was 34 to make a delayed outcry, and from the criminal case that followed, I know how many bystanders saw warning signs and chose not to act.
Even if a teacher waits until a student is 18 to initiate sexual contact, the teacher still stands in loco parentis over the student. A position of trust and authority does not change on the student's birthday.
Students are still expected to come to class on time, do their homework, show respect, and obey their teacher. The expectation to maintain professional boundaries is on the teacher, yet this former teacher's memoir clearly shows the progression of boundaries being blurred.
As an authority figure, he saw students "grow and mature over the course of many years” yet became pals with a student while she was a minor and described himself as “an especially fabulous flirt.”
Most teachers would never harm a student and would want to help those in danger, but even well-meaning bystanders can miss the warning signs. Did no one see his flirting? Or perhaps they saw it but dismissed it as harmless?
I am the survivor who worked alongside groups like PAXA and SESAME to pass Faith’s Law in Illinois as well as its trailer bill, HB 4316. Between them, we have updated the grooming statute, defined sexual misconduct for educators, and increased transparency so that those who commit misconduct do not re-offend. However, we were unable to address the lack of criminal repercussions for teachers who groom 17 year olds and wait until they turn 18 to have sex with them.
Thanks to new legislation, schools are now required to have a policy that defines and prohibits sexual misconduct. Next year, additional measures go in place that help to prevent re-offenses in new districts. You can reach out to your local school district and ask about its employee ethics policy and how sexual misconduct is investigated.
I cut off all contact with my abuser when I left him at age 21. When he was interviewed by police 13 years later, he said we had been in love and the relationship was always consensual. But he used his position of authority to groom me and exploit my vulnerability, and that is not love — it is sexual predation.
I know the trail of destruction when a teacher betrays the trust of the community and abuses his position of authority. All it takes for abuse to happen is ONE bad guy and A LOT of bystanders doing nothing— which is why I feel so strongly that if this predator is going to brag about grooming and initiating sexual contact with a student, bystanders need to be calling that out and condemning such harmful content.
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