I apologize if what I'm about to write will make some uncomfortable. I apologize if what I'm about to write is better left unsaid.
Many people in my life know various versions of the truth to this story, but almost all don't know the whole truth. That's because I've felt like I should keep it secret. I've carried guilt, shame, embarrassment, self-doubt, and self-hatred. I doubt I will even tell the "whole" truth here because I still carry guilt, shame, and embarrassment. But, I will share some of my story to try to exorcise some demons inside me, to hopefully bring awareness and understanding regarding those of us that carry negative feelings for a significant portion of our lives.
I read the Houston news on a daily basis. I have a routine - Houston news, USA news, Australian news, World news. In the state of Texas, the age of consent for sexual relations is 17. In 2003, Texas passed a law making it illegal for a teacher and student from the same school to have a sexual relationship regardless if the student is 17 or 18 (age of consent). Since that time, Houston news quite regularly reports stories about an educator that has been arrested and charged with having inappropriate relationships with students. As is the case with many criminal allegations, especially those of a sexual nature, there is controversy and varying opinions surrounding these cases.
I've always stated that I respect other people's opinions. I do. I've been described as opinionated, so I want others to hear me out (when I'm ready to share) and show respect. You don't have to agree with me; I don't have to agree with you. Sometimes when people disagree, this allows for a great opportunity to learn, hear another perspective on an issue, and grow. State your opinion, but always do so in as respectful a manner as possible. That is my opinion on giving opinions. Am I making sense? I do NOT respect other people's opinions or necessarily want to give them an opportunity to share that opinion if the person is being disrespectful. It does a lot more harm than good (in my humble opinion).
So...that being said... When I read news reports about alleged inappropriate relationships between a teacher and a student, and I read or hear opinions that are calling the student a "slut" or saying they knew better or were asking for it or "it takes two to tango" (and often comments much, much harsher than this, but this is all I can bring myself to type), I can't help but feel anger, frustration, and the ever present guilt, shame, and embarrassment. Let me tell you why.
I was that 17 year old student. I did know better. I was an intelligent student who was involved in many school activities. I didn't smoke, and I wasn't promiscuous. I drank alcohol on 3 occasions in high school, and I can honestly say, I don't think I ever saw drugs my entire high school tenure (except ones shown to me by a police officer). My family wasn't perfect; we had some issues, but I was raised in a Christian home with strong values, and I never doubted my parents' love for me. Most of my friends were "good kids" and many of my friends' parents were very good to me as well. So, yes, I knew better. I knew right from wrong.
|Me - my Senior year of high school|
It took many years of hiding from the aftermath of this relationship. It took many years of trying to numb my pain or avoid my feelings or fake being strong or laugh and joke about the matter. All these years, I've carried some pretty deep, dark scars from this relationship. In recent years, I've finally been able to work through the "stuff". I've been to therapy. I read books and articles and blogs. I relate to various people - from victims to addicts - and their stories of hitting dark places and overcoming them. I work on myself and try to live and grow. I pray and sometimes meditate and journal (which I should do more frequently). I have a partner who encourages me to face the dark and painful past and be open, vulnerable, and honest. (Previously, I've had a partner who laughed at me and called me an "idiot" for getting myself into such a relationship and another that barely believed me and another who said "you were 'that' girl" and never talked about it again...I understood 'that' wasn't a good girl.)
|Was I "That" Girl?|
I still struggle at times. For instance, in writing this piece, well, it hasn't been easy. I've written, deleted, written again, deleted... I still have a hard time thinking of myself as a victim. At that time, there was no felonious law in Texas to criminalize his behavior. If our relationship happened in 2004 or 2011 or today (anytime since the law was passed in 2003), he would be guilty of committing a felony, and I would be a victim. The guilt, shame, and embarrassment that I still fight to this day doesn't allow me to grasp this and acknowledge it. I'm still working...............
This is a site for an attorney trying to get your business, but it has some good information about the criminal charge that I am discussing. See this LINK.
Oh, and if you'd like to know what happened to the teacher...Google gives so much information. He married another girl that he met while she was in high school and a couple of years younger than me. He has been named in a number of lawsuits. He has been fired twice (I believe) in two different states from teaching. He was issued a cease and desist order. And then there is THIS. Let's just say, it is my humble opinion that he has continued his manipulative behavior. I am not putting this here to slander him; these are all pieces of public information found on the world wide web. And, I don't want to end this on a bad note.....so.......
I am not writing this or sharing this for you to feel sorry for me or to judge me. I am sharing so we can all realize passing judgment or sharing hurtful opinions can further damage those that are carrying heavy burdens already. Lift someone up instead of tearing them down. Be respectful when you share your opinions. Empathize with others.