Women Perpetrate Too

by Name Undisclosed
(Pennsylvania, United States)

I'm a 37-year-old woman. As an adolescent, I was emotionally and sexually abused by a female teacher/coach 13 years older than me, whom I’ll call ‘Gene’. Gene was my 10th grade teacher and track coach throughout high school. We developed a close relationship over those years; I babysat her children, we went to breakfast before school and running together after school, we had many long talks during which each of us revealed very personal things, we hugged after my track event accomplishments, and we exchanged shoulder massages in the bleachers during track meets in front of the team. Everyone at the high school knew that Gene and I were close, especially because my father was the school district superintendent at the time and had been a teacher and administrator for many years there. Gene’s husband was a fellow teacher in the school and knew me well, too. My father among others regarded Gene as an excellent, caring teacher. No one would have guessed what was really going on.

When I was still in high school, Gene often told me things that were over the student-teacher line of appropriateness. I heard about her family of origin problems, how her parents were emotionally cold, that she’d had an abortion in college when her now-husband and she were dating, personal details about her husband and their sex life, that an 'intense' relationship with a college friend of hers was 'complicated' (hinting that they’d had an affair, which I later found out and heard extensive intimate details about). That is to name a few things from her side. I told her private information about my family, which was tight-lipped given my father's public position, and about myself that no one else knew. We were mutual confidants; and, of course, this made me feel very grown-up and special. I never told anyone what she confided in me until much later.

Very soon after my high school graduation, I heard further details of Gene’s private life, which blew me away. For one, how her older brother had molested her when she was young; I had already known that he’d been killed while riding a bicycle. All of that had tormented her. More shocking was the affair she’d had with her then-best friend, a friend from college, who I knew because he coached the boys’ track team at our high school. Gene told me that she nearly left her husband for this man, when her first child was a baby, several years prior. Very oddly, after Gene’s husband knew of their affair and Gene decided not to leave her husband, the former lover spent a lot of time at Gene’s home and was nearly a member of their family.

During that summer between high school and college, Gene and I spent more time together. To celebrate my graduation, she took me to a secluded park for a picnic. She brought wine, which got me tipsy. I told her that I questioned my sexuality, having only liked boys up to that point, but being a jock and a ‘tomboy’ somewhat. Gene was petite and feminine; I never thought she would be attracted to women. She was a sympathetic listener and it felt okay to tell her that.

Later, around my 18th birthday in July, I went with Gene and her family on a trip to visit her aunt’s house for a few days. It was then that I first felt a conscious sexual attraction to her. One night, Gene kissed me on the forehead good night in my bed.

Fast-forward to my first year of college. That fall, Gene and I exchanged letters and phone calls regularly. The relationship was clearly building toward a sexual encounter. When I was home on winter break, Gene and I were physically intimate for the first time. She visited me at my college campus after that, where we had sex in her car. I visited her at home on spring break and we had sex in her house, with her husband away and their children sleeping nearby. By the summer after my first year of college, I had developed an eating disorder—female athlete triad—which caused a severe drop in weight in a short period of time. I had been a full-scholarship Division I athlete, but I didn’t care because engaging in my eating disorder to escape the shame and pain of that relationship was the most important thing to me. I could not see it that way then, of course. It took many years of psychotherapy to come to understand that Gene had abused me. I went through long periods of heavy drinking starting in college and through my early 30s. Until age 27, I had taken full responsibility for it, believing that I was an adult.

I am long sober and free of my eating disorder, thankfully, but the memories are still graphic and very present in my mind. I did attempt to seek legal recourse at about age 30, but it was too late. Not even a civil suit was possible in the state where I live. The statute of limitations had already run out. It was possible, though, for my parents to file a complaint to the state’s department of education (DOE), which allows a 2-year window from the time of violation for either the victim to complain or a person who discovered the violation to complain. Finally telling my parents what had happened was extremely difficult, but a huge relief. After 6 months of the complaint process, Gene chose to surrender her state teaching certificate in lieu of discipline, which was an admission of guilt and meant the case did not need to be heard before the judicial board. This was some consolation, but she had already left the state school system and was teaching at the university level. I was comforted by the DOE’s attorney, who was vigilant on my behalf and sympathetic to what I’d been through.

I continue to grapple with the effects of the abuse on me and on my family. I went through a lot of rage, mostly directed at myself, and I am angry still because Gene has not expressed contrition for her decisions and behavior—not in the least. There is obviously a personality disorder or emotional disturbance on her part, which is pathetic but does not excuse anything she did. I refuse to think and act like a victim anymore, however. That thinking is in the past. But I need her to know how she affected me and the people around me. I do not know exactly how I want to communicate this to her. Writing about it has been as therapeutic as talking about it over the years, and I think it is time to write to her directly, in a way that is truthful but measured.

Please, if you or someone you know has suffered abuse, do not hesitate to obtain justice and get that person away from children. Fortunately, laws are becoming more protective of children, but there is a long way to go to improve systems in all states. Stay vigilant!

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