Dear S.E.S.A.M.E. family,
My name is Jason and I AM A SURVIVOR of educator sexual abuse and exploitation. It took me 25 years to recognize what had happened to me; that the married woman who taught our 7th grade science class had been sexually and emotionally abusing me for 4 years during the early 1970s. During those ensuing 25 years I saw it as a forbidden love that we shared as peers! I was 12, she was 27.
I first learned of S.E.S.A.M.E. in 1997. By reading survivor stories, corresponding with founder Mary Ann Werner, communicating with a fellow male survivor, and submitting my own survivor story I began feeling less isolated and less responsible for the emotional damage that I sustained.
A half century has passed since the first incident of sexual abuse that I endured. Now, in the year 2020, I re-submit my “survivor story” (a “deeper dive” if you will) having had the benefit of another 20+ years of further reflection.
I hope that my “share” will be of benefit in three ways. First, I hope it will help male survivors of female educator abuse feel less isolated and alone. The relative rarity of boys being abused by female teachers can deepen the isolation. Far more commonly covered by media is the sexual abuse of boys by male clergy or male coaches or male Boy Scout leaders. True, there have been the occasional sensationalized coverage of the prosecution of some female teachers. Notwithstanding the important work of S.E. S.A.M.E. and excellent research and publications and presentations made by others it is my sense that the unfortunate phenomenon of boys being molested by female educators remains in the shadows.
Second, I hope to shift the some of the focus away from the sexual abuse/molestation aspect and towards the psychological and emotional seduction. It is the emotional and psychological seduction and “grooming” that makes exploitation possible. By sharing some details of my experience I hope to inform parents and scholastic administrators of the tell-tale warning signs of possible victimization of their sons and pupils.
Third, I hope to assist those professionals who are devoted to exposing, combatting and stopping educator sexual abuse, misconduct and exploitation.
I don’t purport to be an expert in the field of adolescent male development and I’ve done no research related to it. That said, I believe that adolescent and pre-adolescent boys are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse by mature women. Often, boys want to be “men” before they are ready. Some are pre-occupied with the notion of escaping their virginity. Feelings of self-worth among peers, and a desire to abate normal boyhood insecurities make some boys vulnerable and “ripe for the picking”.
I believe that the notion of having sex with a beautiful, worldly, intelligent “mature” woman is extremely difficult for the juvenile, underdeveloped brain to handle. Boys need to be protected by parents and by faculty and the school district. I reiterate: parents need recognize the warning signs of the psychological manipulation and seduction that can be irresistible to a boy, as it was to me. Knowing this might possibly lead to a protection of their sons. Sadly, I was not protected in that way.
An Adolescence Ruined
When I was twelve years old (yes, 12!) my confusing four year sexual anguish began. “Mrs. G.” [I’ve changed the letter of her surname] was my 7th grade (public school) science teacher. She was dynamic and pretty. She was intelligent, cultured, gregarious and strongly opinionated. She was scholastically demanding and a bit moody and mysterious. By the spring term of 1970 she had become the center of my being. Being a mere child, I was far too unsophisticated to consider her to be something other than a god-send. I felt fortunate yet very confused that it was me, not her husband, who seemed to be the focus of her emotional and physical attention. In my mind and heart I was both the luckiest and most tormented boy in junior high school and early high school.
Given the cultural era it is of no surprise that I felt lucky. Popular culture suggested that to me. In 1971 the Hollywood movie “Summer of ‘42” was broadly released. I was 13. Mrs. G. and I saw it together. By then we’d been sexually involved, short of intercourse, on a regular basis. I was not like the boys in these coming of age films who had “fallen short” of their goal of sexually experiencing an older woman. It angers me that, still today, some believe that a teenaged boy who has “scored” in that way has hit the jackpot. I’ve heard too many male stand-up comics on television joke about this. Those comedians and screenwriters would think differently if what happened to me had happened to them or to their sons.
Before I address the damaging after-effects I wish to give you some insight into what the wily guile of a pedophilic seductress looks like.
As mentioned, students called her “Mrs. G.” [The abbreviation “Ms.” had not yet come into mainstream use]. Each fall term she would “adopt” (select) a small number of 12 year old pupils as teacher aids. We (and she) referred to ourselves as “the family”. I felt privileged, “special” to be one of the five students in this group.
We would set up lab equipment, run the film projector, stay after school to tidy the classroom and wash the “blackboard”, mimeograph (remember those?) handouts, and other related tasks. I recall threading the film projector and showing the class a film about deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Strange how such trivial matters can stay in one’s memory.
April 22, 1970 was the inaugural Earth Day. Mrs. G. made that a huge thing. She was intensely passionate about ecology and the environment. As a learning exercise the entire class joined her in the local park. In the grass we would use twine and wooden stakes to create approximately two square yard “ecosystems” to study. A favored spot was across from the indoor/outdoor ice skating rink.
There were other outings with “we Family” to learn this or that about science or just to be together. Occasionally her husband, Mr. G. (also a science teacher in a different town) would come along, and we’d play touch football or kickball and then picnic on a blanket.
She taught us about genetics (recessive and dominant genes) and blood types. Willing classmates would extend their fingertips for a drop of blood to be drawn. I recall having been chosen to administer that test to some of my classmates using individually wrapped lancets. It was through that exercise that I discovered that my father was not my biological father! He was Type O, and I am Type AB+.
Our final exam involved having to identify a series of organisms preserved in jars of formaldehyde. I helped her arrange that display. I can still smell the odor.
I routinely stayed in her classroom after school for increasingly longer lengths of time. I would tidy the classroom, prepare laboratory set-ups for class, etc. While I did not do so for this purpose, it did raise my profile and standing among my classmates (or so I thought). It made me feel privileged and extra special. It also made me feel uncomfortable and apart from my classmates. Whether or not is was her premeditated plan, she was “grooming” me for what was to come.
At first it was innocent. The innocence soon dissolved in the anteroom adjacent to the classroom where school and laboratory supplies were stored. Her classroom and its anteroom were on the ground floor at the front left corner of the brick school building. Its location and windows did not allow for privacy but the anteroom did, as did the “cloak room”. We spent increasing amounts of time in those secluded spaces. We became increasingly crafty in how we would meet. We could not get enough of one another, or so it seemed to me.
It started with kissing, then fondling with increasing degrees of physical intimacy and sexual arousal leading to oral sex. I no longer saw myself as a child, even at age 12. A childhood taken.
I was in her web. I was enraptured. I began prioritizing our time together over all else; my friends, my family. It might be important that I note that I did not come from a broken or outwardly dysfunctional family. There was no alcoholism or addiction, no neglect or economic hardship, and no domestic violence beyond the “spanking on the bottom” that was rather commonplace back then.
My grades didn’t suffer. She would not have stood for that! Life was no longer the same. My care-free youth was replaced by a huge secret that made me simultaneously guilt ridden and thrill ridden.
I recall many insignificant details. For example, she was an enthusiastic atheist who closely followed Madalyn Murray O'Hair the renowned atheist who legally challenged the policy of mandatory prayers and Bible reading in Baltimore public schools. Mrs. G. was adamant that only science could be relied upon to explain the universe and evolutional biology. That caused an additional conflict within me. In September of 1970, after having turned 13, I became a Bar Mitzvah. I wasn’t raised in a particularly observant Jewish home, but still. There was yet another disconnect in my life that she was responsible for creating.
Of course, I didn’t (and couldn’t possibly) know where her head was regarding her experience with me. I didn’t have the wherewithal to even consider it. She said she was in love with me. I believed her. To me, we were in love as equal adults!! Such a preposterous notion! When I look at photographs of me at that age I shudder. I was a physically immature boy, hardly a specimen that one would expect a grown woman to desire.
I began seeing her off school grounds. I would lie to my parents about my whereabouts and companionships. I wasn’t questioned. Back then, even in our urban city, kids had considerable free reign, riding bicycles all over town and not expected home until dark (assuming the homework was done).
In her apartment she would cook a roast beef with a side of egg noodles flavored with seasoned bread crumbs. Just the two of us.
Occasionally I would be in their apartment with her husband present. I vividly recall him showing me elaborate marijuana water pipes that he constructed from glass materials retrieved from his school laboratory classroom. On a few occasions he and I would go to the park across the street to play basketball with neighboring kids.
His wife and I would spend time “making out” in her green circa 1968 Dodge Dart (with the black top), parked at the “Lovers’ Lane” in the local park.
She would take me to places of general educational interest, museums and the like. She taught me etiquette and general social manners. To this day I always remember to lower the toilet seat as a courtesy to women. She was culturing me, and I appreciated it.
Being in science class during the final several weeks of the school term was difficult and distracting, pretending like there was nothing between us. In fact, she had begun treating me rather harshly during class. Was that an overcorrection or a cover-up? The entirety of the relationship weighed very heavily on me but outside of the classroom it did not appear to trouble her at all.
The spell was temporarily broken when the summer recess arrived at the end of the 7th grade. As usual, I spent the summer with my family at a beach town, enjoying a fun, “normal” adolescent life. I did miss Mrs. G. but it was a relief to not be in daily turmoil. Looking back on this now, I recognize that it was fortunate that there was no email or social media or “smart phones” to keep me tethered.
As if this much isn’t strange enough, keep reading.
During the 8th grade our classes were held in portable classrooms adjacent to the main building. I became interested in a girl in my class. That, and my desire to be free of guilt, lead me to “break up” with Mrs. G. Now, get this: She was deeply hurt. And, get THIS: her female colleague/ friend who taught science in the adjacent classroom, pulled me aside and sternly instructed me to stay away from the science wing of the building. Until then I did not know that she was aware of the “relationship” that had been ongoing. I was mortified and traumatized. From that point forward, with still two years remaining in that junior high school building, that wing was like kryptonite to me.
That separation lasted until near the end of the 9th grade, the spring of 1972. There was an end of the year party held in that colleague’s science classroom. I decided to pop in. I’m 14 at that point, somewhat more physically mature (but far from fully) with hormones raging and a more confident swagger. Mrs. G. was there. She was 29 years old. It was a bit awkward at first but it didn’t take long for the flame to be re-ignited like rocket fuel and we blasted off into higher orbits.
That summer she and her husband offered to take me with them on a visit to Washington, D.C. (surely her idea, not his). They met with my parents to discuss it. Of course I wanted to go, anything to spend more time with her, even with him there. That sort of trip was not one that my parents would have been interested in. They gave permission.
Our time in D.C. was sexually charged (lots of sexual contact). The touring of D.C. was also intellectually stimulating. Whenever we did anything historical or cultural she would expect me to study and learn. And I did, and appreciated it.
Then August happened. A few days after my 15th birthday we had sexual intercourse for the first time. In her home! I don’t recall having felt empathy for her husband that this was occurring. It seemed rather normalized. Yet, I knew that what we were doing was something that had to be hidden and that we would both be facing consequences had we been discovered. She modeled duplicity and secrecy which I organically absorbed.
No longer a virgin, I felt more of “a man” at the expense of creating an even greater sense of isolation from family and friends. I knew that none of my buddies could relate to my experiences. Yet I made time to hang out, play pick-up sports and poker, attend “spin the bottle” parties, attend school events and generally do the things that teens do. I enjoyed that immensely and that added to my feelings of confusion and guilt.
This travesty of interaction continued throughout my sophomore year of high school, 1972 – 1973, which was the first year in the high school building located in a different part of the city (junior high school ran from 7th through the 9th grade). We saw one another less often but took advantage of the time we spent together (translation: more molestation/exploitation). Towards the end of the ’72-’73 school year I started dating a classmate who later became my high school sweetheart. But that didn’t stop me, or Mrs. G., from taking the relationship to yet another level.
Trysting in the United Kingdom
As if all of that weren’t enough, from July 18, 1973 to August 28, 1973 Mrs. G., Mr. G. and I toured the United Kingdom. He spent considerable time alone exploring here and there. That gave her and me many private moments in England, Wales and Scotland. We had sex indoors, outdoors and even in a darkened alcove of a castle fortress that was open to the public.
So many memories remain vivid to this day. At the seaside resort town of Torquay on the English Riviera they gave me a cricket bat for my 15th birthday. They conspired to make me think that the wrapped gift was for her. I remember their expressions watching me when I recognized that the gift was actually for me. Being a sports junkie I was thrilled.
I remember her arranging to sleep overnight in a bedroom once occupied by Queen Elizabeth I (she believed herself to be reincarnate or channeling the Virgin Queen). We even put on a skit that she wrote, playing characters of the Royal Court.
I recall buying a droop tobacco pipe in a quaint English town. I recall scurrying up a tall hill covered in heather in the moorlands. I was required to read Wuthering Heights (we visited sites related to the Bronte sisters).
We climbed the narrow steps to the top of the Scott Monument in Edinburgh, Scotland. We went to Loch Ness on a chilly, blustery day hoping to spot “Nessie” the Loch Ness Monster. We stayed on a working farm in Wales. I met a local teenaged girl who introduced me to the music of David Bowie.
I still have the detailed travel diary with entries that either she or I had written in longhand. No doubt there are many more memories that can be brought to mind by reading it. What is not documented in that diary are the sexual escapades. Nor did I dare write of my feelings of possessiveness and resentment when I saw Mrs. G. flirting with the husband of her long-time pen pal in Scarborough. Can you imagine?
Her seduction methods included not just the psychological (by introducing me to so many things) but also emotional. She told me that two of the popular young teachers in our school had been “making passes” at her in the teachers’ lounge. I knew that some of my female classmates giggled and whispered about those two obviously handsome teachers. That ploy made me feel a bit possessive but also a “big man” - I had the woman that those teachers didn’t “get”. Very twisted, indeed!
The Ending of the Beginning
After I got my driver’s license (which she helped me study for, and lent me the Dodge Dart for the road test) I would occasionally visit in her recently purchased new home. We continued to “relate” but with decreasing frequency. One day I came to visit and found that she was entertaining an Asian boy who appeared to be in his early teens. That was very upsetting and spelled the end of the beginning.
I mentioned my high school sweetheart. It was she (and my pals) with whom I could experience being a “normal” teenager. It was a tremendous relief to have rejoined my peer group while not ever having been “caught”.
Rather than it being the “end” it was just the beginning of a much longer road of wreckage, healing and ongoing recovery. The shame did not magically disappear. I confided in my girlfriend. She became angry on my behalf which made me feel anger and resentment for the first time. If only Mr. G. had stopped it. If only that teacher colleague had stopped it. If only we had been discovered, or I had the guts to tell my parents, or the school, or perhaps any other adult about what had happened to me. If only! Maybe justice might have been served or my healing started far sooner. But, I kept silent and the secret was safe. I went on to college and then to law school and into a long career in the law with my experiences buried deeply within me, locked “safely” away.
These traumatic experiences instilled in me a disrespect for the institutions of marriage, religion and a disregard for social mores. She modeled infidelity. She demonstrated and promoted secrecy, duplicity, dishonesty and immorality. She exposed me to the power of lust and the disregard for judgment. Social boundaries were very blurred, if they existed at all. With the exception of targeting minors, I incorporated many of her unfortunate traits.
Fortunately my trauma did not impair my scholastic achievements or my career as an attorney. But it wreaked havoc in my personal life. Once out of college I could not feel settled or feel content in relationships. I’ve heard the phrase “broken love cup”. That’s as apt a metaphor as any. I could not internalize and hold healthy love. I married twice and divorced twice because of uncontrolled infidelities (typically with married women). I disappointed and hurt extended family and friends. Back then I was justifying my choices as a pursuit of personal happiness. Yet, I felt horrible about the pain I caused my spouses and our children, people who loved me and who I loved and cared deeply about.
My self-esteem and self-respect plummeted. My scholastic and professional accomplishments I could not internalize. I dismissed them. They just wouldn’t penetrate. On the flip side of that, I became a fierce self-critic and even the slightest constructive criticism or feedback from others would penetrate and wound me. It remains somewhat difficult to this day.
It was feeding off of itself. I was leaking healthy love and oozing seduction, sometimes oblivious to it. It makes me shudder to think of that now. I had a lot of work ahead of me but didn’t quite know it yet.
My wife has been enormously helpful. Early in our relationship I told her my history in matter-of-fact terms and tone, describing it as “an affair with my teacher”. She stopped me. It was no affair, she said. It was a repeated, ongoing sexual molestation, abuse and exploitation. For whatever reason, even though I was long aware of the trauma, I hadn’t conceived of it in that way.
She emphasized what I already knew – that a child is emotionally incapable of giving consent or emotionally handling such a relationship. I knew that this was also true under the law. There was an element of irony there because part of my law practice included child abuse litigation - protecting children from child abuse (including sexual abuse) and neglect. [None of those situations came even close to resembling my own.]
When infidelities of one degree or another occurred during my third marriage I reached a tipping point. I was acting out even though I had no desire to change my life. I love my wife and could not conceive of leaving her. Yet the attention and opportunities for connecting with other women would grip me. This was no longer justifiable as a pursuit of happiness. I confided in her and it understandably caused a family crisis. I fell into a very dark, depressed state and I needed help.
I took a leave from work and immersed myself in modes of healing. Individual therapy, of course, with specialists. I then joined a therapy group of male survivors of sexual abuse. I started going to 12 Step meetings to address addictive feelings and cravings for love and attention. I read multiple books, I journaled, I meditated, I consulted our rabbi and I prayed.
Slowly but surely I have re-wired my thinking and perceptions. I’ve come to accept that healing and recovery will always be part of my life, the legacy of my past. I tend to focus on the many wonderful things in my life, and in the good offerings provided by life itself.
Fighting Back: Taking Action
My “awakening” in 1995 led to action. I began to take some important steps to push back. The attorney in me kicked in. The day before my 40th birthday I filed with the appropriate state court a comprehensive civil complaint that I had drafted, naming as defendants Mrs. G., Mr. G., Mrs. G’s colleague and the school district. Citing state laws as they then existed, the causes of action (based on multiple events between ages of 12 and 16) were: sexual abuse of a minor; child abuse and endangerment; furnishing illegal substances to a minor; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent infliction of emotional distress; invasion of privacy; assault and battery by a schoolteacher; negligent supervision of a student; breach of fiduciary duty; and seduction.
In anticipation of litigation I documented many elements of my experience based on clear memory. In addition to a chronology, I wrote paragraphs entitled: My Discovery; Her Victims; Birth Control; Her Education; Her Family; Pets; Drugs; Music; Car; Religion; When They Quarreled; Her (stated philosophy about her) Underwear; Feelings of Shame; About Mr. G.; Dining with Mrs. G; My Mother’s lack of Involvement.
As described in my letter to S.E.S.A.M.E. founder Mary Ann Werner (dated August 27, 1997), on the day that I filed the complaint I drove my wife to the school building to show her where it all started. Coincidentally, only a few feet away from the school was a residential home that had been converted to a “Child Advocacy Center” that housed the police department’s child abuse prevention department. I took a deep breath and we went in.
I was interviewed by a police lieutenant and a prosecutor (whose names are in my documentation). I literally sobbed as I described the events, my wife holding my hand. I was informed that despite the passage of time the matter was not barred by the statute of limitations. My tender age and the disparity of our ages made it viable to investigate and possibly prosecute.
Shortly after my return to the west coast I wrote to the lieutenant, telling him and the prosecutor that I would travel to their state as needed to assist. My objective was not to seek revenge or even to see justice served, but to protect other boys from possible exploitation by her. I felt encouraged and somewhat empowered.
After some delay the prosecutor informed me that they would not pursue the case because this was not a case of a “repressed memory”. He explained that even though the injury was timely discovered, my memory had not been repressed. What he failed to understand is the phenomenon that I’ve described above: Many boys, such as myself, who had sex with adult women haven’t repressed the memories, we wrongfully thought of it as consensual and a “good thing” (despite the guilt and confliction). I submit that this truth is at least as credible as basing a prosecution on repressed memory which was a controversial notion at the time.
Turning back to the civil law route, I contacted S.E.S.A.M.E. for names of attorneys and law firms. I began sending copies of the civil complaint (with supporting materials) to several attorneys in the field in hopes that I would find one who might fully litigate the matter. The supporting materials included the United Kingdom travel diary, photocopies of the 1972 school yearbook containing photos of her, her colleague and some of other pupils who were part of the “family”. I also had photographs of the exterior and interior of the classroom, of the “Lovers’ Lane” and of the location in the park where we did “ecosystems”.
About that junior high school yearbook; she wrote this to me in her handwriting: “Jay, Don’t forget the words from Barter by Sara Teasdale, ‘And for a breath of ecstasy give all you have been or could be’; Happiness and ecstasy, Love, Mrs. G.”
Not a single attorney was interested in my case apparently due to the passage of time despite my credibility and documented detail. It was very deflating. At the same time it seemed to me that the spotlight exposed the molestation of boys by Catholic priests and the tragic victimization of girls in human trafficking and by incestuous molestation. I felt rather invisible, even isolated.
I chose not to represent myself because of the time it would have diverted away from my young children and my law practice - I lived across the country. I did not serve the civil complaint documents on the defendants. I let them all off the hook.
Confronting Mrs. G.
In 1998 I did some sleuthing and located her mailing address. She had recently retired from teaching, was divorced and remarried. My objective was to inform her in stark terms what harm she had caused and the consequential damage to my wives and children. I did not want her going to her grave believing that it had been merely a benign dalliance.
I typed and mailed a comprehensive paper letter detailing the arc of our experiences together, complete with photographs of locations and descriptions of the damage. I include some articles about educator abuse and the criminality and immorality of it. I was stern and emphatic, pulling no punches.
To my surprise she replied by email. Some excerpts:
Jay, I know that I am incriminating myself by just writing this and identifying you, but that does not matter
To say that your story hasn’t haunted me every day of my life is an understatement. I can’t erase it or make it up to you
I am sorry, so sorry. I cannot stop you from any choices you have
Yours was an isolated at a very strange time in my life . . . there is no pattern beyond your [italics are mine, it really struck me that she referred to it as a “case” - J.L.]
My therapist told me to not seek you out for an apology
I wish I could ease your pain. I never meant to hurt you.I was just so taken with you . . . I did not know how to channel my affection . . . you have every reason to despise me
You have always held a special place in my heart
I miss you as a person, a special friend. You were one funny, sharp guy, one in a million
For the sake of my family I urge you to forgive me … I made a dreadful, poor choice. I can never make it up to you. If this does not give you any solace or help your healing, do what you have to do
You can reach me at [email address given]
P.S. I didn’t need the pictures to remind me
This is where it becomes even more complicated. Yes, I did feel some vindication from that, and it helped heal me somewhat because it affirmed my memories and she acknowledged the damage. Yet, her mea culpa was seductive. She was praising me.I felt compassion for her given that she alluded to some difficulties she experienced in her formative years that I do not know about.Perhaps she is a survivor as well.And I continued to feel some gratitude for the appropriate things she taught me about history and culture.
Eight years later I wrote to her and she agreed to meet.I was accompanied for emotional support by a woman who had been one of our “Family”. I was then 49, Mrs. G. was 64.After some small talk between the three of us, she and I had a short private conversation.I did bluntly tell her about how haunted I had been during adulthood and how it contributed to my self-destructive and relationship-destructive behaviors. I then listened as she heaped more praise and regret on me.I felt no anger, and even perplexed me.
Not long afterwards she send me seductive emails.Near my birthday in 2006 she wrote that she had not forgotten my birthday, that she was recovering from surgery: “I thought of you in my delirium.” She pulled me right back in!I foolishly replied by asking if it was true what she wrote, that she has a place for me in her heart.Her response: “Absolutely on both counts”.She then wrote that she was planning to visit some national parks and added “I will think of you often when we are there”.
After some therapy I wrote to her a month later, “Do not contact me again. The damage that you caused me has haunted me my entire life and has caused me acute pain and many losses.”
I had finally closed the book, at least as it concerned she and I.
So, Now What?
My wife and I recently watched “Filthy Rich” – the story of Jeffrey Epstein’s disgusting practice of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of adolescent girls. The strength and resolve shown by the many victims who had banded together to console one another and to recount their pain in open court motivated me.
It reminded me of S.E.S.A.M.E. and of my past contact with the organization. It renewed in me a desire to help others, to be of some value to survivors and to those who strive to prevent exploitation.
I hope to connect with boys/men who were exploited by female teachers but did not then understand it as sexual molestation. And I hope to join the fight against schoolteachers and educators who abuse children, breaching their legal, ethical and moral fiduciary duty to protect.
WE ARE SURVIVORS!
I want to thank Terri Miller and members of the Board of Advisors who have responded to my outreach.I look forward to perhaps assisting them and others in their research and advocacy on behalf of survivors, current young students and those who wish to protect them.