We were in Middle School. My friend, well…she hit puberty well before the rest of us girls. As a result, she walked around with a body that the rest of us only dreamed of possessing in the near future. With that body came an air of confidence that suggested that she was somehow superior to her undeveloped peers. Unfortunately, us pre-pubescent girls were not the only ones that were admiring her womanly figure and confidence.
I remember one day standing around chatting in a group that included my confident and developed friend and a teacher. Giggly and innocent, but also aware, it was clear to me that this teacher was taking in my friend’s curves. While the way he looked at her gave me the creeps, I did not dare utter a word. After all, everyone else seemed to be blind to the fact that this teacher was standing there, undressing this middle school student with his eyes.
I don’t know if it was our voluntary ignorance, but something made this teacher feel empowered. So, he went from creepy admiration to verbal appreciation for how good my curvy middle school classmate looked to him. Flabbergasted but too afraid to voice how uncomfortable his adoration made me feel, I continued to stand in the crowd and giggle with the rest of the group as though everything was normal.
Later my best friend, who was also in the group, and I would have a conversation about how weird that whole experience was. After giving it some thought, I decided to do what I believed to be the right thing. I shared my experience with another adult in the school system. Until then, I naively believed that all adults would protect children. Little did I know.
Instead of action being taken against the teacher, the adults banned together and decided that this naive little trouble maker (me) had to be silenced. I was absolutely horrified to know that the teacher had been told about my concerns. By the time the creepy teacher finished raking me over the coals for daring to be vocal about his creepy admiration, I walked away believing I had somehow misunderstood the obvious and that I was wrong for being concerned.
As if the guilt trip from the teacher were not enough, reinforcement was bought in. Another teacher that I greatly admired requested my presence in her classroom one day for a “talk”. This “talk” reinforced that I was a “bad girl” for putting this wonderful educator at risk by daring to vocalize that his adoration for a child was creepy. And with that, I was silenced while he continued to teach and rise up in the ranks.
I have no idea if this experience empowered him even more. I don’t even know what, if any action, I was looking for from the school. I simply wanted him to know that his behavior was not okay.
I hope that while there was an all-out effort at silencing me, there was some soul searching on this teacher’s part, and his inappropriate behavior ceased with this experience.
P.S. Through my many years of work as a criminal defense attorney, I know there are instances where false allegations of sexual abuse are made by children. Despite that fact, adults should not shame children into silence.