I Regret Everything: Accusing My Teacher Of Sexual Harassment

I’ve never been very good with people. I was shy growing up, and I have always been tentative about building relationships. Sometimes, I make snap judgments and I often come to the wrong conclusion about people’s intentions. Most of the time, these judgements are relatively small and harmless, and I’m able to carry on with nothing but my pride injured. Other times, the results can be much more damaging.

One particular event in high school forced me to realize this.

I went to a small private mid-high school for grades seven through twelve. There were no more than sixty students attending at any given time. The community there was very tight-knit and everybody knew everyone else’s name. I knew most of my classmates there from elementary school and some of the teachers.

My ninth grade year, we had a new science teacher, Mr. J. At the beginning of the year, he established himself as the ‘cool’ teacher, and his classes were generally relaxed.

I was relatively bright, but a poor student. My parents were in the middle of divorcing at the time, and as a result I was acting out at school. Mr. J recognized what was going on and tried to reach out to me. He spent extra time with me in and out of class and encouraged me to participate in extra-curriculars, many of which he was involved with. Occasionally he would drive me to or from school events when my parents weren’t available.

I have a tendency to sink into the background, so I wasn’t used to any authority figure, much less a teacher building a relationship with me. Mr. J spoke to me as though I were an equal and showed an obvious respect for and interest in my sometimes-obnoxious-teenage-child-of-liberal-parents opinions. When I spoke, he listened. In retrospect, I realize that this is what I needed at the time. At first, I liked it. I had an adult to talk to when the ones at home weren’t listening. But the fact that he was a teacher and was paying this kind of attention to me was unfamiliar and scary.

I must emphasize that Mr. J never did anything inappropriate, and I now see that his intentions were pure. But that’s not how I made sense of it.

I assumed the worst and concluded that Mr. J was a monster out to exploit me and take advantage of me. To this day, I don’t know how I jumped to this conclusion so quickly. I regret this now and I will regret it for the rest of my life.

Filled with anxiety, I mentioned my suspicions to a friend, Sarah. She told me that she had suspected something, only deepening my own fears. Being thirteen and fourteen, we made a plan, hoping to get a reaction out of Mr. J. I would drop out of the extra-curriculars he was involved with, and make a point of not seeing him outside of class.

I’m not even sure what reaction we were hoping to get out of him. Looking back, I wanted him to be angry with me or try to pressure me back into it. It would prove that I would only receive that much attention from him if he had sinister intentions. After all, I wasn’t worth it.

Sarah’s mother alerted the school of my suspicions, and accusations were made against him before our ‘plan’ even started. Of course, none of it was true. Mr. J was just a nice person who was looking out for me. He was shocked and hurt. I was afraid that he wanted to abuse my trust, so I ended up abusing his. I transferred to public school the next year.

I will never forgive myself for this. I know I was young, but I’m so aware of the pain I caused. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that none of my suspicions were true. I can’t even think of Mr. J without feeling  ashamed.

Regrets aside, I learned from this. I’m much more hesitant to jump to any conclusions about anyone. The guilt has ultimately made me a more sensible person, and caused me to consider my actions more carefully.

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    • JJ

      I’m curious if, as an adult, you’ve tried to contact him to apologize. You put it so eloquently here, so I imagine you could put it eloquently in a letter, too.

      • Author

        I’m barely an adult, and it’s much easier to ignore this than deal with it, so no. I plan to in the near future but it’s still a difficult and emotional issue. Mr. J deserves an apology.

    • Laurel

      As a teacher, I am saddened by the severity of your actions as a child, hopeful that you have become a semi-decent adult (based solely on your article), and horrified that young people see nothing wrong with ruining people’s lives and careers. I agree with JJ – apologize in person.

      • Author

        For the record, he is still teaching. As far as I know his career is unaffected and he is still married. I am very much aware of the hurt I caused. I honestly wish that I could undo everything.

    • Eileen

      He might have been acting innocently, but men (and women…but especially men) who work closely with young teenagers need to be careful for exactly these reasons – at that age in your life, when you’re first discovering your sexuality and trying to learn who you are as a young adult, it’s easy to misconstrue attention. I am SHOCKED that he let you in his car, especially – at my school that was strictly prohibited, perhaps at least in part because it came out that one of the teachers was having sex with students in his car. I agree that you should apologize to this man, but don’t spend too much time beating yourself up for it. It sounds as if he was flirting with the line of “personal relationship” – even if not “personal romantic relationship” – more than is appropriate for a teacher of a fourteen-year-old.

      • Author

        I’ve been trying to think of a good response to this, but I can’t. I agree with you– that line of “personal relationship” is blurry, especially for teachers of that age group. Students are dealing with a lot internal and external issues at that age, and they generally spill into the classroom.

        As for the car issue, I’m a bit shocked too. When I was in his car, there was usually at least one other student with me, but the fact that any number of students was in there at all is the real issue.

    • Amber

      You know, this happened to my cousin years ago when he was a kid. A girl in his class claimed he touched her and showed his privates to her. She was lying. My cousin was kicked out of the school. I’m sorry to say, but it’s people like you who are the reason people doubt rape victims. You may claim to be “barely an adult” and too “emotional” to apologize, but you could have ruined someone’s life.

      It’s amazing you thought nothing of telling a friend and hatching a scheme to implicate someone when he showed no evidence of sexual misconduct.

      • Author

        I can’t speak to the situation with your cousin, but in my case there were no schemes to ruin any person’s life. At the time (for the reasons described about, and some I still don’t know) I honestly thought I was at risk. My actions were for my own safety (I thought) and not a way to call attention to myself or get rid of a teacher. I liked the guy at first.

        For the record, I thought about the whole situation for months before I told anyone about it. It was only when I had totally convinced myself that something was wrong that I said anything. I did not think “nothing” about it.

      • Author

        *reasons described above

    • miinxi

      Ive got to say I know exactly what your talking about in your story. Ive lied and said ****ed up things like boys raped me, or touched me or something when they didnt, purely for attention. and the shame haunts you for years afterwards, even if you did it as a headf*cked teen / child.

    • Jill

      I’m not trying to be ignorant, so correct me if I am wrong please. To me it seems like the author had some suspicions. She hatched a plan with her 13/14 yo friend (she being the same age). The plan was to quit extracurricular activities and NOT SEE HER TEACHER OUT OF CLASS (which the fact that he saw her out of class besides school activities would make anyone suspicious) to see if he noticed. That was the entire plan. I’m missing where she hatched a scheme to implicate someone. She wanted to see what he would say/think/do. Maybe he would have notified a female guidance counselor and gotten her some help. Maybe he would have told her he was in love with her. Maybe he would have done nothing. Maybe she had a crush on him and didn’t know how to address it. Maybe she would have on her own regretted quitting her activities and rejoined. Maybe she would have found new hobbies. NO ONE KNOWS! The reason no one knows is b/c the other girl’s mom notified the school, through no fault of the author’s. She says nothing ended up happening to him and she transferred so it doesn’t sound like she then backed up the accusation to the school. I’m missing the heinous nature of her offense. Now to the author, I’m not saying that you don’t have a reason to write this post. I thought it was a very insightful post, and I understand why you have a lot of regret over it. I think that he probably learned to not drive female students in his car which maybe isn’t a bad lesson because someone could one day falsely accuse him of something happening in the car and he’d be screwed then. I also don’t think you need to apologize in person, I think a letter would be a good way to go. You made a “mistake” when you were 13/14 that ultimately didn’t end up ruining his life/career/marriage or really anything. And I say mistake in quotes b/c I don’t know that I want to call TALKING to your friend a mistake.