In December of 2018, my phone buzzed. A text message from my high school friend – “he got arrested”. Instantly, I rushed to his Facebook page and scrolled through varying posts of support and outrage. I endlessly clicked through many articles and read all the comments to piece together the truth.
A former Academic Director at my high school was arrested for pedophilia and prostitution. Two girls – aged 13 and 11 respectively – but he swears that it was not rape because he thought that they were both older than 14, the country’s age of consent. A disgusting excuse made by a 55 year old man. He also not only served alcohol to minors that he regularly brought back to his flat, but also paid the 13 year old $350 to bring the 11 year old along then paid them both afterwards – essentially prostituting these victims.
Everyone at school loved him. Every single morning, he would wait at the entrance of the school to greet each and every one of us with a smile from ear to ear and a high-five. I would have a small chat with him when I would see him around school and admired his optimistic character to the point that I gave him a letter when he left my school (like I do to many other supportive teachers). It was not weird for many other students to feel the way I felt. I had 88 mutual friends with him on Facebook. We supported him through his lows of fighting against cancer and highs of traveling around the world. A few weeks before his arrest was revealed, a former student from a different school posted how he was the best teacher. No one knew the monster behind the mask.
It was because of this impression that I had of him that the first hour after hearing the news was spent relentlessly searching through as many articles as possible. I wanted to know all the facts before I believed and accepted it. I know I am a hypocrite. I always judged Hollywood actresses for speaking out for their friends who were unveiled as molesters during the #metoo movement. However, I now empathize with them. It is such a struggle to fathom how the person they thought they knew could turn out to be completely different. I still do criticize those that support molesters even after confessions; however, I understand that inkling feeling of hope that somehow all the facts are incorrect.
I also wonder whether this disgusting act must negate all the positive interactions that I had with him. It is embarrassing for me to admit but a part of me still really hopes that he genuinely looked out for me and only saw me as a student. Sadly, I now look back and wonder whether the days he called me beautiful or the countless likes that he made on the photos I shared were all red flags. It is difficult to identify red flags when you are in the moment. You assume the best in people. My friends and I would occasionally discuss about how uncomfortable it was for him to like so many of our photos online (and I really mean so many). In the end, we always brushed it off as him being friendly and not understanding the social media faux pas. After all, it was normal in our school to have a close relationship with our teachers and keep each other updated on social media. Perhaps those close relations should be questioned in the first place.
I do not know what to feel about this situation. Disgust, disappointment? Yes. The memories I have with him has now been completely flooded with murky waters of doubt. Despite that, I do know that I want to share this story because I hope there could be lessons learned. Be wary. Trust your gut instincts. Cases of sexual abuse have been highlighted in Hollywood and large corporations, but it is definitely more common and closer than you think. Chances are you know them but the victims are not speaking out because their abuser probably is the last person that anyone would suspect to be doing such a horrendous act. If I could end this article in a positive way though, I just pray that these victims would speak out. It is important to talk about it because the more it is discussed, the more this issue is understood and is difficult for perpetrators to get away with a crime. Deep down you feel that something is wrong, clarify with a friend.
You could also always contact the university discreetly on support.
firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Support, Report”. There will always be support.