What should we do after our troubled teenager has sex with her teacher?
April 30, 2012 6:29 AM   Subscribe

So our teenage daughter slept with her married teacher. Not as much of a disaster as usual with her, but advice would be appreciated.

Our teenager was adopted from foster care with biological siblings. She had been physically and sexually abused prior to adoption, and received no care for that until she came to us aged about 8. She also has fairly severe learning disabilities. All this we discovered through therapy later on, as she had been told to shut up or she would be abandoned/killed (not by us, by the abusers). So when puberty hit, she pretty much exploded. We have had one suicide attempt, multiple self-harming, and lots and lots of secret sexual activity with very inappropriate partners. She actively refused to engage with her peers appropriately - no dating or flirting with the boys in her class, but an older stranger asking her to a hotel for the afternoon, yes.

Because she was underage, we filed police reports when we found out. She's spent time in a respite home, had court-mandated therapy, had other therapists (both individual and family), and is currently on medication - Klonopin and something else - to stabilize her moods and help her sleep. Her diagnosis is severe PTSD, not bipolar. She sleeps poorly because she's hypervigilient from the years of abuse.

We've been through four rounds of this - catching her out engaging in inappropriate sexual activity (not making out with her peer-aged boyfriend, but hooking up with absolute strangers or rough demeaning sex).

Previously, we were able to "lock down" where one of us would be with her round the clock, she would have intensive therapy and she could earn back her trust and responsibilities. We have had no corporal punishment and focus on positive discipline, praise for what she does right, not punishment for what has gone wrong. This is all under therapy supervision, and has worked well in that at 17, she is not in juvie, has some female friends, is at a trade school she likes and doing well (top student last year!) and recently started seriously dating a peer-aged boy who is besotted with her.

Her other siblings btw have had abuse issues, less severe, but we have also therapy-parented them. We know Love and Logic, positive peer pressure, EMDR, etc etc. They are mostly okay now, because they started out with less abuse.

Then my husband gets a call yesterday from her school's ex music teacher. His wife had found out about an affair with our daughter. Turns out five months ago, she had slept with this teacher several times, and then he'd broken it off when he changed schools.

The guy sounds revolting, but when we confronted her about this, it's clear that she had a (warped but still!) relationship briefly with him. He's in his thirties, she was 17 at the time, so no laws have been broken. I imagine the principal will have something to say when we report it, which we will as it sounds like our daughter is not his only "girlfriend".

Our daughter threatened him recently with exposure, either in revenge for him ending the affair, or to get him to resume the affair, which is how his wife found out.

She's very clear that no money or abusive pressure (beyond the age difference and authority figure) was involved.

We're asking what to do now that we have no legal sway over her. Previously, we would've gone to the police and put her into respite care for her own safety - she has and is likely to do very risky things without 24/7 supervision during a danger period. But now she's aged out of that.

We told her the usual, that we love her and will continue always to house her, pay for school etc, but that she needs to choose to go back into therapy and work at repairing things before she will be able to mend the damage to the relationship with us, and herself.

Please bear in mind that she is not a typical teenager acting out. She is a severe abuse survivor. This is actually LESS of a horrible situation than the four times previously.

Re: STDs, she has quarterly health check-ups and is on a 2-year contraceptive implant, because of her prior events. We're going to the doctor this afternoon for an earlier than usual check-up, as she confessed to skipping one of her check-ups and lying about it.

She is a very good liar, due to surviving hellish experiences, and not that firmly attached to us, her adopted parents. Her biological family are in contact with us, but her choice is to have it very limited compared to some of her siblings.

She is of course, very very pretty with a model-like body.

However, we need to know:

1. What can we do, given that we can't (and don't want to risk her running away) supervise her 24/7 that would help?

2. What are things she can do, besides therapy? We're thinking maybe re-enrolling her in yoga for example.

3. The teacher and his wife (they have three kids, urgh) want to meet with our daughter and us for some kind of "discussion/forgiveness" session. So far we're stalling. I don't see the point, although I do need to inform them that our daughter has STDs that the husband has now exposed himself to. Should we go, and what should we talk about?

(We will be reporting the teacher to the school, as I wrote above. In our area, the circumstances of the affair make it legal though gross, so no police report.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (75 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

The teacher and his wife (they have three kids, urgh) want to meet with our daughter and us for some kind of "discussion/forgiveness" session.

What the hell? No way. This person has proven he is not someone who can be trusted to act appropriately with your daughter. If you really have to have this meeting (and I am dubious), she should not come.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:33 AM on April 30, 2012 [106 favorites]

Mod note: Folks, OP has indicated that this is legal where they are located. Please try to restrict your answers to ones that assist the OP with their question, not what the answer would be to their question if they lived where you did. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:47 AM on April 30, 2012

It really does sound like you need a lawyer. I would ask the lawyer what they have to say about the "discussion/forgiveness" thing.

I don't know how seriously a school would take this given that, as far as you know, no laws have been broken. In my naiveté, I like to think that there are some schools that would frown upon a teacher's predation of his vulnerable, learning-disabled students, even if the student was of legal age and even if it happened at a previous school (notice the guy's sense of timing? Right before he changed schools? yeah) so there may be ways you can force the guy to pay a price professionally, but again, you'd need legal advice for that sort of thing.

Please consult a lawyer now? This minute? Before this guy and/or his wife trick you into acting against your daughter's interests.
posted by tel3path at 6:48 AM on April 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

The teacher and his wife (they have three kids, urgh) want to meet with our daughter and us for some kind of "discussion/forgiveness" session.

Don't let these assholes set the agenda.
posted by jayder at 6:49 AM on April 30, 2012 [64 favorites]

Well, in this situation you've got a man taking advantage of a youth. He knew the first second a thought crossed his mind that this wasn't right. So, while you are well aware of all the extenuating circumstances here, I urge you, as her de facto parents to treat her like the wronged party here. Beyond that, I think you need to reach out to the professionals and her for solutions.

Do you feel like her medication is helping? Does she? This time is hell for "normal" teens so I can't imagine what she's going through with her background on top. I wonder what she thinks. And I can tell that you all are doing your best, I just hope she's getting reiterated that your home is always a safe place no matter what. But I think she'll also need an external, female adult, maybe in the professional community who can also be a safe place. If she can get through her early 20s without getting pregnant or worse, I think she might be okay.

I could be very wrong about this but her threat to expose him sounds like a backbone of self-preservation. Can you build on that?
posted by amanda at 6:51 AM on April 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

"discussion/forgiveness" session. "

I can't comment on most of your issue as I am not really qualified not being a parent and such, so i won't.

But this "session" I think is located right, smack-dab in downtown WTF-City. Aside from whatever legal issues may be involved, this is just an attempt to make a knucklehead teacher feel better about what an obnoxious and pathetic thing he did. He has the hubris, now let him know some humility. Let him suffer by not acceding (nless you feel it would in some way help your daughter, but I don't see that happening).

Your daughter does not need to have this in her life right now. If this noodle-brain had any empathy or compassion, he would deal with you and allow you to suggest the process, not come up with some get-me-off-the-hook-with-my-wife routine.

This jerk should not be teaching high school students at all.
posted by lampshade at 6:52 AM on April 30, 2012 [41 favorites]

I definitely see the merit in yoga or the introduction of a more explicit meditation practice. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help with addiction, depression & pain management, all of which seem related/similar to your daughter's issues.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 6:54 AM on April 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'll be honest; you sound more knowledgeable about working with troubled kids than I'll ever be, so I have no advice there. My only question, and it is a question, not an informed piece of advice posing as a question - is there a way to get her into some 24/7 monitoring situation? Are there mental health resources where you live that would provide that? Because it sounds like you've done the best you can do, honestly.

The meeting with the teacher sounds like an attempt to mitigate the legal and career hot water this asswipe richly deserves, by playing on your sympathy. If you were to go, I'd expect wifely tears (she's an abuse victim too, in my book), subtle (or maybe not subtle) blame-shifting, etc., and anything you might say or do in this session could complicate further proceedings. It could also be a fact-finding expedition, and her history would indeed fuzz up a legal case. It's so fucking unethical on so many levels for a teacher to have sexual relations with a pupil that it makes me squirm to even think about it. The odds that your teenager has been his first victim are extremely slim. Even if you have a notion that perhaps your teenager behaved in such a way as to make it more likely in this case, it is up to the grownups who are supposedly trained and vetted to work with minors to keep their pants up and their hands off, period.

I do not make my living as a music teacher, but I'm a serious amateur who teaches lessons at my house (with someone else present at all times!) and who has many professional music educators as friends. This really pisses me off. Do whatever it takes to help make certain this man doesn't teach again, at the very least.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:55 AM on April 30, 2012 [10 favorites]

"He's in his thirties, she was 17 at the time, so no laws have been broken."

Are you positive? In most states in the U.S., even if a high school student has reached the age of consent or even the age of majority, it's still a felony for a teacher to have sex with the student, because of the parent-student power differential. If you have not already consulted a lawyer or DCFS about this, please do so.

I would not do the reconciliation session. That's creepy as fuck, I can't imagine what sort of drama the wife has to be into to want to do that! It was inappropriate to sleep with a teenager, and it's super-inappropriate to involve that teenager in your marital reconciliation attempts! Jesus.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:56 AM on April 30, 2012 [38 favorites]

WHo is forgiving whom at this meeting? That would be the last thing I would do is go to the meeting. Focus on helping your daughter, not the scumdog fixing his marriage.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:57 AM on April 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

I agree with everyone about the discussion/forgiveness session. There is no reason for your family or your daughter to go through that. There is nothing to discuss and there is no need to forgive nor be forgiven.

I am not sure what one can do about the behavior, there is no easy fix for this. Imagine a brand new car, have several people pound on it with sledgehammers for an hour and then attempt to restore it to the original form. It will most certainly take more than an hour to restore and it will never be the same again. Patience (which I think you must have tons of) and diligence is all you can provide toward this. You must give her an immense amount of love, but she is not sure that she trusts the love. I wish you luck.
posted by Yellow at 6:57 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

BTW, you don't need to inform him your teenager has STDs, or if you need to for legal reasons, you can do so with a registered letter, which I would have a lawyer do the wording on if there is not a "stock form" for this with your state. The possibility that this may have occurred should be obvious to anyone of his age, especially given his background.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:59 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do not allow this jerk to meet with your daughter -- especially not with his whole family, including kids! WTF? That is ridiculous. Whose forgiveness is he talking about here?

She is, as you know, reenacting her own abuse. Her relationship with a teacher was a form of self-harm. Letting this man who took advantage of her while he was in a position of power over her meet with her would be basically you reenacting the sort of blame game / cover-up bullshit that no doubt happened around the original abuse in her biological family. Please, please do not do this to her.
posted by BlueJae at 6:59 AM on April 30, 2012 [24 favorites]

I am so sorry your daughter is in a place, emotionally and psychologically, where she feels like revisiting exploitative/abusive situations is a way to work through her experience of abuse in early childhood. To be honest, I did some of that myself--I kidded myself that connecting with predatory older men when I was a young teen was a "do over" situation in which I had more power than I did when I was a little girl. Of course I was wrong.

If I could speak with your daughter in person, I would try to get through to her that every time she has an age-inappropriate, power-differential-inappropriate relationship, she isn't healing the wound of her earlier abuse--she's just making it deeper.

Shun the teacher with all your might. Your daughter didn't know better. He did. He has no right to her forgiveness, and he especially has no right to try to bully her into forgiving him.

Yoga, sports, dance--anything that encourages her to focus on her body's strength and power and flexibility rather than her seeing it as a commodity is all to the good.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:00 AM on April 30, 2012 [28 favorites]

Are you positive? In most states in the U.S., even if a high school student has reached the age of consent or even the age of majority, it's still a felony for a teacher to have sex with the student, because of the parent-student power differential.

Yes, this is also an issue in the UK where the age of consent is 16 - it's an abuse of power rather than statutory rape. At the very least the teacher would be dismissed and lose their CRB clearance (which they need to work with children anywhere in any context). If she has severe learning disabilities, is she even in a position to give consent?

I imagine the principal will have something to say when we report it, which we will as it sounds like our daughter is not his only "girlfriend".

Whether you can make the argument that your daughter got into this position due to her various vulnerabilities or not, this man needs to be removed from any position that allows him to teach teenage girls. Even without the horrific experiences and patterns of behaviour your daughter is showing, teenagers are easily manipulated.
posted by mippy at 7:02 AM on April 30, 2012 [10 favorites]

I don't know how seriously a school would take this

Any school worth anything will take this very seriously, even though no laws were broken. He should be reported to his new school as well. This may very well end his career as a teacher, and it should, before he does this again with another student.

As for your daughter, it seems like she's established this pattern and there's not much you can do to stop her short of 24/7 surveillance. Can you take steps to make sure that she's as safe as possible. Is there a trusted, non-judgmental, discreet third-party who she can check in with prior to her risky encounters? Perhaps her therapist or a responsible friend, who will know her location and can call the police if she doesn't report back?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:03 AM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Folks seriously. We know this question will push a lot of buttons. Please make your answers constructive and helpful or come back and comment when you can.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:05 AM on April 30, 2012

3. The teacher and his wife (they have three kids, urgh) want to meet with our daughter and us for some kind of "discussion/forgiveness" session. So far we're stalling. I don't see the point, although I do need to inform them that our daughter has STDs that the husband has now exposed himself to. Should we go, and what should we talk about?

Umm, no. No way in hell. 17 year old girl does not need to meet with former married lover and his wife Jerry Springer style.

2. What are things she can do, besides therapy? We're thinking maybe re-enrolling her in yoga for example.

Yoga, mindfulness, meditation. These are the big things.
posted by mleigh at 7:08 AM on April 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

The teacher and his wife (they have three kids, urgh) want to meet with our daughter and us for some kind of "discussion/forgiveness" session.

Do not even think about doing that. He abused and took advantage of your daughter. She should never have contact with either of them again.

I hate to say this, but if she's really as bad off as you say, she should probably be committed to some kind of inpatient care facility that specializes in abuse survivors, ptsd, attachment disorder or borderline personality disorder. Somewhere that she can get 24 hour care and intensive treatment.

You can't do this on your own, and you shouldn't. The sooner she gets help, the sooner she can get out of this cycle.
posted by empath at 7:20 AM on April 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

In our area, the circumstances of the affair make it legal though gross, so no police report

You might want to notify the police anyway. Might not be the first time for him.
posted by empath at 7:22 AM on April 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think you are awesome!

Have you checked out Dialectical Behavior Therapy? My therapist neighbor (whose knowledge and skills I hold in high esteem) says it works best with PTSD survivors.

Nthing do not meet with the creep or his "understanding" wife. I teach teachers and it's an absolute gross violation of every educator code of ethics to engage in sex with students. This can even cost someone their job if they teach at the university level, where sex would be between consenting adults.
posted by mareli at 7:24 AM on April 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

The teacher and his wife (they have three kids, urgh) want to meet with our daughter and us for some kind of "discussion/forgiveness" session.

Just another comment that, nope, this should not happen. He needs to clean up his own mess with his family. It's horrible for his wife and kids, but he preyed on your daughter and she in no way needs to be part of their healing. I can't imagine any way that this works out well for her. Agreed that a lawyer is in order.

I wonder if a women's abuse hotline or local nonprofit might be able to recommend sources? The school counselors probably could as well.
posted by smirkette at 7:24 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

3. The teacher and his wife (they have three kids, urgh) want to meet with our daughter and us for some kind of "discussion/forgiveness" session. So far we're stalling. I don't see the point, although I do need to inform them that our daughter has STDs that the husband has now exposed himself to. Should we go, and what should we talk about?

Good fucking god no. If that lawyer you're going to hire informs you that your daughter has a legal duty to inform this "teacher" of her STD status, there are standard protocols in place to do so, none of which require face-to-face contact (and which may not even require her identity to be revealed.)

I'm coming at this from the perspective of an abuse survivor, and all I can say is that this "meeting" sounds like a godawful attempt to manipulate her (and the wife) by a manipulative predator. Sexual abuse can leave one vulnerable to manipulation in a way that I think other people can observe but not always understand -- but the predators understand.

This can even cost someone their job if they teach at the university level, where sex would be between consenting adults. It can cost a professor his job to have sex with a graduate student. A school system in which the fact that she was 17 at the time gives him a free pass would be extremely unusual.
posted by Iphigenia at 7:26 AM on April 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

I just have to ask: are you SURE that no laws were broken? 100% positive? Because some states have laws on the books that make it illegal for teachers to have relationships with students regardless of the age difference.

And do NOT do that stupid meeting with the teacher. That's insane. No more contact with him!
posted by imagineerit at 7:53 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

This should immediately be reported to the school he is currently working at. This man should not be working with children. He took advantage of a young girl who has emotional issues. If he continues with the job he has now, changes are, there will be more victims in the future. We send our children to school trusting the adults will be proper mentors, not sexual predators.
posted by sybarite09 at 7:55 AM on April 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

This question is pushing a lot of buttons for me, as the mods acknowledged, so I just want to say in advance that I'm posting this out of deep concern for your daughter and out of respect for you, as her parents, doing your damnedest to help her, and not out of anger or judgment of you as her parents.

One thing that flickers through your in your question, as much as I sense that you're trying to tamp it down, is that you blame your daughter for being taken advantage of by unscrupulous predators. She has to "earn back trust." She has to "repair the relationship with [her parents]." She had a "relationship" and was the "girlfriend" of this man who was her teacher. You're considering telling this man about the threats to his health and his safety, and having some kind of meeting with him, which, as the posters above me have said, should absolutely not happen under any circumstances.

I would really, really urge you to reframe this for yourselves as, "My daughter wears a neon sign that says PREDATORS WELCOME HERE." I would bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets that, even if she technically initiates the inappropriate contact, these men zero in on her like a predator drone and groom her until she is willing to engage in sex with them (which, how lucky for them, doesn't take very long with your daughter!). They choose her because she's vulnerable; she doesn't seek them out because she's bad.

I'm sure you know this, intellectually, but it really sounds like you are struggling to put it into practice. If I can sense it just from reading your question, your daughter can sense it, too. These situations are not her fault, and she needs you to have her back. If you can move forward acting only from that premise, I think your family life could improve a lot, and I think it will be one component in seeing your daughter shine as the resilient young woman you know she can be. Best of luck to your daughter and your family.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:58 AM on April 30, 2012 [155 favorites]

Having come from a situation similar to this, though not quite to the degree you're describing, I can sort of see where your daughter might be coming from. I am not any kind of professional, but I have been crazy so maybe my insight can help.

For me, my mom's desperate attempts to get me into therapy or 24/7 lockdown or a couple weeks at the psych ward helped for the short term. But even when I spent a couple weeks at the psych ward for suicide attempts I still resented my mom's interference in my life. Yes, I realized that she was trying to save my life because she loved me, but I only thought of it in a detached, logical way. Emotionally, I felt like she was trying to be just as controlling as those creeps were. Even if she wasn't the one saying "I'm going to kill you if you..." she was still exerting an enormous amount of control over my life. So as soon as I could, I would try to control my life in whatever way I could. If that meant sneaking out of the house and spending a night sleeping in the park, or skipping school almost every day, or contacting predatory men on the internet, or cutting the parts of me that no one except me would see... then so be it. Even my suicide attempts were a way to finally control my life. In a weird, twisted way I thought that if I couldn't control the life I was living and couldn't handle living it, then at least I could end it myself.

It was only after I succeeded in tricking my mom that I was better and my therapist convinced my mom to finally give me my door back that I started healing myself. My friends helped, too. As did my girlfriend, who managed to talk me out of a lot more things than anyone else ever did. Once I felt like I had more control in my life I stopped making desperate attempts to gain control of a situation, any situation.

Obviously, this may not be feasible in your situation. Only you know exactly how much slack you can give her. But maybe going to her and saying "Look, we're really worried about you. We both know that what you're doing right now isn't healthy and we, as your loving parents, would do anything to see you stop. What do you need to do it?" And having her come up with what she's going to do to cope with it and avoid those behaviors. Or have her decide if she even wants to get enrolled in yoga again [my mom tried enrolling me in classes. I went, and sat in the bathroom the entire time.] or if there is something else she might be interested in. Does she like art? Art is awesome! Does she like basketball? Basketball is awesome, too! The point is just letting her have more influence over herself.
posted by shesaysgo at 8:01 AM on April 30, 2012 [19 favorites]

Teacher here. There is absolutely no reason to consent to any sort of meeting with this dude, regardless of legalities. It sounds like this teacher is a very skilled manipulator, particularly if your daughter isn't the only girl he's had a relationship with AND his family wants to be part of this "meeting."

He almost certainly wants this meeting to get himself off the hook with his family (if not also to muddy the waters in case there really is some legal recourse for you). I realize it's going to be hard to convince your daughter not to go... but do your best.

Legal in your state or not, this asshole should never work as a teacher again in any capacity.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:04 AM on April 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

The other thing, too is that your daughter probably doesn't know how to interact with her peers. Whether she like it or not, like many victims of abuse she is undeniably different than most of the other people in her classes. I would like to echo Snarl Furillo's post in that it does seem like you are unconsciously blaming your daughter for this. As someone who hasn't gone through that situation, it might seem illogical, stupid and dangerous what your daughter is doing. And yet, her brain works fundamentally different than yours. She might see relationships with older man as the only option, which is probably the only option given to her since they are PREDATORS and she is a young, beautiful girl with PTSD.

Please don't have any more contact with the teacher. Report him. If you are legally obligated to tell him about the STDS, then do so in a letter. But if not- let him figure it out on his own. Any half-intelligent idiot gets tested after sex anyway.

I would suggest enrolling yourself and your partner in therapy as well. It is a really great resource for many people, not just people with active psychiatric conditions, and I would think it would help a lot with your relationship with your daughter.
posted by shesaysgo at 8:10 AM on April 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

Instead of that meeting, you could get a restraining order against him. Maybe just the threat/promise of that would be enough. Cut him off. Heh.

Is she working? Can she take some kind of job now? I think starting a little real world responsibility could help. Perhaps in a mall youth oriented clothing store, they want pretty girls and should stay strict about the work (and I say this seriously).
posted by caclwmr4 at 8:14 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to say God bless you for adopting this girl and her siblings (seriously, the world needs more like you), and to suggest looking into equine therapy, if you haven't already. That can be very helpful for abuse/trauma survivors and it might be something she'd respond to.
posted by désoeuvrée at 8:15 AM on April 30, 2012 [10 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks so far - we are definitely not going to the meeting and will firmly decline any contact with them going forward. We will be going to the principal and school system ASAP. There truly is no legal recourse where we live due to the technicalities.

A quick note: we are aware that she is in a sense an active victim. This situation - the responsibility is firmly in the revolting teacher, but at the same time, she actively seeks out risky engagements as a result of the terrible things that happened to her. Denying that she took risky actions and the consequences of that ends up confusing her and giving her even less agency in her life. We are working on helping her make better choices, learning to recognise triggers and step back the the precipice, and above all - recognising that these are damaged choices, not from a "I'm a bad person" place but "Bad things hurt me, and I'm reacting to them and not choosing what I want healthily" which is a lot more complicated to internalise.

I'm sorry if what I wrote came across as blaming her - I'm about as mad at her as a regular teenager doing something stupid, because comparatively, that's what this is. She is amazing for having survived and flourished as much as she has against the odds, and we regularly tell her so.

She has had and will, around school terms, have a part-time job she does well at.

We are going to start with yoga, more therapy and look into equine therapy and the other resources mentioned. More suggestions very much welcomed.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:37 AM on April 30, 2012 [20 favorites]

The music teacher's wife is enabling a predator - her husband, the music teacher.

In case this predator's other victims are underage, YES take this to the police and both the principle of his new school, and his previous school.

I don't know why you would hesitate to do that. Stop this guy. Please.


I am not a health professional and can not speak about your daughter. IMHE, getting past PTSD takes time. All modalities are good, in terms of, just doing anything to deal with it is the right way to go.

I have done therapy, therapy, therapy, therapy, exercise, yoga, acupuncture, shiatsu massage, meditation, read up a lot on PTSD and abuse, hypnotherapy, etc. etc. It all helps. I don't have a background as severe as your daughter's.
posted by jbenben at 8:39 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

In our area, the circumstances of the affair make it legal though gross, so no police report.)

I really, really really hope you have heard this from a lawyer or other legal authority. Because if your daughter's PTSD and other issues have been documented with the school, this is not just adult having sex with a 17 year old. This is a person in a position of power having an inappropriate power imbalance with a person in no position to consent. While it is very true that this might be within the law, I strongly encourage you to delve deeper.

Next, Hi. I am your daughter. I survived. I'm 30 now. I've gotten loads of therapy (Dialectical Behavior Therapy, specifically in a program for survivors of trauma/abuse...I strongly urge her to seek this out if she can.) and finally figured out that I am, actually, angry. I didn't realize it when I was 16 because I didn't throw things or scream at people. But otherwise, I was pretty much the same kid as she is.
and work at repairing things before she will be able to mend the damage to the relationship with us,
was one of the most hurtful things that was said to me in my teenage years.

Stop for a second. Your daughter was recently taken advantage of by a man who might be twice her age. He continues to want to set the tone and power construct of his interactions with her. And here you are, telling her that she has broken your trust. And that she will have to work to regain it. That she is responsible for fixing the rift that this predator has caused in your relationship.

There wasn't much in my childhood that laid firmer groundwork for shame than these assertions.

This is not, in any way, something that she did to you.

This is something that he did to her.

Please. Go tell her that.

I wish somebody would go tell 16 year old me that.
posted by bilabial at 8:41 AM on April 30, 2012 [78 favorites]

On not preview. I'm not a psycologist. Please check in with your family therapist person (or get one if you don't have for yourselves).

It is, in fact true that people respond to trauma differently. But your belief that telling your daughter that is is not responsible for what has happened with the teacher so she doesn't get confused just...doesn't match my experience.

I say that because the people who blamed me said pretty much the same things. What I needed was for someone to offer me alternative actions, and to know that I could tell when things started to go badly, without being afraid of hearing that it was my fault anyway. Instead, I learned to cover things up, because no matter how out of control a situation seemed, it was always blamed on me.

What I'm saying is, agency is a funny thing. And if it's not built in super young, it's hard to parse and practice and get comfortable with. And it's scary.
posted by bilabial at 8:50 AM on April 30, 2012 [11 favorites]

I don't know if your daughter would be receptive to this, but has she ever participated in a support group for teenage survivors of sexual abuse? She may be incredibly resistant and think it's lame, but talking to others who have been in similar shoes and are around her age might make a big difference. Even though you are clearly loving and very involved parents, I imagine she feels incredibly lonely. Also, giving support to others as well as receiving it can be very healing in the long run.

Even though it sounds like you are doing everything you can and have very generously taken on much more than most of us will in our lifetime, I also hear an undercurrent of blame in your description of your daughter's actions and history. While she does need to learn personal responsibility, she is still very young and thoroughly traumatized. These incidents just reinforce the trauma and further solidify any misconceptions she has about her self-worth, her ability to heal, and her future. I'm sure you realize that intellectually, but I imagine living through these incidents with her has taken its toll on you, too. Remember to take care of yourself and get the support you need separate from her issues.

Lastly, one more voice saying hell to the no about that meeting with her abuser and his wife. Perhaps it's not technically illegal, but reprehensible predatory behavior nevertheless, even more so if he was aware of your daughter's history or any of her issues. Best of luck to you all. There is obviously a lot of love in your home and that will make a tremendous difference in her life, even if you are not seeing the benefits of that today.
posted by katemcd at 8:51 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

The forgiveness session sounds suspiciously religious to me. The marriage was destroyed by this pervert and he should live with the consequences. Hire the best lawyer you can find. I applaud you for your efforts so far. Don't lose hope, the best thing you can do for this girl is prove to her that she is worth fighting for, and she will eventually see this.
posted by Kale Slayer at 8:59 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, but you're going to need legal help. Even if you don't have a lawyer, the principal will have a lawyer provided by the district, and the teacher will have a lawyer provided by his union. You could get sued just for accusing the teacher of doing this. The school system is set up to.protect itself, not to be your friend.

Your local sexual assault center should be able to provide you with free counseling.
posted by miyabo at 9:00 AM on April 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

I wish I could favorite Snarl Furnillo's comment a thousand times, especially the part about the flashing neon sign.

Being a teenager is hard enough without struggling with the issues that your daughter has to deal with. I hear you that you're worried about her becoming a chronic victim and habitually making bad choices, and you want her to have positive agency in her own life. Becoming a grown up is a long road for everyone ... the phase of "bad choices" doesn't neatly tie up at age 16/17. You sound afraid that this is just going to be the way it is with her. But that she has a job, has hobbies, now has friends in her peer group, building toward a positive future ... she has come so far!

I think what you do is continue to support her. Keep her in therapy, keep her focused on the positive things in life that she finds happiness and satisfaction in.

Regarding the meeting -- do not let her have any kind of meeting with Professor Nasty and his wife!! In fact, she's old enough for you, possibly with the help of a therapist or sexual assault victim's advocate (? not sure what the term is where you are) to have a frank conversation about what a manipulative fuck he is. The tricky part here is not sending the message, "he was only interested in you because he's a predator." It's hard for anyone to hear that someone was interested in you sexually just because they are a fucked up person, a victimized teenager wants to hear it even less. But it sounds like if she was contacting the wife that she herself was starting to see what a messed up situation it is. Interesting that it was the music teacher himself who contacted you - it sounds like he's racing around doing damage control. I agree with those who say he sounds like a master manipulator. Call a lawyer today. Do not forget that your daughter is the victim here.

Please don't view this situation as that all your previous efforts have failed. Just keep being her loving parents, keep her focused on the positive in life while working out the badness, and love her. The late teenage years are awful because that's when people start to treat the teenager like an adult who is fully responsible for all actions, when the teenager still needs a ton of support and guidance. Your teenager especially.

(Also, I'd add that while yoga or meditation is great, it may be more productive to offer her a choice in the new hobby. You want her to be enthusiastic about it.)
posted by stowaway at 9:19 AM on April 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

I have no decent advice about how to handle the situation with that horrible teacher, but as someone who suffers/suffered from moderate PTSD and insomnia, I totally recommend weightlifting. Yoga drives me crazy (that might be my ADHD though) but man oh man can I focus on exhausting the shit out of my muscles three times a week. I feel invincible after a month of consistent strength training, plus there are no sexualized overtones as in some dance classes.

Your daughter might benefit from weightlifting or CrossFit as a way to squelch that nagging impulse to jeopardize her body. It will also likely make her extremely tired in a natural way, which can mitigate her need for sleep drugs.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:35 AM on April 30, 2012 [14 favorites]

I wonder if she would find martial arts classes helpful? Especially a woman's only class with a good group of women to be role models.
posted by saucysault at 9:40 AM on April 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Martial arts would be great! And dance, which would give her a healthy environment in which to flaunt her body. Give her a bunch of options if you can. Also any kind of art classes if she's interested.

Another thing to check out is some kind of Outward Bound program. And volunteering. Does she like animals? Animal shelters always need volunteers.
posted by mareli at 9:52 AM on April 30, 2012

I imagine you've checked this out, but I know that a few people have had adverse mood reactions to birth control implants. Any chance she's having depression? When I was a teenager, my depression came out in very self destructive ways.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:03 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the suggestions around cultivating hobbies and interests that will be fulfilling and get her involved with others are really great.

I offer this just as food for thought, as you know infinitely more about your daughters specific needs than I do:

I am left a bit confused by your statement that her being preyed on by an older man is a something she did that damaged her relationship with you, her parents. Can you maybe shift your thinking about this a little bit? It's very understandable that she wants that protective, knowledgable intimacy an older man can give and she was groomed to enjoy. This doesn't make her bad-- and she doesn't do it to harm your trust in her. She just wants love and is easily seduced by false promises. The problem is that she can't see the truth about such men's intentions. She likes the intimacy and the love and someone telling her nice things about herself, forgiving her for being so easily aroused and sexual when that is something most people pathologize and dissect her for. I'm sure it feels much nicer than being with therapists and family that want her to erase those "bad" desires that were cultivated in her in her childhood. I think a better way to empower her is to love her as she is and help guide her towards understanding what she likes and doesn't like. She likes older men-- what does she like about them? It's ok to like whatever these things are. What does she NOT like? The part where they disappear suddenly because they don't actually care about her? The part where the truth comes out and the nice things they said turn out to be lies? The part where she get completely and totally attached and then they are gone and she is left in pain? Those parts aren't fun, if you're picking partners who are using your vulnerability against you to get what they want.

Help her develop better tools to see through men's lies and false promises and false praise. Help her doing this by giving her REAL praise, helping her cultivate the things she likes doing (ideas above are great!) cultivating friendships with other kids- and helping her love the parts of herself that are weird and strange from years of child abuse. Even if she runs away tomorow and runs to the arms of abusive meanie head older guys over and over and goes through tons of pain from it-- SHE is not bad. She will just be IN PAIN. That's what's bad about it. Focus on loving her as she is and helping her feel that she can love herself too. YOU give her the safe love she needs even as a weird kinky thing and she won't feel like she needs the validation from those guys.
posted by xarnop at 10:06 AM on April 30, 2012 [22 favorites]

Response by poster: Sports, yoga, something that helps her to appreciate her body in a non-commodified, non-sexual way and helps her feel ownership over could be a great idea.

However--when choosing a sport or a community, I would be very very very careful about the community/gym that you put your daughter in. Let me preface what I'm going to say next by noting I've been involved in competitive lifting, from strongman to Olympic weightlifting, for years now and participation has been a truly empowering, centering experience for me. But my issues about my body and my mental health issues were not your daughter's, and did not involve desiring affection from inappropriate male sources.

I give the warning about being careful because many sports communities, especially lifting and Crossfit communities, unfortunately contain an undercurrent of intense objectification of the female body. It pains me to say this, but guys who are predatory, not so respectful of women, and dealing with a whole host of their own issues can be attracted to these communities where their behavior is reinforced. I know a few women in your daughter's position who entered lifting as a form of empowerment. And because of their specific issues, all it ended up doing was give unsupervised access to a lot of twisted old fucks who were able to couch praise for the woman's body in terms of empowering her strength, or something fucked up like that. Which led to grooming for inappropriate couplings.

So it is really important that if you go the sports/lifting/whatever route, you find arenas where there are a lot of women, maybe primarily women participating, including adult women who serve as good role models for your daughter. A sports community that focuses on skill and strength is great; one that focuses on the physical attractiveness of its participants (i.e. squats give me an awesome butt!!!!one) is probably going to contain more of the unsavory elements you're looking to avoid.
posted by Anonymous at 10:07 AM on April 30, 2012

A few things really jump out at me.

- Is she still hung up on the teacher emotionally?

Treat her like she has a broken heart for now, because she does. She's been programmed to find predators attractive. Be compassionate. To her, she likely loved this man.

I notice you laud the age-appropriate bf quite a bit, BUT, if she still holds a torch for the ex-teacher, you must encourage her to break up with her bf. To do any less is to promote the tropes "Double Lives Are Ok" and "I Must Lie To Be Accepted By "Normal People"".

My phone is acting up, I hope that was clear. I have more.

Just via a lack of fucked up experiences, there are nuances you are missing that you can learn from adults who have been in her shoes and overcome it.

You are WONDERFUL. Thank you for everything you are doing.
posted by jbenben at 10:08 AM on April 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

I think the almost insoluble problem at the heart of this is that what she is doing with these older men has real therapeutic value for her.

Yes, it is replicating her abuse, but with one absolutely crucial difference: this time around, she has the power.

In the case of this music teacher, he is now utterly abject; he must now beg her for his career and probably for his marriage.

By destroying him, she will not only bring him to justice for what he did to her-- and his other victims-- she will symbolically call to account her original abuser, with whom this teacher is now identified, at least in her unconscious mind.

I think you should do all you can to help her make the consequences for this teacher as severe as possible, in hopes that it will be a step toward definitively regaining her agency, and toward not having to waste her youth on repeating this pattern indefinitely.

And he certainly deserves it.
posted by jamjam at 10:09 AM on April 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

++ asian martial arts, is that available in your area? I thought of it because there is a very strict code of ethics and discipline, it is very physical, and there are tangible rewards for achievement. Learning to literally kick ass could help turn off that neon sign Snarl Furillo so sagely described, help her move forward with confidence, and help her learn that her actions can have far more significance in her life than her mere appearance ever will. (Plus, strenuous exercise helps normalize sleep. Like zoomorphic said!)

I have another thought, and I'm having trouble achoring it so please forgive me if it comes off in any way rude, inappropriate, or off-base.

All young women are going through some degree of reckoning with their sexuality; we say the "age of consent" is 17 but as you know the hormones kick in with puberty, and these days, the casual images of female sexual desirability we are bombarded with affects girls even before, installing deep notions of self-worth that are appearance-based. To say that this experience in the west is twisted is an understatement.

Your daughter, as a young woman who is "model pretty," is already aware that she has social currency because of it, but not of beauty's severely diminishing returns. She knows there's chemistry in sex, and she's lobbing it around like a molotov cocktail, with about the same results. And, as you say, you are at a crux, as she leaves adolescence and enters adulthood, your relationship must change. (BTW, did you know the actual age of brain maturity is more around 25? I wish I had, when I was making bad decisions at 19!!!)

Is there a way to help her master the chemistry, so that she becomes a scientist, not a terrorist?? A women's studies class at community college she could take concurrently with trade school or something online? Other women survivors she could interact with either in a theraputic or focused/volunteering setting? Some kind of sex-positive community, like LGBT or burlesque, where she could meet experienced, tolerant people that she could have conversations with that she cannot have with you? Artists and refugees who have taken hardship and trauma, and turned them to great gifts of wisdom and healing for greater mankind?

It seems age appropriate that (were she interested) if she had intellectual and social avenues to learn about the larger history and scope of gender, human rights struggles, inequality, and sexual expression/oppression in this world, she could find reflection, maybe undo a tiny bit of the socio-eroto programming, be inspiried by the stories of those before her to choose to flourish ...

Again, this coming from a life-time, left-coast point of view; forgive me if this is utterly inappropriate to your culture. As others, I admire your sincere dedication to her and wish you all the best. I have edited my unflattering speculations on the "discussion/forgiveness" session after your follow-up; rest assured I too believed this is not in your daughter's best interests.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:10 AM on April 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

For some survivors of sexual abuse, being told what to do with one's own body can be re-traumatizing in any context. A yoga class or even a meditation class where students are told what to do with their breath could possibly cause more harm to this young woman unless she's there because SHE wants to be and she feels it's the right thing for her at that moment.

At 17, she is almost an adult. It sounds like, for most practical purposes, she IS an adult where you live. She should be in charge of her own healing process with her parents as collaborators, not as enforcers. She has a right to have sex and to choose her own partners, the same as any other human being. Evaluating whether those partners are helpful or harmful is her work to do now, not anyone else's. If she chooses to bring her parents or therapists in as a resource, that's up to her.

Please don't force anything else on this young woman. You've helped her a lot -- that is obvious from what you wrote. But all of your roles are changing now and she needs more autonomy.
posted by gentian at 10:18 AM on April 30, 2012 [10 favorites]

Are you familiar with the website Conduct Disorders? The forums there are good (or at least they used to be; I haven't been there for a while) and you're more likely to find people who can speak from personal experience. Here's the forum about parenting older children.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:28 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Folks, please stick to answering the OPs questions and not the questions that weren't asked. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:35 AM on April 30, 2012

I just want to pop back in to say that a few posters, particularly xarnop, are articulating what I was trying to get at, and what I think you mean when you say, "We are working on helping her make better choices, learning to recognise triggers and step back the the precipice, and above all - recognising that these are damaged choices, not from a "I'm a bad person" place but "Bad things hurt me, and I'm reacting to them and not choosing what I want healthily" which is a lot more complicated to internalise."

The way she is an active agent in these interactions is that they fill emotional needs for her, and so where a non-traumatized person might develop a crush on a teacher but not be easily persuaded to have an inappropriate sexual relationship, your daughter is very easily persuaded. Where another person might say, "This makes me feel uncomfortable and I want it to stop," your daughter unfortunately does not only not feel uncomfortable but barrels on full steam ahead. Of course, that's why these guys are like moths to a flame around her. I can see how you, understanding that, want to just keep her in her bedroom until she's 30.

I wonder if it would help if you and her dad worked with her to develop an idea, maybe an actual list, of what she wants and desires in an intimate relationship and what she thinks good and bad intimate relationships are like. It would be awesome if she could look at something visually, that SHE MADE, and say, "Okay, for me, a positive, healthy intimate relationship would be with a person who a, isn't involved in any other intimate relationships, b, is willing to spend time with me and my family, c, is sexual with me only after condition Z is met..."

That way, she is aspiring to something positive, not something negative, and she has a framework that she can refer to if she needs your help with something. Instead of having to lie or hide a relationship that feels good to her, or having to come to you and "confess" to doing something wrong, she can come to you and say, "Mom, I'm having all these feelings about Person, but he doesn't meet letter F on the list I made, what do I do?"

Obviously, I would run all this stuff by her therapist, etc, as I am not one and this is just a suggestion. Thank you for standing with your daughter during this tough time.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:45 AM on April 30, 2012 [11 favorites]

I think the almost insoluble problem at the heart of this is that what she is doing with these older men has real therapeutic value for her.

As someone who was in that situation, who has had friends in that situation, and who has been part of several support groups for survivors of childhood and teenage sexual abuse, may I disagree strongly with this?

Yes, it may feel to her like this has "therapeutic value," but it's the same "therapeutic value" that continued self-injury has to people with self-injury issues, that continued drinking has to people with alcohol abuse problems, etc. The belief that this is a "do-over" for her and that this time she "has the power" is a false belief, ultimately. She doesn't have the power.

Even if she pursues her complaint (as she has every moral and perhaps legal right to do) and the result is that the teacher loses his job (as he should do), that is unlikely to make her feel that she has set things right or gotten her own back. And that's without factoring in the tremendous amount of backlash she's likely to receive, especially if this person is a popular teacher and/or has allies in the community who will be delighted to believe his story about how it was all her fault.

And look, she's already not winning, because now her parents are angry with her and disappointed in her. Again. Which, sure, isn't the same as whatever betrayals her biological parents were responsible for causing her, but is another wound in an already fragile self-image.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:17 AM on April 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

A quick note: we are aware that she is in a sense an active victim.

So I may be filtering this through my own experience, but I would encourage you to reframe it.

She is doubly a victim. She is a victim of a sexually predatory teacher. She is also a victim of past abuses, past abuses that led her to make the bad choices that put her in a situation where she would be victimized by a sexually predatory teacher.

At her age, I would have heard "I'm confirming your agency here" as "what happened to you was your fault." Which would have been way more confusing to me than saying "You were burned on the hot stove of other people treating you like an object when you were a child, and now that pattern is so familiar with you that you keep going back to the hot stoves of other people who will treat you like an object. How can we help you break this pattern so you don't keep burning yourself?"

The old saw that "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" is most true when it comes to trauma. People who have experienced traumas often try to replay them over and over to get them to come out "right". This is not their "fault". Acknowledging that one of the chief reasons they do this is because of the trauma isn't denying their agency, and it isn't confusing.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:36 AM on April 30, 2012 [13 favorites]

May I also suggest that you and your husband take good care of yourselves? You have clearly worked incredibly hard to find resources and approaches that will work for your daughter, and you have remained committed and hopeful despite a really, really rough road. You and your husband are the very best thing your daughter has going for her, so one of the most important things you can do for her is to make sure that you stay healthy, centered, and resilient. You deserve some extra compassion and support as you continue to be a lifeline for your daughter and your other children.
posted by Ausamor at 11:45 AM on April 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

It sounds like a really small thing, and in the context of everything you're all dealing with, it is a really small thing...and yet, I feel I must suggest it, because I keep thinking about this in terms of my own daughter's future (if she had the same background as yours) and I keep hearing myself say this:

"Daughter, it is normal for you to want to have relationships with other people, and for them to want to have relationships with you, because all people want to have relationships; it is part of everyone's totally normal life. You're a great person, inside and out, whether you believe it or not. You deserve good relationships, and there are wonderful people out there who deserve a relationship with you."

"The thing is, wanting a relationship doesn't mean that every relationship is a healthy one, and sometimes it can be really hard to tell a good relationship from a bad relationship. It is particularly hard for you, because of the kinds of relationships you were exposed to as a child. You aren't a bad person, you just don't have the experience and understanding to see the red flags that signal a bad relationship, the kind of red flags that wave when someone's taking advantage of you, targeting you for an abusive relationship that benefits them and harms you."

"The teacher in this situation was that kind of person, and we're going to do everything we can to keep him from abusing you or any other people again, so that you can put it behind you and move on to learning what healthy, positive relationships are like. If you feel ready for that, I can talk to you about what you might do to get started, or I can facilitate conversations with therapists or other folks if you want, or I can do nothing and let you figure it out on your own...but if you want to do it yourself, I hope you'll talk to me or someone else about how the relationships are going, so that we can help you recognize the red flags, and the green flags, too."
posted by davejay at 11:57 AM on April 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

Let me also recommend Scarleteen.com as a resource for her. She may be able to hear feedback from anonymous same-age peers more easily than from you and her other parent(s), and even from a therapist. The adult moderators there really focus the direction in healthy, candid ways.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:03 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was struck by what shesaysgo said about wanting to be in control and even feeling the pressure of being helped being a bit of a negative. I also hear that she is actively searching to indulge in 'risky' behavior mentioned a few times.

I have no expertise at all, but just an idea. Is there anything she could do that puts her in control and it adrenaline-wise feels like risky behavior? A step away from what she is choosing, but something intense enough that she is getting some satisfaction from it. Yoga sounds great, but just doesn't seem that it will take care of the feeling you get when you take risks. Something like mountain climbing, acting, or martial arts. Where she gets to be in control, gets to take a risk, and gets empowered at the same time. And having the empowerment come from within herself sounds like it would give her strength to take on healing her trauma.

Like I said. I know nothing about this. I just remember in my distorted teenage years, if I had been given an outlet that pushed limits, I truly believe I would not have made the creepy choices I made.
posted by Vaike at 12:41 PM on April 30, 2012 [10 favorites]

(We will be reporting the teacher to the school, as I wrote above. In our area, the circumstances of the affair make it legal though gross, so no police report.)

Remember also that a thing may be legal from a criminal standpoint, but may be actionable as a tort in civil court.

Don't meet with the family for "forgiveness" I suspect this is more about him letting her know that there "may be a later" than anything else.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:02 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, so not only is he deciding for her THAT she/you will be forgiving him, he's also presuming to decide wher, and how as well? Nthing that this man sounds very highly practiced in reading and manipulating people.
posted by cairdeas at 3:14 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Folks, please think through your comments before posting them here. I know this question makes people frustrated. You need to answer the question, not express your rage at this teacher. Please. thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:32 PM on April 30, 2012

It is particularly hard for you, because of the kinds of relationships you were exposed to as a child. You aren't a bad person, you just don't have the experience and understanding to see the red flags that signal a bad relationship, the kind of red flags that wave when someone's taking advantage of you, targeting you for an abusive relationship that benefits them and harms you."

This sentence, however true it seems now that I'm 40, would have caused me to not be able to hear anything past it when I was under 30. It's just too patronizing for a 17 year old.

Not to mention, adults really DON'T get a lot of things. You just don't know until you're in your 30s which things your parents did and didn't get about your teenage years. (Basically, exactly what you're saying is true for all her relationships, including her relationship with you.)
posted by small_ruminant at 3:59 PM on April 30, 2012

Vaike's line of thinking reminded me of something: does she roller skate? Is there a WFTDA team where you live? Roller derby is full of hard work, risk-taking, and strong female mentors.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 4:40 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

What you describe here:

"Denying that she took risky actions and the consequences of that ends up confusing her and giving her even less agency in her life. We are working on helping her make better choices, learning to recognise triggers and step back the the precipice, and above all - recognising that these are damaged choices, not from a "I'm a bad person" place but "Bad things hurt me, and I'm reacting to them and not choosing what I want healthily" which is a lot more complicated to internalise."

Adds to my feeling, voiced already by at least one participant in the thread, that your daughter could greatly benefit from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. You use British spelling and I suspect it's not as widely available in the UK as it is in the States, but I think it might be very much worth looking into.

My very best to you and your daughter. Please feel free to write via MeFi mail if you have any questions or want more details.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:58 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wow. I sympathize. Sounds like you are doing a great job taking care of your daughter and have put a lot of thought into your methods. You sound like a great caretaker.

However, if it were my daughter I think I would be reacting differently. To my mind, this is repeated rape that your daughter is in no way responsible for. She is entirely the victim. I don't care if she begged this man to have sex with her, it doesn't excuse his crime.

When I met with the school I would want to know who will be investigating the previous "girlfriends" and whether or not they feel criminally violated. I would want to know how the school screens its teachers, how they missed this, and how it won't happen again. I would want to know how the school can ensure any future employers know this man is a rapist who targets young women. I would want to know how the authorities and media will be involved and keep my daughters name out of it. I would want to let the school know that I will be suing them, the previous school, the teacher, and anyone else who doesn't do their job.

In short, I would want to lay waste to this man's life and leave behind scorched earth on behalf of the women he's already raped and those he will.

Just a different perspective to think about. Again, I realize you are doing your utmost, but I don't think this is a case of your girl being "bad". This is a case of her weaknesses being unexcusably exploited by evil.
posted by xammerboy at 6:12 PM on April 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

Nthing the above posters about NOT meeting with this predatory teacher. I'm betting that he's manipulated a string of teenaged girls into having sex, and I'm certain that he manipulated his wife into agreeing to this ridiculous meeting. If you were to meet with him, I imagine he'd be an utterly charming sociopath, which is probably how he's stayed out of trouble until now, and why he still maintains power over your daughter. Please, please report him to the police and the school. Even if it's not a prosecutable offense, I would report it to the police to make them aware there is an adult who could possibility be crossing the line, since he has had past sexual contact with students. It's too bad you can't report him for predatory behavior. Are you sure the initial contact was at age 17? If she has any desire to protect him, she may be covering that up.

I would like to strongly encourage you to get her involved with horses. DON'T take her to equine therapy. She's probably so sick of being viewed as someone in need of constant therapy that it wouldn't do her as much good as just getting riding lessons. Horses can do amazing things for girls. Both my daughters had no trouble with being self-assertive--they knew they could control a 1000 lb horse! Riding taught them how to be in control of the animal and of themselves, because horses reflect the rider's confidence, confusion, or anger. Brushing a horse, and just having physical contact with it is immensely soothing and rewarding. If she can get involved and enjoy the stable duties, shoveling manure is a practical workout that would leave my teens tired and calm. Don't force her to do the dirty stuff, that will either come or not. The main thing is to allow her to have a relationship with the horse.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:58 PM on April 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

I too particularly agree with this comment by xarnop. I have such respect for your hard work and compassion here that I hardly feel right making suggestions, but here is my two cents.

I remember making some iffy decisions as a 17 year old, and my parents responded somewhat like you describe: taking away privileges and acting as though I had damaged my relationship with them. What I felt was, "this isn't about you, leave me alone, I'm just living my life." As someone twice your daughter's age, I now get where my parents were coming from, (and apologize for thinking that), but her life is increasingly hers, and your role is increasingly to help her figure out how she wants to relate to the rest of the world. She must need someone with some wisdom who can listen nonjudgmentally as she tries to figure out what she wants her (future if not present) sex life to be like.
posted by salvia at 8:33 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

OK. I'm back with a better keyboard.

I fear my last comment was confusing. I hope you understood I did not mean any disrespect! I get that you are doing everything you can. I know.

My point is that her thinking is so so warped, it is a language only someone who has spoken it can translate down to the nuanced degree, and I believe it is in those deeper levels of meaning where your daughter may find clarity and healing.


Let's get back to the two ideas that she certainly has that you may be inadvertently reinforcing (I Must Lie To Be Accepted By "Normal" People -and- Double Lives Are OK.) I'll add a third for you, because it is predominant in her motivations and behavior, and it's the Big One. It goes, "I AM NOT LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, I WILL NEVER BE OK OR NORMAL"

Sorry for the "shouting."

Really though, she believes she will never be "normal" and as such, her choices, her well being, and her future are all in jeopardy or simply do not matter to her. When you tell her you love her, she distrusts you automatically because her filter is "I Am Not OK, Therefore I Am Not Lovable."

- You reinforce she is not lovable (inadvertantly!) by creating "special" consequences for her actions now that she is transitioning into adulthood.

You know what? Please stop doing that if you can. Seriously. The special programs she was entered into as a minor, those both helped and reinforced her "differentness" in her own mind.

Let me tell you, she feels like she has a neon sign on her forehead right now. And she does!

My advice is that you ignore the neon sign. She doesn't have to earn your trust back. Allow her the agency of experiencing the consequences of her own actions. Yes, though, report the teacher. Be sensitive to the fact that she likely (a) loves this man, and (b) doesn't yet understand he is a predator. It's a hard balance to strike and I am not sure how you put it into practice on the ground, but please try.

Do you know what the natural result is of sleeping with a married man? Heartache and the loss of respect from her peers. Respect that process and acknowledge it as it occurs.

- Everything you say and do comes out warped and twisted in her perception.

I'm loosely dealing with this right now with one friend, and I dealt with it before without realizing how truly pervasive this "warpness" can be, even when someone is saying all the right things when they talk to you about their issues. That's the "Double Life" thing and the "I Must Lie to Be Accepted By "Normal People"" thing at work.

Time and leading by example are your only weapons here. Reasoning will not work.


All that said, please point out to her that The Right Thing to do by her age-appropriate boyfriend is to break things off while she sorts this mess out. She does NOT need to disclose the circumstances! But encourage her to behave with integrity towards this innocent person she cares for. She's young. It is not the last chance at happiness she will ever have.

By doing Right towards this person, it is a step in the correct direction for her. Everyone understands Right from Wrong, even when they are fucked up.

I know, because I was once pretty fucked up. I still knew Right from Wrong. She does, too. I guarantee that. In fact, she likely feels the pain others feel even more keenly than you might.


I'd love an update 6 months or a year from now, even if that is unlikely. I don't care so much about the predator teacher, I'd just love to know if this AskMe yielded a little positive momentum for your daughter.


Also, on the outside of things... I'm kinda wondering what the hell is up with your younger children being in contact with their bio family?? It's not like whatever damage your oldest suffered happened in a vacuum!

I did not get totally well until my late 30's, when I finally broke ALL ties with my bio family. My two years younger brother, who still (to my latest knowledge years ago, has a wife and child of his own to protect) has struggled to keep factions of our bio family in his life. He's super fucked up as a result. Sadly.

I'm certain his life has blown up again and he's been back in rehab - he's probably not even still married.

Via contrast, My Lovely Husband is next to me as I write this, and our first son is happily asleep in the next room. Neither of them will ever meet my family because in No Way do I want to promote the idea that the way they treat each other (or me) is acceptable.

So food for thought there.


That's me. I'm done.
posted by jbenben at 2:34 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Everything I've written is interesting and relevant. But it is unimportant compared to...


Knowing that mistakes are not "BAD" just part of life, and therefore, "Good" is a really really difficult concept for your daughter to grok - BUT THIS IS THE KEY.

Her abusers have programmed her to believe that "mistakes" and doing "The wrong thing" are to be hidden, and yet to be savored as enjoyable.

That is so nuanced. I hope you understand.

The TRUTH is that we all make mistakes! All of the time! I'm sometimes a terrible wife! As per the virtue of my experience and My Lovely Husband, I am NEVER a terrible mother to our son... but I see daily the moments I could make the Wrong Choice, and consciously choose otherwise.

The beauty is that I have the understanding that I can get better at living. That my inter-personal mistakes are not life-long condemnations of myself or my character.

That's the one thing abusers never ever teach you. If they knew it, or let you learn it, then they would have ZERO power over you. Mistakes are blessings, they are how we experience, feel, and evolve.


Bless her mistakes. Teach her to view them as less than Black and White moments. There is always another day, another chapter. The point is only to keep going.


This is the one lesson that changed my life - and I learned it on my own. I wish someone had taught it to me sooner. Oh, the stress and heartache and bad choices I could have avoided!


Mistakes are not bad, they are just mistakes and learning opportunities. The rest is noise.


This is the one big take-away I want you to get from this entire thread. Your daughter has been taught that Life is a zero -sum game. Please teach her that the possibilities are infinite. That I , like many others, no longer have a neon sign on their foreheads saying "Abuse Me." That she can achieve my family life. That making mistakes is and acknowledging them is GOOD.


Yep. That is the ONE useful lesson she is not now learning. Mistakes are natural and good.

posted by jbenben at 3:23 AM on May 1, 2012 [10 favorites]

A good catchphrase for the above is "error is the discipline through which we advance".
posted by tel3path at 3:28 AM on May 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

A related version that I use in my own head: "Great. Another fucking opportunity for growth."
posted by small_ruminant at 9:40 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

A lot of good stuff has been written here.

I'm going to leave aside the bit about the teacher; your update suggests you are not going to meet with him, which, huzzah.

What can you do for her? I would suggest Krav Maga, or some other extremely physical, extremely violent martial art. Not a beautiful, flowing martial art, where people are correcting your form, but a (probably female-only for her) ugly, angry thing, where you get to scream at the top of your voice and train to gouge people's eyes out.

Why? Because that's regaining control of the body. It's something that embraces and allows the anger, while focusing it for more healthy purposes.

Right now, her body is racing a thousand miles a minute. She has to get it out somehow. At the moment, it manifests in sex-it's physical, and feeds into a lot of twisted perceptions about love. But it doesn't have to be.

This sounds awful, and I'm so sorry.

I do want to second the question though: why is this girl seeing her bio family at all? Why are the other children? Why, for god's sake, are these children maintaining contact with abusers? For someone with PTSD, that is probably repeatedly retraumatizing your eldest daughter, and possibly her siblings. The first step should be to get her totally away from these people.
posted by corb at 2:26 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a high school teacher at a residential school for girls with backgrounds very similar to your daughter.

I strongly suggest that you consider an all-encompassing therapeutic environment where she can receive care managed 24/7 by a team of special educators, therapists, career counselors and psychologists.

This is just way too much for you to handle alone. She needs intensive help around the clock.
posted by kinetic at 5:05 PM on May 1, 2012

Also, are you sure you can't get legal guardianship of her? Many of my students' parents have custodial rights over their daughters who are in their early 20's. It seems like you could make a case that she is not capable of making appropriate choices.
posted by kinetic at 5:42 PM on May 1, 2012

Most states have a Professional Standards Commission or some other organization that is in charge of issuing teaching certificates. This would no doubt violate the ethical guidelines that have been set forth in your state... most likely will end up in this cretin losing his teaching certificate (hopefully) forever. As a teacher AND a foster parent, I can't tell you how much I respect the way that you have handled such a difficult situation. Keep up the good work...
posted by richmondparker at 12:06 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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