The stories leading in the media this week both perplex me and fuel my outrage over another story. One you definitely didn't see plastered on CNN's website.
It's about a male teacher being arrested for soliciting a twelve-year-old girl online. Only this time, that child was really an undercover cop. Here's the link, if you're so inclined. Score one for the good guys, right? This time.
The story hits home because this is the county where I went to high school. This coach didn't have his contract renewed last May, for undisclosed reasons. But I bet I have a good idea.
During my high school years, two different male teachers had "affairs" with young female students. Can I say for a fact that these "relationships" took place? No. But I had classes with both of these guys, and I one hundred percent believe it. Both of them were not renewed for undisclosed reasons in the years after I graduated. They both went on to teach at other places. One is now successful in a high profile job. The other is serving a thirty year jail sentence after being found guilty of nine counts of sexual assault on a student.
I understand that school systems have legal issues to deal with. Charges filed and investigations held. But to suspect someone of rape, and let him move on to his next victim with a pat on the back, is outrageous. To do it over and over again? That's criminal.
We're bombarded by sex every day. And in this sex-centric American culture, the insidious belief has taken hold that a female child can consent to sex with an adult man. Well, guess what? Even when she doesn't say no, he's still a pedophile. Period. I don't care what either of them watched on MTV last night. It's the adult's responsibility to say no.
I spent my teen years convinced that I'd never live to see the other side of twenty.
To people who knew Teen Me, that may seem strange. I am now, and was already then, a Christian. I prided myself on academic success. I filled every day with extra-curriculars. Even my wildest moments were tame in comparison to many of my classmates. On the outside, I guess I appeared to be constantly preparing for my future. But really, I was certain that I was an adult trapped in a teenage body, that I knew all, and that I'd better fill every moment with the opportunities offered to me, because the clock was constantly ticking down to a certain end.
I used to think that I was unique in that way. But I'm starting to realize that maybe many teen girls feel the same. And that fear and insecurity must make an easy mark for guys on the prowl.
As a former middle school teacher and a reader and writer of young adult lit, these issues are heavy on my heart. I'm not sure if I love YA because it speaks to that perpetual sixteen year old trapped inside me, or because my heart weeps for what it lost by trying so desperately to be an adult when I was still a child. And I never had to deal with rape, or half of what girls today are facing.
As parents, teachers, YA writers, or just plain adults in a struggling society, I hope more of us can find the courage to protect our children. Protect them from predators. Protect them from a world that says their sexuality defines their worth, because it doesn't. Protect them from themselves. Even when it's hard. Even if it means reminding them that they are children, even when that's the last thing they want to hear.
Music for today: Stockholm Syndrome by Muse