It is a common misconception that the brief relationship I had with my former student was a result of some sort of deviant desire to engage with an underage girl. I think it is vital to the purpose of my endeavors to dispel this assumption with immediacy.
I fully admit that I had a physical relationship with a girl who was 15 while I was a high school teacher. And to quote A Few Good Men, “These are the facts, and they are undisputed.” However, what is in dispute is my personal motivation behind why these things happened.
It is easy to point a finger and yell “Pedophile!” because that is the easiest, most convenient, most readily available, and most (seemingly) relevant term to use. However, it simply is not accurate.
It’s like saying, “Everyone who has ever gotten a DUI is a raging alcoholic.”
I mean, if ignorant people are going to spout insults, the least they could do is get the insult correct. The girl I had the brief relationship with was 15 (although we never had sex, but did “make-out” a few times). Therefore, errantly assuming I was attracted to her because of her age would be known as Ephebophilia (an attraction to someone between the ages of 15-19, according to the DSM-V), not Pedophilia (an attraction to prepubescent children). So if people are going to be ignorant, they could at least try to get their facts straight (even if they’re overall assumption still incorrect).
That trivial tidbit aside, I say numerous times in my book, After 3PM, I was never attracted to my former student because of her age. In fact, the problem was not because of her age, but rather, the problem was that her age ceased to matter because — in my own cognitive distortions — I began my own errant perception of viewing her as a peer; I perceived her as an adult. This was wrong, but this was also the nexus of my issues. To assume I was simply attracted to her because she was underage is a faulty syllogism and does not constructively address the true issue at hand. And, in my opinion, addressing the wrong issue is tantamount to not addressing the issue at all.
So if you’re reading this with some assumption that I’m a sick twisted pedophile who is sexually attracted to underage girls, please allow me to set you straight: I was never attracted to her because of her age. Period. It was a cognitive distortion within my own mind that saw her as a peer-based within the skewed depths of our interpersonal interactions, which therefore led to the errant perception that she and I were on the same social plane. Simply put, I began to view her as an adult — which was completely wrong.
This is the nexus of the epidemic of unlawful teacher/student relationships which plagues the contemporary American educational system.
I’m not trying to make myself look “less-bad” or anything like that. Because, the fact is, I made-out with a 15-year-old girl when I was thirty. It is the thing in my life for which I am most ashamed. However, if you are going to attribute a cause or reason to this choice, it would be best to at least attribute the appropriate and correct reasoning.
This, essentially, is why the issue persists within the educational system. If educators operate on the assumption that only a “pedophile” would hook up with a student, then they will easily look around at their peers and say to themselves, “I know so-and-so, and he/she is definitely not a pedophile.” Thus, therein lies the errant logic.
Teachers are not hooking up with students because they are attracted to children; teachers are hooking up with students because they begin to perceive them as peers, equals, and friends.
The choices I made were my choices and mine alone. However, those choices were made as a result of some very skewed cognitive distortions. In my own mind, I categorized a 15-year-old girl as an adult because of the depth and intricacies of our interpersonal interactions.
Attributing the wrong cause to this issue only makes the problem worse. Assuming only pedophiles are having relationships with students is a dangerous assumption and only makes the problem worse because those who are truly at-risk of making these choices are being overlooked, since it is assumed they are not “pedophiles.”
So call me what you will, but if you’re going to hurl a deserved insult at me, at least make it factually accurate. Because, admittedly, I have done an array of evil things and made a vast variety of destructive choices; pedophilia isn’t one of them.