Silenced – Was I wrong??

We were in Middle School. My friend, well…she hit puberty well before the rest of us girls. As a result, she walked around with a body that the rest of us only dreamed of possessing in the near future. With that body came an air of confidence that suggested that she was somehow superior to her undeveloped peers. Unfortunately, us pre-pubescent girls were not the only ones that were admiring her womanly figure and confidence.

I remember standing around chatting in a group. My confident and developed friend and a teacher were a part of this group. Giggly and innocent, but also aware, it was clear to me that this teacher was taking in my friends curves. While the way he looked at her gave me the creeps, I did not dare utter a word. After all, everyone else seemed to be blind to the fact that this teacher was standing there undressing this middle school student with his eyes.

I don’t know if it was our voluntary ignorance but something made this teacher feel empowered. So, he went from creepy admiration to verbal appreciation for how good my curvy middle school classmate looked to him. Flabbergasted but too afraid to voice how uncomfortable his adoration made me feel, I continued to stand in the crowd and giggle with the rest of the group as though everything were normal.

Later my best friend, who was also in the group, and I would have a conversation about how weird that whole experience was. After giving it some thought I decided to do what I believed to be the right thing. I shared my experience with another adult in the school system. Until then I naively believed that all adults would protect children. Little did I know.

Instead of action being taken against the teacher, the adults banned together and decided that this naive little trouble maker (me) had to be silenced. I was absolutely horrified to know that the teacher had been told about my concerns. By the time he finished raking me over the coals for daring to be vocal about his creepy admiration, I believed that I had somehow misunderstood the obvious and that I was wrong for being concerned.

As if the guilt trip from the teacher were not enough, reinforcement was bought in. Another teacher that I greatly admired requested my presence in her classroom one day for a “talk”. This “talk” reinforced that I was a “bad girl” for putting this wonderful educator at risk by daring to vocalize that his adoration for a child was creepy. And with that I was silenced while he continued to teach and rise up in the ranks.

I have no idea if this experience empowered him even more. I don’t even know what, if any action, I was looking for from the school. I simply wanted him to know that his behavior was not okay.

It is my hope that while there was an all out effort at silencing me, there was also some soul searching on this teacher’s part and his inappropriate behavior ceased with this experience.

Much love,

Tonza

P.S. Through my many years of work as a criminal defense attorney I must say that it is clear to me there are instances where false allegations of sexual abuse are made by children. Despite that fact, adults should not shame children into silence.

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southern woman, southern mom, and southern lawyer!

13 thoughts on “Silenced – Was I wrong??

  1. This is just another example of why you do what you do and how you think. Even at that young age you saw a wrong and rather than let someone else deal with it you felt you needed to address it. Obviously it was wrong for the ADULT teachers to stick together, but you stood your ground and I commend you for doing so.

  2. Very powerful. We should always encourage children to speak up if they see something that makes them uncomfortable. And whether the child has misunderstood or not, adults should talk to the child in a way that does not hurt or shame the child.

  3. Where in the world do we live where the child is questioned about what they saw in an effort to silence them. I hope that educator overcame his sexual proclivities for children

  4. I had a very similar experience and unfortunately o was the curvy one. I was safe but his looks creeped me out. This same former or retired teacher ended up marrying a former student who was younger than me. I believe this behavior is prevent and silence is not the answer. Thanks for speaking out. We must protect the innocent.

    1. We definitely have to protect the innocent and make people comfortable speaking out. I believe a society that encourages disclosure of inappropriate conduct would do a lot to deter some predators.

  5. Sounds like the experience was a defining moment for you and hopefully for the teacher who had stepped outside his ethical boundaries. You showed discernment, strength of character and courage as a youth. You became the voice for a peer that you perceived to be in danger. You withstood censorship. You were propelled towards your future life purpose. Let’s hope that the experience deterred the teacher from acting upon his initial thoughts.

  6. Good observation…… I know I FEEL uncomfortable, helping a child if the child is alone for FEAR of being accused of whatever…… I had to go get another ADULT before reaching out to a child that seemed LOST. By the time I found another ADULT there were more folks around the child that seemed lost……. Signed wary…… No I have NEVER been accused of hurting folks BUT as a black man………I take precautions for self preservation…..

  7. I think people of a certain age were expected to stay in their lane and not rock the boat. And if you didn’t stay in your lane you’d be gaslighted by the adults.
    There was a weird experience when I was in the eighth grade. A few boys were pulling at girls bra straps and inappropriately touching them. It was totally mishandled by the school and my teacher, a woman, said the girls were leading the boys on. I don’t think I totally had a grasp of how to process this, but I knew what was happening was wrong. My self of today says I should have walked out of the classroom upon hearing that garbage, but I know such a move would have not been in any way supported by my parents.
    I was always the tallest through about the eighth grade and went through puberty sooner than most girls my age. I felt mortified during that time period knowing that people were treating me differently for something I had no control over and is simply part of life.
    The teacher you describe sounds like a total jerk.

    1. It is so hard to know what to do when we are young because we know that adults have the ultimate power.
      I can only imagine how you felt knowing that you were being looked at differently for something as natural as puberty. Kids can be really cruel to other kids. Thank you for sharing!

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