Few victims of child sexual abuse have the courage to testify against their abusers in the courtroom, nor can they be expected to. The feelings of shame and violation are already too much for many young victims to handle; which is often why victims may repress these traumatic memories well into adulthood. Sadly, this often means that child abusers are allowed to continue their crimes for years.
But this will not be the case for a former middle school teacher in Northampton County. The 40-year-old was recently sentenced to spend years in a Pennsylvania state prison after being convicted of sexually abusing one of his male students, who is now 14 years old. Amazingly, the student found the courage to confront his abuser in court at the sentencing hearing.
The defendant’s attorney asked the judge for leniency, noting that the former teacher has cooperated with authorities and is open to the idea of receiving treatment. But the judge perceptively noted that the way in which the defendant talked about his crimes suggests a lack of genuine remorse for what he did. Instead, he seems sorry only for what will now happen to him.
The judge noted that the defendant referred to his behavior as a “one-time mistake.” But child sexual abuse committed by a teacher or other authority figure often involves a period of “grooming” the victim, and that’s what allegedly took place in this case as well. Grooming involves finding ways to gain the trust of the victim and the victim’s parents, as well as orchestrating reasons to be alone with the victim and to gradually violate personal boundaries.
Grooming is a manipulative process that is slow, subtle and systematic. It takes considerable planning and forethought. As such, it can hardly be excused as a “one-time mistake” or a temporary lapse in judgment. Apparently denying the request for leniency, the judge sentenced the defendant to spend between 4.5 and 11 years in prison.
Although the young victim in this case has not been identified publicly, his bravery may very well inspire courage in others who have been victims of sexual abuse. And although his recovery will likely be difficult, he should be proud of what he has already accomplished.
Source: Lehigh Valley Live, “Former Nazareth Area teacher sentenced to state prison for sexually abusing student – UPDATE,” Tom Shortell, Feb. 19, 2014