I recently shared my story, with the intent to give others hope, and to give a voice to those who also suffered at the hands of my abuser, only to not be heard in the ways it mattered.
While some thought I should have “called out” the man who abused me, and others, I was protective in writing my story… Not to protect him, but to protect other victims.
You see, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) of Washington state made a grave error, twelve years ago.
When a teacher loses the legal right to teach in my state, that information is posted on the Disciplinary Actions page of OSPI’s website. That is a good practice, as far as I’m concerned, because it establishes, for the public, a record of that action.
Normally, as far as I can tell from looking at other disciplinary records, the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law are redacted to remove the names of minor victims before being attached to the Order of Revocation and posted to the website.
In my teacher’s case, the “normal” procedure wasn’t followed.
Instead, the full Findings and Conclusions were attached to the Order — including the FULL NAMES OF THE MINOR VICTIMS.
A Google search for my teacher’s name turned up, as the first result, that document, exposing the names of many (not all; just a select few, plucked from the investigative file) of his victims.
Dear Readers, I could not risk exposing these precious individuals to re-victimization or further pain by dragging their names into a public forum, for anyone who had access to the internet.
So, I played it vague, and contacted as many named victims as I could, letting them know my story had gone public, asking their forgiveness for not being strong enough to stand with them when I was asked to testify, and alerting them to the fact that their full names were out there, on the internet, associated with their victimization at this man’s hands.
One individual told me she was aware. She had, over the years, done internet searches for our abuser, trying to “keep tabs” on him, to learn whether he was still alive, whether he’d faced any consequences, whether he still had access to children… I understood her curiosity all too well. I, too, had attempted to learn as much as possible about him.
She’d seen the document, and shared more of her story with me, over the phone. I cried with her, and prayed with her.
Another individual was completely blindsided. Learning her name was on the internet as part of the Order of Revocation stirred up in her panic, alarm, fear, and a deep sense of betrayal.
She’d been promised by investigators that her testimony and name would never be made public, and it was a condition of her testifying.
Again, she had been failed by the very people who were supposed to protect her.
This woman was failed by her teacher (we all were), by fellow teachers who stood by and allowed — even enabled — his cruel behavior, and by the school administrators, who were — apparently — complicit in her abuse.
And then, OSPI — the “good guys” who swooped in to make sure he would never teach again — they failed her, too. They posted her name and story, in direct opposition to the promises she’d been made in exchange for her testimony.
I was outraged, with her, and for her.
I knew the fear associated with speaking out. In fact, my fear was so great that I had failed to do so.
So… She and I got on the phone with OSPI. We demanded the document be removed. We refused to listen to excuses about how it got there, how it was overlooked for twelve years, and how it remained unredacted, after all these years.
We didn’t play into the fishing expedition performed by the OSPI rep to find out how deep their liability might run. We dug our heels in, and demanded it be removed.
Finally, it came down.
If nothing else was gained by my story going public, I will take this small victory. No longer will the innocent risk re-victimization through being “advertised” as his victims.
Praise The Lord for this small — but necessary — battle victory!
So… I’m sure the question I will face next will be, “Will you name him, now?”
I don’t know. I can’t promise that I will. What I can promise is to pray about it.
I don’t want to confuse speaking out for the sake of the voiceless with my own personal revenge, or a misled crusade for justice.
I don’t want to lose the focus on the larger problem of sexual exploitation by targeting one man.
When, and if, I decide to name him, y’all will be among the first to know. My suspicion is that he has already read my story. If that is the case, I hope he becomes convicted before The Lord, and repents with sincerity.
I fight each day to not let resentment and hatred overrun my life. I’m not yet strong enough to forgive, though I know it’s critical to my healing.
Perhaps the largest battle — for me — lies ahead, as I fight my own heart to find the strength to forgive.