This piece was sent to Blue Shirt Coalition by a confirmed FBCS Alumni who requested to remain anonymous.  It is shared in full by permission.

A former teacher/principal was arrested days ago for sexual abuse of a minor [recent update: pled guilty and sentenced to twelve years in prison]. I’d known him for many years as a child, and when he was around, something deep inside me felt white-hot and raw. I didn’t know what that meant, I didn’t know how to communicate that he was not a good man, that I wanted to be away from him, that I was afraid. If you’ve ever talked about him with me, my distaste for him and that place was overtly evident. 

When I was a fresh fourteen, he poured acid in my wounds. What I mean by that is this: The summer before my freshman year of high school, I liked a boy. He liked me. He kissed me once that summer- a kiss that barely qualified, but sent me into excitement and feeling special and seen, all the same. The first day of school, when I was brimming with excitement at seeing my friends, at being an official high school girl, a new girl came to class, and the boy I liked decided he liked her instead. He sent me a note that said “I don’t think we should go out no more.” Aside from the grammar, the other problem with this note was that all the cool kids knew what it said before I did, and they thoroughly enjoyed watching the entire Shakespearean tragedy play out across my face. Gosh, that hurt. Before I knew it, that entire season of possibility was just a crumpled note dropped on the floor of a dirty bathroom. 

Teenage feelings are in a constant state of change, the same way water takes on the property of its container. Some days a boy likes you; some days he changes his mind. One week a group of people are your friends and your safe place, and another week they become the enemy. High school is hard that way- how do you solidly figure out who you are when everything around you is made of liquid? From there on out, not only had I been dumped for the first time quite publicly, but also my friends took on the shape of this boy- they were no longer my friends. And if you’ve been in high school, you know that isn’t just a subtle “moving on” of a friendship. Teenagers want to make sure everyone knows who their friends are (and aren’t)-what shape and which container they belong with that day. So it wasn’t just that I didn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch, it’s that they viciously made sure everyone knew all of my failure to measure up. 

(Is this making you remember why you are glad you’re done with high school? That you never have to go back and re-live “the best days of your life”?) 

The week my first real crush crushed me, it was the talk of our class, as a break-up always is. And that man, that “teacher”, was not filled with compassion; he had no interest in protecting me or encouraging me or speaking truth over me. Instead, when he found out what happened, he brought me up in front of my Bible class, and he used his power and his authority to slut-shame me. Did I mention this was a Christian school? He claimed to be a Christlike Teacher. He had my classmates- the friends-turned-enemies, the ones I needed an escape from- list all of the reasons I was in the wrong. Why I should be ashamed. Why I was broken. He assigned them to use Bible verses and stories to prove it. Acid in my wounds.

I don’t remember a lot of the words they said. I remember my cheeks burning. I remember wanting to disappear. I remember the color of the concrete walls, and the odd-shaped basement room. I remember the look in this teacher’s eyes- he was thoroughly enjoying himself. He was laughing at my pain. And because he was in such a respected position of authority, I never questioned it. I never even told my parents because I never knew he was wrong. 

Fast-forward eight impossibly full years from that moment. I left that school without a moment’s regret, and I went to a public high school where I made best friends who are still my best friends today. I had teachers who loved me, and they love me still. I saw Jesus, the real Jesus, portrayed by my teachers and those friends I made, in a way I never had at the previous school or church. It changed the trajectory of my story, and eventually I became a high school teacher in a public school. And oh, the relationship dramas that played out in those halls would rival any play I taught in my class. One of the tragic protagonists found her way into my classroom after a particularly hard break-up, and I was instantly thrown back into how it felt to be in that spotlight, when all you want to do is hide and lick your wounds. My heart broke with her, for her. I was filled with compassion, with understanding, and with the urge to protect her, encourage her, build a fortress around her so that she could fall apart in peace. My mind flashed back to my break-up experience when I was a freshman. It was in that instant I realized just how hateful the man who was my teacher had been. It was that day I realized I believed all of those things he spoke over me, without question, until the day I was in his position, watching a girl’s heart shatter in front of me.

It was that day I told my husband I would never set foot in my former school building until that man was gone. It was that week that I told my mom about the way he acted and what he did to me. Because it was that day that I realized I was having the right response as a Teacher, and how his response was anything but right. 

For twenty years, every bad dream I’ve ever had has taken place in that room. It doesn’t matter what the dream was about- my children, abstract haunts and monsters, re-lived events- always in that room. Last night for the first time, I had a dream that took place in a different room of that building. It was an indifferent sort of dream- I was in charge of a birthday party for some little girls, and I was working my way through trying to balance everything so the fun wouldn’t give way to chaos. And then I woke up. For 2/3 of my life, any dream that’s taken place in that building would cause me to wake up sweaty and out of breath, clinging to the hope that it wasn’t real, that whatever happened in that place would disappear with the morning light. But today? I just woke up to the sun rising and to thoughts of getting my kids ready for school and the first taste of caffeine on my lips. 

I guess what I want to say is that what he did to me wasn’t criminal. It wasn’t worthy of prison time. It may not have even affected someone the same way with a different personality than mine. But it’s haunted me for twenty years. The day I knew he was caught in his evil was the day my bad dreams stopped.

What he did to others was criminal. He did heinous things that destroyed people’s childhood. I cannot imagine in comparison the ways he has haunted them for so very long. 

Once, a long, long time ago some religious leaders took a girl in front of a crowd and slut-shamed her. They approached Jesus and asked, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” But Jesus didn’t participate. In fact, he spoke out against it. He stayed with her through it all. He looked her in the eye and had compassion on her. 

For the so many whom this man has tried to destroy, I hope you know that this man claimed the name of Jesus, but he never acted like Jesus does. That man did nothing like the Teacher would.  I hope you know that anyone in that institution who still claims the name of Jesus and condemns you or defends him is not acting as Jesus truly would. I hope you know that I believe you. I hope you know that you are known, you are loved, you are valued, and you are not broken. I hope you sleep in peace tonight. I hope that one day, you’re able to wake up without the nightmare.