Teachers are generally known for being good people: they patiently provide education to pupils and students and are role models to children growing up. However, the trust placed in these teachers has been violated in the worst imaginable way on more than one occasion. It has happened in a high number of cases, which are regrettably increasing, that teachers conduct in misconduct, often sexual abuse. In high school, I refused to listen to my history teacher because I knew he was suspended for a year for having a relationship with a minor (but since the age of consent is 16 in the Netherlands, there were no criminal charges as she was over 16 at the time). A few disturbing examples of teachers charged (and convicted) of child sexual misconduct:
In 1999, Edward Fischer admitted to having victimised at least 39 boys during his 40-year teaching career in the US. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in connection with 13 sexual abuse charges.
In 2008, 54-year old former US Marine captain Michael Joseph Pepe, who had been working as a teacher in Cambodia, was found guilty of drugging, tying up, beating and raping seven young girls between the ages of 9 and 12 in Phnom Penh. He was arrested in 2006 and extradited to the US in 2007.
In 2010, 61-year old US citizen Michael James Dodd, who also worked as a teacher in Cambodia, was sentenced to 104 months prison after pleading guilty to engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a 14-year old girl in Phnom Penh. He was arrested in 2008 and after being held by Cambodian authorities, he was expelled in 2010 and arrested upon arrival in the US.
In 2011, 61-year old Benno L., a swim school teacher and director in the Netherlands, was sentenced 6 years in prison for sexually abusing 33 mentally disabled girls, possession of child pornography and secretly photographing children.
It is a common misunderstanding that child sexual abuse is only committed by males. Back in 1997, 35-year old Mary Kay LeTourneau was convicted in the US of raping one of her students. The boy victim was 13 at the time. She received a prison sentence which was suspended on condition of receiving counselling, not contacting the boy, and adhering to legal requirements for sex offenders. However, she continued to see the boy and she was re-sentenced a seven-year prison sentence in 1998. At the time of the case, she was pregnant with the boy’s child.
In 2009, 31-year old Jennifer Leigh Rice was sentenced to 25 years in prison for kidnapping with sexual motivation, child molesting and child rape of her 10-year old former-student and his 15-year old brother. The teacher had confessed to having sex with the 10-year old boy, including once in his bedroom while his parents were asleep.
Unfortunately, the list goes on and on… On the website badbadteacher.com, you can find hundreds of child sex abuse cases by teachers in the US. Of course child sex abuse is not only committed by teachers. Child sex offenders come from all walks of life and social backgrounds. There are situational offenders and preferential offenders. Situational offenders do not have an exclusive sexual preference for children but take advantage of a situation where a child sex abuse presents itself (examples are child sex tourists). Preferential offenders have an active sexual preference for children. Many people with such preference will go to great lengths to have sex with a child, including planning to meet children and travelling some distance to solicit children. And this is where the teaching comes into play: they might also seek positions in places where they will work with children, such as schools and day care centres, but even child rights organisations and humanitarian organisations.
While this post has been focused on teachers and those working with children, keep in mind that there is generally no typical profile of a child sex offender. Therefore, if you sense anything suspicious, please report it to your local social services and/or authorities. To learn more about child sex abuse, how to make your organisation child safe and/or child protection policies & procedures, please consult ECPAT International’s free publications.