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Seeking Clarity on Past Teacher's Intentions

Hi everyone I’m new here. I’ve been trying to come to terms with a relationship I had as a teenager that I’m now seeing through different eyes as an adult.

I had a teacher in 8th grade (my final year of middle school) who I became somewhat friendly with as the year went on. He was young, 24 years old, cool, and good looking, so naturally 13 year old me had a crush on him. I would sometimes stay after class for a few minutes and chat with him about science-y things but that was the extent of our relationship.

The following year when I moved to high school he also began teaching at my high school and I had him for science again. After class on the first day of school he gave me a smile as I was leaving and said “it’s nice to see you again (my name).” During that year our student-teacher relationship developed more into a mentor relationship and then more into a friendship. I was dealing with a lot of anxiety and depression, and I had recently lost a relationship with my brother (who is 8 year older than me) who kind of went off the rails with drugs and drinking. The teacher became my mentor, confidante, and friend. In some ways he was also an older brother figure to me (he was 11 years older than me), but with the odd dynamic of me also having a crush on him. I would go to him often for advice, and I had access to his personal email and would frequently email him. I would often visit him in his room at the end of the day and we would just hang out and chat. Usually it was just me. At some point he created an environmental club that I also joined so I was spending a lot of my after school time with and around him. I struggled with finding friends and he really became my only real friend. He came to a couple of church services that I had invited him to. He introduced me to rock climbing and there were a handful of times that I would meet up with him on the weekend and go to a rock climbing gym, although we were never alone. Usually it was him, myself, his girlfriend, and a couple of my friends (not students of my high school.) If I was out sick or if I didn’t come around and visit him for a bit, he would ask if everything was okay. At the end of the year I gave him a small gift of appreciation and a few days later (maybe the last day of school) he walked up to me and put a book with a card tucked inside on the desk next to me. He said that it was kind of a more new age style book and that he asked his girlfriend if she thought I would understand the message of the book and she replied something along the lines of me being old enough to understand it. We did email back and forth a couple times during the summer.

The first day of my sophomore year I went to his room at the end of the day since I hadn’t seen him yet (I went to a vocational school and the first week was shop week). When I walked into his room he got super excited, said “I miss you so much!” and then proceeded to walk up to me and embrace me in a tight bear hug while moaning “mmmm” and rocking me from side to side. I remember feeling like he wasn’t going to let me go and I remember feeling a little odd about it, but I had no reason not to trust him and knew he wouldn’t hurt me or take advantage of me. I also kind of liked it. For reference, I was 15 and he was 26. For the first couple weeks of school I had a hard time finding people to sit with at lunch so I ate lunch with him in his classroom. During one of these lunches alone with him he pulled out his guitar and started singing me a mainstream song that has my name in the title. I remember feeling so special. The rest of the year continued just like freshman year, although we were closer. At this point I really considered him to be my best friend. At the end of my sophomore year we did an overnight walk to raise money for cancer research. The participants were him, myself, his girlfriend, and a couple of students. Part of the rules of the walk was that someone from your team was supposed to be walking around the track at all times during the 24 hour walk. Around 12:30/1:00 in the morning I saw him walking by himself so I walked with him and we just chatted for awhile until he said he was gonna get some sleep.

I don’t remember if we had any correspondence during that summer, but when I came back on the first day of junior year he was gone. I tried contacting him and he never responded to me. I finally heard from him about 2-3 months into the school year. He had gone back to teaching at the middle school, but any questions as to what happened remained unanswered. After he left there was some emailing back and forth but not a lot. I knew somewhere within myself that him leaving had to do with me, and because I was never able to come to terms with what happened I internalized so much of that as my fault. I blamed myself for him leaving.

At the end of my senior year I wrote him a letter, explaining some things and looking for closure and answers from him. He didn’t respond to it. I happened to see him put in public a few months later and I asked him if I could visit him at his school and he said yes. I visited him and he was telling me about his classes and his students and he remarked about how one student in particular reminds him of me. I remember thinking “he does still care about me!” I did point blank ask him about why he didn’t respond to my letter and he said he didn’t know how to respond. Obviously this left me still feeling unsure but I decided to put it behind me. I got engaged to my husband soon after and I invited him and his now wife to my wedding and they did come.

He and I have been friends on social media for years, and we’ll occasionally comment on each other’s posts or PM to say an occasional hi or whatever. I have always viewed him as a mentor, a friend, an older “brother”, and someone who has made an impact on the person who I’ve become. I’ve seen him a handful of times out and about and we always chat. One day I was at my best friend’s house and she randomly brought him up and told me she thought he was grooming me and wanting something more. I told her there’s no way, he’s not like that. But ever since that day three years or so ago it’s been on my mind. A few months ago I was looking up the signs of grooming and I went into a panic because some of the signs matched with what our friendship was. I have since come to terms with the fact that he did cross boundaries as a teacher that he shouldn’t have and we were way too close, but I started to wonder if he was in fact grooming me and I was too naive to see it. I recently found out from a different friend whose mom works in a neighboring district that during the summer between my sophomore and junior year he was asked to leave due to an inappropriate relationship with a student. I know that student was me. It all made sense as to why he left without telling me, why I didn’t hear from him for awhile, and why he couldn’t answer my questions. But as far as what our relationship was- I honestly don’t know what to think at this point. I see evidence for both sides- evidence that points to grooming, but also evidence to a friendship that shouldn’t have happened but wasn’t nefarious. He was never overtly sexual with me, although I do wonder about the hug and the “mmmm” as well as the song. I don’t want to think that he had ulterior motives but I also don’t want to be stupid and naive about it either. Do you think this was grooming? Any insights would be extremely helpful!
 
I tend to jump to grooming because of my own past experiences, but that doesn't mean much. Yes, there are a lot of hallmarks of grooming but it could also be a teacher who was young and didn't have the best boundaries and was trying to help you.

The reality is you are never going to know. If he was grooming you he isn't going to tell you. I suppose more evidence could come up that would point towards a direction, but even then you won't *know*. So, what you need to do is process what you do know. How does this relationship fit in with other relationships? Do you attract predators? (I did for sure). Do you have the ability to say no if they push past your boundaries? What does being naive mean to you now and your current life?
 
it could also be a teacher who was young and didn't have the best boundaries and was trying to help you.
I suspect this is the case. I’m a teacher and middle-aged. I work at a school with students of all ages and I see young teachers come in with good intentions but terrible boundaries. If they stay it usually rights itself through mistakes made known and kids walking all over them.

he was asked to leave due to an inappropriate relationship with a student. I know that student was me. It all made sense
At my high school there was a young teacher who acted like yours did with multiple girls but ended up choosing one to sleep with. It’s possible your teacher slept with another student. These things happen more often than people realize, I have discovered, and they rarely make the news, because the school doesn’t want the attention.

Regardless, I agree with Muttly, you will never know. Now is the time to make peace with yourself and your feelings however possible.
 
The reality is you are never going to know. If he was grooming you he isn't going to tell you.
Yeah I’ve thought about this too. Even if he was grooming me he’s not gonna be forthright with that information. He’s still teaching and there would be too much on the line.

How does this relationship fit in with other relationships? Do you attract predators? (I did for sure). Do you have the ability to say no if they push past your boundaries? What does being naive mean to you now and your current life?
I have a really great therapist that I’m working with on these exact things. I think there’s definitely parts of the relationship, whether intentional or unintentional, that have caused problems in my life.
 
At my high school there was a young teacher who acted like yours did with multiple girls but ended up choosing one to sleep with. It’s possible your teacher slept with another student.
It’s possible but I really think it’s unlikely. I was around him a lot, and I was the only one he interacted this way with. As a young girl, if I ever got the feeling that he was acting similar to another student, I know I would have noticed and been jealous.

I forgot to mention this in my original post but one of my male classmates actually stopped me one day during my sophomore year and point blank asked me if him and I were sleeping together. I said no, absolutely not, but he said he was going to go to admin with it. I do think that’s what likely happened.
 
@opossumblossom makes sense. Kids pick up on boundary crossing. I would find it inappropriate too if a teacher at my school were acting the way he did with you. Like @Muttly and others on here I also attracted boundary crossers as a child and teen. Some sexually assaulted me, some didn’t. At the time I didn’t know how to separate myself from others. I wanted to have sex with all of them. I was upset by the ones who didn’t want sex with me and I never even saw any of it as assault until much later in life.

Not until reading your post have I reflected on the ones who groomed me but didn’t have sexual interactions—there was one I’m thinking of now who really drew me in—she was a teacher. She really affected me for a long time. I think she had good intentions to help me.

I think it’s normal for teens to feel infatuated with influential adults in their lives—as a way of individuating from their parents. And young adults in their early 20’s would have a harder time with boundaries when a teen is giving them so much attention. It’s a tricky situation. But I’m really glad your teacher never sexually assaulted you.
 
Fundamentally? / In short?

The only difference between friendship/mentoring & grooming is what happens next.

Nothing? It’s friendship/mentoring.
Pushing sexual boundaries &/or sexual abuse/assault? Grooming.

Grooming is FAKING/MANIPULATING/MANUFACTURING friendship/interest/etc. in order to win trust/ affection/ leverage in order to exploit & cause harm.
 
@opossumblossom makes sense. Kids pick up on boundary crossing. I would find it inappropriate too if a teacher at my school were acting the way he did with you. Like @Muttly and others on here I also attracted boundary crossers as a child and teen. Some sexually assaulted me, some didn’t. At the time I didn’t know how to separate myself from others. I wanted to have sex with all of them. I was upset by the ones who didn’t want sex with me and I never even saw any of it as assault until much later in life.

Not until reading your post have I reflected on the ones who groomed me but didn’t have sexual interactions—there was one I’m thinking of now who really drew me in—she was a teacher. She really affected me for a long time. I think she had good intentions to help me.

I think it’s normal for teens to feel infatuated with influential adults in their lives—as a way of individuating from their parents. And young adults in their early 20’s would have a harder time with boundaries when a teen is giving them so much attention. It’s a tricky situation. But I’m really glad your teacher never sexually assaulted you.
Thank you. I do hope that his intentions were as pure as I thought they were back then. A large part of me does feel like they were. I do feel like he had many an opportunity to assault me and didn’t. Maybe I’m just wanting to see the good in people, but I do think that says something about his intentions.

I’m glad it didn’t go beyond the emotional exploitation, but that is still a mind field to work through.
Yes, either way, whether intentional or not, it definitely has messed with my head for sure. It was a lot to process at 15/16, and at 33 I’m still trying to come to terms with it.

Fundamentally? / In short?

The only difference between friendship/mentoring & grooming is what happens next.

Nothing? It’s friendship/mentoring.
Pushing sexual boundaries &/or sexual abuse/assault? Grooming.

Grooming is FAKING/MANIPULATING/MANUFACTURING friendship/interest/etc. in order to win trust/ affection/ leverage in order to exploit & cause harm.
Putting it in these terms really narrows it down quite a bit. I do wonder, in three years with plenty of opportunity to do so, I do feel like he would have made a move beyond a strange hug. I know grooming can be very slow, but three years is a long time to wait to get what you really want when you’re a predator.

A part of me wonders if there weren’t feelings developed on his end towards the end that he shouldn’t have had but tried to keep it under wraps with my being underage because it would be wrong. And I’m not saying it’s okay to be attracted to someone underage, but him holding it together would be much better than him grooming me for an eventual abuse.
 
Thank you. I do hope that his intentions were as pure as I thought they were back then. A large part of me does feel like they were. I do feel like he had many an opportunity to assault me and didn’t. Maybe I’m just wanting to see the good in people, but I do think that says something about his intentions.


Yes, either way, whether intentional or not, it definitely has messed with my head for sure. It was a lot to process at 15/16, and at 33 I’m still trying to come to terms with it.


Putting it in these terms really narrows it down quite a bit. I do wonder, in three years with plenty of opportunity to do so, I do feel like he would have made a move beyond a strange hug. I know grooming can be very slow, but three years is a long time to wait to get what you really want when you’re a predator.

A part of me wonders if there weren’t feelings developed on his end towards the end that he shouldn’t have had but tried to keep it under wraps with my being underage because it would be wrong. And I’m not saying it’s okay to be attracted to someone underage, but him holding it together would be much better than him grooming me for an eventual abuse.
Abusers/peodphiles/predators don't always do obvious sexual things. Sometimes they get what they need from odd stuff. Like, on a school trip this man that our teacher brought along said that he will want to hug us and we should let him, and not to make complaints about it. So of course, he targeted me as the child he wanted to hug. Wasn't sexual. But was definitely odd, strange, inappropriate: an adult getting some form of closeness and who knows what from hugging a 10 year old child.
It doesn't have to have an obvious sexual activity to be exploitative.
 
Abusers/peodphiles/predators don't always do obvious sexual things. Sometimes they get what they need from odd stuff. Like, on a school trip this man that our teacher brought along said that he will want to hug us and we should let him, and not to make complaints about it. So of course, he targeted me as the child he wanted to hug. Wasn't sexual. But was definitely odd, strange, inappropriate: an adult getting some form of closeness and who knows what from hugging a 10 year old child.
It doesn't have to have an obvious sexual activity to be exploitative.
Good point. Thinking about it too, he had hugged me other times, but something about that close hug he gave me, with the rocking and the moaning, makes me wonder. It wasn’t until recently where I told my therapist there’s a part of me that feels that he may have gotten off on that. I never thought that then, but now I wonder.
 
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