Mary Kay on the Loose

The strange and unsettling saga of Mary Kay LeTourneau has headed into its ethical confusion stage, as the former school teacher and convicted statutory rapist has been released from prison, and the former 12 year-old student whom she seduced into becoming the father of two children is now 21 and professing his desire to be with her.

Initially a Seattle judge banned her from having any contact with Vili Fualaau, her schoolboy/lover/victim. He later lifted the order when Fualaau objected. So now the registered sex offender will be free to rejoin the young man whose childhood she robbed, and take advantage of the “love’ that is almost certainly the product of the pathology she fostered by her criminal betrayal of trust.

This is tabloid heaven, to be sure, and both the print and the broadcast have asked for and received floods of opinions from the American public regarding the issue of whether it is “right” for LeTourneau and Fualaau to be permitted to have a legal relationship in the wake of an illegal one. As is often the case, the comments betray a depressing array of ethical murk. “People should worry about what’s on their own doorstep, and leave other folks alone, ” says one sage, who is presumably willing to allow any of her neighbor’s children to be sexually exploited by their teachers as long as they don’t do so on her “doorstep.” “They fell in love, and age doesn’t matter, ” says another romantic, who apparently would have no problem approving a marriage between her eight year old daughter and her male third grade teacher. “He’s 21, and can make his own decisions, ” adds a realist, who is comfortable with teachers using adult wiles to create a farm system of budding potential lovers, all free to run into their mentor’s willing arms and waiting beds once the legal age tolls.

This kind of thinking explains why Jerry Springer is still on TV.

Villi is 21; he is also a high school dropout and unemployed, with two small children being cared for by his grandmother. Do not think for a moment that Mary Kay Letourneau’s conduct has not put him in this position. She intentionally blurred the line between adult supervisor and sexual object; she propelled him into adulthood prematurely; she distorted his perception of adult relationships. Of course he wants to return to Mary Kay: it has been reported in the press that she surreptitiously communicated with him over the past seven years, alternating steamy language and veiled threats to keep him emotionally tied to her. He is emotionally damaged, and she is the reason. It is absolutely a perversion of law, ethics and common sense that she should be permitted to pick up where she left off seven years ago, building on the young man’s attachments he had formed toward a trusted teacher to exploit him sexually and emotionally. Allowing her this creates an incentive for other disturbed teachers and adult supervisors to distort their young charges’ affections, ignoring the long term harm that is certain to result.

What Villi needed years ago was counseling and treatment, so that he could escape this illicit and illegal emotional attachment created by his teacher. Unfortunately, Villi’s family is of the same strange mindset as the Springer crowd, and never perceived the wrongfulness of LeTourneau’s conduct, or the damage it caused. Her betrayal of trust screamed out for a civil suit, as surely as any Catholic priest’s molestation. Then, perhaps her victim could have received help, and would now be moving into healthy relationships and a life far away from his seductress-teacher.

That is not to be, it appears. But a relationship that was ethically wrong in its inception does not suddenly become right simply because it is no longer illegal. The judge should have kept his order in place. Mary Kay LeTourneau is a sex offender, and the legal system is letting her offense continue.

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