When I was in grade 8, brand new to high school at Prince of Wales in 1980, I had a science teacher who was very friendly. He was such a friend that he would give me an A in science when I was a C student, would talk to me all the time, would put his arm across my shoulders to reassure me how special I was, and would encourage me two years later to enter into Quest, an outdoor education program at Prince of Wales School. You had to be chosen to participate.
He told me what friends I needed to get rid of and was curious what boys I was interested in. I have a memory of going to his house, as he used to drive me home from school, but other than recalling sitting on a bed, the memory is gone. I cannot even begin to imagine what occurred.
The Quest Program was run by two men who, I discovered later, were sexual predators. They were later joined by my science teacher when I was in grade 11. At the time, I believed my science teacher was my friend. I had no understanding that middle-aged men had any interest in sexual engagement with teenage students. It was not something my brain could understand or that I had any words for. I could not report to my parents or school administration because there was no language for what was happening to me or us.
The lowest point for me, after rejecting constant sexual harassment and pressure to succumb, was being pressured to swim naked with two of the teachers and other students while the teachers commented on my body. I was seventeen and beyond traumatized. This was the only time I cried in reporting to the police as a middle-aged woman.
Beyond that crisis, I resisted the relentless pressure of the three teachers to engage with them sexually, as others did. This resulted in me being the target for two years of repeated humiliation in front of my peers. I exited this dynamic in grade 11 and was brutally scarred by it. I had a severe eating disorder, was cutting, and it would take years with psychologists and psychiatrists to recover enough to cope.
I reported to police in Vancouver in 2017. By this time there had been a court case that held one of the three men legally accountable. The other two went free. I was told by police that despite the 50 victim statements against the two teachers who were never charged, they would not be pressing charges even though one teacher admitted to the court he had sexual relations with one of my peers, a teenage student.
This further eroded my belief in the system. I am left without faith in child protection.
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Jennifer earned her PhD in Comparative Literature at University of Toronto where she was trained to take differ discourses out of their silos and put them into an arena to see if it changed the conversation. Her fourth book, The Bullied Brain, published in April 2022 by Rowman & Littlefield, takes abuse and puts it into the arena with brain science where it revolutionizes the conversation. Jennifer’s new book was featured in the Toronto Starand on CTV. Her position on the cover up of sexual abuse was recently covered by CBC. She writes a regular blog for Psychology Today on bullying and abuse.
Jennifer’s first book on the issue of educator abuse, Teaching Bullies, was published in 2015 and went to number one on Amazon in the Sport Psychology category. Jennifer details her lived experience of being a whistleblower and advocating for student safety within a context of research in education, law, psychology, and neuroscience. The story was covered on the front page, and extensively within, the Toronto Star as well as by CTV’s W5.
Jennifer has written about the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse she was subjected to in the Canadian school system and advocates tirelessly for today’s children to be safe in schools and in all aspects of our society. She did not report her own abuse to police until after the suicide of her former student who was alsosexually harassed by an educator in the present-day system. The student reported the abuse in 2015. Despite a lengthy police investigation and his being fired, the educator was never publicly held accountable. The student took her life in 2017. These kinds of tragedies are preventable.
You can learn more about my work HERE