Teacher-student relations can leave life-long scars 

thumb teacherPhoto courtesy of diaper on flickr Recent headlines regarding allegations of relationships with teachers and underage students highlight the psychological implications that a relationship with a person in a position of trust can have on a student.

On Mar. 19, Calgary police confirmed a 36-year-old private school teacher was charged with sexual assault for an alleged relationship with a now 17-year-old female student. The student was under 16 years old -- the legal age of consent-- at the time the alleged relationship began.

In February, a 30-year-old Calgary teacher was charged with allegedly having sexual relations with a 16-year-old male student. 

 On some social media sites, users have glorified the situation, writing, "If this was my 16-year-old boy, I'd be so proud!" Another user asked Twitter ,"Where were these kind of teachers when I was in high school?"

Child psychologist, Corrane Johnson, explained that there are long-term consequences that both the teacher and the teen would have to face.


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Johnson said the main concern for the teen involved is that feeling of "betrayal and loss of trust in authority figures."

Although 16 years old is the legal age of consent according to the Criminal Code of Canada, minors cannot legally consent to sexual relations with a person in a position of trust such as teachers, coaches and childcare providers. 

According to the Sexual Assault Handbook, statistics on sexual assault cases involving students are difficult to come by because most of the time they are not reported.

Statistics Canada's 1999 General Social Survey on Victimization found that victims aged 15 and older did not report 78 per cent of the sexual assaults that occurred that year to the police.

The police report regarding the recent Calgary case states that, allegedly, the male student and his former teacher began a relationship when he was 15 years old. The teacher was 29 at the time.

According to federal law, a 15-year-old can have sexual relations with a 20-year-old because there is no more than five years between them. However, the 20-year-old cannot be in a position of trust or authority and the relationship cannot be dependent or exploitative.

A 2010 Statistics Canada report illustrates that 5,905 people were sexually assaulted by an authority figure or a person in a position of trust that year. Of the victims, 2,525 were female and 3,380 were male.

Sexual Assault in Canada

  • 16 years old is the legal age of consent unless the other person in the relationship is in a position of trust

  • A 15-year-old can have sexual relations with a 20-year-old because there is no more than five years between them, unless the 20-year-old is in a position of trust or authority

  • A relationship with a minor cannot be dependent or exploitative

  • In 1999, sexual assault victims aged 15 and older did not report 78 per cent of sexual assaults

  • In 2010, 5,905 people were sexually assaulted by an authority figure or person in a position of trust

  • Calgary ranked No. 19 out of the top 25 Canadian cities for reported sexual assault charges in 2003

  • Saskatoon, Sask. ranked No. 1 out of the top 25 Canadian cities for reported sexual assault charges in 2003

Johnson said, "Unfortunately many perpetrators are in those trusted positions, but as a society we have a lot of trust in teachers."

According to the Sexual Assault Handbook, Calgary ranked No. 19 out of 25 Canadian cities for reported sexual assault charges in 2003. The highest number of offenses took place in Saskatoon, while Edmonton ranked No. 10.

Johnson added that other negative impacts resulting from these relationships are "self-doubts and self-blame as the student matures and develops more insight into their experience."

Her concern is supported by the research of John Briere, a psychiatry professor at the University of California. In his article published in The Future of the Children, he explains that some of the long-term effects of such relationships include depression, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and an impaired sense of self.

Although statistics are hard to come by due to the sensitive issue at hand, Calgary headlines show other instances of teacher-student relationships. History illustrates that both males and females in positions of power — including teachers and principals — are capable of instigating these relationships.

However, the research does show there may be an imbalance in regards to the gender of convicted persons. Feedback on Twitter and other social media platforms suggests that if a male is charged he is more commonly recognized in a negative light, while when a woman is charged, the public responds less harshly.

Johnson said, "We're perceiving based on gender. We're not recognizing that the constant or the fundamental underpinning is this is a teenager, not an adult."

 

 

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect news regarding charges placed on Mar. 19. 

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What are your thoughts on cases of sexual relationships between teachers and students?

 

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