No matter how bright Megan is, she's still a child -- just like I was
Like Megan Stammers, I had an affair with a teacher. Someone should have stopped us, writes Jenny Hughes
Most parents are gripped by the story of Megan Stammers and Jeremy Forrest, empathising with the fear that Megan's parents must feel -- the sense of impotence, the anger towards the adult who has taken their daughter away from them and towards the school that failed to protect her.
As the mother of grown-up daughters, I know how her parents must be feeling.
But I also know how Megan must have felt.
I was 14 when I fell in love with my teacher. We had moved from outside London to a small village in Wales, where I ended up having catch-up Welsh language lessons with a 25-year-old teacher during lunchtimes. He was tall, young, had long hair and stood apart from the older, more serious staff. He wanted to be liked. But he was still a teacher -- up there and unobtainable.
There were three of us in the class to start with, but two dropped out and soon it was just me and him at lunchtimes. I loved the lessons. Over time, I became infatuated with him. I wrote a lot of bad poetry, and increasingly the subject was my growing feelings for him.
As far as I knew, he was unaware of how I felt. Until one day, after I had been having lessons for about seven months, I put a poem in his letter-box on the way to school, which would leave him in no doubt.
I had butterflies as I did it, and no idea what would happen next. I was ignorant of all things to do with relationships, love and sex, but being precocious, preternaturally cynical -- as many young people are -- and academically bright, I suppose I might have appeared more worldly than I was.
I didn't even know if he'd mention it at our next lesson. He did. He said he was flattered and understood how I felt.
I suspect there was also the appropriate response of a teacher to a pupil in such a circumstance -- that it should stop there and that we should carry on as if nothing had happened. We didn't.
We continued our private lessons, and I also hung around waiting for him on the way home and started dropping off homework at his house and having extra lessons there. I began flirting, I suppose, but didn't realise that that is what I was doing. I was also the last pupil anyone would ever have expected to be doing what I was doing.
Flattery got the better of him. The poem declaring that I was in love with him opened the floodgates. We started going for walks and I began deceiving my parents.
There were two months between my telling him how I felt and his going away for the summer. I don't remember our first kiss, but it was in those weeks that he first touched me intimately when we went for a walk into the hills near the village. For me this was it, real love. If he had suggested eloping to France I would have gone like a shot.
In the new school term our relationship developed physically and emotionally. I remember that I wanted to lose my virginity before I was 15.
I don't know why. We were in his house one evening, just days before my 15th birthday. I don't remember the conversation, or what we did before. I just remember being on a bed without a mattress, for some reason. I remember the boards digging into my back. It wasn't filled with the emotion I expected, but it was done.
Years later, when my mum and I could eventually talk about it, that was the thing that saddened her most. That he had robbed me of my virginity.
Although I had good friends, I pretended nothing was unusual, so I had no one to confide in and felt very lonely, but also somehow invincible: if I had him, then everything else would be fine. But it was a small village, and gossip started. He came to our house to reassure my parents. He went in to see them as the responsible, reassuring teacher, and said that they shouldn't listen to idle gossip from people who should know better. My mother had been a teacher and trusted absolutely what he said. When the gossip became more frequent, I was called before the female deputy head and he before the head teacher on the same day. Both of us denied that anything was going on. I wasn't thinking about protecting him -- it didn't occur to me that he was doing anything worse than I was. We laughed about it afterwards. The school had done its duty. Nothing more was done.
My relationship with him went on for two years -- a lifetime. I lied more frequently to my parents, sneaking out by saying I was going to a friend's house. He even arranged a school holiday so we could be together, with classmates coming along.
It all started to unravel shortly after my 16th birthday, when I became pregnant. I remember being confused by his pleasure that the test was positive, but that there was no question of our keeping the baby. His virility was proven but this relationship wasn't about lifelong commitment and family. I made up a story for my parents, and he drove me to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service clinic in Liverpool. My encounter with the doctor there was traumatic: he examined me roughly, without a female nurse present, and shouted at me for being stupid enough to get pregnant.
My parents knew then, because the clinic insisted they were told. My mother could hardly speak to me when I told her I was pregnant. They immediately forbade me to see him and it was they who took me to the clinic for the termination.
I didn't stop loving him, and he didn't want the relationship to end, but over the next few months we split up and got back together a few times. It was my exam year and I tried to focus on school work, but just couldn't stop my feelings for him. I continued in a confused way to cling to the hope of a future, although my parents went to great lengths to end the relationship. Years later, I asked my mum why they didn't go to the police.
She naively believed that sex had happened just the once, culminating in the pregnancy, and that because I was 16, nothing illegal had happened.
I passed all my O-levels and was sent back to the area we had come from to do A-levels. My parents moved to another part of the country, too. The next two years were awful. The teacher and I stayed in touch by phone and letter and he visited, but it wasn't the same. I guess I was growing up, and he knew that I wasn't happy and that he was part of the problem.
The teacher threatened suicide when I said I'd slept with someone else during one of the spells in which we had separated -- and he made sure my parents knew. I felt cut adrift by them with the message that "I'd made my bed". I don't think they recognised the person they thought was their daughter. There had been so much deception.
I didn't complete my A-levels but left school and got a job. The teacher carried on teaching. It turned out that he had previously had a relationship with the daughter of a deputy head at our school. This had been above board and apparently approved of -- she was 17 at the time. It was before we moved to the village, and I knew nothing of it when I was falling so hopelessly in love with him.
Despite everything, I do not think that I was abused, nor that he was or is a paedophile. He was very bright, very manipulative and I was very naive.
He wasn't very mature emotionally, and probably still isn't. I was the one who instigated it, and at the time I didn't feel that I was being exploited.
Of course, now I think differently. I remember looking at my daughters at the age of 14 and seeing two perfect, innocent and very young children who didn't know much about the world.
Do I wish that my parents had gone to the police? Possibly. Should the school have taken a tougher line? Definitely.
However the story of Megan Stammers and Jeremy Forrest pans out, their lives, particularly hers, will be changed for ever. The experience will be etched on her psyche. I'm happy to say my teacher wasn't married or in another relationship. My thoughts are with Forrest's wife. She probably thought she had married a grown-up.
Jenny Hughes is a pseudonym.