Sometimes I still bite my tongue.
In the spring of 2014 after I graduated from college in December, I decided that I had to say something about being abused by my highschool English teacher, Travis Lytle. I wrote an essay about it in a class before I graduated. I felt free and seen except for one classmate who pulled me aside and told me he,“wasn’t taking sides” and “I’m both your guys’ friends.” I was dumbfounded but unsurprised.
He still taught children, I thought. I didn’t want to risk this happening again so I wrote a blog on Tumblr and emailed it to my high school principal. I waited.
Here’s some of that post, for context:
Lytle and I started texting, which again started innocently at first (or so I thought) Later, it was revealed to me that he had been attracted to me for some time. We started going on car rides after dark and on the other side of town where no one knew who we were. During Spring Break we had sex while his ex-wife was out of town.
There were warning signs. His ex wife looked at his cellphone bill and matched the number he was texting excessively to my number. She threatened to take away his child if she found out he was dating one of his students. When Lytle explained this to me, he made sure to frame his ex as crazy and upset about their divorce. He made me promise not to tell anyone on several occasions.
We kept dating after I graduated for about two years. Even in college, I made sure not to tell any of my friends about who I dated. Even if I mentioned a significant other, I resolved to keep details vague, even changing his first name to keep him safe. So much of my time was spent going over to his house and lying about where I was going that I felt alienated from people my age. Travis Lytle became one of my only friends.This isolation is common among abusive relationships.
The next day my childhood best friend called and said someone at Albuquerque Public Schools was looking to talk to me.
I drove myself to their headquarters. I listened to some music loudly (probably “I Love it” by Icona Pop?) and waited three full minutes until I got out of my car. I shuffled into the building and eventually entered a small room with a table, chairs, and a school police officer. She was the tiniest lesbian ever. Black, gelled hair and a police vest, she reassured me that she believed me. I recounted my story.
12th grade. Kind of an outcast. Not part of his club but desperately wanted to fit in. Daddy issues. He loved playing kids against each other. He got a divorce that year. Attractive. Funny. Scary. We had sex over spring break. I slept in his bed. I lay awake worrying his ex-wife was gonna come home from Denver early. I bit my tongue. I bit my tongue. I bit my tongue for two years. He eventually married a former student. I bit my tongue.
Sometimes I still bite my tongue.
I sent the officer the emails me and Travis sent each other almost every day. Looking over them it was so scary how quickly things progressed.
That Spring I got like four hateful messages on Tumblr.
“It’s not abuse if you CONSENTED.” “YOU’RE A GROWN WOMAN LET IT GO, HONEY.” “I don’t believe a word of this. Mr. Lytle is an amazing and respectable man. You should be embarrassed.” I am embarrassed that this truly happened thank you for playing. “This is disgusting this man is my teacher and i don’t believe what she is saying”
I stayed in bed. Smoked weed. Tried to find a job. In the summer, like July, the school board called me and left a message. They said he’d been stripped of his state teaching license. I think I remember feeling elated but guilty. Like for a second I hurt him. I shook it off.
You can almost forget and then you can’t. Sometimes it keeps rising to the surface like oil I can’t wash off my hands.
Recently I ran out of a coffee shop because I thought I saw him. I almost had a panic attack for four blocks. It might have been the iced tea. It might have been Travis.
When certain songs come on I only have like, 3 seconds until they remind me of him even if it’s for a brief second. Sometimes there are flashes of him in my dreams where I re-live the whole thing. Sometimes I’m scared I’ll never fall in love.
When I really look at how I am in relationships, there are pretty clear patterns. I like when the other person initiates plans because I don’t want to feel the weight of rejection on my shoulders. And it’s not like I don’t show my love and adoration in other ways. If I like you I’ll make googly eyes, make fun of you, kiss you on the forehead, call you “sweet baby.” You’ll know when I love you. I check in a lot because I’m scared I won’t be told when something is wrong, or if something changes. It takes me a long time to say when I’m upset because I don’t want to be brushed off. Sometimes I still bite my tongue.