We publish here an e-mail received by Mrs Bennari the day after a dialogue group from one of the participants, a teacher fired after being arrested for downloading child pornography. He tells here about his latest doings and thoughts, and shares his hopes and intentions for after his trial.
I hope you’re well and that your throat is better.
Thank you again for welcoming me yesterday.
As always, I was very touched by the various stories and testimonies.
Me, (I don’t know if that showed) I wasn’t feeling all that well.
Most of all I wanted to contain my emotion.
Sorry to write you like this, especially because of what’s to follow (yet another lenghty mail from me!), but I needed to.
I wanted to look back on certain points, mostly on questions you asked me.
When you asked me if I thought about going back to teaching, I said that something had been broken. I couldn’t say anything more as I knew it would be painful for me.
I chose that job because I loved it. I loved to work with and for the children.
I always tried to do it with professionalism, being considerate of my pupils.
Furthermore, work ethic is an important value to me (part of my parents’ upbringing).
When I learned that my situation was made public in my workplace, I felt I was being stabbed in the back. I felt abandoned by the great institution of teaching.
Of course what I did was a serious matter, and going back to what was the context at the time, I understand that the media coverage of other cases certainly weighed on my superiors’ decision. After all, they didn’t really know me and nothing could guarantee that I hadn’t done more than what I was accused of. They played it safe, and rightly so. I can’t blame them.
Even though the meetings at my workplace went well, even though today I understand that was a wrong to make a right, that “backstab” still makes it so I don’t feel “worthy” of being a teacher anymore. I feel like there will always be suspicion hanging over me and around me.
As I told you yesterday, even though I found some children, especially boys, cute (at my workplace or in the streets), I didn’t have any desire to do anything to them.
I don’t remember if I wrote this to you already, but some years ago (I was already in this deviancy) I gave private tuitions at people’s homes, and there was this young teenager : I gave him lessons in his room, like it usually happened with most of my private pupils.
One day, this young teenager found it hard to concentrate, he was restless and laughed at the drop of a hat. At one point, he was standing up facing me, in overalls, and I noticed he had an erection. That was very embarassing for me (I’m quite modest, actually very much so), and I pretended not to notice. I asked him to sit down and concentrate on his homework, which he eventually did.
I’d say that was the most dangerous situation I was ever in. It could have made me slip up, but I didn’t. I didn’t because the idea didn’t even came to my mind and it would have been impossible for me anyway.
With my pupils at the pool it was the same, I would have never done anything to them.
That the police, that the law would ask me that question, even though I understand why they would need to, still feel like I don’t have anyone’s trust, or not anymore.
The recent case of a school principal who used to film children at the pool made me think to myself: “I hope nobody thought I could ever do something like that!”. Because the very idea would never come to my mind, and frankly I would feel like I’d be violating the children’s intimacy.
Every year, I had taken the habit of tackling the sensitive subject of dangerous situations involving children. It wasn’t very detailed work, but I tried to raise my pupils’ awareness regarding these risks (on the Internet, the streets, etc), without upsetting them too much.
The only subject I didn’t dare approach was that of the dangers in the family midst.
What reassured me was that they were for the most part already well informed.
Today, I’m not beyond reproach anymore.
What hurt me the most was the meeting with my pupils. I don’t blame anyone for doing it, I understand why. There were rumors, concerns. But frankly, I ask myself: “how will those children remember me?”
Some parents and colleagues who contacted me again said they had good memories of me.
Let me point out: I never tried to be the most popular teacher, the coolest, the most loved. But over the years I could see (luckily) that for the most part I was appreciated, like many of my colleagues.
Yes, it’s hard for me to accept that this career is over. Yes, it’s hard, like you rightly pointed out yesterday, that no distinction is made between people who are potential predators and others who aren’t.
I myself have sometimes looked in the mirror and just spat on it, spouting insults.
And yet I love children in a noble way; and yet it is on top of this deviancy.
We talked about it yesterday at the end of the meeting, about the Internet “mighty tool”, as long as you know how to use it.
It is still so easy to find legal sites with sexually oriented content. And it’s true that youths are more easily exposed to this.
Also comments, especially during searches, with words that to me are very coarse, violent.
More and more today (and I know you’re all to aware of this) youths have mobile phones, smartphones. And through those they often happen upon difficult situations.
I don’t know how I would have lived my teenage years if I had access to this technology, but perhaps not serenely.
Internet giants (like Google, Facebook, etc) should be even more vigilant. And of course politicians should too.
You also asked me if I thought I would eventually have tried to stop by myself if I hadn’t been arrested.
For some time already (perhaps because of the news about the school principal?) I had started to admit that if I didn’t stop with child pornography I would be arrested some day. That didn’t stop me, yet again, from casting all that aside, putting a veil upon my eyes, and go back to the Internet…
Around a week before my arrest, I had (finally) decided to stop going on the Internet. I confess that at the start it was more to “lay low” for a while (I’m sorry to have to say this). But still, I told myself that maybe this time I would be able to get away from it all.
Alas, I was still far from being able to suppress all the images, the videos, but I thought that with time I maybe could get rid of them. It’s easy to say this now that I’ve been arrested and put on trial, but: yes, I regret not having forced myself more to try and stop by myself; yes, I regret not taking charge of my situation and talking to someone, and not contacting your association sooner.
What’s done is done, and like S told me yesterday, maybe I needed this arrest to be finally able to react.
Yesterday you rightly asked me what I wanted to do now, and how I was filling “the void”.
As I told you, merely contacting the association, meeting with you, participating to the dialogue groups, this all helped me a lot and I feel “useful”.
Helping others and most of all indirectly protecting children and teens, that is very important to me. Sure, it won’t erase what I’ve done, but it does allow me to give back some meaning to my life.
I want to continue on this path which to this day is the only one I found that looks commendable to me in regard to what I’ve done.
I keep dear this beautiful image of the couple from O that came to the meeting yesterday. I was very touched since, deep down, I would love to be in a couple, or at least to share a sentimental life with someone.
And most of all, I’d love to be a father. Many of you told me it’s not to late, that it would even be a further and stronger moral barrier.
I admit that today, as I told yesterday, I don’t feel ready to have a girlfriend/boyfriend yet. And what you told me is also what gives me pause right now: “It’s better to wait for the trial to end first”
I don’t know if I told you this already (I wrote so much!!!), but before the arrest I sometimes had this idea of going away, leaving everything behind, letting my family and friends have some news about me for a little while, with time they would eventually stop thinking about me and get used to my absence anyway. (I started thinking about this after falling in love with a young thirty years old man who didn’t reciprocate my feelings)
I didn’t realize (or I didn’t want to) that to people close to me (starting with my family) I was important, that they loved me. I know it’s strange to write this, but deep down I always felt I didn’t deserve the attention and love of others, even though I felt I needed it. Oddly (?), I’m very personable and sociable and today even more so, even though I’m very apprehensive about meeting people.
There are people around me who still trust me.
I owe myself to be up to that.
What’s certain, is that I don’t want people close to me to suffer, I don’t want to be a burden to them and society anymore.
That’s it, I will leave it here now, but I want to thank you for inviting me to a dialogue group again yesterday. Thank you also for giving me an opportunity to tell my story, and for presenting it briefly as a testimony that could be “very helpful” to stop before it’s too late, before waking up one morning with the cops at your door…
If my story (without being a specific reference) can help even just one user of child pornography to react and stop following this hopeless path, then it will be a plus for me.
Good sunday to you, good luck,
and see you soon, I hope!
You really are a wonderful woman! Thank you a lot for everything!
P.S. I’m starting to be less paranoid, so I (finally!) could speak about my job. Sure, it wasn’t hard to guess what kind of work I did, but still it’s new territory for me, and it’s mostly thanks to you, so once more: thank you!!!