Barbara Walters’ interview with convicted child molester Mary Kay LeTourneau and her once-victim-now-husband Vili Fualaau was gut wrenching. The romanticization of the abuse was awful enough. But giving a woman like LeTourneau a platform to justify what she did is reprehensible.
Being outraged or upset about the interview doesn’t help anyone. But talking about her predatory patterns can help keep children safer. The more we understand how she thinks, the more we can see her behavioral patterns in other people who may abuse or try to abuse children.
1) Mary Kay LeTourneau is a narcissist. It’s all about her. LeTourneau wants to get off of the sex offender registry because she feels like she has “served her time” for what she still believes is a “love affair” with a 13-year-old boy. Predators tend to be narcissists, with very limited understanding of boundaries. According to the narcissist, the child “comes on to them” and “the predator is the real victim.” This also traps the victim, who believes that the abuse was his/her fault or that they are “hurting” the predator by reporting or refusing. In my opinion, Fualaau is trapped and blames himself. LeTourneau groomed Fualaau and sexually abused him. Period.
She should and must remain a registered sex offender, just like a man convicted of the same crimes.
2) She got a pass because she is a woman predator. Yes, she was convicted. But Barbara Walters would never have interviewed a predator who married a victim if the predator were male. Walters and ABC have no comprehension of the damage LeTourneau has done. (Speaking of networks perpetuating the “hot for teacher” stereotype, we can look at Saturday Night Live’s skit this weekend where a male victim of child sexual abuse by a woman is portrayed as the luckiest kid around.)
3) She minimized what she did to Vili. LeTourneau called it love. The courts and society call it child sexual abuse. When she was out on parole, the first thing she did was find the boy and sexually abuse him again. Predators often minimize their crimes in order to divert attention, thwart reporting, and manipulate the victim.
From the People Magazine story on the interview:
When asked whether she felt “guilty” or “disgusted” with herself for having an affair with Fualaau, Letourneau replied, “I loved him very much, and I kind of thought, ‘Why can’t it ever just be a kiss?’ “
Hey, Mary Kay: even the kiss was abuse. Why were you ever alone with him late at night in the first place?
4) She isolated Vili from his peers and family. One of the first things that predators do when grooming a child is to isolate the child from his or her peers and family. That way, the victim must rely totally on the abuser for compassion and emotional support. Vili said it himself. From People:
Not having a strong support system when Letourneau became pregnant with his children was the hardest part.
“It was a huge change in my life, for sure. I don’t feel like I had the right support or the right help behind me,” he said. “From my family, from anyone in general. I mean, my friends couldn’t help me because they had no idea what, what it was like to be a parent, I mean, because we were all 14, 15.”
But we all know that the isolation started long before that. Once he was the father of her children, he could never escape her.
5) She does not believe that she damaged him.
Fualaau confessed in the 20/20 interview that he struggled with depression during this “dark time” and the years that followed.
“I’m surprised I’m still alive today,” he said. “I went through a really dark time.”
The damage was caused by what LeTourneau did. But she is incapable of understanding that.
So what have we learned? Predators are narcissists. They minimize crimes. They isolate their victims from friends and family (physically and emotionally). And yes, they can be women.
Wringing our hands and being outraged isn’t going to do anything. The interview is finished and the damage is done. But we can take the interview and use it to protect children and educate and empower ourselves. We can also work towards extended civil and criminal statutes of limitations for child sex crimes so that what happened to Vili doesn’t happen to another child.
If you see any of LeTourneau’s behaviors in adults who are spending time with your children, intervene immediately, talk to your children, and report. Don’t know who to call? Start with the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4ACHILD. Trained crisis operators will take your call and help you determine your next steps.