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Mary Kay Letourneau - The Questions Remain

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Updated May 15, 2012

The USA-TV movie All-American Girl presented a very sympathetic portrait of both Mary Letourneau and her teenaged lover, Vili Fualaau. Having researched the case extensively, I can say that there was nothing new in the movie, nothing that had not already been reported in the press and other media. It answered no questions, in spite of its pro-Mary slant. In the one-hour special which followed, moderator Joan Lunden's questions also always seemed to be trying to elicit sympathetic answers.

One thing the TV-movie did not adequately portray was Vili's extreme youth. The actor who played Vili could not have been, by any stretch of the imagination, only 13 years old. He is, according to USA Network, 18 - and looks it. But as my mother commented, what kind of mother would allow her 13-year-old son to play that part?

There are still dozens of other questions, too.

The most common of these is: What if Mary had been Mark, and Vili had been Jill? All accounts agree that Vili was precocious and actively pursued his teacher - but if Jill had a crush on her teacher Mark, U.S. society would still condemn Mark for responding to her. And although it is true that elsewhere in the world, children the age of Vili - or Jill - are commonly married, Vili and Mary grew up in, and are bound by, the laws of the United States.

But Vili said, at the time, that he was not a victim. No one says Vili was forced, so is the term "rape" really applicable? Experts say that pedophiles "groom" their intended victims, but did that happen here? After all, Vili admit he made a bet with his classmates that he could seduce his teacher. Was he, in fact, so unusual that this case does not fall into the usual parameters of child molestation?

When subjected to intense scrutiny, the story of Mary Kay Letourneau touches on a number of difficult social issues and raises more questions. For example:

  • Is the age of consent in the United States too high?

  • Is there a difference between male rape of a female and female rape of a male?

  • Should the law treat males and females differently in this situation?

  • Is mental illness a legitimate defense for commission of a crime?

  • Should persons convicted of a crime and diagnosed with a treatable mental illness be forced to take medications?

A Final Comment

As I studied this case, I had to do a lot of hard thinking. I found myself feeling very sympathetic to Mary at first, but something about that bothered me, and I finally put my finger on the reason:

She stopped taking her meds.

When Bipolar Disorder causes a person to do harm to others - in any way - and medication can help control that harmful behavior, I believe the person has a responsibility to take his or her meds. Maybe before her arrest Mary really could not understand the potential consequences of her behavior. Once she knew - there is no excuse.

Even if Mary is not a pedophile - and I myself don't think she is - she still hurt people, most especially her four Letourneau children - by her behavior. Not even love, and certainly not self-gratification, gives anyone the right to do that.

Previous Article: Mary Kay: Criminal, or Victim of Bipolar Disorder?

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