“Keep This Between Us” Spotlights “Grooming Epidemic”

“Keep This Between Us” is a four-part Freeform docuseries that dives into the lived experiences of two adult women named Cheryl Nichols and Heaven Rubin. Nichols and Rubin were groomed by trusted teachers when they were teenagers. Their stories shine a much-needed light on how abusers in schools may exploit student trust and institutional inaction to disguise predatory behavior.

Docuseries creator Cheryl Nichols shares the heart-wrenching details of how, at 16 years old, she was groomed by a male teacher in her small-town public high school. The teacher, who was also the husband of Nichols’ favorite drama teacher, started paying particular and unusually close attention to her. At the time, Nichols was flattered by the attention from a beloved teacher who treated her more like a peer than a student when few adults in her life seemed to recognize her intelligence.

Nichols’ abuser took advantage of her trust, asking her increasingly personal and sexual questions, using her as the subject of explicit and suggestive poetry, and encouraging her to create an anonymous email account so they could communicate outside of school.

As a teen-ager, Nichols did not appreciate that she was being groomed. The relationship between Nichols and this teacher continued from high school through college. Nichols only cut off contact with the teacher, and began to realize he had abused her, after he was fired from another school for developing an inappropriate relationship with a teenage student.

“Keep This Between Us” also features Heaven Rubin’s experience of grooming and sexual abuse at the hands of a well-respected English teacher, beginning when he admitted her to his class after the add-drop period had ended. Here again, a predatory teacher initiated the grooming process by treating a student as “exceptional” in a way that both isolated her from peers and drew her closer to him. Exploiting his position as her teacher, Rubin’s abuser used her love of writing and her respect for him to manipulate her and coerce her into sex acts. At one point, when Rubin refused to engage in a sex act, the teacher chastised her for failing to show gratitude for all he had done for her.

Recently, Rubin won a $6 million judgment in her civil lawsuit against Miami-Dade public schools for their negligent failure to protect her from abuse. By bravely sharing their stories, Nichols and Rubin show how some schools foster cultures that allow grooming to occur in plain sight and without appropriate intervention. In these cases, and too many others, school administrators and staff received reports about the sexual misconduct, but they failed to intervene.

If you experienced sexual harassment, abuse, or assault as a student, the victims’ rights lawyers at Sanford Heisler Sharp can help you assess your options and obtain justice. Contact us to learn more.

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