To whom it may concern:
My name is Jake Lee, maiden name Jacob Robbins, and I am writing to disclose my sexual abuse at the hands of a current employee of the New Mexico Public Education Department and a public school district. My abuser is a current Assistant Superintendent for a public school district in New Mexico. While he was employed as a teacher and coach in my hometown between the years of 1999-2001, he sexually abused me while I was both a student and football player.
Reporting sexual abuse is a difficult process. It has taken me nearly 20 years to build the strength and courage to report him. He was a skilled predator who used emotional manipulation and very effective grooming techniques to build a relationship with me. He truly made me feel like I was in a relationship with him during my years of abuse. He made me a part of his family. He took me on trips. He inserted himself as a supportive and nurturing adult in my life. However, that perceived connection came at the cost of the sexual abuse that occurred during those years. I was just 15 when the abuse started and it continued past my graduation from high school.
Artesia is a conservative town deeply passionate about God and football. It was not a safe place to disclose my abuse. The longer the abuse went on the more isolated I felt. This isolation only worked to free up more space for him to continue the abuse. Keeping this secret, living the lie, and protecting The Coach and myself from the repercussions of our sexual relationship was very detrimental to me. While he remained a coach on the highly revered football team, I was left to feel isolated, disgusted, and paranoid through a time I should have been thriving. While he continued to teach, I was left feeling so lost in a life I was supposed to be living. He was my first sexual experience. He robbed me of so much while pretending to be my protector.
There were many opportunities for him to be exposed and disciplined as a sexual abuser. My parents were concerned with how close we were becoming. They reported their concerns to my head football coach and athletic director. While both he and I denied any inappropriate behavior in our “friendship," I could feel the walls closing in on me. I began to distance myself. During this time, he began grooming a girl a few years younger than me. They were exchanging inappropriate emails. Her sister found the emails and reported him. He was quietly fired from his job. The head coach and athletic director kept his firing very quiet and even helped him secure a job at a football booster’s company while he looked for another job. That action, of keeping everything quiet while assisting a predator to leave town, modeled to me how my abuse would be handled. It should be silenced. It wasn’t something to disclose. In letting him leave quietly while also securing him a job, my hometown showed me exactly how they would handle my sexual abuse allegations. I went to college and began to build a life for myself while distancing myself from the town where I was born and raised and the abuser who robbed me of my adolescence.
There were other attempts to disclose him as a sexual predator. Upon learning about my abuse from a person in my life in 2007, my parents returned to the head coach and athletic director to disclose the abuse. While “he lost sleep” over their disclosure, he did nothing to expose his former coach as a sexual abuser. When my mom heard that he was applying for a job in a school district a few years later, she wrote the superintendent of the school district to disclose him as a sexual abuser. She never heard back, but found out later that he was not hired. Later he was teaching at a private school in another town . My mom lost track of him after that disclosure for many years.
I love New Mexico. I love my hometown. But it is devastating to know that nothing was done to my abuser. While I dealt with years of emotional turmoil, pain, and uncertainty, he was able to continue teaching. When I was having my abuse weaponized as a character flaw by the few people I disclosing to, he was able to keep teaching and advancing his career. I had to live with the stigma of the abuse. He was rewarded with a thriving career.
I have persisted. I have used grit and determination to overcome my abuse. I have been a teacher for 13 years impacting the lives of children across the country. I came out as a gay man and married my husband in 2013. We adopted our two sons out of foster care and have given them a loving, nurturing, and stable home. I am proud of my life, but the self-doubt, self-loathing, and deep insecurity that was born out of my abuse at the age of 15 doesn’t go away. It is always there lurking in the shadows. As much as I wanted to ignore it and pretend it had no effect on me, I realized this year that I needed help. I started in-depth and comprehensive therapy to deal with my abuse. I now have the strength to accept and recognize myself as a sexual abuse survivor. I am now ready to report my abuser.
It has taken me years to get to this point. It has been a very long road, but I am left with many questions as I write this letter. How will the state I call home respond? How will the statewide educational department I worked for as a student teacher and teacher respond? How will a school district with nearly 4,000 student respond? Will they all take action or will he be able to continue his thriving teaching career with no repercussions for his abuse?
I am laying the foundation to tell my story and this is one of the first steps. I will no longer remain quiet about my abuse and I hope that my disclosure will not lead to another attempt to quietly sweep his behavior under the rug. He shouldn’t be able to continue teaching and I will do everything I possibly can to prevent abuse from happening to any other students under his jurisdiction.
I have a moral, ethical, and personal obligation to report him as my abuser. Now you have a moral and ethical obligation to respond appropriately to the information I have shared with you. In a world where many people, especially men, feel they should stay quiet about their abuse, I will be very interested in seeing how both the New Mexico Public Education Department respond the my disclosure.
Abuse is always lurking in the shadows. It lies deep in the dark surfacing when drawn to my bright light and then retreating before I can identify its existence. My path to writing my letter was a long one, but my abuse is there every step of the way. It is there to reaffirm every painful, insecure, and loathing thought or emotion created by the rocky parts of my past. It whispers in my ear “You deserve every bad thing that is happening to you”. “You are a terrible person.” “You are worth nothing”. “You will never be good enough for yourself or others.” “You will never matter to people in the way you want to.”
It was also drawn to the light that occasionally brightens my path. It emerges from the shadows right as my smile is brightest whispering familiar phrases of self-loathing and self-doubt just to remind me that I don’t deserve happiness.
My abuse was always lurking and I was unable to expose it because I had no idea why it was there. I wouldn’t allow myself to identify its existence. If I just kept gritting and pushing through my pain, I could out run it. I could out maneuver it. Year after year, I tried to believe this. Year after year, I kept falling short. I kept pushing and I did create an amazing life for myself. I became a skilled and innovative educator with distinguishments from companies such as Apple. I traveled and spoke at national educational technology conferences. I know in my heart that I am an amazing educator.
I suffered through some pretty bad relationships. My first real relationship was when I was 20. He was 41. Even then, I couldn’t connect the dots. He wasn’t a bad guy, but I always knew there was something not right about the relationship. I kept trying to leave but kept getting pulled back in by the perceived comfort of this man’s life and love. He knew of my abuse or “relationship” as he called it, but he said nothing. He didn’t shake me and say: “you were abused Jake. This was not ok.” Instead, he let his anger and heartbreak guide him to use my abuse as a character attack against me a few years later. He said my “relationship” with The Coach showed that I had absolutely no character and that there is something wrong with me.
My next relationship was a turbulent one. It was a relationship that left me bankrupt both literally and emotionally. He used every one of my insecurities to control me. He was able to see into the shadows and form an alliance my abuse. I was 23. He was 42. He knew of my abuse but weaponized it against me. He would be sympathetic to draw me back into the relationship then use it viciously to break me down. He was a damaged individual. I was a damaged individual. The relationship was about creating wreckage and not about love. I use to blame this man for all the insecurities and rage brewing inside me, but those emotions were already there when I met him. He just knew how to use them to control me. The line of self-hate goes right through him to my abuse. It doesn’t stop at him.
My husband, Derrick, is the perfect example of the right person coming into my life at exactly the right time. He is caring, kind, compassionate, and solidly a good person. We have built a pretty amazing life for ourselves. We traveled the world. We became Dads. We have had so many wonderful experiences building a life together. However, I have always felt that the scales were never tipped in my favor. I came into this relationship and marriage as the damaged person. He was so responsible and stable and it created a dynamic of feeling like I was extremely lucky to have him. That I wouldn’t have assembled my life back together without his help. He never made me feel this way. I felt this way. My abuse was always attracted to any light shining upon me and there was so much light in my life. It was brutal to never be able to fully enjoy the experience. In my mind, I never deserved it. I couldn’t settle. I was always on the defensive. It became exhausting. I almost left our marriage last year for a myriad of reasons, many of which stemmed from my abuse. The insecurities, anger, and sheer exhaustion almost lead me away. But in the final moments, I knew that I needed to fix myself and not run away. My family was worth fighting for and I couldn’t let my abuse steal my light anymore.
One of my proudest accomplishments is being a Dad. Our journey to parenthood has been an amazing story. A story that could fill many pages. We adopted both our boys out of the foster care system which is a gut-wrenchingly frustrating journey, but one that ended with our amazing sons Dillon and Jerry. They are the light of my life. They are the purpose that drives me. Parenting has taught me so much more than I could have ever known. I am so grateful for my boys and our journey to each other as well the life we have created. I want to step into the light so I can cherish and be present in every moment with them. Time is precious. Life is precious. I want to slow time down so I can enjoy every beautiful moment. For this to happen, I need to find strength and peace with the abuse I endured.
Even though I have become more comfortable speaking of my abuse with my loved ones, I still struggle to accept my abuse and see myself as a survivor. Even when it comes to telling my friends, I always hesitate. I don’t want to burden them. I don’t want to create awkwardness. My healing is a central part of my life now, but I still want to hide it away. There has been a few times where I took the leap, but it took effort. I found myself in vulnerable and honest conversations with close friends and would think to myself “this is a powerful time to share your story”. It makes me think back to the high dive as a kid. It would take so much bravery and boldness to climb the ladder to the highest diving board on the platform. When I would get to the end of the diving board and look down, my confidence would waiver. Many days I would turn around and climb down a platform to a more comfortable height. Eventually, I would hesitantly walk to the end of the highest diving board, take a deep breath, and jump.
While I have taken the metaphorical jump into disclosing my abuse a few times, writing my letter, actually putting it down in writing, was the last few steps to the end of the diving board. Now I am ready to jump. I want to jump into a new world where I don’t have to hate myself anymore. I want to live in a new world where I can be present and enjoy each passing moment in my crazy beautiful life.
So I wrote my letter and prepared to send it to the people who will help bring my abuse and my abuser out of the shadows and into the light that will expose them both. There will be no more lurking. Their time is up.