Last week news broke that Mary Kay Letourneau and her child rape victim Vili Fualaau were divorcing. People Magazine confirmed the split through court documents and sources close to the couple. Yesterday People reported that financial troubles combined with the couple’s sordid past contributed to their separation.
After nearly fourteen years of marriage, Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau quietly agreed to move forward with their divorce. In February, pair decided to settle the divorce through arbitration. The couple share to grown children.
Their relationship was never without controversy. Mary Kay met her husband when he was a student in her second-grade class. When Fualaau was twelve, Mary Kay was his sixth-grade teacher. During his sixth grade year, Vili and Mary Kay developed a close and unusual relationship.
By the end of the school year, Mary Kay and Vili became involved in a sexual relationship. At the time, Mary Kay was 35 and Vil was 12. By fall 1996, she became pregnant with Vili’s child. In winter 1997, police arrested her for child rape after her husband Steve found love letters between the two.
After her arrest, a judge sentenced her to a suspended jail sentence. She served for around four months in prison for the rape of Vili. Shortly after her release in January 1998, police found her and Vili in a parked car. A judge revoked her probation, and she was sent to prison for seven years. Her rape of Vili in winter 1998 resulted in a second pregnancy.
When Mary Kay went to prison, Vili was fifteen years old. The two children he fathered with Mary Kay were cared for by his mother. Despite a no-contact order placed by the court, Vili and Mary Kay found ways to communicate during her incarceration.
Then in 2004, Mary Kay was released from prison. Vili requested the no-contact order to be lifted, and the court agreed to remove the order. In 2005, the couple wed and Entertainment Tonight filmed their ceremony.
Since their wedding, neither of them have been able to escape their past. Vili dropped out of high school and struggled to find employment. Mary Kay worked as a legal assistant, but her salary was not enough to support the family of four.
As the couple struggled financially, they were forced to sell their story to media outlets. They sat down with the Today show in 2006 with Matt Lauer. Barbara Walters interviewed Mary Kay in 2005. On their 10th anniversary, Barbara Walters interviewed the couple together.
For their entire marriage, they were completely unable to escape their past. According to People, the couple continued to do the interviews to earn money. Unfortunately, these interviews forced them to answer questions about Vili’s rape, Mary Kay’s prison sentence, and the abusive beginnings of the relationship.
Sources told People that because the interviews were their only source of viable income, the couple could never move beyond their past. The source said,
“There have been money troubles,” a source close to Letourneau tells PEOPLE. “That’s why they’ve had to talk about their relationship for paid interviews; they’ve needed the cash. Do you think they’ve enjoyed talking about her past as a sex offender, and him as a 12-year-old? And answering questions about how often they had sex? No. It’s embarrassing. But that’s how they’ve supplemented their income for years.”
Unable to escape their past, the couple grew further apart. Another issue in the relationship was the vast age difference between them. Mary Kay is now approaching sixty and Vili is in his mid-thirties. Vili has never been in a relationship with any other woman and wants to explore his options.
While the reasons for their split make sense, the source fails in their assessment. Vili is a victim of abuse. Sure, he hasn’t had other relationships. There is absolute validity that the couple couldn’t escape their past.However, in multiple interviews, Vili has said he wanted to give his children a two parent home. Now that his girls are grown, he can move on without disrupting the homelife he wanted to provide them.
What is most troubling to me about this case is that the media consistently downplays Mary Kay’s crimes. The dissolution of the marriage is reported as an inevitable end. However, there was nothing normal about this marriage. Even if financial issues and their past caused a rift, this marriage never should have happened.
Male offenders that impregnante minors are consistently sentenced to life in prison. A Georgia man, Nicholas Thrash, recently received a 160-year prison sentence for raping and impregnating a ten-year-old.
How is Mary Kay raping and becoming pregnant by a thirteen-year-old any different?
The truth is that it isn’t different. Both cases involve a pregnancy that resulted from child rape. The only difference is the sex of the victim. Society just refuses to enforce harsh penalties against female perpetrators. Additionally, we downplay the victimization of boys because of the sick fantasy of a boy having sex with a teacher.
Mary Kay’s original prison sentence of seven years wasn’t enough time. She was always a threat to Vili and continued her abuse after her release. In any other world, no one would glorify this relationship. The only reason we cut her slack is that Mary Kay is a striking and beautiful woman. However, even beautiful women can be monsters.
Society, it’s time we wake up and treat female offenders the same way. Vili is a victim of not only Mary Kay but a justice system that failed to protect him. Male victims are as important as their female counterparts. I can’t help but feel like a horrible double standard ruined Vili’s entire life.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
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