Sometimes our teachers aren't the best role models. This college girl learned that lesson the hard way.
(Content has been edited for clarity).
The relationship between a teacher and his student is SUPPOSED just to be a professional one. However, it can be hard for a student to focus in class when they hear their professor is going to be a total stud. For one student, a quick search on 'rate my professor' showed tons of reviews that praised her future creative writing professor. If she only knew what she knows today, she would've withdrawn from that class after the first week.
"So, I met a sociopath. A sociopath who beautifully played the role of normal human being.
It took me quite some time to realize he was playing a role.
A role that he had been rehearsing for years, giving his grand performance on a day to day basis. It took me even longer to realize that I was playing the part of the leading lady. But so were dozens of other women. We all were. We were all understudies for one another, and we didn't even know it -- all feeding into the same twisted fantasy that felt all too real.
I was ready for another semester filled with late-night cram sessions and hard prompts for essays and creative stories. I was only 19 years old at the time, yet filled with hope for the future as a creative writing major. I'd signed up for my first English class and decided I'd try one of those 'rate my professor' sites to see if my professor would be a cool, relaxed teacher, or a strict dictator. What I found was a comment section filled with reviews of how Professor John Carrigan was 'an attractive and wonderful human being.' With all these comments, I was ready for a Brad Pitt look-alike to show up to class, but it turned out my professor was far from 'cute.'"
The student told her friend Amy about the reviews, so on the first day of class, both of them waited impatiently to see what a stud the English professor was going to be. Ten minutes after class was supposed to start, in walked a pudgy man who was obviously balding prematurely and looked to be about in his late 30s. He had beady green eyes that sunk into his head and that darted back at the wall to the tile ceiling. He looked like someone who did nothing but sit back and drink a bunch. His outfit also had an air of "I don't care about anything." He wore khakis that had noticeable stains on them and a faded white collared shirt that he haphazardly tucked and obviously refused to iron.
"Brad Pitt? More like Gilbert Gottfried," she remembered. "I glanced over at Amy and she looked at me skeptically and all I could do was shrug."
She'd soon find out though that the professor didn't win the students' hearts with his looks, but with his comedic personality and manipulative wiles.
"John Carrigan was a funny guy, and everything he said just instantly drew you to him. He'd spend half the class telling ridiculous stories, but didn't treat us like kids and didn't censor anything out. I'd started to see why students called him 'an attractive and wonderful human being' because he truly was. It was just beauty ran skin deep for him. Anyway, it was time for us to turn in our first writing assignment. It was fairly simple, just a personal essay. I decided I'd write a highly descriptive narrative depicting what it's like to be a female MMA fighter. It was less than two pages long, and most of it was spent describing how asphalt felt on human palms while doing push-ups in hot July. I didn't think much of it, but apparently, my professor was rather... aroused by it.
I'd contacted him a few weeks after we'd turned in that assignment asking him if he knew how I could become more involved with creative writing on campus. I figured, well he's my English professor. Surely he'd be able to help me find a way to get connected, right? I mean, that's his job.
Well, he did a little bit more than that. After I sent him that first e-mail, he helped me out alright and then some."
Prof. Carrigan pointed the student in the direction of the school paper and said check with them if they needed someone like her to help out.
It was helpful and the student thanked him, but then he decided to send her the following message:
"I like the way you write -- there's an intimacy and energy and vibrancy about it. A closeness of detail and imagery that generates real emotion."
This pretty much came out of nowhere, seeing as she wasn't seeking feedback on her writing. But it was a pleasant surprise.
"It was a huge ego boost for her and made me believe I could be an accomplished, published author someday," she wrote.
She thanked him for the kind words, and he responded:
"You deserve it. I'm going to assume that you know that you are quite gorgeous because, well, how couldn't you. But you show an ability to grant that beauty and sensuality a kind of artistic vibe and spirit. It becomes something as opposed to just being something/what you look like in a static way. Sometimes beauty is just about being intimately desirable, and that grows boring after a time -- yours is an active, creative idea and identity if that makes sense. You don't shy away from your appeal in your writing, nor do you commercialize it in the easy way. You translate it into a kind of closeness and intensity of imagery and experience that you are privy to. And know that you never have to feel appreciative. You are smart, talented, sweet, unique, creative, beautiful -- it is not exactly a chore to be around you, you know."
The student was in absolute awe with all the compliments he was throwing her way. She kept eating it up and eventually asked if she could send him more of my work and he, of course, said yes.
"To give you a sense of what kind of messages we kept sending each other during this time I said:
Me: Thank you, I am genuinely blushing. It is a pleasure to have someone like you as a professor.
John Carrigan: The pleasure is all mine I feel lucky to get to know you and hopefully spend time with you after the term. You are an incredible girl and alluring in every way. Attractive intellectually, emotionally, and physically -- I would want to hang out with you no matter where I knew you from."
The student was excited by the idea that he was so attracted to her work and that they might have this "out-of-this-world connection," on a literary level.
"Boy, how naive could I have been?"
"After a few more messages, he asked me if he could have my phone number, which was supposedly an easier way to contact me. I decided I'd oblige and I continued sending him my writing. I thought he'd be a wonderful mentor for me, someone who I could talk about my writing woes and share my successes with. I'm ashamed to admit the shower of compliments he gave me also urged me to continue sharing my work with him. Soon, this is how things went: I'd send him some of my writing, he'd call me sometimes and tell me what he thought and showered me with even more eloquent compliments.
One night, I had decided I'd finally go to one of his 'pseudo-dead poet's society' meetings. Everything seemed normal, the classroom was FILLED with students, but I noticed something was off about him. He kept looking my way and his eyes would linger for just a little too long and he'd smirk anytime I'd laugh at one of his jokes. After the meeting, I hurried back to my dorm when my phone lit up with a text message from him. He basically described how distracted he was that night by how I looked and how it was 'such a sweet and seductive pleasure' to have me there that night. That's when everything hit me like a brick. Does this guy have...feelings for me? My head felt like it was spinning, yet I knew I had to confront the issue. Right. NOW. I debated sending him a message asking him how he felt about me. I decided I'd simply ask, 'Professor, do you have feelings for me?' I couldn't believe the answer he gave me."
He responded with:
"You are beautiful, provocative, and talented-of course, of course, I have romantic and intimate thoughts about you-it would be an insult to both of us to even pretend I didn't. But it is cool that it is deeper than that too, and we can still have an awesome, meaningful relationship right now and figure out the more personal, romantic, and intimate stuff as we go along. I guess what I am trying to say is-being attracted to you does not blind me from the cool connection we already have. But yes, I am of course attracted to you. And I would be a liar if I pretended that I wasn't thinking how nice it would be to kiss you."
The first thing that popped into the student's mind was "Am I the only one?" Was he in the habit of trying to pick up his students, or did he think she was special? She decided that it was time for an answer, and in a pretty sarcastic reply, said something along the lines of "Do you frequently pick up your students?"
His response was anything but genuine I'd later find out. He said, "I'm not into you because you are a student -- I'm into you because you are you... I see it as only a grand coincidence that you happen to be a student at the university I am a professor at."
As romantic as that sounded it was anything but, and the student found out just what sort of monster he really was.
"I somehow fell asleep that night with my phone in my hand, and when I woke up, I was bombarded by messages. He confessed he was glad he was able to let his feelings be known and continued his parade of compliments to me as a woman, student, and writer.
He repeatedly said things like, '"Yes, you're beautiful and evoke a physical reaction, but that doesn't matter. You are alluring to all of my sense and my mind, and my heart.' He continued to say that confessing how he felt about me made him EVEN MORE attracted to me and 'wanted' me even more.
I felt absolutely sick to my stomach and needed this to stop. I started drinking before going to class to live with him constantly staring and smirking at me like a creep. I avoided him outside of the classroom at all costs, and my anxiety became so bad that I had to take medication. Then one night, I got a text from him that was a sign for me to finally end things, 'Come over. We need to talk.'
I wasn't thinking straight. All I knew was that I wanted this charade to be over and to let him know I was far from interested. When I got to his apartment, it was weirdly decorated. The apartment was nothing but one big room with the world's smallest couch resting on the side. Everything screamed, 'He's a serial killer,' and I instantly regretted my decision. He eventually showed me his 'bedroom,' which was a dirty mattress propped up against the wall with a box TV set and he had an episode of 'South Park' on blast. Not in my right mind, I asked for some water and he told me to wait on his tiny couch. Now saying this couch was 'small' is an understatement. When both of us sat down, there was no room to even breathe. Our shoulders, legs, feet, basically everything was touching. He started talking about random stuff (his family, novels he read, where he traveled, etc.) when he did the absolute most disgusting thing to me. He planted the sloppiest, grossest kiss on me and I immediately pulled away and all I could do was look down at my feet. I'm not sure why, but I just said, 'I'm sorry.'
Then, I asked to leave, and he walked me to my car. I noticed as I pulled out he was still standing there with that disgusting smirk and waving the whole way. After that, I didn't want anything else to do with him, but the creepy ways he found to sneak back into my life astounded me."
The student said she felt so disgusting after that kiss, and wanted to forget it ever happened and never step foot into his classroom again. However, the professor wasn't ready to give up just yet.
She cried that night and locked my bedroom door because she was so terrified. Then she heard the familiar text message notification and saw that it was none other than "Dirty John."
"John: You, my dear, are an impossible woman not to kiss. I feel silly telling you how amazing it was to be with you because it is beyond my expression. Every hour has been a fight against willpower and logic to not plead with you to come back so we could wake up in the same bed, smelling like each other, tasting like each other. Being next to you is intoxicating. Kissing you was wonderful. It made me yearn to be so close to you. Inside of you. Not even for the physicality of it, but because that is the purest, most raw, and most real and deep way to experience the emotional and intellectual aspects of it."
The student couldn't believe what was happening.
"How in the world did he not see the look of terror on my face and think what he did was a good thing?" she remarked. "Did he just not care? I thought again of how he might be doing this to other students."
She decided to put a whole stop to this stupid affair and told him only to contact her if it was in regards to academic matters.
"He was shocked that I wasn't into whatever game he was playing, but I didn't care. I finished that horrid class and the semester thankfully came to an end."
The professor still tried to contact her over the summer, but simply co-existed in his strange world and made sure they were never alone. The student thought that was the end of it until other female students started looking for gossip.
"They told me how he was sending them flirtatiously intimate messages and asked if I'd ever been sent those type of messages. Well, of course, that made me go into a fit of rage. My suspicions that he didn't think I was special were true. He was just a con-artist trying to get with other students. Of course, when I sent him a long angry text to confront him about it, he denied everything, even when I told him one of the students had shown me the emails. I called him out for every lie, every excuse he had, but the one sentence that pushed me over the edge was this: 'Remember, even with you, remember that I didn't initiate any social contact.' I couldn't believe he was implying that in any way I was asking for this.
Because of him, I struggled with anxiety and addiction and had to go to counseling for it. My counselor encouraged me to come forward, and after a while, I emailed the campus police. In typical fashion, despite the pages of texts and emails I sent the head of campus police, he asked me, 'Now, you can be honest with me, are you responsible for starting all of this?' I gave up right then and there. I'm not proud of it, but I didn't want to put myself through something that only half the world would believe. I ended up leaving that university because of all side-comments and bullying students threw at me. Carrigan did end up getting fired, so that was a small victory. I continued my life just the same in my hometown university, and I figured I could finally put that part of my life behind me. That was until two months later I got an e-mail that would change everything."
The student's heart stopped as she read a message from another female student, which read:
I came across your blog a few days ago, and I felt compelled to e-mail you in response to your post...
Very long story short, I'm a student, and I know exactly the professor you're talking about in your post. By writing about your experience and sharing your story, you've made me realize how naïve I've been and what a manipulative, lying, abhorrent person he is.
You started out your post by saying how much you didn't want to write it, but I'm writing this to you to thank you... You've helped me more than you know because I now realize I need to sever all ties with him immediately. So thank you, thank you."
The student threw my phone across the room.
"I couldn't believe it. That creep might've been fired from my old university, but now he's back to teaching and tormenting young girls. Again? Against my better judgment, I couldn't just ignore this. I had to track him down and make sure he was fired. Permanently. I reached out to Emily, and she recounted the same experiences I had had with Carrigan. Emily had a boyfriend, and he would consistently ask about him and how things were going with him. He even said the same things to her like, 'I like you too much to just kiss you and possibly lose you forever over it,' and 'I like you so much as a person that I want to be around you and I know we can't have anything romantic but I feel like I need to be friends with you. I can keep it completely platonic despite my other feelings for you.'
I couldn't believe the crap he did as she relived her story. How could her university hire a man whose track record obviously so tainted? What did shock me, though, is Emily even asked Carrigan about me (after she'd googled a bit about me), but he always evaded the question."
For the sake of the other female students, our student reached out to her former professor one last time...
"Me: You have learned absolutely nothing from your past actions.
John: From what happened at (past university)? I know I was immature and cavalier and I learned and grew from that. As God and my father as my witness I did. It changed me completely.
Me: Oh, so you no longer seek out romantic relationships with female students then I assume?
John: The truth is I never did... Just immaturely like to flirt and get the attention. ( though what we shared was so different and I made a mockery of it with my ego, and I sincerely apologize). But no- I've grown out of all that stuff- completely. There was a time when I enjoyed the mysteries and flirtations, but I've learned my lesson about such things and learned what's important.
I immediately called him out on his crap, and he decided to go a different route with his disgusting tactics.
John: Just so you know, and there's no expiration date on this, but I'll be teaching a creative writers workshop, and if you ever want to guest lecture, the offer stands. I figure maybe that's a decent way to focus on positive things and put the negative things in the past. People would benefit from your perspective.
Me: Really? Are you joking? It would not be a good idea for me to be a guest lecturer for a professor I got fired. I would lose any credibility, and I choose what is right.
John: From my point of view I think it can lend more credibility- as it's a clear show of mutual maturity and no hard feelings and a focus on good and positive things instead of past grudges and mistakes. Also... I wouldn't introduce you as this is the girl who got me fired.
John: Life is usually long and winding...we've both done things we wish we could take back and we've both paid severely for them. I think all we can do is try to be the best people we can go forward... That's what I offered. But I respect your position, and it'll stand in years to come if you change your mind.
John: And this might sound strange, but the truth is, I've been trying to be the kind of person you'd be proud of- I keep that specifically in mind. It's how I matured and grew out of the silliness."
The student had enough. It was obvious calling him out would do nothing to stop him. Only the authorities could do something now.
Without mentioning Emily's name, our student e-mailed her Emily's campus police and warned them about Carrigan. Her former professor found out and gave her more excuses saying things like, "On my father's grave, I promise you that I have no improper intentions towards anyone at (university)," and "I'll be even more vigilant now- I'll have no non professional discussions, of any kind, with anyone male or female. I pledge that."
The student didn't believe a word he said, and the last e-mail she sent to Emily confirmed it.
"She told me how John Carrigan had sent an email out to her and her classmates informing them he was 'deciding to leave (university)' to go on and pursue other things. On top of that, he told them he would love to still meet with them in a non-classroom setting for pizza and to still hold weekly literary group meetings at a local cafe with all who care to join."
"It was then I realized you could not change a sociopath," she said. "What I can do, is report him and stop it from happening to others again."