ASU Honors professors groom students for sexual abuse

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Grooming refers to a series of behaviors by an abuser to ensure a victim accepts physical and psychological abuse as normal and desirable, and to ensure that a victim does not report or expose sexual misconduct.

The grooming process at Barrett has been known to begin in mandatory freshman “Human Event” seminars, and often progresses to Study Abroad trips, teaching assistantship, and thesis direction. Professors not associated with Barrett have also used the Barrett Honors Thesis project to blur boundaries and groom students for sexual abuse.

Researchers and mental health professionals agree that grooming generally follows a pattern:

  1. Identifying and targeting vulnerable victims
  2. Blurring boundaries and gaining trust
  3. Isolating and fostering secrecy

Although grooming is typically discussed within the context of child and adolescent sexual abuse, established grooming patterns have been observed among several professors at Barrett over the past decade.

Undergraduate students are legally considered adults, but the key brain structure involved in decision-making and impulse-control does not fully develop until age 25. Many neuroscientists say most people don’t reach full adult development until age 30.

In addition to drastic age differences, students are especially vulnerable to professors because of the power a professor holds over a student’s academic career and quality of life on campus. Even when students believe they are consenting to romantic and sexual relationships with their professors, their ability to consent is undermined by asymmetrical power.

According to ASU Policy, professors are not allowed to have relationships with students over whom professors have or could be perceived to have academic power:

“The power differential inherent in the faculty-student relationship means that any romantic or sexual relationship between a faculty member and a student is potentially exploitative or could at any time be perceived as exploitative.”

ACD 402: Romantic or Sexual Relationships Between Faculty Members and Students

Identifying and targeting victims

Sexual predators look for victims they can easily manipulate. Honors students are especially vulnerable because of the reverence they tend to have for their teachers and the importance they place on academic status. At Barrett, professors have behaved flirtatiously in class and targeted students they believed were physically attracted to them.

“[Dr. Eric Susser] seemed to target [a female student] for special attention in class. His behavior seemed flirtatious to me, because he was constantly complimenting or teasing [her] in front of the class, and he did not give other students this kind of attention.”

Title IX complaint (2014)

Blurring boundaries and gaining trust

Barrett encourages close relationships between students and professors, and professors use intimate “Human Event” classroom settings and mandated office hours to obscure the necessary boundary between teacher and pupil:

“[During office hours Dr. Susser] would sit with his thigh pressed against mine with his arm around my shoulders, or take his shoes off and play footsies under the table. In class he discussed the benefits of a relationship where the young mentee could learn from their mentor both sexually and professionally.”

Title IX complaint (2014)

Barrett professors have used international Study Abroad trips to blur the student-teacher boundary by drinking alcohol and flirting with male and female students. Dr. Jacquie Scott Lynch offered to buy underage students alcohol, and provided alcohol to underage students at her home.

“At the first bar Dr. Jacquie Scott Lynch asked me and five other students what we were going to do when we got back to the United States and couldn’t by alcohol because we were underage. When we said we’d find someone over 21 to buy it for us, she pointed to herself.”

Title IX complaint (2014)

Jacquie Scott Lynch drinking with students

Current Barrett professor Jacquie Scott Lynch drinking alcohol with underage students on Barrett Study Abroad 2009 in Rome, Italy.

“Dr. Jacquie Scott Lynch referred to me many times over the trip as ‘the young [name of her husband].’ She told me that I was one of the worst dancers she had ever seen and proceeded to try and teach me how to dance by placing her hands on my hips and guiding me along.”

Title IX complaint (2014)

In many cases, an abuser will gain a victim’s trust and lower a victim’s inhibitions by showing interest in the victim’s interests and personal life. Both Joel Hunter and Jacquie Scott showed interest in their victims’ interests to gain closeness.

Isolating and fostering secrecy

College students are often outside their comfort zones and away from their support systems. Barrett professors have been known to isolate their victims further by encouraging inappropriate verbal and/or physical conduct during office hours and off campus.

By this point, the professor has built a strong enough relationship with the student that the student is less likely to consider the relationship abusive. Even if a student does recognize the abuse, the bond with the professor often prevents the student from reporting for fear of consequences for the abuser.

“I felt like I had to protect him and was worried that getting help would jeopardize his job. So I suffered in silence and the pain grew worse…”

Dr. Joel Hunter’s victim, “Jane,” Fox 10 News (2014)

A greater culture of secrecy exists at the institutional level, where Barrett and ASU administrators actively silence complainants to protect faculty predators and the school’s reputation.

Thanks to victim-led activism, sexual abuse at Barrett gained local and national media attention. A federal complaint filed against ASU in 2014 listed 11 Barrett professors as having had inappropriate conduct with students, some of the professors serial offenders.

5 of those listed still teach and lead Study Abroad trips at Barrett.

Sign our petition to protect students from faculty predators.

ASU’s priority is to protect itself from lawsuits. If you or someone you know is being groomed or abused by a professor, email us at SDASA.ArizonaState@gmail.com for support and to learn about options. 

References:

  1. “Stages of Sexual Grooming: Recognizing Potentially Predatory Behaviors of Child Molesters,” Journal of Deviant Behavior
  2. “Adolescent Maturity and the Brain: The Promise and Pitfalls of Neuroscience Research in Adolescent Health Policy,” Journal of Adolescent Health
  3. “At What Age Is The Brain Fully Developed?” Mental Health Daily
  4. “Maturation of the adolescent brain,” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
  5. History of ASU’s student-teacher dating policy (ACD 402)
  6. “Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, is a close-knit community; some say too close” Phoenix New Times (2015)
  7. “ASU probes relationships between students and faculty,” Fox 10 News

2 thoughts on “ASU Honors professors groom students for sexual abuse

  1. Pingback: Barrett Protects Rapist Profs

  2. Pingback: Barrett rape exposé | Phoenix New Times

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