Meredith Powell, 24, was arrested last week and pleaded not guilty to charges that she engaged in sexual activity with two of her male students and texted nude photos to a third.
Chrys Potuzak, a Clinical Social Worker/Therapist at Harborview Sexual Assault and Trauma Center, tells KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz show that despite reaction questioning whether the teens were truly victims, the person under the age of consent is always the victim.
“When you’re a teenager, you’re actually still maturing, your brain is still maturing,” says Potuzak. “The way that an adult can reason and make decisions and consent, children and teens actually aren’t yet ready to do that.”
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist told KIRO Radio all three of Powell’s victims were students of hers.
“She had oral sex with one boy, who was 15, she had sexual activity with another, who was 15, and she propositioned, via Snapchat, a 17-year-old.”
According to court documents, Meredith Powell did not have intercourse with any of the victims.
After the fact, Potuzak said the young person will likely feel very conflicted about the activity and will have trouble processing it.
“That is pretty confusing for a kid to try to reconcile that or try to figure that out internally, that something might have felt good or felt exciting, but at the same time been very, very wrong,” she said.
Potuzak added that if the incident is never reported or addressed, the victim may begin to internalize their feelings, which could lead to intimacy issues or unhealthy coping mechanisms.
“There is a higher probability that they’re going to maybe go to using substances or something that chronically might be an unhealthy habit,” said Potuzak.
In this case, Powell wrote a letter on to one of the boys’ girlfriends apologizing for what she called promiscuous text messages.
Officers arrested Powell on Thursday and she has been placed on unpaid administrative leave.
And as for gender, Potuzak said people might’ve reacted differently if the adult suspect was a male and the victims were female, but the activity is harmful to the victim in either case.
“It seems to be this thought when it’s a female that it’s not this great of a harm to children, and it really is,” she said.