In 1997, Seattle primary school teacher Mary Kay Letourneau was convicted of raping sixth-grade student Vili Fualaau.
At the time she was 34 years old and married with four children. Fualaau was 14 years old, just 18 months older than her eldest son.
Speaking to Barbara Walters of the ABC (US) in 2017, Letourneau said their relationship started when Fualaau was 12 years old.
“The incident was a late night that didn’t stop with a kiss,” said the now 56-year-old.
By the time she pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree child rape and was convicted of a suspended sentence of 89 months, in November of 1997, Letourneau and Fualaau were the parents of a six-month-old child.
Then, after serving six months in a county jail she was released on parole under the condition that she would attend counselling and not contact Fualaau. Weeks into her parole she fell pregnant with their second child and was forced to serve the full 7.5 year sentence. At 15 years old, Fualaau had become a father of two.
Now 20 years after her trial, Letourneau’s life has been made into a two-hour confessional documentary by A&E Documentary, titled: Mary Kay Letourneau: Autobiography.
Premiering just days after their 13th marriage anniversary on the 29th of May 2018, Letourneau said she wanted to set the ‘record straight’.
“First of all I was a teacher and Vili was once a student. There wasn’t anything going on at all when he was a student of mine,” she says in the documentary.
“Everybody wants to hear the story. Whether it’s because they want to analyse it or criticise it. It’s been 20 years but it’s still there.
“I call it media carnage. Road kill. Blood.”
The convicted rapist recalled missing her children’s birthdays and giving birth in prison before being forced to surrender her newborn.
Speaking to Fox News, Executive Producer Brad Abramson said that ‘reliving the time in prison’ was brutal for Letourneau.
“She’s openly weeping as she’s talking about missing her older children’s birthdays while in prison. I think she felt very, very conflicted. It brought back a lot of raw emotions,” he said.
“I was quite surprised to see that after 20 years. Those raw emotions were still close at hand.”
“… I think she wanted to tell her side of the story for the first time. This platform, where she’s looking right at the camera in an intimate and personal way, allows her to frame her story… which she was not allowed to do for many years. So I think that was appealing to her. The platform and the presentation of it.”
Despite this, the documentary has not been well received by audiences who have accused the network of being overly sympathetic in their portrayal of Letourneau – a convicted child rapist. Some have vowed not to watch it out of principle, with the 56-year-old remaining firm that she wasn’t aware that she was breaking the law, going so far as to say that she looks down on similar present-day cases.
“It’s just [unbelievable] that any teacher, after what happened to me, would [have sex with a student]. At least I can say that I did not know that it was a law and you knew. After my case, you knew,” she argued, placing blame onto modern day teachers who commit the same crime she did.
Many Twitter users picked up on this and tweeted their frustrations.
#MaryKayLetourneau you are nothing more than a child rapist! Even if Vili consented, you were the adult. I don’t feel sorry for you one bit. Vili you’re a big dummy!
— PMH (@tiadasme) May 30, 2018
This #MaryKayLetourneau biography has got me shook. She couldn’t have SERIOUSLY thought that it would totally cool to sleep with a 13 year old right?! She legit didn’t think she needed a lawyer. How dumb can you be?!?! pic.twitter.com/j2UdIC9GKV
— Michelle Thomas (@MeshellLeigh) May 30, 2018
Mary Kay Letourneau is acting like she’s the victim for having sex with a child. She was a teacher too? I’m trying to figure out if she has a mental illness or is truly stupid. Glad she’s not teaching because she has no common sense.
— Tiffany Bueno (@TiffBueno) May 30, 2018
Mary Kay Letourneau, disgusting. This is a line not to be blurred. You were a desparate woman looking for attention and a little boy did it for you. You blew your family up with no regard for the kids you already had. “I didnt even know that I needed a lawyer, get it?” really?
— ????????Shanna???????? (@shannakameil) May 30, 2018
#MaryKayLetourneau literally how can @AETelevision in good conscience have a show that exposes the cruel nature of sex cults yet then put this actual rapist who groomed a child on a pedestal with this romance infused bio
— audrey ???? (@jeromestwin) May 30, 2018
— Gorillenial (@ThomasG01095401) May 30, 2018
Sees: #MaryKayLetourneau .I remember her on the news, even though I was very young. She’s a female rapist. I’m not watching the biography. I just feel bad that her victim is still in her clutches. Is she registered? She better be. Did she get payed for this?! UGH. What a psycho. pic.twitter.com/SaQwjEhtDw
— ReviewerRachel (@ReviewerRachel) May 30, 2018
Today the couple are still married, with 34-year-old Fualaau now the same age as Letourneau was at the start of their relationship in 1996.
While they still live together in Washington State, it’s been reported that he filed for separation in 2017.
Abramson too, said that this was something the couple refused to speak about in the documentary.
“I think they’re still trying to figure it out, to be honest,” he said.
“We told as much as they would tell us. I think … their relationship was evolving as we were shooting. There were no rumours of a separation [at that time]. But I think, for the both of them, they were trying to figure things out and save the relationship.”
Do you think the network was wrong to give a convicted child sex offender such a big platform? Let us know in the comments.