CW: This essay discusses rape and sex trafficking. For survivor support, contact RAINN for confidential online and phone support, https://www.rainn.org/get-help.
By Katie Ottaway
For three years all I remembered was the tea. The tea wasn’t even that good.
I was abroad teaching English, and planning a summer of pre-dissertation research. My classes were in the evening, and it was not uncommon for my students to bring friends to audit. In the few minutes before I commenced my advanced English class, I overheard a conversation that a handful of my male students were having in their local language. I didn’t catch it all, but I understood that they were talking about me, and my class, and falling asleep. They were discussing whether or not I would make the cut. There was some discussion of numbers. At the time, I naturally assumed that they were critiquing my pedagogy, maybe discussing if their new foreign teacher was hot or not, and talking about finances as most students do. I didn’t like the fact that they were talking about me within a few feet of me, thinking that I couldn’t understand, so I spoke to the class in their language for the first time.
After class, one of the students approached and asked if I had understood their conversation. I bluffed a little, and replied that I had understood enough of it. His eyes widened, and he assured me that they were talking about a different class and a different teacher. He only returned a couple times, and never made eye contact. His friend, G, who was privy to the conversation maintained good attendance, and even became somewhat of a teacher’s pet. Continue Reading…