Gary Bettencourt, former Pacheco High School drama and English teacher, was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison for sexually abusing two former students more than 10 years ago and, more recently, to having sexually abused another student in 2015. Because of the law, the victims from more than 10 years ago (2005-2006) were denied civil justice.
A sexual abuse victim of convicted Los Banos High School teacher Gary Bettencourt read this statement in court:
As many of you would imagine, this is going to be one of the most difficult, and at the same time, saddest moments of my life. I've never been inside a courtroom prior to this situation, and I never intended on it. But looking back now on my memories much like a movie reel, I've come to terms that I am now a completely different audience. What I once thought were acts of kind heartedness, selflessness, care and love was quickly transformed into the opposite. Who I once believed was my friend for many years, turned into someone I wouldn't even recognize today. Now being a mother, and someone who is mature enough to fully understand the boundaries between child and adult, student and teacher, , I know now I was a victim of sexual crimes by someone who was entrusted to protect my well-being. What took place 10 years ago almost to the day, is forever in my heart and mind. And now it can finally be brought to light.
I was sixteen the first time you molested me. You were my drama teacher. My brother had just been deployed to Iraq which left just me and my dad at home. I was lonely. You noticed. I needed a friend, and you knew that. You swooped in exactly at the right moment.
It was finally my senior year. You were hosting auditions for a play, and asked me to be in it. I remember the first time it happened, after rehearsal. You kissed me, and I remember in that moment believing you were someone who would always protect me. It was so surreal and I remember telling myself, “he’s a teacher, it's okay.”
From that day forward your whole attitude changed at school. Whenever I saw you, you would glance at me with a quick crooked smile. You would keep me after class to compliment me which became a usual thing. And I remember the feeling of butterflies filling up my stomach and my cheeks flush with red. As the days counted down to opening night of our play, the nights and days after rehearsal became more intimate. This continued throughout my senior year of high school, where your actions became more physical as the year went on.
What you did to me has made a huge impact on my life. . I would lie awake at night sleepless, my mind running to fast for me to catch it. Wondering why my relationships failed, why I allowed men to hurt me in ways that never seemed normal to me. Hopelessly lost and confused never loving myself or knowing my self-worth. And all this time you remained my "friend" calling me out of the blue, to ask how I was doing, seeming genuinely interested in how my life has been since I graduated. You kept me close. And for a good reason, I now know why. My life had been a complete mess and unstable. I never felt my future was worth pursuing. I never attended college. I spent years changing jobs and doing drugs to try and mask what I now realize was the pain. All my efforts felt empty. Over the years I've learned to cope in better ways and I have my friends and family to thank for that. But at times, life seems more and more difficult to cope with by the day. I have become quite the topic of discussion, for everyone who has an opinion on what has happened to me as a young girl. Whether I'm being shamed for it, or supported, it's taken its toll. But with each day I spend talking to my loved ones, I'm reminded that what I'm doing is not only for myself and the countless other young girls who are forever changed and traumatized by sexual predators, but for the future, that this never happens again.
Now, having a daughter of my own, even though she has brought the greatest happiness my life will ever know, there are horrible memories and the fear that someday the same pain could happen to her. I was introduced to something a child should never know. I was robbed of my innocence and all I was to you was another point on your scoreboard.
For a very long time, I was convinced I was the only one. I now know I was not. There were numerous more innocent young students, not just me. When I learned that, I knew I had to come forward and tell my story. I felt a rush of anger and betrayal and that the veil, once and for all, had been lifted. Almost a decade later, I finally knew I was a victim all along. I couldn't hold back the tears anymore. I trusted you. You molested me and used me and now the world will know. I was only sixteen years old and I always thought it was my fault.
Teachers and schools are supposed to protect children from predators but you have gotten away with this for over ten years.
Some people tell me I’m courageous for coming forward. My intent is to make young girls and parents aware and to encourage all victims of abuse to come forward.
Through the criminal justice system, I want you to be held responsible for what you have done and hope the judge will give you the highest sentence possible.
Through the civil justice system, my hope is that the school will be held responsible for allowing you to use our school to hunt for your prey for almost a decade without ever being caught until one of your victims had the courage to speak up. Only then will this and other schools take steps to make sure that this never happens again to another student.
Note: due to legal loopholes exploited by this school district, the victim was not allowed to seek civil justice for her harm.