A woman who fell prey to the abuse of her high school teacher reexamined her past relationship with him in a new documentary while exposing a widespread epidemic of grooming and sexual abuse in the education system.
Cheryl Nicholas, now 39, a filmmaker from Little Elm, Texas, grew up adoring the charm that came with living in a small town, that was until she became the center of a scandal that changed her world.
In a four-part docuseries titled Keep This Between Us, Cheryl recounts the relationship she had with her high school drama teacher when she was 16.
She says her teacher made her feel like she was the smartest girl in their small town and who she admired as a ‘mentor’ ultimately betrayed her, taking her sense of innocence.
Cheryl Nicholas, now 39, from Little Elm, Texas, reexamined her relationship with her high school teacher who allegedly groomed her in her docuseries
The filmmaker’s documentary titled Keep This Between Us chronicles the tactics her teacher used to groom her as a teen (Cheryl pictured when she was a teen with her former teacher)
Cheryl, who grew up in the small town of Little Elm described her drama teacher at Little Elm High School (pictured above) as a ‘dear mentor’
The documentary, which is out August 29 and 30 on Freeform and available to stream on Hulu, chronicles the night their forbidden relationship began and how the relationship followed her from her teen to college years.
When Cheryl was just 16 years old, her high school drama teacher, whom she doesn’t name, invited her and a few of her classmates to his home to watch a ’90s comedy series ‘Strangers with Candy.’
Later that night, while his wife was in another room and her classmates weren’t around, her teacher leaned in to kiss Cheryl.
‘I knew that it wasn’t just a flirtation. [I knew it was wrong] when it became an actual physical thing.
‘It was at his house [and] a bunch of theater kids would go there periodically and he and his wife would have us over and they would cook for us.
‘[His wife] was not aware of what was happening,’ Nichols told The Post.
In a trailer for her vulnerable docuseries, she admits: ‘I was in a relationship with my teacher and it started when I was 16.’
Cheryl reexamined the relationship with the man she thought she could trust with her life and who allegedly groomed her into a relationship.
In the trailer for the harrowing documentary, Cheryl gave viewers an inside look into the relationship and read an email from her former teacher.
The documentary chronicles the night their forbidden relationship began and how the relationship followed her from her teen to college years (Cheryl pictured when she was 16)
In the trailer for the harrowing documentary, Cheryl gave viewers an inside look into the relationship and read an email from her former teacher (Cheryl pictured as a teenager)
The email asked Cheryl to keep their relationship a ‘secret’ and is described as ‘getting more and more sexual’
‘Dearest Pony: OK, first things first — never send an email with your real name on it. Remember, this is our little secret.’
She added: ‘He just starts getting more and more sexual.’
The series sheds light on the growing number of woman across the country who have been groomed by older male educators.
And while Cheryl notes the relationship began ‘very innocently,’ she revealed it was ‘very deliberate on his part,’ adding that he turned it into a ‘direct sexual innuendo conversation.’
The filmmaker said she overlooked the warning signs because of her admiration for the man who she considered her mentor and friend, which she notes in the docuseries is common among young women have are victims of grooming.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) defines grooming as a pattern of manipulative behaviors commonly used to sexually abuse young children and teenagers.
RAINN notes abusers often use manipulative tactics, targeting vulnerable victims to emotionally or physically isolate them from loved ones by gaining their trust through attention, gifts or sharing ‘secrets.’
These tactics are most commonly used by someone in a victim’s close circle such as a family member, friend or teacher.
‘He was just easy to be around and he enriched the parts of my life that needed in enriching.
‘I thought he hung the moon. I thought he was the greatest thing ever and I loved how much attention he would give me.
I felt loved by him. How could you not love a person that’s that invested in you?’
The series sheds light on the growing number of woman across the country who have been groomed by older male educators
And while Cheryl notes the relationship began ‘very innocently,’ she revealed it was ‘very deliberate on his part,’ adding that he turned it into a ‘direct sexual innuendo conversation’
Cheryl said she overlooked the warning signs because of her admiration for him, which she notes in the docuseries is common among young women have are victims of grooming
And while Cheryl placed her teacher on a pedestal while she was a teenager, she soon realized he was purposefully using these tactics to gain her loyalty and keep their relationship a secret until she was in college.
Before Cheryl embarked on her five-year journey to shed light on an epidemic of widespread grooming, she hadn’t met any other fellow survivors, but that soon changed.
The trailer also introduces survivor Heaven Rubin, now 25, from Florida, who recounted her relationship with former high school teacher Jason Meyers, who she alleges sexually abused her when she was 17.
Haven won $6 million in damages in her case against the Miami Dade school board.
Although the state of Florida brought criminal charges against Meyers, he was found not guilty and denies the allegations.
‘I was scared that if I said something, I was going to ruin someone’s life.
‘I was a kid,’ Heaven said in the docuseries.
Throughout the process of filming the documentary, Cheryl found that gateway of grooming to sexual abuse was much more prevalent then she imagined.
In 2004, the Department of Education published a comprehensive report about sexual abuse in public schools.
The survey, conducted by the American Association of University Women, of 2,065 students in grades eight through 11—which is nearly 10 per cent of K-12 students have been victims of sexual misconduct by a public school educator.
The percentage translates into nearly 4.5 million children nationwide suffering from sexual misconduct while in the classroom, with an estimated 3 million suffering from physical abuse by a public school employee.
Heaven Rubin, now 25, from Florida, is also featured in the documentary and recounts her alleged sexual abuse against her former teacher
Haven won $6 million in damages in her case against the Miami Dade school board and said she was just a ‘kid’ during her abuse and was afraid she was going to ‘ruin someone’s life’
Keep This Between Us premieres Monday August 29 at 9 p.m. on Freeform as a two-night event and will be available to stream on Hulu
According to a 2017 case study by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), those most likely to fall victim to sexual misconduct by a school employee are female high school students, just like Cheryl.
When Cheryl decided to move to California to pursue a career filmmaking, the relationship ended.
She noted that her former drama teacher never faced any consequences over their relationship, but he was fired from a job after he was caught having an inappropriate relationship with another student.
In the documentary, Cheryl tries to reach out to her former teacher for a comment.
‘I haven’t spoke to him in about 10 years and I surely hadn’t seen him.
‘I was really nervous. I had been through a lot of therapy and I was really concerned about being drawn back into his web in a way, to be totally honest.
‘I was afraid that he was going to be able to manipulate me,’ Cheryl told The Post.
She added that during their conversation he didn’t ‘directly deny’ the allegations and that she regretted reaching out to him.
‘I would not advocate victims to confront the people that groomed them or their abusers.
‘I would never advocate for a confrontational moment. There was a part of me that was naively jumping into it as a filmmaker and I had no idea what would happen to me. It’s been a long road.’
Cheryl has reexamined her relationship with herself and others since she began working on Keep This Between Us and hopes that her part personal narrative and part cultural exploration documentary will foster more conversations about the warning signs of grooming.
Keep This Between Us premieres Monday August 29 at 9 p.m. on Freeform as a two-night event and will be available to stream on Hulu.