April 15, 2005 -- When Mary Kay Letourneau was released from prison in August 2004, she was required to register as a sex offender. Now, she's registered as a bride-to-be at Weddingchannel.com.
Letourneau, the pretty blond schoolteacher from suburban Seattle who spent 7 ½ years in prison for raping Vili Fualaau, one of her grade school students, apparently now intends to marry him.
Letourneau, 43, and the 22-year-old Fualaau are slated to say "I do" Saturday at a Seattle-area church in front of 200 guests, according to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. However, investigative journalist Gregg Olsen, who wrote an extensive account of the case in his book "If Loving You Is Wrong," said he believes there won't be a wedding until May.
The King County Recorder's Office currently has no marriage license or license application on file for the couple. Washington State law requires a three-day waiting period before a marriage license becomes valid.
WeddingChannel.com, which partners with major retailers to compile online gift registries, also lists April 16 as the Letourneau-Fualaau wedding date. Didi Engel, vice president of e-commerce for the site, couldn't confirm whether the couple was committed to that date, but was confident that the registry was legitimate. "We make sure that our retail partners are doing their due diligence with their clients," she said.
Whether or not the nuptials will take place this weekend, their online gift registry is quickly filling up. The requests for Villeroy & Boch casual china and Kate Spade stemware on their Macy's registry have been filled, but so far there have been no takers for the scone pan or pizza maker on their Williams Sonoma list.
A Gift That Might Be More Helpful Than a Gravy Boat
But what the couple may need more than that platinum band teapot on their Tiffany's wishlist could be long-term couples therapy. Therapists see serious obstacles for the couple and very little potential for a healthy marriage.
"It's no more realistic than a freakish reality TV show. The lack of social support for what they're doing will hurt their chances, and it's certainly going to be difficult for their children," said Roger Libby, a therapist and clinical sexologist and author of "Hooking Up: A Guide to Responsible Sex for Teenagers and Young Adults."
A union would be the second marriage for Letourneau, who was a 34-year-old married mother of four when she began a relationship with the then-12-year-old student. It would be the bridegroom's first.
The couple already has two daughters together. The girls, ages 6 and 7, have been raised by Fualaau's mother. Letourneau was pregnant with the older girl when she was arrested in 1997 and delivered their second daughter while in prison. The girls reportedly would serve as flower girls in any wedding ceremony.
There was no word on whether Letourneau's children from her first marriage might attend.
That Letourneau and Fualaau are still planning a future together despite the extraordinarily trying circumstances doesn't indicate they share love that has conquered all, according to Libby. On the contrary, he said, it suggests no particular depth or maturity of emotion.
"The attachment is strong, because it was made when he was so young," he said.
Libby said he believes the couple is confusing pheromonal attraction for love. "I don't doubt that there is a pheromone attraction, but he and she are not equals. They have an unhealthy, almost morbid, dependence."
Letourneau abused her position of authority in Fualaau's life, and they're both in denial, according to Libby.
"She's a predator with a criminal record. She took advantage of him. She exploited him. It's hard for us, culturally, to see a female as a predator, but women can be every bit, if not more, lust-driven as men," he said.
Libby said he is particularly concerned about the welfare of the couple's children. "I'm not a moralist, just a realist," he said. "Those kids are going to need help."
Sexual Abuse of Boys Often Overlooked
Roy Hodgson, a Seattle-area therapist, agrees that the couple's prospects are weak. "The big deal here, really, is even though he's male, he's still a survivor of child sexual abuse, and there doesn't seem to be any acknowledgement of the abuse on either her part or his," he said.
Hodgson, like Libby, believes there's a societal avoidance in confronting the prevalence of sexual abuse of children in general -- and in particular, of boys. About one in three girls is a victim of sexual abuse, while one in 10 boys is abused, according to recent studies.
"He's gotten the short end of the stick, gender-wise," Hodgson said of Fualaau.
Culturally, we have a tendency to overlook the emotional damage that boys can suffer from age-inappropriate sexual relationships, he added. Hodgson believes there's little hope for the couple unless they've truly dealt with the issue of child sexual abuse.
"There is no way that a boy of 12 has yet established his identity and has the ability to be intimate on an adult level. And it appears neither have addressed the abuse that he suffered," Hodgson said.
And even if they haven't surfaced yet, Fualaau also may begin exhibiting signs typical of a survivor of child sexual abuse, Hodgson said. He may become withdrawn or develop substance abuse problems.
"Victims of childhood sexual abuse tend not to be assertive in their relationships. There's a lot of shame, fear and distrust that follows victims into adult relationships," Hodgson said.
And Fualaau may ultimately come to resent Letourneau, Hodgson said. "He may get to a point where he says, 'Look at what I missed in my life.' Part of what was taken from him was a normal adolescence.'"
Laurie Moore, a California-based therapist who works with couples and individuals, echoes Hodgson's concerns for Fualaau and said she sees no chance for a healthy relationship to develop between Letourneau and her former student.
"The roots and foundation of their relationship are unhealthy," she said. "They have a fantasy dynamic going on right now, but that's likely going to end. There's something complicated going on in her that hasn't been resolved, and it sounds like they're confusing sex and love."
Letourneau is one of several female teachers accused of having sex with underage students. Cases in Florida, Kansas and Michigan have also drawn widespread media attention. And Olsen is worried that the impending Letourneau-Fualaau marriage sends a troubling message. "What's disturbing about this is that it paints a fairy tale ending that can somehow validate illicit, inappropriate behavior between an adult and a child."