EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 20, 2013

Lawsuit: Pike School alum says he was raped by female teacher at age 15

By Mark E. Vogler
mvogler@eagletribune.com

---- — BOSTON – An alumnus of the Pike School claims he was sexually abused and raped two decades ago by a 50-year-old woman teacher at the independent Andover school.

The alumnus, now 34, alleged in a 21-page lawsuit filed today in Suffolk Superior Court, that the teacher – Judith Elefante (Judith Chapell at the time) - began having sex with him when he was 15 and in the ninth grade. The relationship continued when the former Pike student went to the Groton School, a private, Episcopal, college preparatory boarding school in Groton; Andover High School and later college.

Elefante, 70, of Newburyport; the Pike School; and three former Pike school administrators are among 16 defendants named in the lawsuit filed by Boston attorney Carmen L. Durso. The Groton School and 10 of its school administrators and teachers are also named as co-defendants.

"As a result of the negligence of defendant the Pike School, plaintiff John Doe was sexually assaulted, battered and raped by defendant Elefante, and has suffered serious and permanent physical and emotional injuries," the lawsuit alleges.

The Pike School, 34 Sunset Rock Road in Andover, is an independent, coed, day school for grades prekindergarten through nine.

Durso seeks a jury trial to determine the amount of compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and other costs.

The lawsuit alleged that John Doe wasn't the only Pike student who was sexually abused by Elefante, who worked as a classroom teacher, an advisor, a secondary school counselor and a sex education instructor.

"Starting in the early 1980's, and continuing at least through 1994, defendant Elefante engaged in sexual activity with minor students who attended the Pike School, and was a serial abuser," according to the court complaint.

"Defendant Elefante used her position and her authority as a teacher to identify, and to groom, potential victims. The professional medical literature relating to young males who are abused by adult females emphasizes that they are unable to understand that they are being victimized by perpetrators who have used them for their own sexual pleasure," the complaint says.

The student didn't understand that he was being raped and sexually abused by Elefante for her sexual pleasure or that he had been harmed by this conduct until two years ago, according to the lawsuit. That's when Pike's Head of School John M. "Muddy" Waters said he had fired Elefante after allegations of her involvement with the student came to light.

“Upon first hearing of this in 2011, Muddy immediately met with Ms. Elefante and she acknowledged only that she had provided advice and support to this particular alumnus while he was at Pike,” Waters and Andrew Chaban, chairman of the school’s Board of Trustees, wrote in a letter to the Pike School community last month.

“She confirmed that their relationship continued after he left Pike and that, in fact, the relationship developed into a sexual one,’’ the letter continued. “As a result, Muddy made a decision to terminate Ms. Elefante from further employment at Pike.’’

But the lawsuit filed today alleged that Elefante's abuse of the student began while he was still at the Pike School. The sex took place in Elefante's Andover home, her car and later in the student's dormitory room at Groton, according to the complaint.

On one occasion, a roommate at Groton caught the victim having sex with Elefante in their dorm room. The complaint adds that the teacher also attended several of Groton football games and afterwards arranged for the victim to drive back in her car so she could have sex with him in the car and at various public parking areas in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

"Defendant Elefante did everything possible to convince John that they were engaging in a normal sexual relationship, despite the disparity in their ages," the lawsuit alleged.

Attached to the lawsuit are copies of love letters, cartoons, notes, and cards which "show a progression from intense personal attention, as part of her grooming process, to continued unequivocal professions of her love for John," it continued.

The lawsuit noted that John had "significant academic potential, as demonstrated by his 800 score on his verbal SAT and 660 on the math portion, and his admission to Groton on a full scholarship."

However, his school work at Groton suffered because of his "sexual obsession with defendant Elefante, and he left after the 10th grade," according to the complaint.He later graduated from Andover High School, despite attending about half of his classes, because he was skipping school to meet Elefante for sex. When he went to college, Elefante sold him a car for $3,000 so he could commute home to see her. He initially withdrew from college before the end of his first spring semester, then left school before the end of the following fall term.

The victim didn't graduate from college until last October, when he received a bachelors degree from Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Read more about the lawsuit in tomorrow's Eagle-Tribune