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Risking It All: My Student, My Lover, My Story

by Heather E. Ingram

Heather Ingram’s memoir about her affair with a 17-year-old student explores one of today’s trickiest topics – the sexual exploitation of minors. In Risking It All Ingram recounts her stark childhood, the emotionally and sexually intense relationship with her underage student, and the legal and social repercussions she largely brought down on herself.

Ingram was 29 in 1999 and working as a math teacher in a small B.C. town when the affair with “Troy” (his name has never been released) began. If not for her own decision to confess, it likely would have remained secret.

What makes this memoir stand out from other confessionals is the persuasive psychological context Ingram provides for her own experience. Well-written, heartfelt, and intelligent, Ingram’s account makes no attempt at excuse or justification. She admits to having been aware of the professional boundary she was violating. What she did not know was that the relationship with Troy, who was a few months shy of 18, made her a “sexual predator” and an offender under the criminal code.

As Ingram describes him, Troy was manly in appearance and overtly seductive and romantic. Ingram, who had an absentee boyfriend, was lonely and vulnerable, as well as sexually and socially inexperienced. One look at the beautiful Troy and she fell madly in love. The relationship seems to have been a deeply felt and committed one. Troy stayed with her through her trial and for some time afterward, and they planned to marry after Troy’s graduation.

Before the trial Ingram had “never even had a speeding ticket.” When she became a criminal and pariah in the press no one was more shocked than she. Her lively and thoughtful account of her own downfall serves as both a cautionary tale and a demonstration of the arbitrariness of our own fluctuating moral sensibilities.