NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 20, 2013

Former private school teacher accused of student rape

Accused, now 70, lives in Newburyport

By Mark Vogler
Staff Writer

---- — BOSTON – An alumnus of the independent Pike School in Andover claims he was sexually abused and raped two decades ago by a then-50-year-old woman teacher who now lives in Newburyport.

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, known as "John Doe," went to the Groton School, a private, Episcopal, college preparatory boarding school in Groton; Andover High School and later college.

Elefante, now 70, a former resident of Andover now residing on Bromfield Street in Newburyport; as well as 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, located at 34 Sunset Rock Road in Andover, is an independent, coed, day school for grades prekindergarten through 9.

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

The lawsuit alleges 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 at the school.

"Starting in the early 1980s, 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.

"During 1992-1993, defendant Elefante groomed and sexually assaulted the plaintiff John, in essentially the same way in which she had assaulted students in the 1980s. (She) attempted to cloak her assaults on the plaintiff John and others as appropriate acts of interest or affection by a superior toward her students. ... (She) instead, was engaging in a recognized grooming process, used by sexual predators to lull their victims and make them compliant."

John 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 alleges that Elefante's sexual affair with the student began while he was still at the Pike School. The frequent sex involved masturbation, oral genital contact and vaginal intercourse. The sex took place in Elefante's Andover home, her car and later in John's dormitory room at Groton

On one occasion, John's roommate at Groton caught him having sex with Elefante in their dorm room. The teacher also attended several of the school's football games to see John play. After the games, Elefante would arrange for John to drive back in her car, instead of returning on the team bus with other students, 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 that "show a progression from intense personal attention, as part of her grooming process, to continued unequivocal professions of her love for John," the complaint continues.

The lawsuit says that John had "significant academic potential, as demonstrated by his 800 score on hisverbal SAT (99 percentile) and 660 on the math portion (90 percentile), and his admission to Groton on a full scholarship."

"However, John's school work at Groton suffered because of his sexual obsession with defendant Elefante, and he left after the 10th grade," the suit says.

John 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.

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

Read more about the lawsuit in tomorrow's Daily News.