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May 5, 2022 35 mins

Jenifer’s first conversation is with the victim of her ex-husband's most egregious acts. The teenage student that was sexually abused by Spencer Herron who was her teacher at the time. She is now a 21-year-old college student. She speaks about that experience publicly for the first time ever with Jenifer, his ex-wife. It’s a powerful exchange between the two women who never expected to meet one another. The victim’s account draws a roadmap of how a predator operates when a trusted adult targets a young person. Jenifer is devastated at the depravity of Spencer’s behavior. Both women find healing in sharing with each other and the community.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
This podcast discusses sexual assault. Please take care while listening.
I think we have to make sure people are supported
when they come forward. Lots of times people want to
come forward, but they're scared this person has groomed them.
You know, I'm the teacher. I do this, I got

(00:21):
this award. You know, I've been here for so long.
These people know me, so it's very hard for people
to come forward to begin with. Then the lawyers on
the defense side, they're going to ostracize them big time.
They're going to call him a slept they're gonna call
him a howard, They're gonna call them everything under the
book to embarrass them, and then that keeps other people

(00:41):
from coming forward. We really have to do a better job.
That was Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Brody Jr. I'm
Andrea gunning Is Betrayal, Episode three, breaking her silence. After

(01:12):
Spence was put behind bars, he would often rate Jennifer.
Here's an excerpt from a letter he sent after a
meeting with his attorney, Brian Hobbs. It offers insight on
how he viewed his relationship with the sexual soft victim.
Most of what she told the police was fairly accurate,
but her descriptions were sometimes way off. Brian says there

(01:33):
is great danger in putting much back on her because
it will take away my position of being remorseful, taking
responsibility for my actions, and admitting wrongdoing. My question to
Brian was, how do we lessen her half truths to
not make me look like such a monster or the
only instigator. Clearly I wasn't. But we've come back around

(01:54):
to the quote doesn't matter issue. My producing partner, Carry Hartman,
started emailing and calling women that Spencer had pursued while
he was married to Jennifer. Many refused to even acknowledge us,
but others wanted to talk. Hey Dre, Hey Jan. So

(02:16):
I'm glad we're connecting this morning because I do have
some news for you. Okay. So we did reach out
to the sexual assault victim's attorney, her civil attorney, really, Yeah,
and the victim she actually filed a case in twenty
nineteen against three school administrators. Okay. Actually, Carrie is the

(02:38):
one who spoke to him directly. Carrie, do you want
to fill us in? Yeah. So the attorney's name is
Mike Rafee. He's in Atlanta. Actually, we ended up talking
for almost an hour. Oh okay, So I don't know
if you're aware exactly when the assault started. But she
was fifteen and she was a sophomore at school. Okay.

(02:59):
Now she's a twenty one year old college student. She's
a young woman, she has agency. Yeah, she wants an
opportunity to tell her story. Okay, but before going on
the record, she would like to have a private moment
with you, one on one. She wants to meet in person. Yeah,

(03:21):
oh my god. I have not wanted to ever bother
her in any way because she's the victim in all
of this. You both are. You both are listen. If
she's willing that, that's huge, that's everything. Yeah. I mean,

(03:45):
I'm scared shitless, but I'm searching for all the missing
puzzle pieces to figure out who this person is that
I married. And you know, in turn, if it helps
her in some way, I'll do whatever I can. Jennifer

(04:06):
was scared shitless. We talked to her right before their
one on one. Two very brave women who never expected
to me just sat in a restaurant and listen to
each other, and then it went on the record. Thank
you very very much for doing this and for talking

(04:27):
to me and trusting me, and for sharing your story
because I think it's really really important. I'm shaking. Yeah,
me too. We have met once in person. What was
that a week ago? Yeah? It was I told you

(04:49):
then that I'm just really sorry that this happened. Why
did you agree to talk with me? Well, I wanted
to talk to you first in person because I thought
and I still think, it helped me, and I hope
it helped you with the healing process, because us meeting
is a sign of empowerment and it's a chance for

(05:12):
us to start moving forward in a healthy way. This
is also a chance for me to in a way
to defend myself to the public eye with my own words.
It's one thing to go through the courts and have
an attorney talk for you, but it's also another to
step out and speak for yourself. So I'm just grateful

(05:35):
that we're here now. It was important that I see
you for who you were back then, which was a
young girl. What were you like in high school? Oh? Okay,
in high school, I was pretty shy. I didn't have

(05:56):
a lot of friends. I knew people, but I never
actually took the time to hang out with people. So
I was kind of lonely as a kid before everything
with Harn I had one boyfriend. It was someone I
went to the dance with. You know, when you're a

(06:17):
kid and you just you like someone and you hold
their hand. It was very innocent. I do look back
on that because sometimes I missed that innocence. I'm glad
that you had that. That was a nice memory to
look back on. Do you remember when you first met

(06:37):
Spence when he first became your teacher. Yeah. I took
the video production class, I believe my sophomore year and
that was level one, and so I was just basically
starting out with video production. I knew nothing about it,
so that's how I met him. We mostly got to
know each other during times of the Drone Club when

(06:59):
he first gave out his number to the club members.
It was mostly about shooting videos with the drone or editing,
and then he would write me more about just music
or sometimes movies. What was he like as a teacher
when you first started with him, Very energetic, just very

(07:23):
nice to be around. At first. It was fun that class.
I had a lot to look forward to with learning
about equipment and editing, and he seemed very excited about
his curriculum and motivated to teach his students. You know,
when you take classes that are not academic in high school,
it's a relief because it gives you a chance to

(07:46):
be creative. And it was also that trust that you
had in someone who was also so motivated to be
a mentor in his students' lives. So I saw him
at first as someone I trust. You know, if I
ever felt like I needed to talk to him about
school and I felt safe at first to do that,

(08:09):
of course you're going to trust that person. Yeah, Yeah,
And I think that might be what some people don't
understand about this is there's a grooming process. Do you
feel like that might have been your situation. I think
the students in general, those who were not sexual abuse victims, were,

(08:33):
I want to say, groomed in a way where he
made sure that no one saw him in that way.
But me, as a sexual abuse victim, I was groomed
in the way where that trust was implemented to violate
boundaries over and over again. The reason my ex husband's

(08:54):
in prison is because you were brave enough to come
forward and report something, and so many times it doesn't
get reported. Yeah, it doesn't. Unfortunately, when do you feel
like that first boundary was really crossed? We were talking

(09:15):
about shooting this video or like short movie with the club,
and he had texted me that he had feelings for me.
I remember feeling I don't know, I guess shock. It's
an understatement. I just felt so. Yeah, I guess shocked
as the word that was the Yeah. That was the

(09:38):
first time, at least when the boundary was crossed. And
he told me that he wanted to talk about it
in person, and I agreed to because I thought maybe
we could talk about it and that would be that.
When I met him at school, classes were about to
end around three. They didn't quite and yet, so school

(10:01):
hadn't ended yet. But he brought me back to the
control room and that's why he kissed me. How did
you respond. It's kind of a blur. I'll be honest.
It didn't feel right. I guess I was just confused
in a way, and I think maybe I could have
just had a say in it. I don't I don't know,

(10:23):
like I felt like it was wrong in my heart,
but when he kissed me, he would reassure me and say, well,
you know, it's because I love you. This is why
you know, this is why this is okay, because we're
meant to be together. At the time, was it a

(10:46):
shock or what went through your mind? It was a shock.
What I remember feeling most was really confused. I think
I was more confused with a grown adult telling me
that they had these feelings for me. That you see
it in movies, you know when someone confesses their feelings,

(11:09):
and as a kid, it's shocking when someone tells you
at the time that they love you and they have
these feelings for you that they don't want to hide,
and that you're special. It was a shock. I remember
him specifically saying that he had never felt this way

(11:30):
before with anyone, and that I was special to him.
That's how he made me feel. He made me feel
special and could I could trust him if I ever
needed to talk to him about anything or anything personal. Sorry,

(11:50):
this part is hard for me, but this is what
this journey is about. It's not easy, but getting the
clarity and the answers and filling in those blanks that
you don't know about help so much. And just bear
with me. I know I can hear it. I told

(12:11):
you this when we met. I do not judge you.
I do not hold you responsible. I am not mad
at you, none of those things. You know, how could
I be. You were the biggest victim in all of this,
and I know that, and I understand that. So it

(12:31):
sounds like there was some kind of I hate calling
it a relationship, but some kind of relationship established where
you guys talked more than just school stuff. If he
was developing these feelings for you, I hate calling it
a relationship too. And I was really thinking about this

(12:53):
because I was recently in court and the school said
that this was a relationship ship, basically placing the blame
on me that I was instigating this. I understand what
you mean when you say it. You know, it's different
from when you say it versus when someone's placing the

(13:14):
blame on a fifteen year old kid. But he established
with everyone a talking basis, if that makes sense, Like
he would give out his phone number to everyone, and
I think that was as a cover in a way
to make it look like it was normal for him
to talk to anyone over the phone. As far as

(13:36):
you know, is that normal for a teacher to give
out their cell phone number? At the time, I thought
it was normal. But then there was another teacher at
CAL and I wasn't in that club, but I overheard
students in this teacher speaking and they asked, well, you know,
it would be easier if we just have each other's numbers,
and I remember him strictly saying no, no, no, no.

(13:59):
You know that I will never do that. And that's
when it kind of clicked for me that this wasn't normal.
So how did he justify doing this with a student?
The first thing he said to me was, I've never
done this with a student. I've never felt this way
about anyone. The constant violations of boundaries, you know, had

(14:23):
the excuse of, well, this is what boyfriends and girlfriends do.
It's because I love you that we're doing this. And
he used my faith against me. You know, it's really
a true form of manipulation. How did he use your
faith against you? He would say that God brought us together,

(14:46):
that we were meant to be, that it was all
a part of a cosmic plan, and you know, as
a fifteen year old, I felt really special to him.
Did you ever talk about if it was wrong or not?
Maybe not even teacher student, but the age difference or

(15:09):
him being married. I didn't think about him being married.
I just thought of him as or it's co chairing,
because I only saw him for the club and you know,
for school, and it was always just co chairing to me,
so like his personal life, I didn't even really think
of it. You know. I expressed to him that I

(15:31):
was a virgin and I don't know if I was
ready for anything, and you know, it was always the
same excuse. He would tell me that it would be okay,
that he wouldn't hurt me, and that he loved me.
That was really the main excuse that he gave me
because I was hesitant a lot as a kid, especially

(15:51):
with the sex. I wasn't ready. At fifty, I didn't
really even think about sex. And then when it was
happening with him, I didn't want to think about sex
because I felt ashamed in a way. He trained me
to be a woman and I was still a kid,
so I was really confused. I just remember being really

(16:14):
confused as a kid. The only times I do remember
vividly are the ones that were forced, because they're so vivid.
I always felt like I had to do things I
just didn't want to do. But at that time, my
feelings for him were already growing, and he would just
reassure me that it was okay because he loved me.

(16:38):
Even when there were times when he forced himself on me,
he'd say, you know, I'm so sorry. You know I
love you. I'm so sorry. You know this will never
happened again. And I believed him. Oh my god, Yeah,
I didn't know that person, and I'm so sorry. I know.

(16:58):
Why do you think he shows you to go after
and pray on? I think he went after me because
it was very obvious. I was insecure. You know, I
didn't have a lot of friends, and I was sheltered.
I didn't have anyone to talk to. And I think
he knew I was a pretty room my kid, and

(17:20):
so he used that trust that I had in him.
I've done a lot of research. I'm sure you have
as well. It's textbook rooming and predator behavior, and I
didn't see it, and I know some people probably don't
believe that, like there must have been signs. I can

(17:43):
tell you if there was any hint or sign, I
would have spoken up and done something about it. How
do you think he got away with all of this?
I don't think he just woke up one day decided
to do this. He was very calculated with how he

(18:04):
was with everyone, all the students he talked to, especially
the ones in drum club. He was just very calculated
with every interaction he had with everyone. He put on
the face that needed to surface at that time with
that person, no matter if it was you or his kids.
For me, he was that person that he needed to

(18:25):
be at that time. Yeah, I lived under the same
roof with this person, and I am embarrassed. You shouldn't be.
You didn't know. I know, but you know you understand shame,
I do. I do. You shouldn't feel a shamed Yeah.
Did he ask you to keep it a secret? Yeah,

(18:48):
he specifically told me. He said, change my name on
your phone to just one of your friends. And I
had a really hard time with that. But I listened
to him and he would say, no one could know
about this or else, you know, he could be with me.
And that was the hardest part for me because I
was close with my parents and I'm so close with them.

(19:11):
It was just, you know, heavy forms of manipulation. Saying
I love you, that we have to preserve what we
had is what he'd say, and That's how high school was.
After sophomore year, I was just completely confused, and I
just felt the whole time angry and so insecure, and

(19:32):
I just remember walking through the hallway. I wanted to
scream it or just say it to someone, and then
I thought, who could I tell this too? Who wouldn't
judge me, you know, because I was so scared that
I would be judged by whoever I told. I remember
thinking I wish Haron wasn't Haron at that time, because
I trusted him so much. I felt like he was

(19:53):
that person I could go to for anything, and I
felt so sad that I couldn't go to him to
talk about how this was happening to me from him,
If that makes sense, Yeah, because I felt the same way.
You know, here my husband gets arrested right in front
of me, and that's my best friend, you know. Yeah,

(20:17):
that's the person that makes me feel safest in the world,
and they can't even be there for me because the
damage was done by him. Yeah. Did he talk about
plans for the future. He did. He would talk about
that often, you know. He'd say, I really want to
continue this when you graduate and go to college, and

(20:41):
he'd say, I see you as my confidant, my best friend.
He'd say stuff like that, Did I ever come up?
Did he ever talk about his wife leaving me? So
he didn't bring you up on his own. I brought
you up because I remember seeing this picture of you

(21:03):
and him behind his desk and I didn't know who
that was. He said, oh, that's my wife, and I said, oh, okay.
I think he could tell that I was shocked and
I was starting to feel really uneasy about it. I
remember feeling really sick to my stomach about it. He
told me that you two were planning on getting a divorce,

(21:24):
and how his friends were on board with the divorce,
and that I shouldn't feel bad about it at all. Wow,
that is so crazy looking back, I don't know how
someone could live with so many lives and grew to
sleep at night and knowing that you've manipulated everyone in

(21:47):
your life from the moment he woke up until the
moment he fell asleep. Did you realize at the time
that what he was doing is illegal? I wasn't sure

(22:08):
about the laws when I was a kid. I didn't
really think about it. He just made sure in my
head keep what we have, you know, keep this safe,
because this is special. That's all I ever thought about.
I never thought about it being illegal up until, you know,
when I told my parents. So talk to me about

(22:30):
why you decided to tell your parents. I planned on
not telling them at all. I thought I'd take this
to the grave. I didn't want to tell anyone. I
had this health class and she was talking about STDs
and I never thought about that when I was fifteen, sixteen, seventeen.

(22:52):
I never thought about that until I took that class,
and I remember her doing this demonstration. Everyone was lining
up in the classrooms. It was something really simple, like
just people like touching each other's shoulders and class just
showing like how it could spread so easily. I don't know,
it just kind of it just clicked. I guess. I
just remember being scared that maybe I had caught something.

(23:15):
You know. I put all the stories he told me together.
He was boasting about this one interaction he had with
two women, and it just like all these things kind
of popped in my head at that time, and I
got and it just scared me. What was that story
he had told me that he had a three way
with two women? He would he would tell me things.

(23:39):
Telling your parents that had to have been so hard.
You know, when I did tell them, I felt like
I immediately regretted it. Regretted. I felt responsible for what
my parents went through. The eye unloaded this huge burden
onto them. That's why I felt like I regretted that
for a while. I never regretted going to the police,

(24:02):
but I just regretted telling my parents. In my case,
the police were really helpful and they did such an
amazing job with the whole thing. They never made me
feel any type of shame. Was there any relief when
you did tell your parents? Yes, I did feel relief

(24:25):
when I told my parents, although you know the healing process,
you and I both know it's not a straightforward shot.
Sometimes you relapse and you go back and forth, and sometimes,
like at first, I sometimes regretted it just because of
all the pain that it brought up. I felt like
I dragged them into something that I didn't even plan

(24:46):
on telling anyone at all. Gosh, it's so interesting that
you say burden, that you put this huge burden on them,
because you know I did that too, with my family
and friends, with my whole community. I mean, we all
had to deal with it. Yeah, my problem was their problem. Yeah,

(25:08):
after you reported it to the police, did they tell
you what the next step was going to be? Did
you know what would happen after that? I wasn't even
thinking about the next step at the time. I mean,
I'm pretty sure that they let me know that, you know,
certain court hearings would happen, But other than that, I
was just processing this whole thing and trying to sit

(25:29):
with my parents through it. Did you know that he
would be arrested? I did? Yeah. By that time, you know,
I realized that what I was going through wasn't right,
you know, me feeling depressed and just completely devastated all
the time. I hadn't inkling that this was legally wrong.
It must have been hard to share the intimate details

(25:52):
that you had to share with them, It was, But
the police didn't make me feel humiliated. You know, they
were very understanding as you you know, retold the story
to the police. Did you realize then how wrong? Like,
did the pieces I'll start kind of coming together it? Did?

(26:14):
You know? Just as I got older, and what really
happened for me was when he was deployed and he
was just gone, that I could see things more clearly.
And you know that that last time, you know, senior year,
when he was gone, I felt relief that I could
kind of start opening up to being more me, not

(26:37):
just hiding myself away, and I could start to also
see things more clearly. And I realized how good I
felt when he was gone versus when I was always
under his watch. You know, he had that power over me.
So when he was gone, I could actually live and breathe,
you know, and through that I got a lot of clarity.

(27:00):
It just clicked. That makes so much sense. He was
deployed January twenty eighteen. He came back from deployment two
weeks before graduation. Yeah, what about all the comments I
know on social media, people commented on the news stories,
people commented a lot of people, a lot of students,

(27:24):
a lot of former students. Pretty much anybody I talked
to didn't believe it and were shocked. Said he would
be the last person that would ever do something like this.
I mean, I didn't think this then, but I know
this now. It's always the people that you least expect,
you know. That's what I've read, you know, with research

(27:46):
at that time, when people were saying that I had
made it up, or that a student was maybe making
it up. I wasn't necessarily angry, because it can happen
that people do make these things up. But I knew
that I was standing in my truth because there was evidence.

(28:07):
You know, they would see it, you know, as soon
as he got convicted. So I wasn't necessarily angry. If
you hadn't spoken up, what do you think would have happened.
I think there would have been another victim. Thank god.
I mean, you saved my life, and you were brave
enough to do that. And I know it kind of

(28:31):
sounds dramatic, but literally, you saved my life. I mean
I was put in a really dangerous position. He was
also doing this to grown women. Yeah, yeah, I think
there's a lot of people that are silently thanking you.
You know, a grown woman is saying thank you for

(28:55):
speaking up. I'm just happy he's stopped. It's done with him.
So tell me about how the school responded. I had
actually never been in the courtroom, not for the criminal
investigations or anything like that. This was the first time
I was in court for the civil matter. When I

(29:16):
was in court for the summary judgment, they made it
sound like it was in a way my fault, because
according to them, it was my decision to take the class,
and you know, they called it a relationship, which made
it sound like it was on me. They made me

(29:37):
feel like the guy was on trial. In a way.
It was pure victim shaming. I just felt so misunderstood.
I usually, you know, keep things together. I don't know.
I don't cry in public. This is how I am,
but I broke down. I felt so misunderstood. I can't

(29:57):
even begin to say how hurtful it really was to
have the schools say that, in a way, this was
my fault. That's a lot. That's something no one should
ever ever have to go through. This isn't about me anymore.
This is bigger than me. Now. What happened to me

(30:20):
happened to me. I'm working on my healing and you know,
I'm doing what I've got to do. But there are
other kids out there who are now going through the
same thing. It's about them, especially with Cobb County. You know,
this is happening again with them, and I feel so
sorry for the family involved. This is a fight for

(30:44):
all the kids who feel like they can't speak up,
and no wonder I felt like I couldn't speak up
at the time because look what happened from me speaking up,
They shamed me. I think we've both learned that just
sharing this stuff, if it can help one other person,

(31:04):
be brave. Yeah, you're absolutely right. I think this is
a rare thing for someone in your position and someone
in my position to come together and unite against something
so horrific that happened to you and I and other women. Especially.
This happened before at kel. There was a girl who

(31:27):
was assaulted and she was shamed, and there are are
victims now and there will be in the future because
of the negligence of the system. Yeah. I just hope
that this will help someone out there, that's all I want.
I just want this to help someone who's going through
the same pain that you went through and that I

(31:49):
went through. That's all. I was shaking so hard when
we first started talking, and I just I have none
of that nervousness anymore. I am so blown away by
the adult that you have become after going through that

(32:12):
as a child. Thank you, and I'm proud of you.
I really appreciate that. So what does your future look like.
I've been stuck for so long, you know, over analysis paralysis.
It was sometimes consuming. My plan is is that I
want to get to this point where I'm okay with

(32:33):
myself and I can start putting myself out there again.
I'm slowly opening up. It's just it takes time. It
really takes time. Oh, I know. I remember there were
days I just would call my mom crying and say,
I can't do this anymore. I can't do this anymore.
I just had to keep reminding myself baby steps, and

(32:56):
I've come a long way. You have, I mean from
what you were through and then you reaching out to me.
That was very courageous. I just I'm really proud that
I get to talk to someone like you and that
I can share this. This is what helps keep the
world a good place. Yeah, you're absolutely right. Looking back

(33:20):
at that fifteen year old, what would you tell her?
I would tell her it's going to be okay, and
I would say I love you. Coming up on this
season of Betrayal, I'll talk with some of the women

(33:41):
who had affairs with Spence Hut. I was being used
whenever there was an need, but I really thought that
he loved me. I came to your house once he
invited a woman into my house. He did, and about
I wasn't the only one. And I'll also speak with

(34:03):
Spencer himself yet charges and consent to this recording call
press one. And on next week's episode, all of those goals,
every single one of them, he would message them, Let's
get coffee, Let's get drinks. Nicole's boyfriend actually told her
to stop texting him because he was like, this is

(34:23):
your high school teacher. Why is he asking you to
go get drinks? You're eighteen. We were all like, Oh,
it's just Coacharan. If you'd like to reach out to
the Betrayal team, email us at Betrayal Pod at gmail
dot com. That's Betrayal Pod at gmail dot com. Betrayal

(34:48):
is a production of Glass Podcasts, a division of Glass
Entertainment Group and partnership with Ihart Podcasts. The show was
executive produced by Nancy Glass and Jennifer Fason, hosted and
produced by me under Gunning, written and produced by Carry Hartman,
also produced by Ben Fetterman. Our iHeart team is Ali
Perry and Jessica Krinchik. Special thanks to voice actor Todd Gans.

(35:11):
Sound editing and mixing done by Mount de Vecchio. Betrayal's
theme was composed by Oliver Bain's music library provided by
my Music and For more podcasts from iHeart, visit the
iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
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