Sex Abuse and Mental Illness: Book Explores Life of Disgraced Teacher Debra LaFave
More than a decade after her notorious sex scandal received international attention, Debra Lafave lives a quiet life as a mom
In 2004, Debra Lafave became nationally-known after she was arrested for having a sexual relationship with a student at the Tampa-area school where she taught. She was 24; he was 14.
The boy told police officers in Temple Terrace, Florida, that he had sex with Lafave three times in four days, according to court documents. One of those times was allegedly in a car while his 15-year-old cousin drove them around. He also said she performed a sex act on him multiple times, including during one encounter at her home.
The story became international news — partly because female teacher sex scandals were relatively rare at the time, and partly because Lafave was a tall, statuesque blonde.
In November 2006, Lafave pleaded guilty in Hillsborough County court to two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior. In court, she offered her “deepest apologies” to the boy and his family and said she was “deeply remorseful.”
Last year, one of Lafave’s friends, Joe Zuniga, wrote a tell-all book about her. Debra Lafave: A Crown of Beauty for Ashes. Zuniga tells PEOPLE that Lafave cooperated with the book, which contains several never-before-seen photos of the former teacher. (PEOPLE has been unable to reach Lafave for comment on the final version of the biography.)
The book details abuse, early sexual exposure and struggles with bipolar disorder. The book also claims that Lafave, who has reverted to her maiden name of Debra Jean Beasley, is still remorseful about her crimes.
Here are 4 revelations from the book.
1. Lafave Once Dated Backstreet Boys Singer Nick Carter
According to the book, Lafave’s first boyfriend was Nick Carter, who she dated for a year and a half. (Carter spoke about the relationship to Howard Stern in 2006, and claimed that they had split after she cheated on him with a girl.)
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At the time, the then-teenage Lafave was hoping for stardom. “The end of this relationship didn’t just mean a split from a longtime boyfriend,” the book states. “It was the end of a potential singing career. While the two were an item, Nick’s manager was working with Debbie — having her learn a song that he was considering having her record.”
When Carter and Lafave split, the manager stopped contacting her.
2. Lafave Was Allegedly Raped When She Was 13
In a 2006 interview with NBC, Lafave alleged that she had been raped by a classmate when she was in 8th grade. The book details the first alleged assault, which happened when Lafave was babysitting. Additional alleged assaults continued. Once, a teacher caught Lafave and her classmate in a bathroom at the school — an encounter Lafave now alleges was not consensual.
“I had a lot of fear,” Lafave told NBC news later. “You know when somebody has that kind of control over you, especially at 13. I didn’t tell anybody.”
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The book says the alleged assaults eventually stopped. “Though the abuse physical stopped at that time, the hole it left in her spirit remained forever,” the book says of the alleged assaults. “The traumatic life event was the first in a series of unfortunate, unhealthy sexual experiences for Debbie.”
3. Lafave Was In Love With Her Teenage Victim
When authorities suspected that Lafave was having a sexual relationship with a teen, they began recording her phone conversations. The book contains transcripts of the calls, which were affectionate and familiar. (PEOPLE has verified the transcripts for accuracy.) In the transcripts, Lafave tells the victim that he is being “weird” because he is worried about unplanned pregnancies. “That should be the least of your worries,” she says.
The book gives the victim a pseudonym of Jack. “Debbie envisioned a future with Jack,” the book states. “She dreamed of living with Jack and telling everyone of their relationship when he turned 18. Debbie didn’t view herself as a criminal.”
4. Lafave Has Undergone Years of Counseling Since Pleading Guilty
During her plea agreement proceedings, Lafave disclosed that she was undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder. The book delves into her treatment after her arrest. At first, according to the book, “she insisted that the sexual feelings were initiated by the victim. She was very angry with him. [She thought] he had been a willing participant in all of their engagements.”
The book says that she slowly began to understand the ramifications of what she had done. “After getting involved in therapy, she realized that she was the adult. She realized that she should have been the one not to cross the line. She felt sorry that Jack and his family had to suffer because of her actions.”