Mary Kay Letourneau, who died of cancer in July, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for child rape

Editor's Note: This story was originally published in May 2020. It is being republished following the death of Mary Kay Letourneau.


Months after the legal separation between Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau, the former student is starting to process his decades-long relationship with the teacher who raped him when he was 12.

"He's starting to get some perspective," a source close to Fualaau tells PEOPLE. "He sees things clearly now, and realizes that this wasn't a healthy relationship from the start."

The abusive relationship began when Fualaau was just 12 years old and Letourneau was his sixth-grade teacher. Ultimately, she was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for child rape in connection with Fualaau. She twice became pregnant by him before he was 15, despite court orders aimed at keeping them apart.

Vili Fualaau, Mary Kay Letourneau

By the time she was released from prison, Fualaau was an adult — and he petitioned the court to allow them to see each other. A restraining order against Letourneau was dropped, but Letourneau remains a registered sex offender in Washington state.

The couple married in 2005, despite the criminal history of their relationship.

The couple headed for a split in 2017, after Fualaau filed for legal separation. Despite several reconciliation attempts since then, the case moved to private arbitration in February 2019. The separation became official late last year.

She is now 58; he is 36.

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ABC News & Barbara Walters 20/20 Exclusive: Mark Kay Letourneau Fualaau and Vili Fualaau on Their 10th Anniversary
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Even after the split, Letourneau and Fualaau still lived together. They were occasionally spotted out in the Seattle area. They both remain active in the lives of their two daughters, Georgia and Audrey.

The couple now lives separately.

"After the split, he started really going over things in his mind," the insider tells PEOPLE. "Just thinking about how they met, and how that affected how they interacted as adults. He was never really a full-fledged partner; he was always secondary. He sees that now."

"It shouldn't surprise anyone," the insider continues, "but he's feeling that for the first time, he's being like a real grown adult. That feels good for him."