The teen’s downcast eyes and breaking voice told the story in the courtroom Wednesday — even before his pained words could be fully absorbed.
He wanted Shawn W. Salevsky to stop, and he tried to keep his distance from his teacher, the boy told a Northampton County judge. He wanted to voice his revulsion but couldn’t manage it, feeling just so isolated.
“I found it hard to even trust my own parents,” said the boy, who was 11 when Salevsky began molesting him in the middle school’s drama room, escalating abuse that stretched over two years. “I felt so violated and betrayed, I just didn’t know who I could trust.”
It is difficult for victims of sex crimes to face their abusers in court. And that wasn’t lost on Judge Paula Roscioli as she sentenced Salevsky to 41/2 to 11 years in state prison, saying he had shown no true remorse for his offenses.
“You did nothing wrong here,” Roscioli comforted the boy, now 14 and in counseling. “You had no obligation to keep this from happening. You were a child. … This should never have happened to you.”
Roscioli’s sentence represented a lengthier term than was recommended under guidelines for the charges to which Salevsky earlier pleaded guilty. It came as Roscioli concluded that Salevsky is a sexually violent predator, and as she noted that he was a teacher who violated a position of trust.
By finding the strength to report Salevsky last year, the boy may have prevented others from being abused, Roscioli said. He may also have given strength to other victims who worry that no one will listen to them, she said.
“I’m so very proud of how brave you were for coming forward,” Roscioli told the boy.
Salevsky, 40, admitted in November to statutory sexual assault, indecent assault and corrupting a minor. Upper Nazareth Township police said the abuse began in January 2011 and continued into early 2013.
Most occurred in the middle school’s drama room during school hours, when Salevsky would lock the door with just the two of them inside, according to court records.
It started with Salevsky rubbing the boy’s shoulders, supposedly to relieve his stress, prosecutors have said. Then the teacher started rubbing his back, his chest, his legs and the inside of his thighs.
On one occasion, Salevsky pulled the boy’s head down so it touched the teacher’s genitals. Salevsky would unzip his and the boy’s pants and try to lie on top of him, police said. Salevsky would also follow the boy into the bathroom and watch as he urinated, according to Assistant District Attorney Patricia Broscius.
Broscius has said Salevsky bought his victim clothes and other gifts and told him not to tell anyone. It was last March that the boy finally confided to a friend, and with her help they reported it to a school counselor, Broscius said.
Salevsky, formerly of Lower Macungie Township, was removed from the school March 18. The Nazareth Area School Board fired him in May, days before police filed charges.
In court, Salevsky’s attorney, Marc Neff, said his client took responsibility early on, pleading guilty and sparing the boy from having to testify at a trial.
Salevsky’s family packed one side of the courtroom in support of him. His mother, Linda Geisler, told Roscioli that the actions of her son, who had no prior criminal record, were “totally out of his character.”
“My son is a very special, good person — always has been,” Geisler said. “He’s a great teacher. A great actor. People loved him.”
Salevsky said that he wants treatment, and wants to understand what drove him to abuse his victim. He apologized to the boy, the boy’s family and his own family.
“This was a lack of judgment on my part and a mistake of moral compass,” Salevsky said.
But he also brought a rebuke from Roscioli, when he called it a “one-time” event.
“This went on for a long time,” Roscioli reminded him.
Several Nazareth school district officials attended Wednesday’s hearing but did not speak. Afterward, Superintendent Dennis Riker declined to comment.Salevsky worked at Nazareth Area Middle School for about three years. He previously was employed at Holy Family Elementary School in Nazareth, Allen High School in Allentown and the Lehigh Valley Charter School for the Performing Arts in Bethlehem.
Salevsky will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. By finding that he is a sexually violent predator — as recommended by a psychologist for the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board — Roscioli ensured that Salevsky will be under enhanced reporting and counseling requirements once he is released from prison.
Before Wednesday’s hearing, Salevsky had been free on bail, but he left the courtroom in handcuffs. Before Roscioli pronounced her sentence, she also heard from the victim’s mother, who said she and her husband struggle with guilt that they were unable to protect their son.
The mother said she thinks about the emotional turmoil her boy must have faced, spending two years afraid to disclose what was happening to him.
“As a mom, I cannot imagine how scared [he] must have been trying to keep up the facade, as he was sexually abused by someone he looked up to and trusted,” she said.
Roscioli also heard from Broscius, a veteran sex crimes prosecutor who said a message needed to be sent to the community that a child will be safe at school.
“They asked for mercy,” Broscius said of defense witnesses. “We ask for justice.”