By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
Casteix and her father were sent to visit Orangewood Children's Home. There, social workers interviewed Casteix and her father—separately and together—to determine if there was any abuse at the Casteix home. Afterward, under doctors' orders, Joelle spent 72 hours at UC Irvine Medical Center's psychiatric ward for observation, then was required to stay an additional two weeks.
"Before the end of the school day when I showed up with rope burns, the psych-ward door was locked behind me," Casteix says. "I still had my school uniform on. The wheels turned really fast."
* * *
During the summer of her junior year, Casteix and a friend visited Mater Dei. The longtime choir director had just resigned, and the two wanted to meet the new guy: Thomas Hodgman, a 26-year-old recent graduate of Chapman University.
Hodgman stood up from behind the desk in his office to greet the two girls, but he only showered compliments on Casteix. "I heard a lot about you," she remembers him saying. "How you're so talented and hard-working. I heard about your mom, too, and I'm so sorry because my dad had the same problems."
The teen was flustered. "I felt special," Casteix says. "Everyone else seemed to talk trash about me, but here was a teacher who said he understood."
This new teacher made a concerted effort to connect with students, speaking freely about his life and encouraging teens to do the same. "We knew about his girlfriend, knew about his friends—Hodgman was young and cool, so everyone liked him," Casteix says. "Students began hanging out in his classroom after school, and no one gave it a second thought. He was a friend; he wasn't a teacher."
But general camaraderie turned into concerted overtures toward Casteix. Compliments begat hugs, which begat attempted kisses that a scared Casteix rejected. On choir trips to performances and competitions, he'd sit beside her. One day, Hodgman told Casteix he was moving and was asking students to help him pack up. She asked her parents for permission, and they agreed. When the 15-year-old Casteix showed up, she was the only student there.
"What I needed at the time was an adult to give me advice," she says. "That's why I trusted him at first, before the abuse happened. I thought he could help me deal with my emotional problems. Instead, he took advantage."
For the next two years, Hodgman had sex with Casteix repeatedly. No one suspected a thing. Casteix kept earning straight A's at school and worked at Elizabeth Howard's Curtain Call Theater in Tustin. She even dated boys her age. But Hodgman was relentless. Hodgman would ask to see her before class, after class, weekends, everywhere and anywhere. She told some friends about the abuse; Hodgman found out and threatened them, even told Casteix he'd make sure she didn't attend college if she breathed a word about it. He also told her she wasn't the only Mater Dei student he was having sex with.
"It's like a bunch of kindergartners fighting a fire," Casteix says of why no one told an adult about Hodgman's abuse. "They know that a fire is wrong, and they know that you need water to put it out, but they don't know how, exactly, to put it out."
After graduating from Mater Dei in 1988, Casteix was supposed to accompany Hodgman and the rest of the choir to Australia. She ditched the trip, enrolled at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and thought she was rid of Hodgman for good.
Around Thanksgiving weekend of 1988, Casteix's parents received a bill from UC Santa Barbara. Casteix had visited the school's health clinic to treat a venereal disease she says Hodgman transmitted to her. Her parents went ballistic. "If you had just kept your legs shut, we wouldn't have any problems," her mom sneered. Her dad merely called her "inexpensive." After a lot of screaming and crying, the family vowed never to discuss the matter again.
The emotional toll of the encounters with Hodgman left Casteix distrustful of everyone and estranged from her family. Only her roommates knew, along with some Mater Dei classmates who also attended UCSB.
* * *
In the fall of Casteix's sophomore year at UCSB, the campus teemed with angry protesters brandishing pictures of aborted fetuses. The 15th anniversary of Roe v. Wade had passed the previous year, and Operation Rescue was holding rallies on campus. As an English major, Casteix wanted to test her writing chops and submitted an op-ed piece to the school's student newspaper, Daily Nexus. It appeared on Oct. 18, 1989, and contained a shocking confession: Not only did Casteix talk about her relationship with Hodgman, but she also admitted to having aborted his child.
"I was not poverty-stricken. I was not raped," Casteix wrote. (Detractors continue to try to use the latter statement against her.) "I was not ignorant. I knew about birth control. I knew how to use it. . . . I was stupid, and I was wrong." She didn't reveal Hodgman's name, only that the man who got her pregnant was "10 years older than I was, a man who took advantage of my naivete and the fact I was deeply in love with him.