A devout Mormon Sunday school teacher who sexually abused a teenage girl in her care has today been jailed for a least a year.
County Court judge Meryl Sexton said the woman was aware the girl was extremely vulnerable but her actions were not predatory.
The judge said the woman began abusing the girl when she was not coping with all the difficulties in her own life.
Her marriage was breaking down, her family's finances were precarious, her husband was ill and not working, and she was suffering from depression.
A psychologist believed the woman was specifically attracted to the girl but not teenage girls in general.
Judge Sexton said she was satisfied the woman had no sexual interest in females.
Raised a strict Christian and married at 19, she had led a sheltered life and never uttered a swear-word or drank alcohol.
A friend had never met a less worldly person.
The woman had been a respected church member, teacher, daughter, wife and mother, which made her fall from grace so much harder to understand, the judge said.
She was teaching Sunday school for the Mormon church when she first met the victim, who had been 11 years old at that time.
In 2009 when the girl was 15 and after her parents had separated, she went to live with the woman and her husband and their three sons.
The secondary school teacher would visit the victim three to five times a week as she slept in the loungeroom, kissing and touching her.
The offences occurred at the woman's family home and during a short trip away to Daylesford. They escalated to sexual penetration.
The woman stopped abusing the girl in December 2009 when the victim told her to stop.
Judge Sexton told the victim today she should be reassured that nothing that happened was her fault.
"Life is worth the battle," the judge said to the victim.
"Keep at it and know there are people who genuinely care about you."
The judge said the victim had suffered considerably as a result of the woman's actions.
The woman had turned to the girl for "psychological comfort" but her offending "provided anything but comfort for M (the girl)".
After being interviewed by the police, the woman resigned as the head of the school's history department and informed the church of her actions.
She became estranged from the church and was banned from receiving the sacrament.
The woman, 39, pleaded guilty to five charges including sexual penetration of a child under her care and committing an indecent act with a child under 16.
Judge Sexton said the woman was unlikely to reoffend and had committed crimes that would normally have been abhorrent to her.
The woman was jailed for a total of three years and one month with a one year non-parole period and placed on the sex offenders register for life.