NORWICH – A former dance instructor, Travis St. Denny, 28, of Norwich, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday after admitting his guilt relating to the molestation of one of his students, and encouraging another to make pornographic material.
District Attorney Joseph McBride said the case involved the touching of at least one victim and the solicitation of several other underage dance-youths to either engage in sexual acts or send the defendant inappropriate images.
McBride said the investigation involved at least seven victims and expanded activities over the last 10 years, when St. Denny worked as a dance instructor at the Perkins School of the Arts in Norwich. He pleaded guilty in July to two counts of criminal sexual act and promoting an obscene performance of a child; all D-class sex-crime felonies.
As part of a wider national awareness campaign, the district attorney's office along with several other officials, victims and family members wore blue clothes or displayed blue ribbons to show support for victims of child abuse.
“This case has torn this community apart,” said McBride, explaining the incident had rocked local perception of the well-known, local, dance studio.
“Some people can't see how horrendous these crimes are, and there are some who will never forgive. Many in the community will never have the same relationship with the studio they once did.”
Two of the victims spoke in court during the proceedings and one had a statement read to the court.
THE VICTIMS SPEAK OUT:
The first victim to speak told the court:
“Travis, this would have been the year I shared my reflections of being a senior,” he said, “But instead I am reading my victim impact statement to you.”
The victim said he felt anger and guilt for having trusted his teacher saying, “my parents placed me in the care of a person who may molest me.”
The victim said that since the incident came to light he was unable to share his dance experiences and accomplishment with fellow classmates and peers out of fear of being stigmatized. As an example he told the court was his opting away from mentioning dance memories in his yearbook.
“You deserve more than 10 years in prison,” he said. “All the kids are victims here, because you violated all of our trust.”
The second victim to speak in court said: