It is time to break the silence that surrounds sexual abuse at boarding schools. It is not an isolated problem but an epidemic that has been going on unchecked for years.
Students at boarding schools are especially vulnerable to abuse because they live in a closed environment and are wholly dependent on the school for their daily needs. In an interview with PBS News Hour, Attorney Paul Mones noted that it is the very atmosphere private schools and boarding schools try to cultivate that makes them a magnet for abusers. Institutions that are “known for congeniality, conviviality, informal relationships, calling the teachers by their first name, coming over to the teacher’s house for studying, maybe for a glass of wine…” become breeding grounds for abuse because smart abusers know how to take advantage of lax boundaries between children and adults.
When a school chooses to look the other way in the face of abuse in order to preserve its culture or reputation, that institution becomes just as guilty as the abusers it harbored. Boarding schools that have protected abusers or themselves instead of their students need to be held responsible.
Close Bonds Between Boarding School Students & Staff Open The Door To Sexual Abuse
One of the supposed benefits of attending a boarding school is the opportunity to develop close bonds with teachers. But behind closed doors, some teachers are doing much more than educating their students.
Predators are able to use the expectation that they will have unusually close, and often unsupervised contact with children to their advantage. What may begin as an innocent invitation to stay after class is gradually built into something much more sinister.
The teacher or other staff member will work to become a student’s confidant, someone they can lean on. A casual observer might even consider this sort of student-teacher relationship one of the benefits of attending boarding school, which is why so many people are shocked when the charismatic teacher that everyone loved is revealed to be an abuser.
Then the touching starts. What may start as a quick pat on the back for a job well done slowly increases in intimacy until the predator is having their sexual urges gratified by the child. By that time, the child is in such a close, trusting relationship with their abuser they may not realize what is happening to them is abuse. Or they may realize it is abuse, but be too afraid or confused to speak up.
This process is known as grooming, and it is one of the oldest tricks in the sexual predator playbook.
Institutions that encourage such close, informal relationships between staff and students, and then fail to supervise their employees to ensure the relationships that are developing are appropriate, are just as guilty as the abusers they employ.
The actions of teachers, coaches, and support staff are all the responsibility of the school when the school has gone out of its way to foster a culture where abuse can flourish. Whether abuse occurs on or off-campus, boarding schools must be held accountable when their staff members are the perpetrators.
Passing The Trash
Although the sexual abuse of a child is a crime, there are many institutions that choose to deal with allegations of abuse in-house instead of contacting the police.
Many boarding schools are guilty of a practice known in the education world as “passing the trash.” When a teacher or other staff member is accused of sexual abuse, or even caught in the act, they are discreetly asked to leave the school, with the understanding that if they go quietly, the school won’t contact the authorities or mention sexual abuse should a potential employer call about a reference.
In his interview with PBS, Attorney Mones highlights a case where a school promised an alleged abuser a recommendation on their way out the door. The story also talks about an alleged abuser fired from Choate, who then applied at another school under a slightly different name. Choate appears to have noticed but chose to stay quiet about it until confronted by the media.
Boarding schools that look the other way, or attempt to address allegations of abuse in-house instead of contacting the police are just as guilty as the abusers they are protecting. It is time for them to be held accountable.
New Statute of Limitations Law Opens a Window of Opportunity
On October 13, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 218 into law. This new law gives past victims of sexual abuse more time to pursue justice. From January 1, 2020 until December 31, 2022, any student who was sexually abused at boarding school has the opportunity to file a lawsuit and see justice served. Even abuse that was previously determined to have occurred too long ago to do anything about is now actionable.
This is an important change in the law because scientific research has revealed that victims of childhood sexual abuse often need years or decades to come to terms with what happened to them.
California victim-survivors should all consider taking advantage of this new window of opportunity to file a lawsuit. Now is our chance to hold abusers, and the institutions that sheltered them, responsible for the harm they caused.
Contact Our Boarding School Sexual Abuse Attorney Today
It breaks our heart to hear from victim-survivors of boarding school sexual abuse that they have spent years thinking they were alone, or worse, that they were responsible for what happened. Until they saw a story on the news about others who were abused, or something in their mind clicked, they thought they were the only one who went through what they did. They lived for years trying to push memories of the abuse to the back of their mind. They spent years thinking they did something wrong instead of blaming the predator that hurt them, or the organization that failed them.
We are here to say you are not alone. There are others who have suffered just like you. Attorney Paul Mones knows this because he has dedicated the last 30 years to bringing sexual predators and the institutions that protect them to justice.
We are also here to stand with you so you never have to feel alone again. We will fight for you. We are on your side.
If you or a loved one was sexually abused by a teacher, coach, or another staff member at a boarding school – regardless of when it occurred – please contact our team to discuss your options.