Monday, 27 November 2017

Historic child abuse update

Three years ago I wrote about the appalling abuse that went on at my school. Since writing, there have been several successful prosecutions of teachers who sexually abused children or who downloaded child porn – including sick torture porn. And several unsuccessful prosecutions, including one slippery character who seems to avoid jail every time he is taken to court. I think witnesses feel too intimidated to give evidence.

This post is not going to be any easier.

The local education authority has written to ask for help with their enquiry to prevent such problems arising in future. But in my view not only will this do nothing to cure the problem (which has been going on for over 50 years at that place) but it’s just another way of the authorities saying something has been done when, in fact, nothing substantial will have been done at all. Lone wolves will still be predators and, when caught, the school authorities will close ranks and cover their behaviour up again, probably more so as they can’t afford a second scandal.

In parallel, the national investigation into historic abuse by senior figures, especially politicians, is constantly experiencing delays and difficulties and has run through no end of chairmen without getting very far. I suspect the powers that be will kill it off eventually. The Prime Minister is being accused in some sections of the press of orchestrating a cover-up. There is never anything really resembling justice in any of this. Most of the perps are dead for a start.

As ever, the emphasis in all this is on sex, but sexual abuse is actually one manifestation of the abuse of power and not directly about sex. Puritan sexual mores are still a British obsession. My complaint – and that of many of my peers – is about the violence and abuse we were subjected to, of which inappropriate sexual behaviour was a part (though undeniably the worst part). Children as young as 9 kicked and punched and slapped, heads banged on walls and against each other, their clothes ripped by teachers. The evidence given in court regarding boys being subject to oral sex and sexual spanking rituals made me feel ill and angry.

Obviously, being transgender at a school for boys was especially hard, and I can think of a couple of other pupils in my time who might have been trans, too. In many ways it served to put me right off macho culture and when I went into higher education and there were girls there I felt a whole lot happier and more relaxed, although the absence of violence and abuse was the best thing.

Here are just three images from my time at school that are burnt in my mind and sum it up:-

- Aged 10, a teacher gets irritated with a boy and he is asked to stay behind after class while the rest of us go for the afternoon break. Ten minutes later the boy emerges, face twisted in agony, barely able to walk. He has been kicked in the shins so many times that he hobbles for days and has livid bruises for even longer.

- Aged 11, a teacher gets irritated with the boy next to me and slaps his face repeatedly and with such force that his nose bursts. I can still hear that loud crack of meaty adult fist on child flesh. This boy, incidentally, is the class bully, but I feel sorry for him. His father, also a teacher at the school, is the most evil man I have ever met; even after all these years, nobody has ever beaten him for malice, and I’ve met some nasty characters in my years. The dad did nothing but beat this boy at home with his belt. It seems that the boy had little to look forward to in life but brutality at home and brutality at school. No wonder he was a bully. I guess he reckoned that’s how you get on in life. But we all knew of his horrible existence and didn’t therefore hold his nastiness that much against him. It was as well to be able to fight, though, and once when he attacked me I replied with a left hook that knocked him down and became legendary. He certainly respected me after that. We had an uneasy friendship and, like I say, I felt very sad for him. I don’t know whether he has made good in life or has gone to the wall. Maybe it’s best not to enquire.

- Aged 13, a teacher gets his amusement each lesson by selecting a pupil to answer a question and then slaps that pupil's cheeks in turn until he gives the right answer. It hurt all right.

And on and on and on and on, not to mention the sarcasm and verbal abuse as well, the constant, never-ending threats and random punishments. At least you could go home in the evenings. Well, all apart from those pupils who somehow are cajoled into teachers’ homes and rooms to be sexually assaulted. A longer description of this place is given in my earlier post.

One of the reasons I haven’t had kids myself is that I wouldn’t want someone, especially my own child, to go through that. The friends I’ve asked about their schools didn’t experience anything like this, though. That makes me doubly angry.

I doubt I will waste any more time talking to the authorities about this. It’s authority that is the problem in the first place, and with a current political situation here as deranged as it is I know that kids of the future are going to be brutalised as well. I am beginning to feel that conquering evil is impossible.

Sue x


  1. Clearly the incidents you relate are actionable child abuse. Assuming they took place in the 20th century, they were actionable at the time and anyone who has knowingly prevented such action is also culpable.

    The contrast with my experience at a boarding school run by a religious order couldn't be more different. When I was there in the 1970s, and indeed when my father was there in the 1940s, hot-blooded punishment was not allowed by any teacher, priest or lay. There certainly was corporal punishment: any teacher could order it, and the boy had to attend for its administration at the next drop-in punishment session (unless the teacher who ordered it was on duty, in which case it was deferred as the ordering teacher was not allowed to also administer it).

    At the same time, the teaching, and activities, and living arrangements were rigidly divided by cohort: each year your accommodation improved until by the upper sixth you were in an individual study/bedroom which was your fiefdom. So contact between cohorts was very limited (with a even a designated time for brothers to socialise) - rather regimented, but the opportunities for bullying or other abuse between older and younger boys was minimised, as a boy in the quarters of another year group would be very conspicuous.

    The reason for this reply under your post is to show that "it wasn't a different time": I attended an institution that absolutely recognised that relationships of authority have the potential to be abusive 70 and more years ago. Maybe it was distrustful towards the adults, and maybe it was rightly so.

    I am very sorry about your experience and that of your contemporaries. I replied to your earlier piece, and the above sets some context for that reply.

    1. Thank you, Demi. Your replies, here and to my previous post, are very valuable. So much of the time it is boarding schools and religious institutions that get the worst press in this area. But clearly your school was a model of correctness. One other friend of mine went to a boarding school and reports similar quality of care, with the single exception of when he was taking a bath and a teacher helped wash his private parts. In fact, that exception is the only exception I have heard from any of my friends. Given that boarding schools are becoming more popular (the Harry Potter effect?) I would hope that they are now properly constituted. Sue x

  2. I'm hopeful that the truth will out. Society has changed and what some for away with in the past, cannot and will not be tolerated in the future.

    Will the perpetrators be brought to justice? Not, I imagine, without a long and persistent push from those involved.

    Evil such as this can be defeated. It may well require time and persistence.

    Good luck. L x

    1. Thanks, Lynn. Most of the perpetrators and those who covered up their wrongdoing are dead, which is largely why I feel few people will see justice. We have seen half a dozen successful prosecutions, and some that failed through evidence not being brought or insufficient evidence. The government's repeated failures to get this historic abuse investigation properly started and to refuse to release evidence strikes me as showing a lack of willing and typical corruption at the top. It's not now an age to be weak in any way, through youth, sickness, ignorance, old age, etc. Sue x

  3. I was really sorry to read your post, Sue. No one should have to experience or witness such things ... such things should simply never happen. But they did, and they should be exposed. I hope that your posting provides some catharsis.