After nearly a year of painful disclosures and multiple investigations into past sexual abuse at St. George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island, a financial settlement (details have not been disclosed) has been reached for the victims and the findings of an independent investigative report have been released. Day One has been working with St. George’s victims since the beginning, and we are confident the courage of these survivors will encourage others to come forward and begin their healing process.
This is certainly not the first time systemic sexual abuse at a private school has been brought to light, as detailed in the Boston Globe Spotlight story earlier this year, Private Schools, Painful Secrets.
According to the Globe article, more than 200 students have been victims of sexual abuse and harassment at New England private schools since the 1950’s. At least 90 students or their families have filed lawsuits or other legal claims related to sexual abuse at New England private schools. At least 67 private schools in New England have been affected by allegations of sexual abuse by employees disclosed over the past 25 years.
Beyond the numbers
While the numbers are upsetting and might be surprising to many, it’s important to consider the effects of child sexual abuse on survivors, particularly when it occurs in adolescence within a trusted educational institution.
“Boarding school children are the perfect victims for perpetrators,” says Amy Battersby, Day One Clinical Director. “In addition to abusers having ample access to victims, living in the environment where the abuse occurs can cause the entire school to be unsafe for the victim, making it much more difficult for him or her to come forward.”
In addition, teenagers are at a developmental stage where they are typically desperate for a sense of belonging and are in constant conflict between the need for nurture and their search for independence. These traits can put them at increased risk for victimization.
A lifelong effect
Some common impacts on the victim include an incredible sense of betrayal by the perpetrator, peers and other staff. “Abuse survivors have a shattered sense of self,” says Battersby. “Their decreased self worth can result in self-harming behaviors such as cutting, substance abuse, or isolation.”
The St. George’s survivors felt the frustration of not being heard or validated by administrators, in addition to the shame and guilt over the abuse. Day One stands by these and other survivors in their brave decision to come forward and get help.
You can reach Day One at 401-421-4100 or www.dayoneri.org to request services.