As revelations about Jimmy Savile fill the news — another tragic case of an abuser using his position to lure children —Kathryn Westcott & Tom de Castella published an excellent article in the BBC News Magazine (25 Oct) explaining why these cases take so long to come to light. In ‘The decades-long shadow of abuse’ Westcott & Castella discuss the re-traumatizing effect of not being believed once abuse survivors come forward, in a way continuing abusers’ psychological power to harm their victims years, even decades, later.
The decades-long shadow of abuse
In an earlier insightful article in the New Yorker magazine (24 Sep), ‘In Plain View: How child molesters get away with it,’ Malcolm Gladwell — focusing, among other examples, on the Sandusky case — also addresses why these cases take so long to become known .
In Plain View: How child molesters get away with it
||When monsters roam free, we assume that people in positions of authority ought to be able to catch them if only they did their jobs. But that might be wishful thinking. — Malcolm Gladwell (2012)
Published online today, Daily Beast reporter, Abigail Pesta, shares a heartbreaking story of a young woman who was raped by her teacher while a student at Horace Mann in the 1980s.
Raped by a Teacher: One Woman’s Tragic Past at the Horace Mann School
Warning: This is painful reading. Years of sexual and emotional abuse are described. Bravely and generously the victim, now an adult, shares these awful experiences. Not only is her strength inspirational, but her story helps us to understand why it is so difficult for children to come forward and seek help.
To the editor:
In private communication with over 2000 Horace Mann School alumni, we have learned of several instances of sexual abuse perpetrated by past faculty against students, some more egregious than those which have already been published. We are appalled that the school administration has failed to reach out to our classmates who were sexually abused. Our demands for an apology on behalf of those classmates have been met with silence. We are also appalled that those school Trustees who were aware of those abuses at the time and ignored them have not resigned from the Board. We have demanded that they be removed.
Justice, accountability and healing cannot be complete without these first steps.
[signed by ?# of Horace Mann alumni listed alphabetically]
In his message to us, Rob writes:
I am gathering signatures for the letter below intended for the New York Times. If you wish to sign, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org indicating your desire to have your name included.
I intend to list the signatures in alphabetical order including non survivor alumni and survivors alike. I do not need a great many signatures, but I don’t wish to exclude anyone. Alternatively, the signatures can be compiled and submitted by other means — a webpage or by some other person. In any case, I would like to get this moving quickly, since newspapers do not print letters that are no longer timely.
(I’ve kept it short to increase the likelihood of getting it published.) Thanks to Christina Propst for her wise emendations.
Below is the letter (referenced in the New York Times piece of June 6, 2012) written by then 16-year-old Benjamin Balter, seeking help. The letter is addressed to Mr. Foote, who was Head of School for Horace Mann at the time. It is posted here with the permission of Balter’s mother.
Scanned pdf of the original letter sent: Benjamin Balter 1993 letter to Horace Mann – scanned copy of original
On June 21st, the Horace Mann Board of Trustees received a letter from a group of former students who were sexually abused by teachers at the school. Today, July 1st, having received no official response from the Board, we share the letter:
Horace Mann Survivors’ Document
We invite our fellow Horace Mann alumni/ae and other members of the Horace Mann community to express their support of what we have written here. If you are in support of our initiative, please leave a comment on this page or email us at HoraceMannSurvivor@gmail.com, giving us your name and your class year or your relationship to Horace Mann. We will post a list of signatories at HoraceMannSurvivor.org. If you yourself were abused, or if you know someone else who was, please feel free to contact us at the same address.
The two of us first learned of each other’s experiences – in early 2011, decades after the abuse took place. We found that it was deeply healing for us to be able to talk with each other. We had both suffered in silence for decades, wondering whether we were the only ones, so it was deeply meaningful to learn that we were not alone. Our conversations were painful because they brought up humiliating memories, but it was a good kind of pain – the kind that heals.
When Amos Kamil began researching his June 10, 2012 article in the New York Times Magazine, he found his way to us, and we were happy to help with his article. If you have not already read that article, please read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/magazine/the-horace-mann-schools-secret-history-of-sexual-abuse.html. We know that many who read that article will experience both pain (as their own memories come rushing back) and relief (as they realize that they are not alone).
We also wish to serve close family members and loved-ones of abuse survivors at Horace Mann. We know that you too may be hurting and wondering how to help your loved-ones who were abused.
If you yourself were abused at Horace Mann, or if someone you know was abused at Horace Mann, we welcome you here – whether under a pseudonym or under your real name. We invite you to post comments about your experience. To post comments, you must sign in below, but you can create a pseudonymous Gmail account to do so if you prefer. We want to make this as safe a space as is possible on the internet for such a sensitive topic. To that end, comments will be moderated. We will do our best to delete comments we believe are abusive or harmful, but we will not delete comments just because we may disagree with them. Please note that this site is NOT a place to post unsubstantiated rumors you may have heard about one or another Horace Mann teacher if you yourself cannot bear witness to their truth. If you yourself had an experience, or if someone you know had an experience, we welcome you to share that here, but please do not post mere gossip. We had many wonderful teachers at Horace Mann, and we do not want to malign teachers who were innocent of any wrongdoing.