I’m reeling after reading two articles in today’s Boston Globe about sexual abuse at my former high school in the 70s and 80s (40 tell of sex abuse by students, staff at R.I. prep school and Student’s harrowing account of alleged abuse at St. George’s school), a 36 page report from lawyers representing survivors in response to the report from the school, and numerous accounts on a Facebook page detailing abuse along with records of complaints to the school that went ignored.
I am so profoundly disturbed and angry and sad that these kids were abused and no one helped them, that no reports were made to police at the time, and that while the teachers were finally fired, they went on to teach at other schools.
Here is what I want to blog about right now, this paragraph in the report from the lawyers for the survivors:
We have not included numerous first hand reports from alumni concerning the “culture” that existed at SGS during the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. That has been described to us in accounts we feel are credible as misogynist, racist, homophobic and bullying. By not including those reports, we are in no way diminishing their importance or the need of SGS to address those reports, many of which have been made to the School already.
I went to St. George’s from 1983 – 1985 and I witnessed the misogyny, how girls were treated like second class citizens and I felt crazy. I thought there was something wrong with me. Before hearing about all this abuse, about two years ago, I wrote a blog titled: Women, class, and the problem of privilege: Everything I learned about sexism, I learned at boarding school. Here’s one paragraph:
What else do I remember about prejudice and boarding school? Boys sitting on a bench and rating girls who walked by from 1 – 10 on how hot they were. Dressing up as a bunny, along with all of the other new girls, including fishnets, ears, and a tail on “Casino night.” Being called “nappy face” by a boy because I had big lips and not knowing what that meant. Feeling exotic because I had dark hair. Learning the word “spearchucker” for the first time when one of the tiny minority of African-Americans was mocked.
Here are photos I posted a few times since, “Casino Night” where all the new girls were supposed to dress as playboy like bunnies.
Here are the boys, these are all photos from my 1984 yearbook:
Here is my friend and me, freshman referred to as “Todd’s Toys” in the yearbook, he was a senior prefect.
After St. George’s released its bullshit report, which I posted in full, an alumna who had been raped and contacted me after I’d blogged about Casino Night, commented to me: “The Report is very narrowly defined. There’s no sense of why so many assaults happened at St. George’s, what the school did to create cultural backdrop that allowed and encouraged rape.”
The stories coming out are so horrific that these photos I’m posting seem tame in comparison, but I hope that the school, and all schools, the legal team for the survivors, and the media address the sexism and misogyny the existed then and most likely exists today at these enclaves of “privilege.” Parents, teachers, curriculum, student government, clubs etc all contribute to a culture that allows rape to happen and go on happening. As I wrote in my last blog about the abuse, many boys were abused but I strongly believe a culture that values girls as well as boys is a safer, healthier, happier place for everyone.
Speaking of health, tomorrow is my birthday, I’ll be 47. The older I get, the happier I get. There are probably many reasons for this, but one factor is I’ve lived long enough to finally trust and believe in my own experiences. Many times in my life, I’ve been told by people who I looked up to or trusted or were important to me, that my experiences never happened, weren’t important, or didn’t matter. I think being repeatedly told that things I saw weren’t there is one reason I started blogging about sexism in children’s movies-– something that was glaringly obvious to me seemed invisible to others.
Thank you to all the survivors for having the courage to tell your own stories.
I’m just catching up with this story now, but thank you for speaking out from direct experience with this school. The whole story (and I doubt we have the whole of it yet) is horrifying and I can only hope the exposure will foster change here and in other comparable places. I’m sorry you had to endure the entrenched sexism of this place, but it looks like it set in motion a life of speaking out against gender inequity and that has been a great thing.
Thanks for this. For awhile, I felt incredulous about casino night, like maybe it wasn’t really as degrading as I remembered it to be. As a new junior, I remember thinking “really?” and everyone said “Yes really.” I asked faculty, who said, “Yes, really, you need to do this.” Piecing together the fragments of those memories is so helpful, even if they feel like shards of glass.
Love your simile and agree totally. Thanks for your comment.