I saw it in schools; now football is the focus. The pain is the same. Alex Renton
Allegations of sex crimes against young footballers continue to emerge. For two years, the author has heard harrowing accounts from hundreds of victims of sex abuse in [boarding] schools and finds many disquieting parallels
Breaking the silence is immensely powerful and it is good medicine. But speaking up is hard. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has data that suggests one out of three people abused as a child has not disclosed the abuse and that the average victim who does waits nearly eight years to do so. Many of the men coming forward now, encouraged by the testimony of ex-footballer Andy Woodward, had never spoken before of the events when they were children.
In the past couple of years I have read or heard the accounts of more than 700 men and women sexually and emotionally abused as children in boarding schools, state-run and private. They came to me after I wrote in the Observer of the abuse at my own, Ashdown House. The stories are the grimmest reading, but what is heartening is that for so many people the simple act of speaking up is hugely helpful.
Dominic West: Going to boarding school was as bad as my parents dying
Dominic West has said being sent to boarding school when he was young was almost as traumatic as losing his parents.
Earlier this year, Homeland star Lewis described boarding school as a ‘violent experience’.
The 45-year-old, who was at prep school Ashdown House in East Sussex before going to Eton, told the Sunday Times Magazine: ‘I went at eight and I think that’s very hard.
‘You go through something which, at that age, defines you and your ability to cope. There’s a sudden lack of intimacy with a parent, and your ability to get through that defines you emotionally for the rest of your life.
‘It’s a very violent experience in those first few weeks. It’s just boom! And you deal with it … and then you go and run the empire.’
He said boarding ‘does things I don’t like when I see them in me’.
Damian Lewis, the Old Etonian actor, has told how he found being sent to boarding school a “very violent experience“.
The star said children who are sent away from home to be educated are left with an experience that “defines you emotionally for the rest of your life”.
The son of a City broker, he was born in the wealthy London suburb of St John’s Wood and was sent to boarding school Eton, whose former pupils include David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
Lewis, who has two children with fellow actor Helen McCrory, said he would not send his own children to boarding school at such a young age.
Recalling his own experience, he said: “I went at eight and I think that’s very hard. You go through something which, at that age, defines you and your ability to cope.
“There’s a sudden lack of intimacy with a parent, and your ability to get through that defines you emotionally for the rest of your life. It’s a very violent experience in those first few weeks. It’s just, boom.”
[Wikipedia has Damien Lewis (b.1971) as attending Ashdown House prep school.]
Two men have been charged with historical sex offences against pupils at an East Sussex boarding school.
Maurice Williams, 71, of High Street, Barcombe and Martin Haigh, 66, of Lavender Street, Brighton, face charges.
The offences allegedly took place between the 1970s and 90s, while both were teachers at Ashdown House School near Forest Row.
None of the offences are alleged to have been committed jointly.
Mr Williams faces four charges – two of indecent assault and two of gross indecency – all with a girl under 16 between 1989 and 1993.
Mr Haigh is accused of five counts of indecent assault and six of gross indecency, all between 1972 and 1978.
They are due to appear at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 21 April.
Ashdown House is a co-educational, preparatory boarding school, which currently has about 120 pupils, aged between seven and 13.
Brighton & Hove News
Abuse in Britain’s boarding schools: why I decided to confront my demons
For generations of boys, sexual abuse was part of the everyday cruelty of boarding school. In this painfully honest report, writer Alex Renton confronts the demons of his past at Ashdown House, where some of Britain’s most powerful men were also educated – and reveals the scale of the outrage about to engulf the private education system.