Stiff Upper Lip review: A book that asks ‘powerful questions that parents can’t ignore’
Alex Renton is a seasoned journalist, a war correspondent for the London Evening Standard who also worked for Oxfam in East Asia, a prize-winning food writer known for his campaigns and investigations and the author of a robust book about eating meat. He has got about a bit. But when, in 2013, two days after Christmas, he read a headline in the Daily Mail, ‘Boris school at the centre of probe into sexual abuse’, he says he burst into tears.
The prep school, Ashdown House, that he and Boris Johnson had attended was being investigated by police following allegations of historical child abuse. Four months later, having returned to the school for the first time, posing with his wife as prospective parents, Mr Renton wrote a long, moving article for The Observer, part personal, part dispassionate inquiry, about Ashdown House and boarding schools in general.
He had, he said, confronted his ‘demons’. But he also summoned up demons for his readers. Out of the enormous feedback he received then, this heart-breaking book has emerged.
An elite all-girls boarding school in New York has released a report detailing nearly seven decades of sexual abuse and misconduct, with both male and female educators accused of engaging in improper relationships with students.
The 127-page report released Tuesday spans misconduct at the Emma Willard School in Troy from the late 1950s through the 2015-16 academic year, including instances of rape, sexual assault and harassment, as well as the “grooming” of young women for affairs.
Byron Shire News (USA)
Students at an elite boarding school in the US were sexually abused by at least 12 members of staff over a period of four decades, according to a report.
Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut, which includes former President John F Kennedy among its alumni, published the findings following an investigation.
Allegations of abuse dating from the 1960s were handled internally at the school, the report said.
The school acknowledged the findings, adding: “We profoundly apologise.”
“The conduct of these adults violated the foundation of our community: the sacred trust between students and the adults charged with their care,” the school said.
The apology comes after the boarding school, which US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka also attended, launched an independent investigation into historic reports of “adult sexual misconduct with students”.
It said that after asking people to come forward with information relating to the allegations, it “received numerous calls and emails”.
The earliest incidents recorded concerned conduct from the early 1960s, with faculty members at the school allegedly abusing students until as recently as 2010.
The scandal of child abuse in Britain’s boarding schools; writer Alex Renton joins us to reveal what went on behind the closed doors of these institutions and how he has dealt with what happened to him as a small boy.
BBC Radio Scotland (starts at 01:06:20)
The victim of a former priest who has been jailed for sex abuse at a Catholic boarding school said he cried so often “I could have drowned in my own tears”.
Father Michael Higginbottom was found guilty of the “cruel and sadistic” abuse of a teenage boy at St Joseph’s College in Upholland, Lancashire.
He was convicted at Liverpool Crown Court of four counts each of a serious sexual offence and indecent assault.
The 74-year-old, of West Farm Road, Newcastle, was jailed for 17 years.
The court heard the victim, now in his 50s, was aged between 13 and 14 at the time of the abuse, which began about a week after arriving at the school.
He said he was locked in Higginbottom’s living quarters and ordered to undress before being sexually assaulted.
The Old Etonian John Julius Norwich, asked for a memory that he thought summed up the spirit of his school, offered the following: after a boy had killed himself “the housemaster summoned the whole house and asked if anybody could suggest a reason. The young David Ormsby-Gore put up his hand and said, ‘Could it have been the food, sir?’” This strikes me as appallingly funny; or funny and appalling. It captures – in its black bad taste and high-stakes insouciance – some of what public schools teach their students. Nothing is so serious it can’t be a joke – and the joke, as Alex Renton notes, both fences with authority and obscurely reinforces it.
In 2014, Renton wrote in the Observer about his experiences in the boarding prep school Ashdown House, describing how he was sexually molested by a teacher; and how, when his contemporaries complained about abuse, they were themselves savagely punished for sneaking. In response to his article, he heard from hundreds with similar stories.
Here is a wide-ranging inquiry into the phenomenon of boarding schools in the UK. Renton paints a picture of class-based groupthink, made-up traditions, contagious snobbery and – in Larkin’s phrase – man handing on misery to man, and it deepening like a coastal shelf. It is striped with pungent quotations from those who have been through the system and been hurt by it. What’s most odd is that parents who had themselves been deeply unhappy at school went on, generation after generation, to send their children to the same places. Renton suggests that “normalisation” – rationalising the pain by deciding that it was good for you after all, or that your parents knew best – may be the psychological mechanism at work.
A Catholic priest who repeatedly sexually abused a teenage student breached his position of trust in a “spectacular and horrific” way, a court has heard.
Father Michael Higginbottom, 74, is accused of subjecting the teenage boy to repeated sexual abuse when he worked as a teacher at St Joseph’s College in Upholland, Lancashire, in the late 1970s.
Liverpool Crown Court heard the boy, aged between 13 and 14 at the time of the allegations, said he would be struck with a strap if he did not attend Higginbottom’s living quarters, where much of the abuse was alleged to have happened, at appointed times.
The boarding school, which has now closed, was attended by boys aged 11 to 18, many of whom were considering a career in the priesthood.
There were fresh calls last night to widen the Scottish government’s child abuse inquiry after a former pupil of a military boarding school in Dunblane claimed he was abused by a teacher.
It has emerged police launched an investigation after a victim broke decades of silence to reveal his abuse at the hands of a housemaster at Queen Victoria School (QVS) in the 1970s.
When Alex Renton came out as a victim of abuse as a boarder, he was inundated with harrowing stories from former pupils. Now, he has written an exposé of the shameful legacy of Britain’s boarding schools
A Brighton teacher, who taught science to Boris Johnson, has been jailed for 12 years for sexually abusing four pupils and for having child porn on his computer.
Martin Haigh, 67, unemployed, of Lavender Street, Brighton, committed 11 sex offences against four pupils at the independent prep school Ashdown House in the 1970s.
A jury at Brighton Crown Court convicted him yesterday (Thursday 23 March) of four offences against two boys – an indecent assault and three counts of gross indecency.
He had previously admitted seven other offences – three of gross indecency and four of indecent assault – against two other boys at the school in the same period.
Brighton & Hove News