Dealing with sexual trauma


Correction appended.

We applaud your March 28 editorial “Acknowledge sexual abuse.” We would like to elaborate on some of the details of the school’s response and emphasize how ultimately it has re-victimized the individuals involved and interfered with much-needed healing for them and the community.

Before the original article went to press, the head of school referred to the well-documented, multiple reports of sexual abuse as “allegations,” and stated that Horace Mann could not reply to specifics for “privacy reasons and based upon advice of counsel.” If, instead, the school had stated that it planned to order an immediate independent investigation, it could have sent a message to victims that their reports deserved thorough, honest examination. The victims would have felt heard, a necessary first step for healing. 

A subsequent letter from the head of school noted: “Words cannot describe how sad and upset I am at the thought of any harm coming to a member of our community while attending Horace Mann School.” The letter continued, “It is also clear that there are two schools to tend to: one facing forward with a lifetime of wonderful memories taking shape, and one with students well past college-age seeking support and leadership beyond what a traditional alumni office offers.” 

Later when a former Horace Mann teacher and school chaplain confessed publicly to having sexually abused several students, the school offered no apologies and reminded the community that its “primary fiduciary responsibilities and legal obligations are to the school today.” These words suggested that the victims and those who supported them were being blamed, if not for the abuses they suffered, then for asking the school for something it claimed it couldn’t provide. Addressing the victims’ needs and facing the facts of what happened in the past was equated with harming the present school.

sexual abuse, horace mann, child psychology,
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