Sexual Abuse in 'Fame' Schools

A recent report has revealed a dramatic rise in the number of sexual abuse allegations made against Teesside’s dance, music and stage schools in recent years[1]. The report also highlights a drop in the number of prosecutions.

Almost a third of cases involved historical sexual abuse.

 

A Cleveland police force spokesperson told the Gazette Live, “The number of reports could have increased due to a number of reasons, including a greater number of sexual offences occurring in these settings, increased awareness and/or greater confidence of victims to report incidents through both police and partner agencies.”

“High-profile cases in the national media have gone some way to increasing the confidence of victims to report offences[2].”

Are children in performing arts schools vulnerable to sexual abuse?

Many people will remember the 80s TV hit show Fame which dramatised the trials and tribulations of students and teachers at a High School for the Performing Arts.  This, along with reality shows such as Britain’s Got Talent and the X-Factor can make the pursuit of fame seem simple when in reality it requires a formidable commitment, grit and hard work.  Famous British stage schools such as Sylvia Young Theatre School and the BRIT school are fiercely competitive to gain entry to[3].

Any type of school or club can provide a sexual predator with access to vulnerable children if the correct checks and balances are not put in place to screen out abusers.  Performing arts schools are no exception.  Because of the intense pressure and sacrifice required to succeed in the fields of music, dance and acting, children in these types of environments may be reluctant to speak out or press criminal charges for fear of damaging their career, or the prestige of the school.

Can I spot a child abuser at my child’s performing arts school?

Allegations of child abuse are extremely serious and should not be made based on speculation.  However, according to research, most child molesters have certain traits in common.  These include:

  • Regularly putting themselves in situations where they can access children.  They may have a history of moving on from schools, clubs or towns abruptly, as suspicion surrounding their behaviour starts to mount.  For example, former teacher and Scout leader, Mark Frost, abused children at a Worcestershire school and whilst volunteering for the Scouts in Guernsey.  He had taken up various teaching posts around the country even changing his name to avoid suspicion when he moved on.
  • They know how to target vulnerable and/or shy children, who may have an emotionally or physically absent parent, and will ‘groom’ them over a period of weeks or months by giving them the love and attention they crave[4].
  • Numerous studies have tried to link paedophiles to a particular socio-economic class.  These have all failed[5].  Many child abusers are married, educated, religious and parents themselves; pillars of the community that most who met them would never imagine they could commit such a monstrous act.  Child abusers are usually charming and friendly, using these traits to gain the trust of parents and children.  Typically, an abuser will try and befriend the parents of their victim first[6].

What to do if you have found out your child has been abused?

If your child tells you they have been abused at their stage school, the first actions you take should concern their safety.  Always believe them, get them away from the alleged perpetrator of the abuse and call the police.

If the performing arts school is responsible for the abuse to your child (and possibly others), you may be able to claim compensation.  The money can help access counselling that your child needs so they can go on to have normal, healthy future relationships.

At IBB, our personal injury team, led by Malcolm Underhill, has the expertise and knowledge to advise and represent you if you wish to make a claim following sexual abuse at a performing arts school. To talk about how we might be able to help, please phone us on 0333 123 9099, email us at enquiries@ibbclaims.co.uk or fill in our contact form. Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence and handled with the utmost sensitivity.


[1] http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/huge-rise-child-abuse-allegations-12835289#ICID=sharebar_twitter

[2] Ibid

[3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/11731836/How-to-get-your-kids-into-stage-school.html

[4] http://www.childluresprevention.com/research/profile.asp

[5] https://www.childmolestationprevention.org/pages/tell_others_the_facts.html

[6] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shadow-boxing/201206/how-can-we-spot-child-molester