Sexual and Physical Abuse Claims

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British Boarding Schools: Sexual Abuse Claims Still Emerging

View profile for Malcolm Underhill
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The aftermath of sexual abuse occurring at some of Britain’s leading boarding schools has drastically affected the lives of some former students. 

In 2014, award-winning journalist, Alex Renton, wrote an explosive article in the Guardian newspaper, detailing how the physical, mental and sexual abuse he received at Ashdown House had scarred his life. 

In his courageous article, he stated, ‘I never really trusted an adult again, not until I was one myself.’ 

In the past, British boarding schools had a reputation for being tough institutions.  For example, children’s author, Roald Dahl wrote in his autobiography, Boy: Tales of Childhood a detailed description of his friend being viciously caned by the then Headmaster at Repton School, where he boarded from 1930 to 1934.  He describes how, once the caning had finished, “a basin, a sponge and a small clean towel were produced by the Headmaster, and the victim was told to wash away the blood before pulling up his trousers”.

Boarding School

Even the future heir to the British throne was a victim of vicious bullying at his boarding school – he is said to have hated his time at Gordonstoun. ‘A prison sentence,’ was how Prince Charles later described it. ‘Colditz with kilts.’

One contemporary at the school recalled that Charles was bullied “maliciously, cruelly and without respite.”

Although times have changed, and boarding schools now have a more ‘home away from home’ atmosphere, and pride themselves on the pastoral care they provide, many individuals are still traumatised by the sexual abuse they were subjected to in the past and are demanding compensation.

No one to Hear Cries For Help

Children sent to boarding school as young as seven or eight are vulnerable to developing attachment issues.  So-called Boarding School Syndrome is the name given to a cluster of behaviours that can develop from being sent away from home at such a young age.

 Dr Joy Schaverien, an expert on the syndrome, wrote:

“Even when not mistreated, being left in the care of strangers is traumatic… A shell is formed to protect the vulnerable self from emotion that cannot be processed. Whilst appearing to conform to the system, a form of unconscious splitting is acquired as a means of keeping the true self hidden… The child then makes no emotional demands but also no longer recognises the need for intimacy. The self begins to become inaccessible; ‘Boarding School Syndrome’ develops.”

Sexual abuse occurring when a child is alone, without a trusted adult to confide in, can inflict psychological damage that may never be fully healed.

Claims Still Emerging

Last year, Dowdeswell Court and Badgeworth Court schools in Gloucestershire and Clouds House in Wiltshire faced claims of pupils suffering "horrific" abuse during the 1970s and 1980s. 

In January 2016, a former boarding school worker was jailed for 12 years for sexually abusing a schoolboy in the 1970s, and in December 2014, a man was jailed for eight years after being convicted of historic sexual offences against four children who were in his care during the 1970s and 1980s at a boarding school in Iver.

One hundred and thirty private schools have been or are now subject to, allegations of sexual offences against children, and teachers from 62 private schools have been convicted of sex crimes against children in the past 20 years.

You Have the Right to Compensation

If you suffered sexual abuse at a boarding school in the past, you are not powerless. You are fully entitled to compensation, and the person or persons who subjected you to such treatment are criminals who deserve to be punished for their actions.

It takes tremendous courage to speak out about sexual abuse. Paedophiles rarely confess to allegations made, and have little or no idea of the devastating impact their actions have had on their victim. To fight a claim successfully, you need a Solicitor who is empathetic and has experience in handling similar types of cases to ensure justice is done.

At IBB, our personal injury team, led by child abuse lawyer Malcolm Underhill, has the expertise and knowledge to advise and represent you if you wish to make a claim for historic sexual abuse at a boarding school. To talk about how we might be able to help, please phone us on 0333 123 9099 , email us at  or fill in our contact form.  Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence. 

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