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Boarding school matrons and the “abuses we almost never talk about”

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Boarding school matrons and the “abuses we almost never talk about”

There were muted cheers among fellow boarding school survivors this week after Charles Spencer spoke out about the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of an assistant matron.

“This is an incredibly useful revelation because this specific type of abuse is almost never talked about,” said Jon Bird, head of knowledge and insight at the Institute. National Association for People Abused in Childhood.

“Many have suffered similar abuse at the hands of their school matrons, but have never spoken about it because it is very difficult for anyone, especially men, to talk about sexual abuse if the abuser is a woman,” he added.

Bird said he thought it was unusual for a matron to sexually abuse boys: “I think it was quite rare compared to the much more common abuse by male teachers,” he said. “But it happened and it was terrible in its own way,” because the boys were taken from their mothers at such a young age, he added.

Sarah, who attended a boarding school in the early 1970s, said the matron used to give the girls intrusive physical exams to, she said, see if they were menstruating.

“This woman was vile,” she said. “On the first day, my friend’s mother told the matron that my friend didn’t like milk. The matron was charming to the mother but as soon as she left, the matron forced my friend to drink a glass of milk. My friend was ill at the time and the matron asked her to clarify things.

One man remembers “extended bath times by the matron with a lot of persistent and unnecessary manipulation of us young boys”, when he was at boarding school between the ages of eight and 13 in the mid-1960s.

“The collective punishment she inflicted certainly also had a sexual side,” he added. “She would turn her rings so that the stones were facing inwards, then deliver the blows to our bare buttocks until the blood flowed.

“People always say it’s incredibly rare for women to be sexual abusers, but I look back and wonder, ‘What if it wasn’t sexual?’ ” “, did he declare. “It has a profound effect on me: These are formative things early in life and they shape you.”

Bird, who has worked with boarding school survivors for 23 years, said it must have been very common for matrons to be complicit in the mistreatment of students by male teachers.

“The matrons had to know and usually ‘gave the green light’ to male teachers to come into the shower area when the boys were there or were regularly so close to the sexual and physical abuse of the children that they could not not not knowing what was happening. It’s happening,” he said.

Alex Renton, who helped other residential school survivors through direct support, his books, articles and a BBC Radio 4 series, In dark corners, reexamined its database of 1,200 allegations from boarding school survivors after the Earl Spencer allegations. He found in the data 11 accounts of sexual abuse or extreme physical violence committed by matrons and nurses.

But, he added, references to matrons colluding with pedophile teachers are much more common.

“These stories are important because British children remain particularly vulnerable in care settings,” he said. “There is still no clear legal duty to report child sexual abuse or suspicion of such abuse – and Britain still has 170,000 children living away from their families, in public or private care. “

The Government has promised new legislation providing for “mandatory reporting” as part of the Criminal Justice Bill currently before Parliament. But activists say the response of the Ministry of the Interior to the recommendations of the independent investigation into child sexual abuse is weak, fails to protect whistleblowers and will leave the UK lagging behind most other countries when it comes to child protection.

Paul was at the boarding school between 1968 and 1971. He said the sexual abuse inflicted by his headmaster could not have happened without the complicity of his matron.

“She lived above the headmaster’s room, where he was abusing a group of little boys,” he said. “There’s no way she didn’t know what was happening.” He often took us aside to abuse us and she was so close that she couldn’t not know.

Terry, who went to boarding school at age eight, was told by his mother that the matron would be a motherly figure who would be kind to him.

“But it became clear on my first night that the matron was far from a motherly figure when she burst into our dorm yelling at us for not folding our socks perfectly. None of us knew how to fold our socks and so we all received a punishment the first night: a dose of disgusting cough medicine,” he said.

“The sanctions continued until she sent us to the general administrator for the slightest infraction. He was a relentless pedophile and so to send us there was to send us to be abused,” he said.

“There’s no way the headmistress wouldn’t have known this: it was a very small school – just 90 of us and eight resident teachers. She knew what she was going for when she chose us to punish us for these little infractions,” he added. “As an adult thinking about it now, I wonder if he even asked her to send us to him.”

All case study names have been changed

In the United Kingdom, the NSPCC offers support to children on 0800 1111 and to adults concerned about a child on 0808 800 5000. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) offers support for adult survivors at 0808 801 0331. In the United States, call or text Help for children abuse hotline at 800-422-4453. In Australia, children, young adults, parents and teachers can contact the Child helpline the 1800 55 1800; adult survivors can seek help at Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380. Other sources of help can be found at International child helplines

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