Boarding School Abuse

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Boarding School Abuse illustrates a range of criminal and improper actions commonly perpetrated against students by school faculty members, administrators or staff regarding sexual assault of varying degrees. The attack can be a one-time, non-consensual encounter or it might include many assaults during an continuing interaction. For example, an continuing intimate relationship with a student, created by the predatory behavior of a faculty member, school administrator or employee and whether heading to physical agreed sex acts or not, is a form of abuse.

Student-on-student sexual assault is another type of abuse, that can be compounded by the school’s failure to provide a safe environment that enabled the attack to happen. Inside the school population are students of different ages, maturity and experiences. Younger students may be exposed to the predatory behavior of older, more experienced students. Their actions, coupled with peer-pressure exerted to both the predator and the targeted victim, might lead to different types of abuse that includes sexual assault of varying degrees.

In all alleged Boarding School Abuse matters, a school administration’s failure to completely, adequately report the crime to police and other authorities, or its further negligence to investigate, address and deal completely with the situation increases the effects on the abuse survivor, the school community and possibly others. Recent Boarding School Abuse cases reported in the press highlight these failures, including situations where the attacker quietly departs the school only to assume employment elsewhere in a school environment.

Predatory Behavior
Most private schools pride themselves on their small, personal communities within a well-defined and secure campus. In this environment, faculty, administrators and staff are often much nearer and familiar with students than might be expected in a non-boarding school situation. This can create both opportunity and cover for the possible attacker and for the predatory behavior.

In some situations, the abuser might be a personable and popular person, generally considered to be a positive addition to the school community. A targeted student might feel flattered that a well-liked superior in the school community is expressing special attention in him or her. Because of this popularity and involvement in the school community, abuse accusations against these attackers are frequently met with distrust, disbelief, and resistance from the community. Often, abusers have boundary and morality problems which turn into oddly friendly relationships with students that are past what are normally expected. This provides a predatory pathway and opportunity for the attack.

All abusers, to differing degrees, use predatory methods that are generally referred to as “grooming,” or targeting a possible abuse victim. Below is a list of grooming behaviors exhibited by predators who are in a position of authority in relation to the student.

Grooming is a significant part of a predator’s ploy. In a boarding school setting, a predator often works closely with small amounts of students, knowing each student’s needs and vulnerabilities. Once a victim is located and chosen, these vulnerabilities – such as loneliness, low self-esteem, emotional neediness, or attention seeking behavior, might be systematically exploited in the following ways:


A predator may first work to get the student’s trust. This step is most difficult to discern as boarding school communities are usually tight-knit and personal engagement is commonplace. Here, the attacker is likely part of a group of staff who are genuinely interested in the student’s wellbeing and achievement at the school.
As a predator creates a trusting engagement with the potential student-victim, the student will start to rely more and more on the predator for whatever need it is that the predator is leveraging and fulfilling. The student may spend more time with the predator, feeling more and more comfortable with the relationship. In addition to attention and kindness, the potential victim may receive gifts from the predator, which may include valuable, gifts such as the guarantee of higher grades, or a university recommendation letter. The reliance step is usually where the predatory behavior is distinguishable from well-meaning collegial behavior.


While the grooming progresses, the predator may work to isolate the potential victim. At school, this could mean late get togethers, tutoring sessions, meetings in the dorm , one-on-one sports training sessions, or other such circumstances.
The predator will start to de-sensitize the possible victim from reacting negatively to contact, caressing and other actions which lead to sexual interaction. This may start with breaking the physical-touch barrier, or communicating, with suggestive messages to determine the victim’s response to the progression. This could increase until the relationship advances to one of a physical, sexual nature.
Once the sexual relationship is established, the predator will work to keep control of the student and the continuing abuse. The predator will likely seek to manipulate the victim by inducing emotions of shame, or even threats, or use the opposite tactic of continuing to make the victim feel special and desired. In any event, the predator might continue to exploit the victim by whatever means necessary to maintain the immoral physical relationship.

Impacts on Abuse Survivors

While the grooming escalates as intended by the predator, the victim, being made to feel special, will probably respond affirmatively to the actions. The predator, through these well planned and performed grooming behaviors and activities, tries to re-calibrate and reduce the moral confines of the targeted student. Since the abuse survivor participated in this re-calibration, he often has deep feelings of guilt, initially blaming himself for the incident and hesitant to report it.

Furthermore, beyond the abuse has been reported, survivors of boarding school abuse are often subjected to discreet social pressure and intimidation, like being bullied, isolation from their peers, or revenge from teachers. Especially at private schools, where academics are stringent, competition can be fierce and social circles small, survivors of abuse can be rapidly isolated and socially persecuted. Subjected to such reactions, many private school abuse survivors who have reported the abuse leave school. Others, fighting with the prospect of such isolation and social persecution, report the abuse a while later. In either case, the legacy can be significant and life-altering.

Some abuse survivors suffer from long-term effects of the abuse that include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, low self-esteem, suicidal feelings, substance abuse, disturbed sleeping and eating patterns, and trouble establishing and keeping healthy relationships. Individualized therapy and support groups may help victims overcome these effects.

Legally, a victim of boarding school abuse may recover financial compensation from the predator and more commonly, from the school for its negligence to protect the student from the abuse, as well as failures or deficiencies in its method of reviewing and responding to the victim’s report of the abuse. If you are a survivor of boarding school abuse and would like to confidentially review your situation and learn of your legal options at no cost or obligation, we are prepared to speak with you. It’s important for a victim to realize that experiencing assault is not your fault. The attorneys at Meneo Law Group are committed to bringing those responsible for the assault to justice.