Alex Renton: Abuse survivor still shines light on ‘vicious’ elite schools | Private schools

Alex Renton decided to speak out about the abuse he suffered at one of Britain’s elite private schools after reading an article in 2013 that made him realize that his abusers are still teaching – and hurting other children.

Renton says he had made some sort of peace with his horrific experiences with schoolboys, but decided that day he owed it to others “who may need revenge, relief from history, or money” to speak out and give them to give its support.

Since then, Renton has helped fellow survivors through direct support, his books and articles, and now a BBC Radio 4 series, In Dark Corners, which provides a platform for those abused in British independent schools.

But he’s not done yet: He has, he says, a database of more than 800 criminal charges made against former schoolchildren from 300 mostly private boarding schools.

The accusations keep coming. This Wednesday, in a podcast inspired by Renton’s series, TV presenter Nicky Campbell spoke to the journalist about the ‘horrific’ abuse he experienced and witnessed during his days as a private schoolboy at Edinburgh’s fee-paying academy in the 1970s; revelations that prompted even more survivors to contact Renton.

“I have 50 new emails with criminal allegations that require serious attention from me,” he says. But it’s not just the numbers at stake: Renton remains shocked by the “vicious” efforts schools are making to avoid being held accountable for the historic sexual abuse that took place behind their gates.

“What I still find absolutely shocking is that great and often self-respecting institutions – and the great men who led them and can still lead them – agreed to what I consider to be the worst crime of all, which is not to be someone who child and abuse them, but know that’s happening under your supervision and either let it continue or let that person go to another school and continue their abusive career,” Renton says.

As if to prove his point, Renton reveals that he responded Wednesday morning to a letter from a lawyer from one of the schools he mentioned in a recent edition of his In Dark Corners, threatening legal action. “It’s hard not to conclude that for many schools, including the most prominent, reputation is still more important than children’s safety and transparency,” he says.

Alex Renton at Ashdown House school and (left) there as a schoolboy. Composite: Courtesy of Alex Renton. Composition: Courtesy of Alex Renton

Rather than trying to understand what happened and how to prevent it from happening again, schools too often act to protect themselves and their reputation from accusations of historic child abuse. “In this context,” says Renton, “‘historic'[al]’ could mean something that happened just five years ago.”

He adds: “The schools try to placate parents first, without admitting any responsibility. When the case goes to court despite their best efforts, they use expensive lawyers to remove the school’s names from the court papers to protect the children. What that means is that the school’s flaws in tolerating an abuser don’t come to light, so they can avoid dealing with it.”

Richard Scorer, the head of abuse law at Slater & Gordon, who represented many of Jimmy Savile’s victims, has had many similar experiences. “Many private residential schools have changed their legal status over the decades — disbanding the company through which they operated and, in some cases, becoming a new legal entity more than once,” he says.

“In some cases, it appears that this was done intentionally to escape legal liability for past abuse. If the obligations are not transferred to the new entity and insurance did not exist for the old one, claims for damages may be thwarted and victims will not be compensated.”

Part of the solution would be to make mandatory reporting of sexual abuse in schools. Tom Perry, founder of Mandate Now and the first complainant in the Caldicott scandal over school child sexual abuse, has long campaigned for those who work in schools, health care and faith institutions to have a legal obligation to report known or suspected abuse. report.

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“It sounds incredible, but reporting known or suspected abuse is discretionary,” he says. “All we have — unlike other countries, including France, America and Australia — is the expectation that a report needs to be made.”

Perry rejects claims that “it’s all different now”.

“The fundamentals of institutional protection, which we are trying to revise, have remained unchanged since the 1950s,” he says. “The current law is a cumbersome patchwork of inconsistencies with hundreds of different rules in different places.”

In the absence of a legal review, Renton believes boarding schools are simply unsafe. “I’m the first in my family in about seven generations not to send their kids to boarding school,” he says. “I just wouldn’t do it. I think it’s perfectly clear that there is a type of person who likes to prey on children in organized institutions and the law does not protect children from those people, nor does it protect whistleblowers who try to help.”

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