“Is There Anybody In The World Who Is On My Side?”
July 24, 2015 10:24 AM   Subscribe

"After surviving one of the most high-profile and long-running school sex abuse scandals in history, a group of 32 men and women banded together to seek solace and justice — only to find that public outrage, a star attorney, and overwhelming evidence are no match for a legal process stacked against even the most privileged or traumatized." - Sam Roudman
posted by the man of twists and turns (13 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite


 
The lawyers’ answer was simple, he now says: They were trying to provoke in him the most emotionally raw response they could. When it came to winning settlement money, more pain could mean more money.

I'm a lawyer, my firm represents children, and our work sometimes involves situations that were traumatic for the children we represent. I can see something like this getting floated as a bad attempt at gallows humor in a meeting, but if anyone actually did it, I would hope they would be fired. That's inexcusable.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:33 AM on July 24, 2015 [16 favorites]


Oof, this is devastating and hard to read. Thank you for posting it. This is one of the parts that stood out to me:

“It was like this little step-by-step process,” Cumming remembers. “Surely there must be an innocent explanation: Maybe this is how European artists express affection innocently?”

I think we often teach kids not to respect their own boundaries because they don't want to hurt or offend people. It's tricky because, to maintain a functional society, we need to make sure that we teach kids a certain amount of selflessness and empathy and respect and tolerance for others, but we also really need to make sure that we teach them that it's okay to protect your own feelings and body and also that no one should EVER feel ashamed because of what someone else did. If someone tries to make you feel like that, THEY are the ones who should feel ashamed, not you, always but especially if you are a minor. The combination of shame and lack of teaching kids appropriate ways to express boundaries are a couple of the ways we as a society allow horrible things like this to happen and it's not okay.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:47 AM on July 24, 2015 [10 favorites]


What is the reasoning behind statue of limitations laws on child abuse, anyway?
posted by quincunx at 10:53 AM on July 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


What is the reasoning behind statue of limitations laws on child abuse, anyway?

The same as other such statutes. In descending order of persuasiveness: the frailty of human memory, the loss of records and other evidence, the notion that (at some extreme point) we shouldn't punish people for something they did many years prior, and the notion that (again, at some extreme point) the defendant (who is presumptively innocent, remember) deserves "repose" rather than having the Sword of Damocles of prosecution hanging over their head for their entire lives.

Whether you personally find any of those rationales persuasive is another question, but those are the usual reasons.
posted by jedicus at 11:07 AM on July 24, 2015 [27 favorites]


Yet there's no statue of limitations on murder. I don't find the "there needs to be a statue of limitations on everything because that's the accepted rule" terribly persuasive in this case, especially considering people are far more likely to be able to pursue justice as older adults when they have established themselves.
posted by quincunx at 11:11 AM on July 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yet there's no statue of limitations on murder.

Murder is a special case in many ways. In addition to being a horrible crime, it is also (for the victim) final.

But your broader point stands: those rationales in favor of statutes of limitations must be weighed against many factors, including the severity of the crime and the likelihood and ability of the victims or others with knowledge of the crime to come forward. As a result, nearly all states have some form of law suspending the statute of limitations while the victim is a minor, often further extended in cases of sexual abuse.

Whether those laws go far enough is another question, of course.
posted by jedicus at 11:20 AM on July 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


Some of the descriptions of what the lawyers did are disturbing to me, especially the surprise photo. I can't understand that at all. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to represent victims of abuse without retraumatizing them. This is just wildly irresponsible.
posted by prefpara at 11:41 AM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would think one reason for a statute of limitations is that the defendant is presumed innocent and to have a case hanging over someone with a great likelihood of failure (or else it would be brought to trial) can be a form of persecution. The prosecution has to put up or shut down.
Here is a table of statute of limitations by state. No state has a statute of limitation for murder. For other crimes, it varies a lot, including several states with no statute of limitation for misdemeanors.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:03 PM on July 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I didn't include the link.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:12 PM on July 24, 2015


I think we often teach kids not to respect their own boundaries because they don't want to hurt or offend people. It's tricky because, to maintain a functional society, we need to make sure that we teach kids a certain amount of selflessness and empathy and respect and tolerance for others, but we also really need to make sure that we teach them that it's okay to protect your own feelings and body and also that no one should EVER feel ashamed because of what someone else did.

And sometimes people don't know that they're doing it...

I live some distance from my brother's family, and my nephew is only about four. So he's a little shy around me right now because I'm an unfamiliar commodity. But the past couple times I've seen them, my brother always urges him to "hug your auntie EC! Go ahead, give her a big hug!" And I can tell the poor little dude is conflicted because it's like, "who the hell is this person that my father is telling me to hug?" I try to soften the blow a bit by babbling something about "it's okay, you don't have to, I understand that you're not sure who I am" or whatever, but....still.

if he still looks a little freaked out at Thanksgiving, I may take my brother aside and gently point out, "hey, are you sure you want to tell the kid that adults have the right to tell him to ignore his internal warnings about hugging people he doesn't know too well?"

I absolutely understand why my brother is doing that, but...I also understand why my nephew is weirded out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:13 PM on July 24, 2015 [30 favorites]


Yeah, I have a little honorary niece, and after she gets her books read to her we usually ask for good-night hugs, which she is usually happy to give. But sometimes she doesn't want to, and I'm always careful to say "that's all right, you don't have to hug anyone you don't want to."
posted by tavella at 1:35 PM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm raising my daughter with the sentiment "You don't have to hug or kiss anyone you don't want to."

And I have repeated that to her, with great conviction, when she's been put on the spot by older relatives too. Going by the appalled reactions from old ladies, I'm guessing the notion that a child's physical autonomy ought to be respected is a relatively recently idea.

I just don't know if that's going to be enough when she's older, in school, and authority figures are out of my supervisory reach.
posted by sobell at 2:40 PM on July 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wonder if anyone here has read the 113 page report. It lays out compelling evidence of decades-long, entrenched and pervasive institutional culpability. It also inclues direct statements from victims:

The institution... fostered, promoted and carefully grew and developed the abuse. These predators appear to have spoken to one another, identifying and passing the most vulnerable students around.

The idea that you can protect children from this kind of overbearing power dynamic by teaching them about their own bodily autonomy falls so far short of what was done here. I genuinely believe it is foolish to think you can inoculate your children from the predators when the predators include the headmaster of the most elite and revered school in the nation and his cronies. Children are less powerful than the adults around them and that often plays out in terrible, terrible ways whether you are a child living in neglect and poverty or a child growing up privileged, pampered, and empowered.

One of my childhood friends went from Horace Mann to Deerfield. You can imagine how well that worked out for him.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:36 PM on July 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


« Older High Heels. The WHOLE time.   |   2,500 people in their clean picnic clothes Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments