At 11 am today, Investigator Martin Murphy released his long awaited report into sexual abuse at St. George’s School. The report spans more than four decades. Investigator Murphy identified 61 alumni who had been victims of sexual abuse at St. George’s – 51 victims of faculty and staff who worked at the School.
“When one considers the ripple effects of sexual abuse – the corollary damage to parents, siblings, friends and other family members close to the victim – the amount of trauma inflicted on human beings is measured in the hundreds of years,” said Anne Scott, a representative of SGS for Healing, an alumni survivor group, which commissioned the report together with St. George’s in January of 2016.
“The report is the most comprehensive recounting to date of sexual abuse at an American boarding school,” said Roderick MacLeish who represented 29 survivors in a recently concluded financial settlement. One in five female students who attended the School between 1972 and 1979 reported abuse to Murphy by just one perpetrator –former athletic trainer Al Gibbs. Investigator Murphy states that he “expects the number of women who were actually abused by Gibbs substantially exceeds the reported figure.” (Emphasis supplied).
The report sets forth the name of six faculty and staff perpetrators, including Gibbs. Four other staff and faculty perpetrators are identified without names.
The report describes the past failures of the School to protect children. It sets forth the “bullying” perpetrated by the School on Anne Scott during litigation she brought against the School arising out of Gibbs’ rape of her during the 1970’s. It reveals that after former Headmaster Tony Zane discovered that Gibbs had been molesting girls and terminated him, Zane and the St. George’s Board gave Gibbs a favorable letter of recommendation and a distinguished service financial award that continued until his death 16 years later. (It is unknown where Gibbs worked following his termination from St. George’s). Murphy notes:
“In sum, in our view, the school’s treatment of Gibbs in the years after his termination, continuing to his death in 1996, reflected, at best, serious misjudgment, and at worst, callous indifference to the girls and young women the school knew he had abused.” (Emphasis supplied).
While the bulk of the report largely focuses on the 1970’s and 1980’s Murphy also cites more recent events – such as the School’s failure to send out a community letter notifying alumni of credible allegations of sexual abuse during a long period when other boarding schools were notifying and assisting alumni. The report also describes a 2016 letter from the School’s Board of Directors, in which the credibility of an abuse victim was questioned as a regrettable example of “victim shaming.”
“St. George’s today is a very different school from the one portrayed in this report,” said MacLeish, who attended the School for three years. “No parent should hesitate to send their child to an institution to this school, which has state of the art practices and policies designed to protect children.”
Added Scott: “The St. George’s community is full of wonderful and caring people. Today, survivors are working with the Trustees’ Search Committee to appoint the next Head, and with the Director of Counselling and Health Education to review the School’s sexual abuse prevention programs, and its policies regarding assault, harassment and bullying.”
Murphy also found fault with the School’s initiation of a 2015 investigation in which alumni were encouraged and requested to contact an investigator who was described as heading an independent inquiry into past sexual abuse. Murphy determined that while the School was acting in good faith, victims were traumatized when they later discovered that the investigator was a law partner and spouse of the lawyer representing the School in response to claims of sexual abuse.
The report stated as follows: “The school and Schwartz Hannum each failed to take into account how students who were abused at St. George’s would feel when they learned that the school’s legal counsel was also acting as its “independent” investigator, or how those former students, the news media, and the public would react when they learned that Schwartz and Hannum were not just law partners, but husband and wife. As a consequence, an investigation begun with the best intentions went horribly awry.”
Said Carmen Durso, who also served as counsel with MacLeish to St. George’s survivors: “While well intentioned, this flawed investigation retraumatized some survivors who had shared their stories of abuse, sometimes for the first time, with a person they thought was truly independent form the School.”
He added: “This tragedy has been a learning process for everyone and it was gratifying that the School’s Board of Trustees set up a model program for confidential therapy help for survivors, which will undoubtedly be an example of best practices in years to come. The next step is to understand the need for adoption of national standards for private schools, comparable to the obligations which public schools have been required to meet since 1972 under federal law in Title IX.”
The report generally praised the School’s current policies and practices and cleared one faculty member, Robert Weston, regarding any claims that he acted improperly.
Said Scott: “Survivors want good to come from this important report. We want people to understand how children’s lives are catastrophically damaged by any form of sexual abuse. We want all institutions charged with their care and protection to know that, by their decisions and actions, they can make everything much better, or much worse. We ask the halls of justice to collectively overhaul the existing criminal and civil laws. They are inadequate, even today. Most of all, we hope that children everywhere will feel empowered to speak up when something feels very wrong, and that their voices will be heard and acted upon.”
For further information, call Eric MacLeish at 617 817 1797 or Anne Scott at 443 282 4487.
LAW OFFICE OF CARMEN L. DURSO
175 Federal Street, Suite 1425
Boston, MA 02110-2287
Tel: 617-728-9123 – Fax: 617-426-7972
Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.