We need to defeat the wolves: Interview with Peter Saunders

Political Critique

January 24, 2018

By Agata Diduszko-Zyglewska

Interview with Peter Saunders, the chief of The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Great Britain) and a suspended member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable People that was created by Pope Francis.

Agata Diduszko-Zyglewska: You are a survivor of sexual abuse in childhood. Could you tell me what was your story?

Peter Saunders: Yes, I am from London. I was born in a place called Wimbledon in south-west London. I was the youngest of five children born into a good Catholic family, as we were called. The first time I was sexually assaulted it was at my Catholic primary school as a very small child by a head teacher. Many years later when I disclosed the abuse I found out that he had abused many children, but we hadn’t known about each other. Going back nearly 50 years, I remember how the head teacher suddenly disappeared from school. I found out, many years later, that some children had been able to tell to their parents what was happening. So the parents went to the bishop and that man… was sent to another school. A regular, normal pattern for Catholic institutions. Also very early in my life, at 7-8 years of age, I was sexually abused by a member of my family, which lasted until I was 14 years of age. When I went to my secondary school I was also sexually assaulted by two Jesuit priests. One of whom was a head teacher, who was a layman, and the other was a retired priest who lived on the school premises.

Concerning the head teacher’s involvement in the abuse in both schools, I suppose there must have been many more children harmed over the years.

Yes, when I got a lot of publicity three years ago, after meeting the Pope and after being appointed to the pontifical commission. People who I had not seen for a long time and some people I had never met, from my schools, emailed me to say that they had been abused by some of the same priests. Moreover, it turns out that one of my brothers who had been to the school six years before me had been abused by the retired priest too.

Didn’t any adult from your family know about it?

Nobody knew nobody said anything. I remained silent for the next 22-23 years.

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