Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Prep School Predators!

The Horace Mann School’s Secret History of Sexual Abuse

..."Speaking calmly and staring into the flames, he told us that when he was in eighth grade, Wright sexually assaulted him. “And not just me,” he added. “There were others.” First Wright befriended him, he said. Then he molested him. Then he pretended nothing happened.

No one knew what to say, at least at first. But then slowly, the rest of us started telling stories, too. One of the guys talked about a teacher who took him on a field trip, and then invited him into his bed in the hotel room they were sharing. (My friend fled, walking in the rain for hours until the coast seemed clear.) Another told a story about a teacher who got him drunk and naked; that time, no one fled. We talked about the steakhouse dinner, which was a far cry from abuse, but an example of how easy it can be for boundaries to blur and how hard it can be, in the moment, for students to get their bearings. Finally, we all went to sleep.

Then we went home, and another 20 years slid by.

When the Penn State scandal came out last year, I kept getting tangled in the questions everyone else was getting tangled in: How does an institutional culture arise to condone, or at least ignore, something that, individually, every member knows is wrong? Andrew’s story came back to me in a rush. The questions of Penn State, I realized, are the questions of Horace Mann and perhaps every place that has been haunted by a similar history.

I called Andrew. He was thinking about Horace Mann, too — about his own experiences and those of his classmates. And about Mark Wright.

In many ways, Wright was the ultimate Horace Mann success story. People who knew him remember him as tall and extroverted, with an easy smile and a huge laugh. He graduated in 1972, a time when African-American students like him were a rarity, then went to Princeton, where he majored in art and archaeology and played right tackle for the football team. A glowing article about him in The Daily Princetonian described him as “a Picasso in cleats,” and speculated on whether he could have gone pro or would get a Ph.D. “I think Mark lives life to the fullest,” the head of his department told the paper, noting that he “exudes enthusiasm and versatility.” After college, he came back to Horace Mann to teach art and to coach football.

“I first had him as an art teacher,” Andrew told me, in the steadied voice of someone who had worked through the story in therapy. “He was a great guy. Funny, gregarious, everyone loved him. He had this aura of success around him, and I was so happy that someone like him would take an interest in a skinny underclassman like me. I felt special.

“One night he called my house and asked my parents if he could take me to the museum,” Andrew continued. “My parents were so excited that a teacher would take such an interest in me.” And this being Horace Mann, he added, “it didn’t hurt that he had also gone to Princeton.” Still, Andrew didn’t feel comfortable hanging out with a teacher on the weekend, so he turned down the invitation. A little later Wright had another idea: he asked to draw a portrait of Andrew.

“It was the night of the eighth-grade dance,” he told me, “and instead of going to the gym, I went to meet him in his art studio on the fourth floor of Tillinghast. He locked the door and told me to undress.” As he got to this part of the story, Andrew’s pace slowed and his voice lowered....."

READ ENTIRE MAGAZINE ARTICLE: CLICK: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/magazine/the-horace-mann-schools-secret-history-of-sexual-abuse.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&nl=afternoonupdate&emc=edit_au_20120606

The Prevalence of Clergy Sexual Misconduct with Adults: A Research Study

This research study involved two companion projects: (1) a national random survey to determine the prevalence of clergy sexual misconduct (CSM) with adults; and (2) a qualitative study of three groups of women and men: (a) those who self-identified as survivors who had been the objects of CSM, (b) family or friends of survivors, and (c) offenders who had themselves committed CSM. The goal of both projects was to define the scope and nature of CSM, so that effective prevention strategies can be proposed for the protection of religious leaders and congregants.

General Statistics of the Research:

•national, random survey conducted in 2008 with 3,559 respondents

•phone interviews with 46 persons who had experienced clergy sexual misconduct as adults, representing 17 different Christian and Jewish religious affiliations

•phone interviews with 15 persons who were second-hand victims of CSM (husbands, friends and other church staff members); and with 21 experts (non-offending religious leaders, researchers, and professionals who provide care for survivors and offenders)

The Prevalence of CSM

We used the 2008 General Social Survey (GSS) to estimate the prevalence of clergy sexual misconduct. This is an in-person survey of a nationally representative sample of noninstitutionalized English- or Spanish-speaking adults, conducted by National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The 2008 survey included 3559 respondents. Although the GSS is an in-person interview, the questions we developed specifically for this project were self-administered, making it easier for respondents to report potentially painful or embarrassing experiences.

Clergy sexual misconduct was defined in this study as:

Minister, priests, rabbis, or other clergypersons or religious leaders who make sexual advances or propositions to persons in the congregations they serve who are not their spouses or significant others.

Of those surveyed:

•More than 3% of women who had attended a congregation in the past month reported that they had been the object of CSM at some time in their adult lives;

•92% of these sexual advances had been made in secret, not in open dating relationships; and

•67% of the offenders were married to someone else at the time of the advance.

•In the average American congregation of 400 persons, with women representing, on average, 60% of the congregation, there are, on average of 7 women who have experienced clergy sexual misconduct.

•Of the entire sample, 8% report having known about CSM occurring in a congregation they have attended. Therefore, in the average American congregation of 400 congregants, there are, on average, 32 persons who have experienced CSM in their community of faith....

We used the software package Atlas-Ti to code the interview transcripts and then to identify six common themes that describe the social characteristics of the congregations in which clergy sexual misconduct (CSM) occurs. Those themes include:

1.Family members, friends, and victims ignored warning signs. Religious leaders acted inappropriately in public as well as private settings, but in a culture that has no cognitive categories for understanding or explaining clergy misconduct as anything other than an "affair," observers mistrusted their own judgment, perhaps considering themselves "hypersensitive," particularly since the behavior was committed by a trusted leader. First indicators of CSM were thus ignored.

2.Niceness culture: American culture expects persons to be "nice" to one another, particularly those we know and respect, and particularly in a congregation. "Nice" means not being confrontational, giving the other the "benefit of the doubt," and overlooking social indiscretions in order to avoid embarrassment. Even when family members, friends, and victims knew about or suspected CSM or behavior leading to CSM, they did not speak about their observations.

3.Ease of private communication: E-mail and cell phones have replaced mailed letters and phone calls to the family household. An intimate relationship between leader and congregant can develop via e-mail and cell phones with complete invisibility to family and community.

4.No oversight: Religious leaders often answer to no one about their daily activities and are free to move about the community and to maintain an office that is isolated from observation.

5.Multiple roles: Religious leaders engage in multiple roles with congregants in addition to their role as leader, including counselor and personal friend. They obtain knowledge about congregants' personal lives and struggles that can make the congregant vulnerable and dependent.

6.Trust in the sanctuary: Congregations are considered sanctuaries-safe places-where normal attentiveness to self-protection is not considered necessary. Because of this perceived sanctuary, congregants share life experiences and private information with religious leaders that they would not share with others.