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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.



Arnold describes sexual abuse at his school as ‘institutionalised humiliation of new students’

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Arnold attended a boarding school with military traditions in the early 1970s. 

He was sexually abused, as were many other boys, and says that this was made to seem like a ‘normal induction’ at the school.

Arnold’s parents lived overseas and he was sent to boarding school when he was 11 years old. He didn’t want to go and was homesick from the start. This feeling was made worse by the ‘brutal and intimidating’ atmosphere at the school that he likens to the dystopian novel ‘Lord of the Flies’.

He describes how prefects and older boys systematically abused some of the younger ones, sexually, physically and psychologically. The bigger boys would target any young ones who had a ‘slight flaw’, such as wearing glasses, being overweight or having a speech impediment. 

Arnold says he was picked on because he was small. In his first term, he was summoned to the room of a prefect, where he and another boy were stripped naked and one was made to perform oral sex on the other. Arnold remembers how humiliated he felt. ‘It was dehumanising’ he says.  

The abuse continued for two years, until the prefect left school and Arnold was ‘set free’. He explains that the abuse was so widespread it was made to seem like ‘normal induction’ into the school, and it was expected that students would do it to others when they reached the sixth form.

He adds that the abusive behaviour was ‘common knowledge’ around the school and there were some teachers and priests who were known to hold ‘special lessons’ where they abused children. He describes how boys would be summoned to certain members of staff ‘and then be quiet when they came back’. 

Arnold says he believes that the teachers were motivated by ‘a perverse power trip’ rather than homosexuality. In fact, he says, ‘Some boys were expelled for homosexual activity. But abuse, they chose not to be aware of’.

No one talked about the abuse that was going on at the school, and Arnold says there was no approachable person in authority who he could have talked to. Plus, he says, ‘It was beaten into the pupils from the first day that you do not talk to anybody’. He would not have told his parents about the abuse because he felt ‘it would be letting them down’, which would have added to his shame. 

After Arnold left the school, he says he suppressed memories of the abuse, and ‘changed the story to it being a rite of passage’. But in recent years, he realised that he had been raped and he had a nervous breakdown. He sometimes feels suicidal, and ‘not wanting to exist in any way, shape or form’. He suffers with anxiety, has abused alcohol and drugs, and has problems with trust and relationships.

Arnold believes a culture change in boarding schools is needed – ‘one in which people are not strong and silent, but strong and verbal’. He says schools need to actively look out for signs of abuse and should provide an independent person children can talk to. He is not sure that ‘empathy can be taught’ but suggests this should be explored. 

He has had therapy, and spoken to a friend, his wife and mother about the abuse he suffered. He says his mother told him she suspected he had been abused, and that although she knows ‘she can’t fix it’, it is helpful talking to her. 

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