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Jerome says ‘I think boarding schools can be an environment where it’s easy to overstep the mark’

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Jerome was groomed at boarding school by a teacher. 

The teacher went on to sexually abuse him, but there was no policy or procedure he knew of that would have enabled him to report this.

Jerome went to boarding school when he was 13 years old. During his time there, he formed a close relationship with one of the teachers, Mr A.

Jerome says Mr A was ‘very good fun’. He took an interest in Jerome and his friends, talked to them about current affairs and music, and made them feel their opinions mattered. Jerome adds that the teacher would take the boys to the pub and allow them to ‘get pissed’. 

‘He seemed more on a level with us, he was interested in what we thought, and he made school a bit more interesting’ says Jerome. He comments that with hindsight, he can see Mr A’s behaviour was grooming.

He remembers hearing comments made by other pupils that Mr A had a reputation for touching boys, but he says ‘everyone made light of it’. 

So when Jerome moved into the sixth form, and he and a friend were offered the opportunity to live with Mr A in separate accommodation at the school, he was keen to do this. Jerome says at first he enjoyed the new arrangement because it gave him a lot of freedom and independence.  

But one night towards the end of the school year, when his friend was away, Jerome woke up to find Mr A in his bedroom. The teacher was masturbating both himself and Jerome.

Jerome says ‘I went into panic and shock … I felt I’d been violated’. He immediately left the house and went to sleep somewhere else. The next day, he wandered round the local town in a daze. He was extremely unhappy about what had happened, but had no idea what to do about it.

During the holidays, Jerome told his parents what Mr A had done. He relates how let down he felt by their response. ‘It was almost as though they didn’t want to hear it … I don’t understand why they didn’t see the significance of it or suggest a way of dealing with it’. In subsequent years, his mother has denied that he ever told her.

Back at school, Jerome spoke to the friend who lived in the accommodation with him. Jerome says that from his friend’s response, he got the impression that he may also have been abused by Mr A.

The sexual abuse had a profound effect on Jerome. Before it happened, Jerome says he had enjoyed school and done well in his studies. 

But after the abuse, he became disillusioned and depressed. He found it hard to concentrate and didn’t do well in his exams. He began drinking alcohol and taking drugs, and says that the things he enjoyed, like sport, ‘went out of the window’. He felt confused about his sexuality, and found it hard to trust people. He went to university, but dropped out. 

Jerome reflects that boarding schools break attachments between children and their families and encourage attachments within the institution. He adds that boundaries can be blurred because children are living with adults, and boarding schools have the resources to offer lots of trips away. 

He says he wasn’t aware of anyone at the school he could have spoken to about the abuse, but sometimes he has felt guilty that he didn’t address it, because Mr A ‘could have done it to other people’.

Jerome has had counselling, which he says was useful to help him realise how the abuse had affected him and that ‘it wasn’t my fault’. 

However, he still finds his experience of sexual abuse very difficult to come to terms with. At times he has found himself thinking ‘It was nothing compared to what some people go through, but it really affected me’.

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