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Nathanael

Nathanael

The teacher who sexually abused Nathanael lost interest in him when Nathanael reached his mid-teens

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Bullied and friendless at his boarding school, Nathanael was groomed and sexually abused by a teacher.

When the teacher lost interest in him, he felt hurt and rejected.

When he was 11 years old, Nathanael went to a boarding school run by a monastic order of the Catholic church. His father had left the family and Nathanael was aware his mother had to make financial sacrifices in order to fund his education.

From the first day Nathanael started at the school, other pupils bullied him and he was very unhappy. ‘I must have had “victim” written all over me’ he says, adding that even the younger boys picked on him.

One of the teachers, Mr Williams, befriended him. The teacher encouraged Nathanael to spend time in his classroom. He was kind to the boy and encouraged his academic interests. 

But as time went on, Mr Williams began to show Nathanael books about sex, and then encouraged him to look at online pornography. He would ask Nathanael if he was aroused by the images, and encouraged him to go to the toilet next door to masturbate. Nathanael now wonders if Mr Williams was watching him while he did this.

Nathanael says that at the time ‘I felt really protected around him’. But now he sees it as ‘so creepy and horrible’. 

He also wonders what other staff in the school knew about Mr Williams’ behaviour. He remembers one of the other teachers making a wry comment about Mr Williams, that sounded like a warning to keep away from him. 

Mr Williams was often in the changing rooms with pupils after sports lessons. He would offer them toiletries to use and sometimes touch them inappropriately.

By the time Nathanael was 15, Mr Williams lost interest in him. He describes his confusion and anxiety as he wondered what he had done to offend the teacher – the only person who had been friendly to him. ‘I felt like I’d lost my best friend’ he says. ‘The withdrawal of affection meant I wanted to please him more.’

At that time, Nathanael did not realise Mr Williams had sexually abused him, but as he got older he realised that he had been groomed and exploited by someone who was in a position of trust.

Nathanael reported Mr Williams to the police a few years ago, but they advised him it would not be possible to convict him. This was because the abuse took place a few years before legislation was passed about grooming and inciting a child to commit a sexual act.

Soon after Nathanael made the report, the safeguarding officer at his former school invited him to a meeting with the headmaster who was in post when Nathanael was a pupil there.

Nathanael says the head expressed concern for him, but it was clear he was much more worried about protecting the reputation of the school. Nathanael finds this galling.

Nathanael has suffered with depression and had a breakdown. He says he finds it difficult to ‘just be a normal adult around kids’, not because he is concerned he would ever abuse anyone, but because he is conscious of how powerful adults can seem to children.  

He has also found it very hard to trust people as a result of his childhood experiences. ‘I think “When are they going to withdraw the friendship?”’ he says.

However, he is now in a stable relationship.

Nathanael would like to see a review of the legal time limits on reporting abuse and on whether legislation should be applied retrospectively.

He also thinks there should be scrutiny of the leadership in monastic schools, as he is concerned their priority is their reputation rather than the safety of pupils.

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