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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church (EBC) Case Study: Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School Investigation Report

Pen portraits

RC-A622

RC-A622[1] attended St Benedict’s in the 1960s and 1970s, between the ages of eight and 15. He was sexually abused by Laurence Soper, then Abbot of Ealing, from the age of 12. At first, Soper fondled and stroked his genitals; however, the abuse quickly escalated. Soper made RC-A622 watch him while he masturbated and forcibly masturbated RC-A622. He caned and anally raped him on several occasions, sometimes ejaculating inside him and sometimes on the child’s body. Once, during a school trip, Soper fondled RC-A622’s genitals and then put RC-A622’s penis into his mouth. He told the boy to keep these incidents a secret, threatening him with severe punishments or expulsion.

Soper’s abuse had a devastating impact on RC-A622. He went from being a happy child who enjoyed school and aspired to become a veterinarian or a pilot to playing truant, stealing and drinking excessively. He said:

“I was drinking to numb the pain of what Soper was doing to me … To this day, I can still smell the aroma of the dirty habit that Soper wore and the smell of the leather on the desk that I was made to bend over. I don’t think these smells will ever leave me. I feared going to school once the abuse started.”[2]

His relationship with his parents broke down.

As an adult, RC-A622 was unable to hold down a job or maintain personal relationships. He described falling into depression, losing contact with his two children and becoming homeless as a result of his excessive drinking. He attempted suicide several times and was sectioned because of his mental health problems. He said:

“I often wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t been abused … I feel like I am still in a black hole and just can’t climb out of it. I don’t think I can ever put down in words fully what [Soper] has done to me. He has damaged me for life and I am afraid that that damage will never go away.”[3]

RC-A8

RC-A8[4] attended St Benedict’s in the 1970s, from the ages of 13 to 16. He had already been sexually abused by a family friend by the time he joined the school.

During the three years he spent at St Benedict’s, RC-A8 was physically and sexually abused by Soper. Soper would regularly cane RC-A8, including on one occasion so severely that he drew blood. RC-A8 described two further incidents where Soper fondled his bottom and tried to probe his anus with his fingers, over clothing. RC-A8 told us that Soper would regularly “feel up” the boys and that this was “full-on highly intrusive groping … the aim of it was sexual gratification for Soper and sexual humiliation for me”.[5]

RC-A8 became “the most beaten, the most caned boy[6] in the school, after he tried to protect one of his friends from abuse. He told us that:

“refusing these men led to being singled out … . Each master/cleric, lay or clergy, had their own coterie of boys … these were boys who might be past their sell-by date sexually, but were still under the spell of these predators … we are not talking about a bit of push and shove in the playground, we are talking about football-hooligan-level violence, we are talking about serious beatings in the street on the way home. That sort of thing. So you had official punishments – canings on all sorts of made-up pretexts … And then you had the other, the other victimisation, the physical violence. In a nutshell, I’d say that boys like me who resisted could look forward to having their educations derailed and wrecked … It was as if these men were following an instruction manual they’d learned by rote: grooming, accusation, persecution.”[7]

RC-A596

RC-A596 was a pupil at St Benedict’s from the mid 1970s to the early 1980s. He was summoned by Father David Pearce, a monk of Ealing Abbey, to his office two to three times a week. Pearce would touch his legs, bottom and genitals, expose himself and force RC-A596 to masturbate him through his robes. Pearce told RC-A596 that this was “okay” and “normal”.[8] The abuse went on for approximately three years,[9] when RC-A596 was between 10 and 14 years old.[10]

He was left with many psychological problems, including depression and anxiety, and attempted suicide on a number of occasions. He struggled with drug and alcohol addictions and had trust issues and difficulties forming relationships.[11]

Pearce’s abuse had a devastating impact on RC-A596. As he told the Metropolitan Police in 2009:

“He destroyed the foundations of mental, emotional and psychological wellbeing and stability which, for most, are the basic ingredients for a happy and productive existence. His despicable conduct robbed me of the ability to trust other[s], destroying my capacity to form loving and lasting relationships. Instead, I found myself seemingly intent on self-destruction, the result of unbearable mental and emotional suffering. The self-loathing and self-hatred his crimes engendered in me saw me go through a lifetime of self harm, beginning at the age of 15 ... I was repeatedly confined to psychiatric institutions over the next 25 years. I found myself unemployable and homeless, incapable of pulling out of the negative spiral that is substance abuse and dependence, a direct result of Pearce’s crimes ... He still appears in my nightmares ... his crimes are woven into the very fabric of my existence.”[12]

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