Skip to main content

0800 917 1000   Open weekdays 9am-5pm

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

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

C.2: Physical and emotional abuse (1970s and 1980s)

4. The St Benedict’s of the 1970s was described to us by one former pupil as a “Cold, grim, forbidding and “beastly place, with a culture of severe corporal punishment.[1] The impression given by some pupils was of an atmosphere that was sadistic and predatory.

5. Physical abuse was widespread and we heard that, for many children at the time, “coming to school was terrible.[2]

5.1. RC-A8 told us that physical abuse “happened to all of us” and was “commonly talked about and commonly discussed” amongst the pupils.[3]

5.2. RC-A24 said “there were particular teachers whose reputation was that they were almost deranged in their pursuit of corporal punishment.[4]

6. Several witnesses told us that Soper in particular was a terrifying figure, “the scariest of the monks there[5] and a “disciplinarian[6] who “everyone saw … as someone best to avoid”.[7] Pearce was also known to use corporal punishment. In 2009, he was convicted of indecently assaulting RC-A594, a boy he would regularly call to his office to receive beatings with a cane and then sexually abuse.

7. The evidence we received shows that, in many cases, physical violence was used as a pretext for sexual gratification. Corporal punishment was also used to punish boys who sought to protect themselves and others from sexual abuse, such as RC-A8.[8]

8. The prevalence and severity of the violence, coupled with the general atmosphere at the school, meant that children did not feel comfortable reporting sexual or other abuse. As RC-A645 said:

I feel quite strongly that the atmosphere of extreme violence, menace and severe corporal punishment was part of what allowed sexual abuse to take place on such a wide scale. When most of the pupils are perpetually in a state of fear and often terror (and I choose my words carefully and I believe accurately here) then teachers can get away with just about anything. It is notable that some of those teachers who were convicted of sex offenses [sic] at school were also amongst the most violent members of staff.[9]

9. We agree that children who are intimidated are less likely to report abuse. An atmosphere which is physically violent and threatening is also one where sexual abuse is more likely to occur. The true scale of the physical and the sexual abuse at St Benedict’s is therefore likely to be much higher.

Back to top