Over the years I have developed a routine when it comes time to write this column; with an early publication week deadline, I start working on the idea I’ve been mulling over in my head, oh, from about the previous Wednesday or Thursday, with a writing target of two days later. But this week, not feeling 100%, I procrastinated, tossing ideas around before rejecting one or the other …. almost passing over the ever growing story of sexual assault at Toronto’ s all-boys, Saint Michael’s School. Having been raised in the English school system of segregating male and female students, with all its attendant stunted social growth, stories about sexual assault by teachers on male students was fairly commonplace, reported by an eager Fleet Street press during my growing up years – but, in so many cases, never reported at all. “Hey, Woodsy, d’you hear about Smithy?” As well, within certain elements of the clergy, it was also a quite frequent lapse, but only talked about in hushed tones before the accused priest was quietly spirited (I use that word cautiously) to a new parish far away. The Saint Mikes’ incident seemed like just another variation on a theme, only involving students, not teachers. Every time I opened a Toronto newspaper, the headlines became larger, finally catching my attention.
It appears the staff made every attempt to handle the story in-house before calling in the Toronto police to investigate, resulting in charges being laid – and the eventual resignations of the school’s principal and president who, no doubt in their considered best interests of the school and the students, attempted to, well, cover it up. Out of curiosity, I Googled Schools – Sexual Assault. What came up first was page after page of Sexual Assault in schools in the United States. Googling further, I added Schools in Canada, to find another flood of pages reporting assaults across the country. For old times sake, I added the UK to the list. Absolutely swamped. But, seemingly, all hidden in the depths of the Internet, the broken, damaged lives only recognized at the pressing of a keyboard – or, unusually, recently found on the front page of the national press, revealing a hidden, dark side to our supposed good life; and, of course, begging the question, what happens in girls’ schools?
Sadly, a soul destroying world buried in plain sight, ignored, not spoken about, as young lives and not-so-young lives keep the secret. This, in 2018.