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A 400-page report describes the ‘private hell’ and sexual abuse that at least 51 students suffered through at an elite New England prep school

On Behalf of | Sep 9, 2016 | Firm News, Sexual Abuse |

A report released by an independent investigator on Thursday details the widespread sexual abuse that students at St. George’s School, an elite prep school in Rhode Island, suffered through during the 1970s and ’80s, The New York Times reported.

At least 51 students were abused by employees and 10 were abused by students, according to the report, which noted that the numbers are likely much higher. While the report focuses on two decades, the majority of the instances of sexual abuse took place from 1974 through 2004, according to a previous report released by St. George’s in December.

The nearly 400-page report, commissioned by St. George’s and an organization called SGS for Healing and conducted by an outside law firm, paints a disturbing picture of the “private hell” that some of the students lived through:

“Many of these students remember St. George’s as a place where their abusers created a kind of private hell for them – a place where they suffered trauma and emotional wounds that, for many, remain unhealed. The abuse they experienced involved not only physical acts of sexual assault (as horrible as those were), but something that, for many, was even worse: betrayal at the hands of an adult entrusted with their care, at a school where they saw few, if any, places to turn for help.”

The report identifies six employees of St. George’s who sexually abused students between 1970 and 1989:

  1. William Lydgate, English teacher
  2. Timothy Tefft, English teacher
  3. Howard White, associate chaplain, teacher, dorm parent, and coach
  4. Alphonse “Al” Gibbs, athletic trainer and assistant coach
  5. Franklin Coleman, choirmaster, music director, music teacher, and dorm parent
  6. Susan Goddard, part-time nurse

The report pointed to one person, Gibbs, as the biggest perpetrator of the abuse. He raped or sexually abused at least 31 girls who attended the school, more than half of the total number of victims and about one-fifth of all the girls who attended the school, according to the report. He was eventually fired in 1980 and died in 1996, according to The Times.

The findings of the investigation come less than a month after St. George’s reached a financial settlement with 28 former students over allegations of sexual abuse and rape.

The exact terms and amount of money involved in the settlement have not been disclosed.

“St. George’s has done something meaningful and important for survivors,” Anne Scott, a 1980 graduate of St. George’s, said, according to The Times in early August. “It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to receive this kind of validation and support, after all these years.” she continued.

Scott is a 1980 graduate of St. George’s who says that she was raped repeatedly over a two-year period by Gibbs.

She said that the alleged sexual abuse had a deeply negative effect on her well-being.

“I stopped talking or communicating with people, interacting with people, for long periods of time after that,” she said during a press conference in January.

“My parents did get me into therapy when I was in college, and through that, I was hospitalized four times – one time for a prolonged period during my early 20s.”

The Rhode Island State Police had been conducting a separate investigation, but it ended in June without any criminal charges.

St. George’s again expressed its “profound” apologies for the pain caused at the school.

“While the news I am reporting is a significant step forward, our Board – comprised of alumni, parents and other caring community members – can never express adequately our regret and sorrow that some in our St. George’s family were harmed in the past by the very people who were supposed to nurture and protect them,” board of trustees Chairwoman Leslie B. Heaney wrote in a letter to the school’s community.

St. George’s did not immediately response to Business Insider’s request for comment.

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