Guardian Writer Talks About the Physical Abuse He Suffered in His Christian Prep School February 6, 2017

Guardian Writer Talks About the Physical Abuse He Suffered in His Christian Prep School

John Smyth, a Christian leader who ran faith-based camps for children in both the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe, has been at the center of several abuse accusations. He reported asked boys to walk around naked, shower with him, talk about masturbating, and sleep near him. He also allegedly assaulted them.

He’s now in South Africa, where police are now investigating him, but stories are emerging from others who suffered at his hands — including from those who have been trying to sound the alarm for years.

Giles Fraser, writing for the Guardian, doesn’t talk about Smyth directly, but he says his experience in Christian education left him with the same kinds of emotional (and physical) scars.


Ted Robertson, the headmaster of my prep school, Hollingbury Court in Sussex, had a collection of canes in his study. Thick ones; thin, whippy ones; long and short. Different materials. For hours I would stand in a gloomy wood-panelled corridor, next to a creepy chapel, waiting for the beatings. This could be several times a week. Talking after lights out, talking at meal times, running in the corridor, wearing the wrong bit of uniform — these and other outrages were all punishable with a good thrashing. “Bend over, boy.” I would focus on a spot on the floor. The most important thing was not to wince. And I wasn’t going to give those bastards the satisfaction of seeing me cry.

Often we would go to bed with underpants drenched in blood… I was beaten like this throughout the 1970s, with canes and bats and shoes and clothes brushes, from the age of seven all the way through to when I was 12. The pain doesn’t last so long. But a burning anger settles in your soul.

The problem lies with everyone and everything. The criminals themselves. The archbishops who oversaw them and either ignored the problem or looked away. The beliefs that led people to believe the abuse was justified. The parents who felt physical assault was the best way to instill morals and discipline.

Don’t let anyone get away with saying religion is necessary for morality. It’s not. In many cases, it’s a powerful motivation for immorality.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Barbara for the link)

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