Testimony 41

The time I spent at KEGS was an incredibly traumatic time in my life owing to the unrelenting abuse I face from other students and also the neglect by the senior staff who had a duty of care over myself and my peers. Throughout my time at the school, I faced a barrage of sexual harassment including non-consensual touching and slut shaming but both the boys in my year and the year above. I felt genuine fear many days coming to school and have wept on multiple occasions to my parents, begging them not to leave me in that place. I requested my previous secondary school multiple times to allow for me to come back, even considered resitting a year at school because of how distressed I was every single day. Class teachers often reported to the senior staff my withdrawn, tearful and at times entirely hysterical states in class and around the school and I had been brought into the offices senior staff who asked if I was ok. More often than not, I was sent away in tears without even being asked for the names of the men who were abusing me constantly in their own school environment. I was told things like “Well, the boys in the year above are going through their exams”. I attempted suicide in my first year at KEGS following a sense of hopeless coming out of an abusive relationship I had within the school. After my overdose, I was in a wheelchair for a week and couldn’t attend school. This, again, began another barrage of abuse with many people accusing me of having stopped coming to school because of a boy. This continued upon my return with further slut shaming and slander wherever I went when I was in a particularly vulnerable place in my life. Having now, years later spoken out about the abuse I suffered in that relationship to multiple people who had been to the school, I was assured I was believed. However, the individuals raised at the school are such that even such a distressing story of psychological and emotional abuse would not stop them from spending time with and speaking with him should it be convenient to them. They are brought up to have far too much tolerance for even life threatening behaviours and often go straight to the blame of the victim to make themselves feel better rather than admit the mistakes that allows for this abuse culture to run rampant. There is also no education around abuse in relationships, with many people, myself included, unable to note the signs of an abusive or narcissistic character before it was far too late. And many of those who did unfortunately supported their behaviours and emulated them as examples of how to treat women. Hence the cyclic nature of the men at KEGS continues on. After the suicide attempt, the school got more involved in my life. However looking back on the situation I find I was often gaslighted into believing they were helping me when in actuality all they did was shield my abusers from the consequences of their actions. The boys continued to relentlessly mock me and make sexually explicit comments about what they “would do to me”. Many days at school, my fear and panic would become too much and I was reduced to tears for hours on end and eventually would be sent home. Senior members of staff would often not allow me to go home on the trains during these times as I usually would as they were genuinely convinced I would jump and kill myself. This, of course, begs the question that if the people whose job it was to protect me were sure on multiple occasions that I would commit suicide given the chance, why did they not ever intervene with the students who were pushing me to this point? One thing a senior member of staff said that stuck with me about the culture at the school was “The boys at our school have an issue with attractive, intelligent girls. People like you intimidate them hence they lash out. This has always been a problem, but we don’t know how to fix it.” There was a total lack of zero tolerance policy at the school be it with regards to sexual harassment, verbal abuse, bullying, homophobia or racism. Whilst many of the kinder boys (and there were many) had been so conditioned to be afraid of the others that very little was ever offered in defence of either myself or my friends who were forced to go through these situations. Coming out of the school, I am now medicated for depression, anxiety and PTSD – all of which were not conditions I suffered with prior to my time at KEGS. I work with doctors and therapists weekly and I still feel forced to relive numerous traumatic moments that I went through at that school. I suffer from panic attacks regularly and I am even gripped with fear if ever I have to pass the school building. Whilst I feel like I have had the opportunity to rebuild my life and psyche through medication, abuse therapy and counselling, I am left with scars that will last for the rest of my life. The women at KEGS and many of the male students also deserve so much better from the senior staff. The upset and trauma experienced by the students should not have gone silenced for so long. Alongside many others, I feel a sense of duty towards the people who continue to have to face their school in fear every day and something needs to be done about it.

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