Thursday, June 7, 2012

Terrible Secrets

 ("The Horace Mann School's Secret History of Sexual Abuse")

We stepped into a universe that, for many, could be overwhelming and intimidating. We entered in seventh grade, "lone and helpless wanderers on a dark and stormy sea." Horace Mann was an institution in which we placed our trust to mold us physically, emotionally and intellectually.  We were supposed to emerge, six years later, prepared to overcome all the hurdles that life would inevitably place in our path.

I walked into Horace Mann 48 years ago, in tie and jacket, one of a class of about 100 boys. Shepherding us on our journey were a group of male teachers, not motivated by economic greed, so we believed, but by the pure joy of being able to mold a collection of bright, curious and eager young minds.. For at least one of these teachers, there was apparently a very different stimulus.

I remember Mr. Somary being eccentric, but that was not out of the ordinary in this environment. Some teachers were contemplative and almost brooding. One tried to show us the joy in flowers and to literally stop and smell the roses. In retrospect, were there reasons to question the path into which we were being drawn? At least for me, there was never any hint of danger in this eclectic gathering.

Did the school miss the obvious signs? Mr. Somary apparently began his journey into darkness almost half a century ago. Was this a 50 year cover up, meant to preserve the reputation of an institution at the expense of those who were vulnerable and exposed? Was this the academic equivalent of the Catholic church?

The article certainly points us in that direction. And there may be some very real truth in this indictment. I have heard the stories of suicide. I have listened to some who have railed against the school, its pressures and maybe something else much deeper that only they knew about. I await the tales that will inevitably now come tumbling out in waves.

I am disheartened if any of those around me were suffering a private hell that robbed them of everything that this school was supposed to provide. I am disappointed and disillusioned to think that there may have been a cover up of abuses that were not supposed to touch any school, but most certainly not this one.  Horace Mann was to be "the beacon that would light the way to life and liberty".  For those who may have felt the uncomfortable hand of Mr. Somary when I was a student at Horace Mann, and whose lives were profoundly and forever shackled by this terrible and terrifying secret, I am deeply saddened.


Pam said...

Quite the article in the Times today ... very sad.. and way to prevalent it seems...

Anonymous said...

Quite the article in the Times today... very sad.. and way to prevalent...Pam

Robert said...

Sad and frightening.