ACE teacher jailed for sex attacks (UK)

ACE teacher jailed for sex attacks (UK) July 4, 2013

From Fleetwood Today, 19/6/2010:

A TEACHER who molested a teenage girl more than 25 years ago has been put behind bars.

Graham Wilcock subjected his victim to numerous sexual assaults while he was a 25-year-old teaching assistant at Emmanuel Christian School in Fleetwood.

He would later become deputy head teacher in charge of the senior school.

The attacks spanned two years in the 1980s from when the girl was 13 to 15 years old.

His victim kept the assaults secret until the 1990s when there was an inquiry into his actions and he was sacked from the school but not barred from teaching.

Last year the woman – now in her 30s – contacted police after seeing a picture of her attacker and deciding she wanted the offences brought into the open.The 50-year-old was doing charity work in Romania when he was informed detectives wanted to speak to him regarding the abuse but returned to the UK to admit his guilt.

The school was the first in the UK to use Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), a method aimed at re-introducing Christian standards into the classroom.

(Full article). 

I’ve known about this for months, but for some reason I didn’t feel the time was right to blog about this before. I suppose because I don’t want to seem to be conducting an unjustified smear campaign. So let’s get some things straight:

  1. Obviously, no one at Accelerated Christian Education or Christian Education Europe would condone these actions. Indeed, they would want to stress that this behaviour was sinful and unchristian.
  2. Equally clearly, abuse happens in all kinds of other institutions, secular and religious. It would be foolish to suggest that ACE causes sexual abuse.

So from ACE’s point of view, I’m sure they’d say that’s it and all about it. It’s a regrettable occurrence, but no reflection on Christian schools or on the ACE curriculum.

I don’t entirely agree.

A school implementing the ACE system is ripe for abuse, for these reasons:

Students are taught that if they are involved in any sexual act, they have sinned. And, furthermore, they are responsible for this sin. Of course victims are going to be reluctant to come forward. They would have to admit to sinning – to committing the most judged and shamed sin of all. See Elizabeth Smart’s incisive explanation, “Abstinence education teaches rape victims they’re worthless, dirty, and filthy“. It is the child’s responsibility to preserve her virginity, and she who takes the blame if she loses it.

Students are taught to obey staff unquestioningly. The staff are surrogates for God. Look again at this PACE cartoon:

Cartoon from an ACE PACEPACEs (and fundamentalist teachings in general) constantly reinforce the notion that children will be blessed for obeying authority figures, even when the authority figures are wrong.

Fundamentalists will say I’m being unfair here. They’ll say that the exception to this rule would be when authority figures ask children to something ‘unbiblical’. And that is what the PACEs teach, but it’s not mentioned nearly as often as the importance of obedience and the idea that teachers generally know what’s best. Children are not in the habit of thinking about whether what the teacher says is right, and not taught the skills to question authority.

There is an assumption that staff, as Christians, just wouldn’t do something like this. I don’t think it’s likely that, if allegations of this nature did come to light in an ACE school, the staff would necessarily take them seriously. As I previously blogged for Bruce Gerencser (whose site has been down for a while – does anyone know if Bruce is OK?), my ACE school emphasised that children were inherently sinful and rebellious against God. If the student had brought forward the allegations at the time, would she have been believed? If her classmates had suspected something, they’d probably have been given demerits for gossiping.

The idea that God will take care of it stops abusers from facing justice. This ought to be the most shocking aspect of the article, but I’ve read so many stories like it I’m not even surprised. From the article:

His victim kept the assaults secret until the 1990s when there was an inquiry into his actions and he was sacked from the school but not barred from teaching.

The school knew about this in the 1990s, but they just kept it quiet. Of course they did. It was a long time ago. If the abuse came to light, it could harm the oh-so-valuable work of the school.

“Abuser, are you sorry for what you have done? Have you repented to Jesus?”

“I have, Pastor.”

“Then your sins are washed away. Go and sin no more. I see no reason to involve the authorities in this.”

And if something more does go wrong – well, God will compensate the victims when they get to heaven.

And we haven’t even talked about Christian patriarchy, and the culture that makes women subservient to men. And the constant teaching that Christians should avoid putting themselves in tempting situations, the obvious implication being that sexual lust is so powerful that no one can resist its urges. If you put yourself in a position to sin sexually, my teachers said, you will fall.

When the teacher found himself feeling sexual urges toward the student, the entire culture was telling him that he shouldn’t expect to be able to resist. And then, strangely enough, he found he couldn’t.

The students, meanwhile, aren’t even taught what sex is. So it’s unlikely this student knew much about consent, or understood that it can be rape even if there’s no physical force or violence.

And, of course, in the 1980s, all ACE schools had corporal punishment of children as a routine discipline policy. Many still do. Teenagers who experience corporal punishment are used to having authority figures make invasive contact with them. The students weren’t taught, as they should have been, that staff had no right to make intimate contact with them under any circumstances.

Given all of that, I wouldn’t say it was ever a question of if abuse would occur in an ACE school, but when.

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