PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI/AP) – Up to 30 former St. George’s students will finally get closure from the elite prep school after years of silence following alleged sexual abuse.
The Middletown school released a joint statement Wednesday with a group representing the victims, saying it has agreed to a sexual abuse settlement that would provide compensation for up to 30 former students who were allegedly assaulted.
According to school officials, the institution will provide an undisclosed sum to settle the claims.
Dozens of victims have come forward in recent months with stories of abuse by school employees and fellow students. The allegations date back as far back as the 1970s and as recently as the 2000s.
Eyewitness News travelled to Boston on Wednesday to meet with Carmen Durso, an attorney for the survivors.
He said many of his clients never spoke about their abuse until the legal process began in January – and his is thrilled with how quickly a settlement was reached.
“No one ever puts sexual abuse behind them, but they can, at least, put the mechanics of this part of the process behind them,” Durso said.
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Durso said his clients were never after money.
“Virtually none of them were motivated by money, they all said, ‘I don’t want to see this happen to another kid’,” he said.
According to Durso, information indicated at least 50 people were abused at the school – but only 30 wanted to make a claim. He said the survivors who did take legal action include both men and women with ages ranging from 28 to 60.
“Sexually and physically abused by teachers, by other students,” Durso explained. “It happened between the early 1970s and into the 80s.”
The chairwoman of the school’s Board of Trustees sent Eyewitness News the following statement:
“It is our sincere hope that this agreed resolution will assist our survivors as they move forward towards healing. We look forward to continuing to work with our survivor community so that the lessons learned can ensure the safety of our current and future generations of St. George’s students.”
“We’ve settled the claim part, that’s done, I don’t think all of the talking is over by any stretch of the imagination,” Durso added.
According to Durso, if the case had gone to court, the survivors likely would have lost because the statute of limitations in the case had run out.
“Rhode Island has one of the worst statutes of limitations in the United States,” he said.
While there is no statute of limitations for rape in the Ocean State, there are for other sex crimes. Durso said that is why he is calling for a change to the laws.
“Perpetrators are smart, and if you have different laws for different crimes, they will be very careful about what they do until someone gets to a certain age,” he said.
St. George’s survivor representative Anne Scott sent Eyewitness News a statement Wednesday, saying:
“It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to receive this kind of validation and support, after all these years. Our spirits are renewed on our forward healing journey.”
Advocacy group reaches out
Maureen Philbin, Director of Advocacy of Day One, said the victim advocacy group has been working with some of the survivors.
“I think it’s really important to applaud the survivors who were very brave and had the courage to come forward with this,” she said. “No amount of compensation can make up for the damages that happened to these victims. But it is a step in the right direction and we want to continue to support these victims as they go through the healing process.”
She said Day One knows there are other victims out there that have not yet come forward – and the organization has reached out to St. George’s to continue to offer support to anyone who may need it.
A state police investigation that concluded earlier this year said no criminal charges would be filed.