An elite boarding school in Connecticut has apologized for years of concealed sexual abuse. An independent investigation led by the law firm Locke Lord found evidence that at least seven former faculty members had sexually abused students at the Hotchkiss School between 1969 and 1992. Leaders from the prestigious boarding school apologized for botching sexual assault investigations in the past, Boston Globe reports.
Prominent in the law firm’s report are the indiscretions of Leif Thorne-Thomsen, who taught classics at the school from 1964 to 1992. Over a two-decade period, Locke Lord’s attorneys found, Thorne-Thomsen preyed on “vulnerable” girls who considered themselves “outsiders,” even marrying two of them. Several of Thorne-Thomsen’s had already been victimized by other trusted figures prior to their abuse by him.
“He used the trust these students placed in him as a teacher and mentor to engage in repeated acts of sexual misconduct,” Locke Lord wrote in its report.
The seven teachers named in the report are:
The sexual misconduct at the Hotchkiss School goes back decades, encompassing everything from inappropriate contact and unnecessary gynecological exams to rape. At least 16 students were subjected to abuse at the elite private school within a 23-year period.
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Abuse that may or may not have occurred at the school after 1992 was not identified by the report. Locke Lord, the law firm that conducted the investigation, says it received reports of sexual misconduct from the 2010s, but these complaints could not be substantiated. It did not receive any sexual misconduct reports from current students at the Hotchkiss School.
The vast majority of substantiated reports were “clustered in the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s,” the period immediately after the Hotchkiss School became a co-educational institution.
Locke Lord says it received a number of “credible” reports that could not be sufficiently corroborated to name the alleged perpetrator. As a result, the number of sexual abuse cases at the Hotchkiss School may be substantially higher than were confirmed by the law firm’s report.
Through their investigation, Locke Lord found that school officials were aware of at least some instances of sexual misconduct as they occurred. Through a mixture of individual failures and school-wide policies, the investigations undertaken by the Hotchkiss School failed to adequately address problems when they were raised, Locke Lord’s investigators found.
Through an intensive investigation, in which Locke Lord’s attorneys interviewed over 150 individuals, including over 90 Hotchkiss School graduates, it became clear that, throughout the decades between 1969 and 1992, the Hotchkiss School was inadequately equipped to tackle the problem of sexual abuse and misconduct.
The transition to co-education that came in the late 1970s was particularly difficult for Hotchkiss, especially since, as Locke Lord reports, the school failed to place student safety as its utmost priority. Even more damning is the school’s apparent choice to handle sexual abuse complaints “in-house,” rather than involving outside authorities, including the police. Apparently, the Hotchkiss School felt, at one point, that referring cases to their outside counsel was sufficient to address a complaint, Locke Lord’s investigators write.
In conclusion, Locke Lord writes:
“It is clear that Hotchkiss missed several key opportunities to protect the student body. Although not all sexual misconduct was reported contemporaneously, there were multiple reports made by survivors, other students, and faculty at or near the time of the abuse that should have spurred the school to action.”
Communication breakdowns, Locke Lord says, were common. Sexual abuse complaints were not transmitted from one head of school to another, especially in the case of Thorne-Thomsen’s misconduct. In general, the attorneys write, Hotchkiss School prioritized the institution’s reputation over the needs and safety of individual students.
Despite these past failures, Locke Lord’s investigators also found evidence that the Hotchkiss School has, in recent years, re-dedicated itself to promoting student safety. The school’s “policies and procedures for reporting and dealing with sexual misconduct by faculty” have been “aggressively” revised in recent years. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) has been called in to review these policy updates.
The Hotchkiss School has fielded a number of sexual abuse lawsuits in the past, including at least two cases filed over the misconduct of Leif Thorne-Thomsen. These cases have now been settled in confidential agreements. Whether or not the prestigious boarding school could face additional liability in the present is not addressed in the report.
In light of these new revelations, our compassionate attorneys have opened a full investigation into the Hotchkiss School’s handling of sexual assault complaints. Were you or a loved one sexually abused by a faculty member or employee of the Hotchkiss School? Our deepest condolences and prayers go out to you.
We understand the difficult range of emotions that sexual assault can cause. Many survivors feel a mixture of grief, pain, anger, guilt and embarrassment. Just know that this was not your fault. You were not responsible. Nor are you alone. Many survivors feel scared to come forward, but as this new investigation has shown, brave former students of the Hotchkiss School can step forward and demand change.
Our experienced sexual assault attorneys are here to help. Some survivors may have powerful legal options. To learn more about your rights, contact us today for a free consultation. You can find more information on your options at no cost and no obligation. Just call or complete our online contact form now.