In response to my charge, the report noted that “Mr. Hindle claimed the sexual contact was against his will, yet he neither resisted nor reported the incident. The detail Mr. Hindle provided to the investigators was explicit and, in no conceivable way, could it be described as a simple ‘backrub.’ Further, Mr. Hindle made several statements to the investigators that proved to be untrue, raising serious questions about whether his admission was too limited.”
Sadly, there was more. The school said another former revered teacher, the late Bryce Lambert — an exacting yet inspiring instructor who helped cultivate my interest in journalism — had “inappropriate sexual contact” with two former students during his tenure. The report noted that “Mr. Lambert is unable to defend himself, but there is sufficient evidence to name him.”
In the initial e-mail I wrote to Curtis, I asked her to consider two initiatives: first, ensuring that programs were in place to support any students who may have been sexually or emotionally harmed at the school, and second, considering discreetly easing Hindle out of the largely ceremonial role he continued to play at Deerfield. The March report concluded with a pledge to review and enhance the school’s policies on sexual harassment and misconduct, to strip Hindle’s name from an endowed mathematics teaching chair and one of the school’s squash courts, and to bar him from campus events. I have been heartened to date by the current administration’s clear-eyed, straightforward response to the allegations I raised. Other institutions could surely benefit from doing the same.
After watching the story unfold for more than a year, I’ve decided to reveal my identity in the hopes of lessening the stigma associated with being a survivor of sexual abuse and encouraging others on their own path of healing. Nothing about this process has been easy, but it has given me a renewed sense of integrity and self-respect. It was the right thing to do, and I’m glad I did it.
What happened to me all those years ago doesn’t define me; I try to view it as part of the mosaic of my life. Today I can feel angry about the abuse and the lax oversight that allowed it to occur without being consumed by resentment and bitterness. I choose to accept the entirety of my experience, knowing that it’s helped me become a more compassionate person, a better friend and father. As a flawed human being myself, it’s not for me to judge Hindle or pronounce his sentence. That’s better left to others.
Deerfield’s school motto, in the spirit of its folksy standard-bearer, longtime headmaster Frank L. Boyden, is articulated in plain English rather than the Latin used at peer institutions like Andover, Exeter, and Groton. It reads: Be Worthy of Your Heritage. My hope is that in choosing to speak up about events that significantly impacted the trajectory of my life, and in attaching my identity to that narrative, I have answered for myself a vital question: whether or not I am worthy of my own. It turns out I am.
Whit Sheppard, a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, is a Virginia-based writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Prosecutors are examining the sexual abuse allegations reported by Deerfield Academy, a process that began earlier this year. “We are independently investigating whether abuse allegations at Deerfield Academy decades ago were criminal in nature and, if so, whether or not the statute of limitations or other factors would preclude criminal prosecution,” says Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan. He would not say when the investigation would wrap up.
Accused former Deerfield teacher Peter Hindle told the Globe: “I don’t want to comment. I don’t believe any of the story and I never will.”