A former student at an all-girls boarding school in Troy, NY, says her history teacher bound, gagged, and anally raped her in 1998, an incident she says the school administration covered up by asking her to leave.
The Times reports that then-Emma Willard School student Kat Sullivan was in a relationship with a history teacher who took her to his apartment, bound and gagged her with her own underwear, and anally raped her. When Sullivan reported the sexual abuse to school officials a day later, they did fire the teacher, but instead of offering her support, they sent her by bus to New Orleans (she became homeless when she arrived) and told her parents she dropped out.
There are more disturbing details alleged, including that the school originally knew that Sullivan, who had transferred to the school in her junior year, was involved with the teacher, and merely warned her to "be careful." Sullivan did vandalize a student's property, which the school administration used against her to ask her to leave, but did so the morning after the rape—the Times reports she was traumatized and "still bleeding from the attack."
"At no time did any of the adults in the room offer to provide medical assistance to this rape victim, or refer her to a mental health counselor or the police," her attorney Roderick MacLeish wrote in a letter, to Dr. Susan Groesbeck, the current acting head of school. In fact, Sullivan said the then-head-of-school "told me that I had two choices because I was not fit to be an Emma Willard girl or woman, and that I was a disgrace."
Though Sullivan can't sue the school because of the case's statute of limitations, she is asking them to public apologize and fund counseling—the school says it "has apologized in writing directly to Kat," and is "working to provide resources to assist Kat in her recovery," according to a statement obtained by the Times. Sullivan did report the rape to police in April, and the teacher, who has not been named, is liable to be charged for the crime.
The school board, meanwhile, has asked any other survivors of assault at Emma Willard—whose alumni include Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Fonda and Kirsten Gillibrand—to come forward. "We know this may not be a welcome answer, but it is the one we feel compelled to give presently if we are to treat every survivor with sensitivity and care. We will all find out what was done right, and what was done wrong," Elisabeth Allen LeFort, Chair of the Board of Trustees, wrote in an email earlier this month.
Sullivan, who is now 37, is a pediatric nurse in Orlando. She says she was compelled to go public about the rape at the insistence of a former friend, and that she found doing so empowering. "'Empowered' is one of Emma Willard’s tag lines, so I’m not sure I can identify with that,” she told the Times. "But I’ve been able to find my voice. There’s a lot of this that is painful for me. There are things that embarrass me. But I’m above that; this needs to be told."
Sullivan's is just one of many stories that have come out about long-hidden sexual abuse at private schools, include elite Riverdale school Horace Mann, which was recently rocked with sex abuse allegations dating all the way back to the 1960s