ACE teacher jailed for sex attacks (UK)

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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About jonnyscaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on July 4, 2013, in Accelerated Christian Education, Atheism, Christianity, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. In other words ACE schools do not teach anything but totalitarianism and “blame the victim” mentality.

    • I would like to point out that while the “purity movement” makes sexual abuse more likely, it still doesn’t guarantee it. (This isn’t in any way meant to excuse ACE or the “purity movement,” or let them off the hook. Just because some people get in car accidents without seat belts on and survive, doesn’t make it OK to not wear your seat belt.) A bad outcome being likely doesn’t mean a bad outcome is guaranteed; it just means that the action that could cause that bad outcome should be avoided. In this case, the idea that purity = virginity, thus making purity a thing that can be lost and never regained, is poisonous.

      Authoritarianism (the idea that The Authority Is Always Right) is a contributing factor, certainly, but as Johnny points out, there are multiple issues at play here. ACE is guilty, but they’re not the only guilty ones, and acting as if this issue is confined to ACE and its main competitors lets other people off the hook. The purity culture is the biggest culprit here.

  2. John, have you ever read any of the homeschooling books written by/published by Gary North?

  3. “They’ll say that the exception to this rule would be when authority figures ask children to something ‘unbiblical’.”

    This is very true. The key problem is that they also tell children they’re not qualified to assess what is biblical/unbiblical, and that they should let adults (ie. deity mediators) tell them what is biblical/unbiblical. Thus creating a perfect little loophole for abusers to gain a foothold.

    I like the fact that you’ve picked up on the fact that ACE contributes to a culture in which it’s possible for abuse to occur, and whilst simultaneously decrying such abusers, do nothing to change the legitimising and enabling culture. If they were serious about tackling abuse, they would talk about sex openly and unashamedly, and work with the self-esteem of pupils. Instead, they perpetuate an environment in which sex is shameful, and pupils should be ashamed at all times.

    And that’s just sexual abuse: I know for a fact that these schools are routinely emotionally abusive, and that physical abuse certainly happened in the past.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to discover there is a whole bunch of abuse waiting to be uncovered with the fundamentalist christian education system.

    • When my brother was in Cub Scouts, my father noticed that there was a section on sexual abuse (age-appropriate, of course). He sat us both down and had a talk with us about how:

      1. There are some orders an adult or teenager can give a child (“Take your clothes off,” “Go steal that object there,” etc.) that are always wrong no matter who the adult is. When you’re told to do those things, say NO and tell another trusted adult ASAP.

      2. Never go anywhere with a stranger, no matter what they say. (This is better than “Don’t talk to strangers,” because everyone has to talk to someone they don’t know at some point.)

      3. If an adult says they’re here to pick you up from school or extra-curricular activities, and you weren’t told by Mom or Dad beforehand, DON’T get in the car–even if it’s a relative or someone else you know well.

      The talk was serious enough, and gentle enough, to get the point across of when disobedience is not only OK, but right. I only wish every parent had that talk with their children, because there would be fewer unreported child-abuse cases out there.

  4. Jonny, I don’t “like” this article, but I appreciate you posting this.

    I have a theory about religion and holy books. If a person (usually a man) continually reads about the founding fathers of their faith marrying 12-15 year old girls, raping women, murdering babies, and owning slaves with little to no consequences he is being programmed into thinking that all of those things are perfectly fine. He begins to believe he has license to act upon his knowledge. When a woman, child or any other person who could be taken advantage of reads or hears this same information repeatedly he or she has already begun to be conditioned to believe that it’s his or her fate to submit to that man.

    • Jonny, thank you for the article about Elizabeth Smart as well.

      • And some Christians believe that the difference between OT God and NT God is that God, in the form of Jesus, learned about humanity and was thus able to become more just. Others believe that because the Bible was written in a different cultural context, we should be wary of doing things just because someone in the Bible did them–the examples you cite, for instance, were based on a different cultural concept of morality and are unacceptable today. Just because the bible has those issues, doesn’t mean that it automatically instills those same moral problems in everyone who reads it. Every holy book has problematic sections–the true test of a religious person’s character is which sections are emphasized, and which are treated as flawed or unimportant to the main message.

        As for David being king, Ecclesiastes has a verse that, as a Pagan, I still rather like: “It rains on the just and the unjust alike.” While David experienced loss in the form of the dead baby, he and Bathsheba certainly didn’t receive justice. But you don’t have to believe that all wrongs will automatically be righted in this world in order to be a Christian. Indeed, even though most Christians would argue that we all need to work together to make the world more just, they also believe in the concept of a final reward.

      • L, I understand what you’re saying, and I am familiar with those Biblical passages you’re referencing. I also know that Jesus said that he came to this earth “not to condemn the law, but to fulfill it”. From my viewpoint, that just means that God of the Old Testament and New Testament are one of the same and Christ’s work was just to continue operating in the old covenant, not to discredit it. Do you understand where I am coming from? Scripture also confirms that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

        There is still the price that the entire world has to pay for, the “sin” of one woman who lived on earth supposedly six to ten thousand years ago. Even the cross and resurrection didn’t combat Eve’s “evil” of longing to know more.

        Grant it, I recognize the whole raining on the just and unjust verse you quote, and I am aware (as someone who was very active in Christianity and the Church for the first four decades of my life) that the promise of heaven more than makes up for the suffering on earth. I know that Christians also say that because the world is in a “fallen state” we all are to suffer. I have a hard time understanding all the whys because of God’s sovereignty. If Has as much power, and control as He claims to then why not use them?

      • Hi, The_L

        Why are you lecturing us on “some Christians”?

    • As with other things, it depends. The Bible also makes it clear that David killing Uriah to marry Bathsheba was a very evil act, and that doing great things doesn’t mean you never did any really bad things (or vice versa).

      The problem is when you’re brought up hearing these stories and never told that certain things are wrong, or when the “dark side” of Bible stories (like David and Bathsheba) are deliberately ignored by your teachers in order to sustain the dangerous idea that Good People Can Do No Wrong.

      There are good Christians, and there are bad Christians. (Replace “Christians” with the followers of any other religion, or with “atheists/agnostics,” and the statement still holds.) Religion itself is not evil; fundamentalism is evil.

      • I disagree, David still was king after that, and is clearly visible in his writings in the Old Testament of the Bible, as well as in the lineage of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

        There is also Abraham who raped his wife’s slave to make a baby. There’s at least two big things wrong with that, and God never punished him for his wrong doing. I refuse to call slavery good, and I will never call rape moral either. Then when Abraham’s wife Sarah insisted that her maid servant should leave because her and Abraham finally had Isaac, Abraham kicks Hagar and Ishmael (the slave and his real firstborn, although Biblically I know he’s not considered as such) out into the desert with basically a water bottle and a bit of bread. Abraham might have been a nomad, but he was a freaken’ rich one and could have made much better provisions than that.

        Yet, God flipped out because a woman named Eve wanted to know more. Now with that He kicks her, and her husband out of the garden causing all of humanity thousands of years of sin, sickness, death and labor. No Christian really has freewill just based on that Biblical passage alone. If you pay for someone else’s sin, especially one that was from so long ago and are automatically born into sin because of it, you don’t have freewill.

        That’s just three instances right off the top of my head when real justice was not practiced by a supposedly just god. God’s silence and at times His advancement of such hateful and hurtful people speaks volumes about His cruelty.By being this way in the Bible He is giving a free pass for those in leadership to hurt those who they rule over. I would much rather believe that such a being doesn’t exit rather than continuing to follow such a sadist.

  5. My apologies fellow commenters, my replies are all over the place. Next time I need to pull up the original post when I comment, replying from the notifications on my reader seems to continually work against me.

    Thanks Jonny for allowing your blog to be an open forum on various topics.

  6. Charity, I do not believe that Abraham actually “raped” Sarah’s maidservant because it was later mentioned that Hagar was constantly “bullying” Sarah for not having a child. Also, Abraham sent his first-born and Sarah’s slave into the desert with God’s promise of him also becoming a great nation and it also had a consequence, some scholars do believe that Arabs (which are predominantly Muslims) came from Ishmael,look how Jews are hated by their neighboring countries . Also, the no consequence thing that you mentioned, I also don’t believe in that, because even a Christian reaps consequences even after repentance, it doesn’t just get thrown out of the window, sooner or later it comes flying back to you. David had many wives and concubines, as a result he saw his family fighting between each other. I don’t know any sane person who would not be grieved when his family is constantly killing one another.Sorry my “paragraph” is not well constructed, I was also schooled by an ACE curriculum.I also believe that there is no such thing as a perfect curriculum (I don’t like how ACE restricts free thinking, eg. If you use ANY other method other than the one they taught you, then you are a rebel, scum, and is deserving of a failing grade. I HATED THAT! ESPECIALLY IN PHYSICS)

  7. Left wing totalitarian Fascist Communist Marxist Neanderthal (Ape-ist) God-haters who think that they are doing humanity and the planet a great service by attacking any thing that is bible-based origin in their doomed diabolical attempts to re-write history and destroy western civilisation founded on Judeo-Christian belief systems.

    Look around you and see the economic & social damage done to the USA and UK by the proponents of such anti-christian ideologies in the likes of Tony Blair and Obama Bin Laden. Yes and see how the military Jihadists (Islamo-fascists) are filling the spiritual void left behind by the ‘free thinkers’ Fascists.

    A house divided against itself can not stand. It would be obvious to an elementary school or kindergarden child (state or privately educated) that the Fascists aka NWO Masonic Mafia elites have so far been the architect of their own inevitable down fall.

    Keep chipping away at the foundations (Fundamental Belief Systems) of your once great nation(s) are watch its gradual demise just like ancient Rome – internal moral decay and division. The global Jihadists UAE and Caliphates – their Mullahs and Sharia Law which advocates the beheading of all infidels, Gays (Gaystapos) and all bigoted and intolerant anti-religious ‘non-believers’ are patiently waiting in the shadows.

    • Any comment on the Christian raping the schoolgirl?

    • What ‘anti-christian ideology of Tony Blair’?? The man is devoutly Christian. His support for state funding of religious schools may well contribute to ‘social damage’ if Northern Ireland is anything to go by but that’s not anti-christian ideology is it?

    • I do so love that instead of addressing the sexual abuse of a child, you’ve come on here and given vent to a full range of insecure paranoic fantasises.

      If anything gives lie to the hate and fear that your faith represents, that was it. Well done.

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