NYTimes This year, Lisa M. Friel, the former Manhattan prosecutor who has helped Poly Prep bolster its sexual-abuse-prevention program, angered plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the school when she said in an interview that “people had very different understandings of what sexual abuse was in the ’60s and ’70s and what a pedophile was.”
One problem with an argument like Mr. Lin’s is the extent to which it belies the secrecy surrounding the kind of encounters he describes. If things had, in fact, been as open, freewheeling and inoculated from reproof as he and others might have chosen to believe, then the sex that transpired between teachers and students would not have happened so clandestinely, with wrenching admissions and discussions arriving only 20 and 30 years later.
Times are different, in that more children who have been abused say so. In his research, David Finkelhor, a leading expert on sexual abuse who wrote one of the 1980 books, has found that now, in 50 percent of sexual abuse cases, the child’s victimization had been reported to an authority, compared with 25 percent in 1992. Dr. Finkelhor has also found that the number of substantiated cases of abuse has dropped 62 percent from 1990 to 2010.
While it is true that the world of parental vigilance we inhabit now was not yet manifest in the ’70s or even the ’80s, when much of the abuse at Horace Mann is said to have happened, it skews reality to imagine that the sexual abuse of children is an issue that only recently has seen the rays of the sun. By 1974, years before the arrival of Lifetime television and its relentless airing of crisis dramas, ABC offered an hour of the series “Marcus Welby, M.D.” devoted to the case of a 14-year-old boy who had been raped by a science teacher during a field trip.