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Re: “Five former students at Carolina Friends School report being sexually abused by ex-principal Harold Jernigan

I am one of the five CFS students who have chosen to come forward. I am aware of one student who has chosen not to come forward, and he is at peace with that. I think that principal Mike Hanas, the CFS founders, the CFS board, the legal team they hired, and moving in larger circles to include the greater CFS community have done about as well as possible, given the decades between when Harold Jernigan committed these abuses and when, finally, there were addressed. This included some delays while the Orange County Sheriff's Office conducted, first one and then two investigations, both of which concluded that the Statute of Limitations was in effect, and the work of the Philadelphia-based legal team, which had worked in the aftermath of the abuses made under and covered up by the Catholic Archdiocese in that city, crimes that, in my opinion, are greater that than what happened to me.

I do not think it would have been possible to have predicted that an investigation into the acts of headmaster Harold Jernigan beginning in the 1960's would surface one apparently unrelated instance of abuse from teacher Bill Butcher, triggering his suicide. I don't blame the CFS community for Bill Butcher's suicide and I do not blame the five who have come forward (which includes myself) either. This does not reduce the tragedy of the loss of one human life.

The conclusion of the two-year CFS process left me free, in fall 2014, to take a calculated risk, which was to take one step that, to my knowledge no other person or organization associated with this affair had taken - to reach out to Harold Jernigan directly. I made this choice against advice of family, friends and my therapist, who is trained in sexual abuse counseling. 100% recommended against reaching out to Harold. I accept that some choices are easier to understand from inside than from outside. From the outside, it is a lot more work to understand, whereas it is relatively easy to identify one or two risks or reason why not and advance a convention wisdom view that it is best just to get over it or forget about it. If only it were that simple.

Among the many risks I considered, of course, I pondered that, as Bill Butcher had, that Harold might also be at a suicide risk. My therapist advised me that suicides among abusers were extremely rare, for what little that was worth. And she continued to advise against visiting Harold.

My intention was to deliver a message of forgiveness to Harold. I contacted Harold and left a message on his answering machine indicating that "All was forgiven." and I was no more specific than that. To my surprise, I received a call back from him. I made arrangements to travel to where he lives and have lunch with him. My intention was merely to be in relationship with him; no agenda beyond that.

We spent two plus hours together in the restaurant plus half an hour or so at his residence before and after. We took selfies, I suppose, to remind me that this had happened. At the end of our visit, I told Harold that in 2011, when over a CFS reunion, we began to talk openly about what happened, I wrote an open letter of forgiveness to Harold and an open letter of acknowledgement to Prof. Peter Klopfer and his wife Martha Klopfer for founding CFS in the early 1960's. I wanted both Peter and Harold both to know that they got their job done at CFS. I owe much of who I am today due to what I learned at CFS. I hold the abuse I received from Harold in his office on a number of occasions apart from what I received from CFS.

At the end of lunch, I told Harold of my two open letters, and that I would e-mail them to him when I got home.

One of the experiences that kept coming to mind throughout the modern CFS to investigate what happened four decades ago was when we watched an American documentary on the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. At one point in the film a Japanese aircraft is shot down and several of us, probably including me, cheered. Harold reminded us at some point, then or after the film, that a human being had died with that plane. I have never forgotten this (though I remain pretty one-sided about the attack and the events that preceded it). So, one of the things I learned beginning at CFS was that human beings are never one-dimensional and that I can take a breath and consider the whole human being and not just one, or one series, of their actions.

It's only right, ironic, or both that I want Harold to step forward and take account for his actions, but I have no desire to see him suffer. Suffering won't bring me anything. I doubt it will bring anything to the other four we know of, the one I know of, and any others who have chosen to remain silent.

On the return trip from the visit I noticed that I felt fatigued. I called Mike Hanas and let him know that the visit had gone well. I e-mailed Harold the two open letters from 2011. I made several follow-up calls to Harold afterwards. He never responded to these or to my e-mails. After a few months, I stopped reaching out to him. Apparently, a brief moment of openness had ended. I am sad, but I can accept this. As far as I know, my visit was good for Harold at the time, but he was not want further contact. As far as I know, he has not committed suicide. I wish him all the best.

In the days, weeks and months since, I notice that the issue has largely vanished from my daily thoughts.
So, apparently, I was lucky in terms of personal risks to myself. I can hope that the risks I exposed Harold to were something he was able to live with. Unless he tells me, I cannot know. I can only hope.

0 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by CFS1972 on 12/08/2015 at 8:36 PM

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