"Bad Things": Child Abuse and the Nineteenth-Century Spanish National School for the Deaf and Blind

By Plann, Susan | Sign Language Studies, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

"Bad Things": Child Abuse and the Nineteenth-Century Spanish National School for the Deaf and Blind


Plann, Susan, Sign Language Studies


SCHOLARS OF DEAF HISTORY regularly extol the virtues of residential deaf schools.1 These were the places where deaf youngsters made deaf friends and met deaf role models, often for the first time. There they learned their natural language and became immersed in Deaf culture.2 Something similar could be said of the schools for blind children, which afforded blind girls and boys an education and introduced them to the special culture of blind people.1

All of this is true, but it is not the whole story. Residential schools for deaf and blind students (the two groups were often housed together) were also sites of child abuse.

We are faced, then, with something of a paradox: How could the institution that so greatly benefited deaf and blind students also expose them to such potentially great harm? Contemporary insights from the fields of psychology, sociology, and social welfare may shed some light on the subject.4 Recent research suggests that both disability and the residential setting constitute risk factors for abuse, and children with communicative difficulties face additional perils.' Deaf children in particular are at greater risk of physical and sexual abuse than ordinary children, and more so if they attend residential schools.1' Blind children too are believed to experience high rates of physical and sexual abuse.7

With such information in mind, this article analyzes the characteristics of the nineteenth-century Spanish national school for deaf and blind children, its staff, and its students and shows how these characteristics colluded to create an environment conducive to abuse. Within this framework, the article also examines hitherto unpublished accusations of sexual molestation that involved an eminent educator of deaf and blind children, an incident with all the elements of a textbook case of abuse. The analysis provided here explores what has been until now a taboo topic, namely, the nineteenth-century deaf and blind residential school as a potential spawning ground of child abuse. In so doing it deepens our understanding of the dynamics of the Spanish national school and ot residential schools m general and thus supplies a crucial missing piece to the mosaic of Deaf and Blind history.

Historical Background

Spain's first state-sponsored deaf school opened in Madrid in 1805, under the auspices of the Royal Economic Society of Friends of the Country and with the backing of the Spanish crown.s Known originally as the Royal School for Deaf-mutes, in 1852 its name was changed to the National School for the Deaf and Blind (the first blind students had been officially admitted a decade earlier). From the school's earliest days, there were instances of maltreatment of pupils housed and educated there, and in previous studies I have detailed various episodes of physical abuse.'1 For obvious reasons, however, it is not possible to say just how many abusive acts were committed against students during the nineteenth century. Underreporting, cover-ups, and the loss or deliberate destruction of crucial documents hamper our knowledge of these matters, and existing accounts may be merely the tip of the iceberg.

Theoretical Framework

Types of Abuse

Abuse that takes place in institutional settings can be classified as individual abuse, program or sanctioned abuse, and system abuse. At the Madrid school for deaf and blind children, all three types occurred throughout the 1800s.

Individual abuse-acts perpetrated by an individual or by individuals-may be of a physical, emotional, or sexual nature. Research suggests that such abuse cannot be understood as merely the act of a particular deviant staff member or members; instead, it must be viewed within the larger context that gave rise to it. Individuals who abuse are surely culpable, but the "honey pot" conceptualization, in which a bully or predator is drawn to the school like a bee to a honey pot, does not suffice to explain the phenomenon. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

"Bad Things": Child Abuse and the Nineteenth-Century Spanish National School for the Deaf and Blind
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.