“See what you make me do?” Alejandro Palomas, the well-known and award-winning writer from Barcelona, will remember this phrase until the day he dies. He is sure of it, he says. More than 40 years have passed since he heard it repeatedly from whom he claims was his abuser, a friar from the La Salle de Premià de Mar school in Barcelona. The novelist was just 9 years old at the time and that marked him forever, but despite having left clues in his books and in some interviews, he had never taken the step of telling it publicly. Until today.
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The abuses that Palomas denounces, and that she recounts in great detail, include numerous gropings, attempts at masturbation and even a rape during summer camps. All between 1975 and 1977 by Brother L., he affirms, a priest and teacher at that religious school for boys that was La Salle de Premià de Mar.
After so many years, Palomas explains that he has decided to recount the hell he experienced in that school for various reasons. In the first place, because his mother has already passed away. “She felt uncomfortable that she hadn’t done what she thought she should,” explains the writer. Also because recently read in El País that the La Salle institution refused to open a general investigation for abuse of minors in the centers, and that outraged him. And finally, because he simply wanted to explain “the truth”. “I wasn’t lying, but I was hiding something from the world that could make something change. I don’t want to die dirty, with this inside,” she is now honest.
Nadal Award in 2018 for the book One Love, National Prize for Children’s and Youth Literature in 2016, Palomas has published more than twenty novels and has thousands of readers. In one of her works, A son, the protagonist, the young Guille, says that he wants to be Mary Poppins. “Many times I have been asked why,” says Palomas. The answer, he adds, goes back to the night of colognes in which he claims that brother L. sexually assaulted him. “I thought: if I could get to the window and throw myself, but not kill myself. How do I do it? I have to know how to be Mary Poppins,” recalls the writer.
I have not been lying, but I have been hiding something from the world that can make something change. I don’t want to die dirty, with this inside
Given the public indication of the abuses, the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (La Salle) has responded with a statement in which it assures that they have “immediately” activated a protocol to gather more information about the case and transfer it to the Prosecutor’s Office. This medium has also asked to speak directly with Brother L., who is now 91 years old and lives in a residence of the institution, but the religious entity has rejected him, alleging that he is “incapacitated.”
First, the touching in the car
Palomas ended up at the Premià school at the age of six, after his family moved from Barcelona to the neighboring town of Vilassar de Mar. He was a shy, hypersensitive, effeminate boy. Palomas says that he suffered bullying from the day he entered until he left. But that wasn’t the worst. The worst, he points out, was that in the 4th year of EGB Brother L., a language teacher, head of sports at the center and a figure “very lovable” and “very loved” by all, chose him as his target, he denounces. That man was also a friend of his father, who was involved in the parents’ association.
Being close to the family, says Palomas, it was that brother who used to take him home by car, from Premià to Vilassar, when he got sick in class. Something that happened to him often, he says. It was on those journeys between the two towns that the first abuses began, he explains. “I stretched out in the back seat, because I used to have a high fever. While he was driving he was touching me and reaching for me with one hand. He would do it for a while and, when he didn’t, he would masturbate through his pocket. He would see that he tickled you, but he put his hand on you, he touched your testicles, he tried to put his finger in your ass…”, says Palomas. “He interspersed touching with masturbation,” he sums up.
While he was driving he was touching me and reaching out with one hand. He did it for a while and, when he didn’t, he masturbated through his pocket
That happened several times, says Palomas today, but he does not know how many. He does remember that on one occasion it was more. “He stopped the car in a river. He got out and sat with me in the back. While I was stretched out, he put my head on his knees,” he describes. “He pulled down my pants, my underpants and I was left with nothing. Then he tried to jerk me off at the same time he jerked off under my head,” she continues. “That time he finished, he came and sulked. ‘You see what you made me do!’
Hell in the camps
That lasted until the end of the course, explains Palomas, but it was in the summer, during some camps that were held in a La Salle country house, where the writer today says he suffered the most brutal episode of all the abuses he suffered. One of those days of colognes was finished by Palomas in the infirmary because they had hit him in the eye with a stone and the lenses of his glasses had pierced him. “And who was in charge of the infirmary? Brother L.”, he recalls.
That man, he says, made him stay overnight in the infirmary, supposedly for observation. “What he did was tie my hands with a strap and he told me it was so that he wouldn’t touch my eye, because it could hurt me,” he explains. Palomas lay looking at the window, that window through which he would have liked to fly out, like Mary Poppins, just as he would write years later.
“He appeared three times that night,” Palomas lists. In the first two he explains that he “groped” him and tried to “stick his finger up his anus.” “But he didn’t get it, because I moved in bed.” “The third time he inserted his penis into me. He penetrated me, I think not all the way because it hurt a lot. And he didn’t do it dry, it came with something that was sticky, I don’t know if it was soap… I don’t have any proof, but I think he ran , because it cleaned me up a lot”, he describes.
He put his penis in me. She penetrated me, I think not all the way because it hurt a lot. And she didn’t do it dry, it came with something that was slimy
That caused him to bleed, he says. After a day it coincided with the fact that they received visits from their parents at the camp and he asked to leave.
From stays to confession
The following year, in 5th year of EGB, Palomas says that the abuse continued, but in a different way. For a few months, he points out, they occurred in so-called “permanences”. A few non-teaching hours after lunch that he spent in Brother L.’s office, under the pretext of perfecting his writing. That year, moreover, the friar was his tutor. “We did a lot of writing and he loved how I wrote. After eating, when we had a long break, he came to pick me up and took me upstairs,” he says.
“There was no rape, but he touched me all the time. He put his hand on his penis, he put his hand on my ass, he tickled me… Especially at that moment he wanted me to touch him,” he explains. And he adds: “When she came he said to me: ‘Do you see what you make me do?’ I will die with this sentence. He would get angry with me, he would get in a bad mood and tell me to go back to the patio”, explains the novelist.
That lasted a few months. “Until one day, before Christmas, when I ran away.” Palomas remembers that he left school at noon and took the train just to go home. It was then that she told his mother. “She was ironing and she had the radio on. She said ‘how are you?’ and I started to cry and cry. Everything I hadn’t cried. I couldn’t stop,” he narrates. Palomas remembers and details: “I told him that Brother L. did things to me and that he hurt me.” His mother, he adds, reassured him and suggested that they go out for a snack and discuss it with his father when he got home.The details of that subsequent conversation he assures that he does not keep them.
Some time later, her mother would explain to Palomas that her father had transferred what had happened to the school. “There they had told him that it would not happen again, that the school had been in charge of putting an end to the situation but that they asked for discretion because it was an internal matter,” he explains. However, Brother L. was not set aside. He remained his tutor that year and continued to teach for years.
they told my father [en la escuela] that it would not happen again, that they put an end to the situation but that they asked for discretion because it was an internal matter
Given the refusal of the institution to facilitate contact with the brother, this medium has asked to obtain the version of other professionals from the center at the time, to find out if anyone had evidence of the abuse transferred by the family, but a spokesman for La Salle He replies that for now they are collecting the information.
“We are very aware that the events that have been attributed to people linked to our Institution are despicable and cause deep pain to all those who have suffered them. Therefore, respecting the presumption of innocence as required by law, We only have to express our maximum rejection and affliction for what happened and ask for forgiveness for the suffering suffered, “they add.
A life conditioned by abuse
Since he told his parents, the writer says that the friar began to have an attitude of rejection and even punishment towards him. “He made me nonexistent and put me through bad situations in front of others,” he says. As for the touching, he suffered them again only on one occasion, once he coincided with him alone, that same course, in the gym locker room. “Once again the tickling, he cornered me… But I was lucky that the hour ended and some older people arrived. And then it stopped,” explains the novelist.
Palomas studied the entire EGB at the Salle de Premià, until he was approximately 14 years old, and then he went through various institutes. For years, he never spoke of what happened. Not at home either. “We silenced this until I was more than 20 years old. We didn’t talk about my time at La Salle,” he admits. Among other things, he is convinced that his father, who at the age of 65 would divorce his mother and who also recently passed away, was ashamed of it. “For him I think it was a stain on his status, of the parent associations… I felt that we didn’t talk about it because it had stained his resume,” he explains.
With his mother he did share it again. Already grown up. “She told me that she should have gone” to report him to the school, he explains.
The abuse and sexual assaults that he denounces having received from Brother L. conditioned his growth as an adult, his social and sentimental relationships, and his writing. His works, especially his best-known trilogy –A dog, a son Y One Love-, They usually develop around family conflicts: silences, waiting, mistrust, insecurities. Palomas had never hidden that part of his personality was reflected in all those stories. But what he had never told was the origin of that character.
“I see myself as someone alone. I’m odd and I always will be. I don’t trust anyone, not even my best friend. I can’t… I live in a glass bell. When I go to hug a friend, I touch glass. Then I touch to the friend, but first, crystal. I don’t know how to explain it any other way”, he concludes.
I see myself as someone alone. I am odd and always will be. I don’t trust anyone, not even my best friend. I can’t… I live in a bell jar
Ten years ago, he considered making this same public statement, but backed down. “I was afraid that it would end my writing career, that I would become a that it’s dirty,” he acknowledges. He spent more time like this until he found out about the abuses in other schools of the same institution. “I told myself: he is already there. He doesn’t matter to me. Enough. I can’t keep watching this news and pass it on. I can not anymore”.