EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 27, 2013

Lawsuit: Brooks School alumnus sexually abused by administrator

Alumnus, 51, says female staffer raped him when he was 15

By Mark E. Vogler
mvogler@eagletribune.com

---- — BOSTON — A Brooks School alumnus said the staff of the elite boarding school knew he was having an affair with a woman administrator while he was a 15-year-old student there.

“It’s clear that many adults knew and nobody did a thing,” the alumnus, known as “John Doe,” said in an interview yesterday about his alleged relationship with Lois Poirot, who was assistant director of admissions at the school from 1978 to 1980 — the period he said he was abused by her.

“If one person had spoken out, I’d be in a very different situation right now,’’ he said. “I don’t understand why nobody did anything about it. But I want the public to know it happened.’’

Doe — as he is referred to in court papers — remains anonymous at this point, but went public with his story yesterday by filing a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court against Brooks School, Poirot and former Brooks Headmaster H. Peter Aitken.

The 13-page complaint filed by Cambridge lawyer Roderick MacLeish Jr. and Boston lawyer Carmen Durso also listed as defendants up to 10 yet-to-be named Brooks administrators and faculty members “who knew, or should have known, about Poirot’s improper conduct with students at Brooks.” They were referred to as “Michael Moe, Nos. 1 - 10, defendants.”

The lawyers are seeking a jury trial to determine the amount of compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and other costs.

Poirot, 67, of 60 Merrimac St., Amesbury, could not be reached for comment. She did not return a phone message left by an Eagle-Tribune reporter.

Meanwhile, school officials sent an email to “Brooks Alumni, Parents and Friends” last night in response to the lawsuit.

The email — sent jointly by Headmaster John Packard and William Booth, president of the Brooks School Board of Trustees — called the claim “obviously troubling, made even more so because it is consistent with a similar account of such conduct on her part brought to the school’s attention and settled confidentially decades ago.”

“This lawsuit is a direct outgrowth of our outreach to the Brooks community in January, when we shared with you our concerns about the conduct of Lawrence W. Becker during his tenure as headmaster of Brooks School,” the email said. “As you will recall, in that letter we informed you about troubling information that had come to our attention about Mr. Becker. At the same time, we asked you to share with us any personal knowledge you might have had that would call into question Mr. Becker’s conduct and/or oversight during his time at Brooks.

“Soon after this letter went out, we received a claim for compensation from the alumnus who is now suing Brooks,’’ the email said. “We immediately entered into discussions with him to address any harm he felt he had suffered, and we reported his allegation to the Essex County District Attorney’s Office. Although we have not been able to agree on a settlement, we remain interested in resolving this matter and hope that we can continue to engage in conversations that will achieve that goal.”

Doe, who is now 51, said a combination of therapy and a commitment to sobriety prompted him to file the complaint. It took him until 2011 to understand that he had been sexually abused by Poirot, he noted. He also mentioned that the Brooks outreach effort caught his attention.

“I have used alcohol and prescription medication for a long time,” Doe said yesterday.

“I’ve had a problem with this, since drinking beer and wine and smoking pot’’ with Lois Poirot, he said. “I’ve kept it up. Understanding what happened came to a head in my sobriety. What’s clear now is that she handpicked me. She took advantage of me. She raped me. She had me in her sights right from the start. And it’s really destroyed my life. I’ve had a lot of personal problems and haven’t been able to finish anything. And, I’ve always had that secret.’’

Doe said in the lawsuit that Poirot arranged to have him assigned to her husband as his Brooks adviser, and used this arrangement to have him in their home to receive help with his studies. Instead of educational assistance, he drank wine and beer and smoked marijuana in the Poirot home, according to Doe.

Eventually, he was sexually abused by Poirot — in her office, in her home on the Brooks campus, in his dorm room, in her car and in other locations, Doe said. He said her husband even caught them in bed and in the shower together, but said and did nothing about the incidents.

Doe said he was asked frequently by fellow students about his relationship with Poirot.

“I got ribbed all the time because I stopped doing things with my classmates and took all the time with her,” Doe said. “The headmaster’s wife asked me on more than one occasion, ‘What’s up with you and Mrs. Poirot?’ A couple of faculty members asked me about it too, but nobody did anything. Nobody tried to keep me from her house. It should have been obvious to a lot of people because I spent all that time walking around the campus with her.’’

Initially, Doe said he felt “embarrassed” and “ashamed” when Poirot, then in her early 30s, approached him. He tried to avoid her, he said.

But, at some point, his resistance broke down, he recalled, and Doe became sexually obsessed with Poirot and fell in love with the woman, who was twice his age.

“At the time, I believed I was the only one in the world for her and we were going to run away,” Doe said. “I intentionally didn’t graduate on time. I failed on purpose because I didn’t want to leave Lois. I threw everything out the window — my education, my sports — to be with her.’’

Doe said he received a “certificate of completion” from Brooks, but considered himself a failing student who didn’t complete homework assignments — although he was a regular at the Poirot home, where he was supposedly going to get help with his studies.

“I was continually at her home to study, but nobody caught on,” he said.

Doe said his parents were persistent in their concerns about their son’s academic problems.

“They did everything they could to get to the bottom of why I wasn’t doing well in school,” he said.

Finally, they found out about the situation 18 months ago, when Doe said he briefed them on the relationship he had with the woman school administrator.

“My folks were pretty upset,’’ he said. “They felt angry at first. They sent me off to a private school to receive an education. This was a secret I kept from them for decades, a secret I kept to myself even though many adults at Brooks were aware of what was going on.’’