Staff Member Accused of Raping Disabled Student at School

Renee Fabian
Phillip Houtman

A 28-year-old male employee who worked at a private school for young people with disabilities has been arrested for allegedly raping a 19-year-old female student at the school, according to police. He will face several charges for the alleged sexual assault.

According to police, the accused perpetrator Phillip Houtman worked as an overnight staff member at Chamberlain International School in Middleborough, Massachusetts. Chamberlain International is a private boarding school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities between the ages 11 and 22. Houtman allegedly raped a female student with disabilities in her dorm on Sept. 29.

While females between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely to be raped than the general population, sexual assault is even more common in the disability community. Unpublished Justice Department data obtained by NPR found that people with intellectual disabilities are over seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted. Despite these high statistics, NPR noted people don’t talk about rape in the disability community as often.

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“If this were any other population, the world would be up in arms,” Nancy Thaler, a deputy secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services, told NPR, adding:

Folks with intellectual disabilities are the perfect victim. … Because of the intellectual disability, people tend not to believe them, to think that they are not credible or that what they saying, they are making up or imagining. And so for all these reasons, a perpetrator sees an opportunity, a safe opportunity to victimize people.

Chamberlain International School notified police of the rape allegations against Houtman on Sept. 30. NBC News reported that school officials removed Houtman from their schedule immediately after the assault accusations. He worked at Chamberlain International for less than a year. Middleborough Police issued a warrant for Houtman’s arrest for the alleged rape on Oct. 10.

When reached via email by The Mighty, Chamberlain International School cited the ongoing police investigation and declined to comment. NBC Boston said school officials planned to review and update its policies and implement additional staff training. According to NBC, the school also sent a letter to students’ parents informing them of a “serious allegation” against a staff member for “inappropriate behavior with a student.”

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“As a school, we wish to make it clear that the well-being and safety of all students is our top priority,” the school’s letter said.

In a Facebook post, Middleborough Police Department said Houtman turned himself in Friday afternoon. He faces several charges for the alleged sexual assault, including two counts of indecent assault and battery on a person with an intellectual disability, rape, assault to rape, and open and gross lewdness.

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The Mighty reached out to the Middleborough Police Department for comment and has yet to hear back.

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