It took nearly four decades, but in 1989, a teacher and coach at Charleston, South Carolina’s prestigious Porter-Gaud School at last admitted to molesting dozens of boys in the 1970s and ’80s. That confession, parts of which are shown in Paige Goldberg Tolmach’s polished documentary What Haunts Us, rocked the picturesque Southern city. But for too many children, including alum Tolmach herself, the truth was no surprise. They’d known Eddie Fischer palled around with boys, let them smoke and drink, enjoined them to “drop their drawers” when treating any minor injury — and brought them home. It took a rape survivor to come forward as an adult; years before, this young man acted out to get expelled, only to have Fischer show up at his new school after his own quiet firing.
Tolmach uncloaks an enabling culture. “There’s a saying in Charleston that we’re ‘too poor to paint but too proud to whitewash,’” says Post & Courier reporter Tony Bartelme, who covered the story nearly 20 years ago. “Make sure the front of the house looks good but … everything else around it is peeling, and falling apart.”
Tolmach relies heavily on Bartelme’s knowledge of the story and the city. But she is thorough, talking to lawyers, classmates and, crucially, victims (not least Guerry Glover, who finally broke things wide open), adding potent current interviews to archived video depositions. It’s a painfully familiar story in the era of #MeToo and the Catholic Church’s abuse scandal, with the added agony that parents, teachers and school officials were, to varying degrees, complicit.
Paige Goldberg TolmachGuerry Glover, Mackie Krawcheck Moore, Eddie FischerMark MonroePaige Goldberg Tolmach, Frank Marshall, Matt Tolmach, Regina K. Skully, Sarah GibsonBlue Fox Entertainment