Billboard directs question to students of Sheffield school
GREAT BARRINGTON — The mother of a man who believes he was sexually assaulted while a student at a Sheffield school wants to know if others were, too.
So, she took out a billboard, alongside a busy thoroughfare, that asks: "Did something happen to you in the Janitor's Room at Sheffield Center School?"
The sign, posted Wednesday on State Road (Route 7) in Great Barrington, also carries two social media hashtags, #speaknow and #itstime4justus!, and an email address.
The former Sheffield Center School building, now closed, is home to the Bushnell Sage Library.
The Eagle interviewed the mother and son but is withholding their names because of the nature of the case and since no charges have ever been filed stemming from the son's allegations.
In recent years, the son said, he has pieced together previously repressed memories of his sexual assault at the school. The son said he blames mental anguish, problems with relationships, and early drug and alcohol use on the trauma he repressed most of his life.
"It's been a lifetime of hurt," the mother said. "He hid this and lived with this all by himself all this time."
Since then, the son made a report to Sheffield police. Authorities confirmed to The Eagle that their investigation reached a dead end with no corroborating witnesses or substantive evidence. The age of the case also confounded matters, according to authorities.
"But obviously, if this billboard thing works, we'll continue to investigate based on any new information obtained," said Police Chief Eric Munson III.
The billboard will be up for four weeks. Starting Feb. 4, the same message will go up on a billboard farther north on Route 7, for another four weeks, according to the mother. The monthly rate for the 11-foot-by-23-foot sign is $2,390, according to Lamar Advertising.
The mother said a lawyer advised her not to name names in the billboard message. The mother and son have never filed a complaint with the school district, saying they didn't see how that would help.
The mother said she hopes the billboard might spur others to come forward if something happened to them, too.
Heather Bellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.
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