Friday, August 10, 2012

Institution Don't Get It

I've written previously about my horror at the revelations of systematic sexual abuse of students at the Horace Mann School in New York City.  My heart breaks for the victims.  My stomach retches at the response from the institution, Horace Mann School.

After two months of silence, save three empty letters from the Head Master, the Board of Trustees Chair wrote an entirely unsatisfying reply. All is in the past, he says. The past isn't the responsibility of the Board today. Are you kidding?!

Horace Mann School's Board of Trustees doesn't get it.

Once again, the leaders are the victims.  I don't know who they are, but a group of men and women who were sexually abused as children at Horace Mann School have come forward with unbelievable intelligence and grace.

Their general comment to the public:
The survivors of sexual abuse at the Horace Mann School welcome any and all initiatives that individuals are willing to undertake on our behalf. We ask that people who want to support us consult with us first, since we can help guide these initiatives to make sure they best support our needs. We note that no individual act can substitute for action by the school itself. We continue to ask that the Horace Mann School administration and Board of Trustees honor our request for an apology, compensation and an independent investigation.
That is a statement I can respect.  Steven Friedman's letter, crafted by the institution's PR firm and lawyers, doesn't garner respect.  It wreaks of institutional-ass-covering. (Please excuse my language. This is so very upsetting.)

Replying to the Horace Mann School Board of Trustees only formal response, the Survivors' Group, with it's usual aplomb.
The survivors of sexual abuse at the Horace Mann School welcome outreach by the Board of Trustees, although we are disappointed in the amount of time it took the Board to generate a response to our requests, which we first made on June 21, 2012.

While any gesture of outreach is positive, we are disappointed as well that this response does not address the requests we made in June and have repeated since: an apology from the institution, compensation for the survivors, and an independent investigation.

The investigation by the Bronx District Attorney’s office does not constitute an independent investigation according to established best practices. Nor does the NYPD investigation, also in progress. These investigations are not voluntary. The model for an independent investigation is the Freeh Report conducted by Penn State, which was voluntary, was funded by the school itself, and was not restricted by any constraints, such as the statute of limitations, on its ability to see its inquiry through to its conclusions. An independent investigation conducted by special outside counsel retained by the School for that purpose is especially appropriate and necessary in light of the facts that have come to light concerning the involvement of predecessor School Heads and Boards of Trustees in failing to respond to and/or suppressing reports of sexual abuse. These failures and suppressions would not necessarily be the subject of the DA’s or NYPD investigation.

We are disappointed as we have been in the past that the School and the Board choose to communicate in detail with the community as a whole before communicating in any substantive way with us.

We continue to assert our requests, and hope that a fully satisfactory response will be forthcoming from the School and the Board in future.
My admiration for the Survivors' Group, their strength,  their eloquence, their dignity, is great. In this situation, healing should be lead by the institution in which criminal abuse took place.  In their absence, who leads the cause? The same children who were victimized.

To the Survivors' Group: You have my admiration, my respect, my thanks.

1 comment:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.