Fourth Survivors’ Letter

We are a group of more than thirty[1] survivors of sexual abuse at Horace Mann. We write in response to Sunday’s letter from Board Chair Steve Friedman and Head of School Tom Kelly, in which they blamed us for their refusal to tell you and us what happened at HM and why. As a result, we are asking you directly today to support our ongoing call for an independent investigation and public accounting, ending the cover-up at Horace Mann.

Mr. Friedman and Dr. Kelly would have you believe we are satisfied with the trustees’ actions. This is false. The trustees’ response has left us worse off than before, causing fresh pain and hindering our ability to heal and to move on with our lives. From the beginning, our chief request has been a fully public investigation by a credible, independent third party – not merely the minimum legally required cooperation with law enforcement. We continue to call upon Horace Mann to explain who knew what, when they knew it, how they responded, and how abuse was allowed to flourish for decades. Dozens of us were molested. Many more teachers abused us than the media have reported. Numerous trustees and administrators knew but did nothing or coerced victims into silence. As we have stated in the past, and despite contrary claims in Sunday’s letter, we are eager to tell our stories to a responsible investigator who examines both the roots of the abuse itself and the subsequent cover-up. We are not willing to do what has been offered: for our painful stories to be exploited in a “report” which intentionally ignores our questions about how a climate of molestation, rape and cover-up was allowed to flourish. To reject our request and then to blame us for the school’s lack of transparency – claiming the trustees are acting “out of respect for [our] wishes” – is yet another in a series of betrayals.

We make these requests out of affection for our alma mater and a desire to help heal our school and our community. We renew our request, expressed in our June and July 2012 letters, to meet with the trustees outside a legal environment to promote truth-based reconciliation. Our school’s motto is “Great is the truth, and it prevails.” If Mr. Friedman does not believe that motto, then he should resign in favor of someone who does believe in pursuing truth. If you support us in wanting our school to commission or cooperate with a careful investigation and to tell the truth of what happened, please write to Mr. Friedman and Dr. Kelly at headofschool@horacemann.org. If you have donated to Horace Mann in the past, please consider telling them that until the truth is told, you will restrict your donations to supporting an investigation (commissioned by HM or by alumni) or to helping the victims directly. If you have not donated in the past, please consider telling them you will give if they stop the cover-up. If you have any questions, you can contact us at HoraceMannSurvivor@gmail.com.

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October 11 2013 update from Joseph Cumming ’77:

[1] Several people have written politely asking us who, exactly, is behind the above letter. Horace Mann’s spokesman at the PR firm of Kekst and Company questioned how many survivors were behind it. This letter was drafted and released corporately through a consensus process involving all of the women and men who have come together in the Horace Mann Survivors’ Group. Successive drafts were circulated via email among a community of 34 people, including 31 survivors of sexual abuse and 3 people representing close family members who took their own lives. Despite the short timeframe, the large majority of group members contributed input on the successive drafts, and only a small handful were unable to be reached for comment (some due to illness). On the final draft 30 members were able to provide comments, and all were favorable. Some members of the group have good reasons – including family responsibilities and professional obligations – for not feeling free to be individually and publicly named as survivors of sexual abuse. Nonetheless 15 members of the Survivors’ Group have been publicly identified by name – either in the news media (11 of us) or on the alumni-related Facebook groups (4 more).

2 thoughts on “Fourth Survivors’ Letter

  1. I have just finished reading the buzz feed article at the Action site. (Note: I didn’t comment there because my computer started acting very strangely while I was on that site and I thought it safest to leave. Could someone have added something harmful to it?)
    I want to attest to the wedge the school seems to have driven between victims and parents of current students. When I have tried to bring the topic up, even gently, with the mother of a cuurent student, this normally gentle woman becomes almost strident, with words that leave me speechless. “It happened a long time ago. Parents are the ones who”d end up having to pay more, and what happened isn’t their fault.” “They’re just looking for money.” ” The press just loves to drag the school’s name through the mud. They want to keep the controversy going to sell more papers.” “You know how seductive some children can be.”

    That last remark really floored me. The work that confronts all of us, regardless of our station in life, is to educate ourselves about the truth of childhood sexual abuse, to tell the truth about it. I have not yet found a way to open my friend’s eyes without destroying the friendship, she is that dead set against discussing it, even looking at it. Perhaps most won’t or can’t until it confronts them personally.

    God bless the brave people at HM, the church, everywhere, who courageously tell the truth and open our eyes to it. May they find true healing.

  2. I am so frustrated with this. PSU just paid out $60 Million–and counting.
    You have a great lawyer–why can’t you make headway with the trustees and the administration—–
    I know one reason. Because PSU is a state institution, it is more vulnerable to scrutiny. Since HM is a private school, they are not directly answerable to the NY Legislature, for example…….even still……..Your case goes back farther, involves more victims, more predators…………..It took PSU twenty years to answer to justice…………
    but it looks like HM may never answer to justice, after 50 years……………

    get more creative……….

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