THE POLICE REPORT
There is no police report...there was no "investigation". Robin Roberston, then head of Emma Willard School, is quoted in the all-school letter and two newspaper articles stating that police investigated.
Look for yourself, it would be of public record in Troy, NY if it existed.
In fact, NO police reports have been disclosed...and there were 2 teachers fired at Emma Willard in 1998 for unrelated incidents.
Head of School Robin Robertson Lied About Police Investigating in 1998
In 1998, in two local papers, Robin Robertson, then head of school at Emma Willard, stated she called police, police investigated, and police found no criminal activity pertaining to two teachers being fired at the same time for "crossing carefully articulated boundaries". My rapist and another, unrelated teacher were fired at the same time. Read for yourself below.
I didn't talk to police. My friends, also students didn't talk to police. Our classmates didn't talk to police. How was there an investigation?
No police reports have been found. Different reporters in 2016 pulled FOILs for the public record of the report, I did as well. Sue Groesbeck, the interim head of school in 2016, stated in an email that she had the police report but that “it wasn’t helpful” to her. Read for yourself below in these emails.
What does that even mean, “it wasn’t helpful”? I asked to see the police report. My attorney Eric MacLeish asked for it as well. Reporters asked to see the police report. Alumni asked to see the police report. We have never been shown the police report. Does it even exist? Why won’t the school release it?
This mythical ‘police report’ isnt mentioned in the investigative report Emma Willard School released in 2017. Interesting right? The report also doesn't include the newspaper articles from 1998. See the report here: https://issuu.com/emmawillard/docs/report
The police report is relevant. Especially when two heads of school say, in writing, that it exists in an obvious effort to demonstrate they 'did the right thing'.
I have met with Troy Police. They tell me that no report and no phone call was ever made. Other reports and calls to police exist from 1998 at Emma Willard School: vandalism, noise disturbance. Where is the police report Emma Willard? Why won’t you show us the police report you say exists and that you say you have in your files?
I want the police report to be released publically by Emma Willard School or I want Emma Willard to admit that their head of school in 1998 lied in newspapers and to the entire school community and that their interim head of school lied about seeing the police report in 2016.
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What Took So Long?
Why Did It Take 18 Years to Come Forward?
Fair question. I left the school thinking everyone hated me. That’s the way I was made to feel by school administrators. Additionally, the school fractured my relationship with my family. My mother has since passed away from cancer, but my father didn’t know the truth of what happened until 2 years ago when I called my step-mom to warn her that a newspaper was going to be reporting on my rape. She was shocked. She said my father had no idea what had happened to me. If you want to break your own heart, listen to your father tell you that he would have dropped everything he was doing to come get you and make sure that you received the best medical care and that the school and your rapist would be held accountable.
I left the school within 48 hours of my sexual assault. I was physically injured as well as emotionally and psychologically traumatized. My priorities shifted from enjoying senior spring break with classmates to finding a place to stay and then, I became homeless. It was a climb back up the mountain that took a long time. Pack a bag and walk away from everything you have with less than $200 and no cell phone then get on a bus and travel over 1,000 miles over 72 hours to a place where you only know one person that you haven’t seen in 5 years. Did you know that the bus stations don’t have employees in them all the time? 3am in rural bus stations can be really scary when you have a layover. My focus was to not get murdered or raped again. College was an intangible aspiration. When I did finally have a place to live, it took me another few months to save enough money to turn the power on.
Disclosing and Looking Back on my Past 18 Years Later
An old friend from school reached out to me via messenger to see if I was ok. I told them I had not been. My friend said that what had happened was appalling and that it had been gnawing them. My group of friends, now adults, were troubled because of the traumatic consequences my assault had on their lives. They claim that the Emma Willard School threatened them in 1998 to keep silent.. They held rule infractions over their heads and some feared that their scholarships would be affected. One friend claims she lost an award she was in the running to receive and another student said she lost her perfect status. Everyone kept their heads down and were forced to worry about themselves and not about me. The school did some PR allowing NAME REDACTED to be silently passed off to another institution.
Starting March 1998, I spent the last several decades isolated. My past found me. I could move on again and chalk it up to life being unfair, or do something about what had happened. I was in the middle of starting my own company, working a few jobs as an RN, but when my friend sent me one of the newspapers articles from 1998 that Robin Robertson was quoted as saying “police investigated”, I lost it. Police absolutely did not speak to me and I was ignited. History needed to be reconciled. What had happened was criminal. It was wrong.
I Decided to Do Something
I called Emma Willard School and asked for my records. All of them, including my rape. I was told by someone who ironically worked at the school in 1998, Cheryl Ackner, that the head of school would call me. I then immediately called the Troy Police Department. The police sergeant transferred me to the captain. The captain spent time reviewing the newspaper article I sent him and he kept me on the phone as he looked through phone records. He searched by address, by name, by date range. Calls had been placed, but they had been for theft or vandalism at Emma Willard School. He said he would call the District Attorney and advised that I file a FOIL request to see if a police report had been made. On my return call from the captain, he let me know that the statute of limitations was up. There was nothing they could do. There was no public record of any police reports involving teachers at Emma Willard School. I was advised to get a lawyer to see if anything could be done.
The Laws in NY and Why I was Super Out of Luck
I only had 3 years from the date I told school administrators to file a civil claim against the school. The criminal statute of limitations was age 23 against my rapist. I had no legal recourse. They say time heals all wounds, but as a fellow survivor suggested, what if time only serves to protect rapists from avoiding consequences for their crimes?
And I Waited for Emma Willard School to Call Me
I waited 2 weeks for the school to call me. Nothing. I left a voicemail. Nothing. At the advice of my old friend from school, I reached out to a lawyer mentioned in the Boston Globe; Eric MacLeish. I spoke to his assistant. The next day, he called me back. He told me that the laws in NY were some of the worst in the country, but that he would send the school a well written letter on my behalf. We worked on the letter for hours until it was what I wanted it to be. We sent the letter by mail and by fax. Our priority was to find out where NAME REDACTED had gone and if the school had provided him letters of reference because, we had to warn people. Our other concern was that I was starting to have flashbacks, and my trauma was needing professional help of a therapist.
Witnesses Say That Emma Willard School Knew NAME REDACTED Was Dangerous Before My Assault
I was not his first student. The investigative report the school released in 2017 found here: https://issuu.com/emmawillard/docs/report ,demonstrated that he had lost his on-campus housing right before I started school there. They had concerns about him taking students there. They let him stay in his apartment. The man who wrote one of 3 letters of recommendation, Jack Easterling, had made sure that the school wasn’t reacting too severely and he was given his housing back.
Several weeks or maybe a month before I was assaulted, I had printed some email messages from NAME REDACTED. His messages had become instructions for the things he wanted me to say and do when I went to his apartment. I didn’t always follow them and that was what most of our arguments were about, but his requests had become dark and involved things I had never heard about and didn’t want to try. I walked over to the printer and the emails were gone. There were no print jobs pending, and then, the bell chimed for class. I had hoped the internet had swallowed them into its digital oblivion. A day went by. Two.
Soon after, Trudy Hanmer then Assistant Principal, called me into her office. Two students had turned some emails into her and she needed to discuss them with me. Trudy told me that she was fairly certain that the emails were given directly to her. The emails were on her desk.
Trudy Hanmer told me that in one of the emails, NAME REDACTED describes the spring break Ireland trip. I was a student going on that trip and he was one of the chaperones. She said that she could not let him be a chaperone because she couldn’t risk other students ‘finding out’. She then said I needed to be ‘more careful printing emails’.
That was it. I was handed the emails back and I left the room relieved, grateful even. I did not remember what those emails said until the two students recalled them to me 18 years later. I was horrified of what they said at the time, and that is all I had remembered. If she had only asked, I could have told her that I was feeling overwhelmed and needed help. NAME REDACTED had been stalking me on AOL Instant Messenger and it was hard to avoid him on campus. I was in over my head and I needed an adult to help me.
I could remember one of the girl’s faces that found the emails all these years. That’s how an old friend and I were able to locate her in 2016. Her face was burned in my mind because I would avoid her gaze and the knowing in her eyes; what I now recognize was concern for me. What those eyes said in 2016 was fear and worry that I was not ok.
To remember the girl, I had to first see the face I remembered. My friend overnighted me her 1998 yearbook and I took a highlighter and placed a delicate dot next to faces that could be ‘that girl’. When I was done looking at the faces, I went back and wrote down the names of the girls. The girl was not on Facebook, but had a linked-in account. My friend reached out to her and we waited. A month went by before the girl replied. She rarely checked her linked-in but yes, she never forgot what those emails said because, they frightened her. Some of the acts NAME REDACTED stated he wanted of me, begged me to try, were cruel and she didn’t know what they meant until years later.
My friend asked her who the other girl was that found the emails with her. It went from there. We had the two. Verification of a memory I had. Trudy Hanmer, Assistant Principal must have known that NAME REDACTED had lost his on-campus housing for “acting inappropriately with a student” before my time was at it again with another student. She had written proof of his depravity and the administrative action she chose to take was to remove NAME REDACTED as a chaperone. I believe this action lead to his increased violence towards me and impatience that I would not just let him use my body as a receptacle of his pain inducing fetishes. If you want to know how much he loves going to Scotland and how big a deal it is to him, you can listen to him talk in 2015 here on this blog:
In an email I sent to my lawyer in May of 2016, I said “it doesn’t seem like Emma Willard is even willing to acknowledge what happened”. We let Emma Willard School know that we had witnesses that remembered giving school administrators a warning about NAME REDACTED. Yet, emails from my attorney to their attorney were met with silence or hollow asks for more time for 2 months. Finally, their attorney, Laura Harshburger, called Eric and verbally told him that they would not pay for therapy nor would they provide any further information. The statute of limitations had expired and that they didn’t have to do anything. That was their choice. I’m not kidding you. They wasted our time pretending to be interested and concerned while legislation called the Child Victim’s Act was holding out hope to be passed into law. Soon after, the NY State Senate failed to vote the Child Victim’s Act into law, the school basically said, ‘too bad, so sad, not our problem.” The Child Victim’s Act had been drifting for over a decade without passing. A version of the bill passed the NY Assembly 139/7 in 2017. http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/06/assembly-set-to-vote-on-child-victims-act/
Senate Majority Leader John Flannagan refuses to even discuss the legislation. He is responsible for failing to bring it to the floor for a vote. This year, it’s on the budget proposal Governor Cuomo has set forth for 2019. Scroll way down, but it’s there. March 2018, and as of today, the bill has been "Intentionally Omitted" from the budget. A very disappointing move by the NY Senate.
The Emma Willard School Ignores Us
The NY Senate closed the day of my birthday in June, 2016. It closed with no progress on the only legislation that would have helped me and thousands of other survivors of assault. Therapy was helpful in channeling my rage and helping with the anguish. Turns out, sexual assault is pretty damn common and that speaking with other survivors can be helpful in the healing process. At the recommendation of my therapist, I got in touch with some NY advocates and survivors that had faced NY’s statute of limitations. They were having the annual walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to demand the passage of the Child Victim’s Act. I got a plane ticket and flew from Orlando to NYC just to attend this walk and meet with other survivors of abuse. My old friend drove up to walk with me even though she is afraid of heights. Survivors gathered and were all telling their stories. My take away was that New York laws were very wrong. I was able to see beyond myself and what happened to me and see how injured and affected entire generations and communities were by sexual predators only to be compounded by the survivor's inability to do anything legally after only 3 years, in some cases. It was incomprehensible.
I met Michael O’Keefe from the New York Daily News. He asked me why I was there for the walk. I told him what happened to me. I told him that Emma Willard School wouldn’t even discuss what happened to me, if NAME REDACTED had gotten any letters of recommendation, and my biggest concern is that he could have hurt more young women.
Media Breaks and Alumni Gather
The New York Daily News wrote the first article about my sexual assault. I started to get friend requests from Emma Willard alumni from all over the country. I had to create a Facebook page to help with the volume of messages. Within 48 hours, thousands of Emma Willard alumni gathered in the Facebook group. Within a week they were drafting a letter to the school with a list of demands to improve school policies and to acknowledge my assault and to help me.
Emma Willard School responded with carefully crafted statements apologizing for any harm done to any students that attended the school, but nothing specific and no communication with me or my lawyer.
Emma Willard School Gave My Rapist Letters of Reference in 1998
I received an anonymous tip from a teacher that had read the NYDN article. It is important to note that NAME REDACTED had not been named in the article. This tipster knew where NAME REDACTED went after Emma Willard and they had yearbook pictures. Furthermore, they knew it was him as soon as they read the details of the article. He had a very disturbing conversation with a colleague of theirs in the early 2000s and when they read the article they knew exactly who the man was. My greatest fears were confirmed; NAME REDACTED had worked at the King School in Connecticut coaching girls’ soccer and teaching history. I was sent photos. From another tipster, I was sent a letter of recommendation written by Jack Easterling, then Dean of Academics at the Emma Willard School. The letter of recommendation was on Emma Willard letterhead and it was signed by a head administrator. (Jack Easterling would become such a school icon that he has his own bobblehead. Jack has fundraised for the school for decades.) I reached out to the King School in a panic to warn their headmaster. It was summer, and I was calling every department to try to reach someone. I finally got a hold of someone and they helped me get in touch with the head of the school. They said they were taking my concerns very seriously. He was fired from the King School in Connecticut for similar cause.
I messaged a board member of Emma Willard School and said that I had the letter of recommendation and that it proved that the school had “passed the trash”. NAME REDACTED’s termination was not mentioned, quite the opposite. His letter of recommendation spoke of how talented he was and what an asset he would be to their school. I couldn’t believe it. I begged Emma Willard School via the board member to admit what they had done because it was going to be released to the media. I wanted the school to start doing the right thing. I told them they had 48 hours to disclose. Sure enough, they did.
Not One but TWO Letters of Recommendation
Emma Willard School admits they gave 2 letters of recommendation for NAME REDACTED despite his termination. I was blown away. I had only known about the single letter. How could this have happened? By this time, the Boston Globe and the New York Times had gotten ahold of the story.
This is the same pattern of sexual predator teachers being passed along as what happened in the Catholic Church. The Boston Globe Spotlight Team named NAME REDACTED by name and put his photo in the paper. You can find those articles in the News Articles tab on this website. When the Boston Globe went to print, and only then, Emma Willard School contacted my attorney in August and asked if we could mediate a settlement.
So, Emma Willard School Finally Took Action, Except, Not Until Media and Alumni Got Involved?
Yup. What took Emma Willard School 4 months to say they were sorry? Based on correspondence between my attorney and Emma Willard School, they didn’t feel like they had to do anything. Despite the evidence they had in their own files and despite that meeting with me was the goddamn decent thing to do. I couldn’t sue the school because the statute of limitations had expired. I had to go public to get any acknowledgement. That’s not due process and that’s not justice. Justice hasn’t been served. I want full discovery. I will never have that satisfaction.
Times Up Emma Willard School
Mediation took place in Boston led by Paul Finn. He was a big name. Emma Willard had insisted it be a big name. He had mediated large groups of survivors of the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts. Eric MacLeish and Carmen Durso sat on my side of the table. The school offered me money. I refused to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. I was very clear that I was going to be very vocal about my assault and treatment. An agreement was made and the paperwork was signed. We released a joint statement in the local papers. The take away from this is that I had no legal recourse and the school settled. If you were cynical, you might say the school settled because they wanted all the bad press to stop. If you are an optimist, you would say the school after 4 months of ignoring me had a change of heart and wanted to make some semblance of right our of many wrongs.
Mediation and An Apology For ‘Any Harm Done to Me’
An Investigation. Not an Independent Investigation, but an Investigation and 70 years of Hidden Abuse
You can read it. Again, the ‘police report’ from 1998 isn’t even mentioned. It’s almost like Emma Willard School doesn’t want to discuss two heads of school stating that it exists. The letters of recommendation for NAME REDACTED are only mentioned in passing without attributing credit for who wrote them in the first place. I have one letter written by Jack Easterling. The report only states that the head of school wrote the two letters of reference. Robin Robertson was that person, yet she was not named in that section of the report. She is retired and lives in Truro, Massachusetts. It's worth noting that the report excludes my father’s account of communication he had with the school. I had sent the lawyers the school hired for the report (Smith and Gomez) his statement on his letterhead. They didn’t even mention what my father stated happened. So, for the record, here is his statement:
(Portions of letterhead and signature are removed because he still currently practices medicine)
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It’s worth noting that the report skims over the administrators involved and skims over 105 victims at the Emma Willard School that the report details. Those are the victims mentioned in the report, but at 70 years (the report only goes through 2006) that’s an average of 1.5 students a year. The school lists their enrollment at 354 students/year.
It’s worth noting that two alums who had been sexually assaulted at the Emma Willard School came forward privately in 2014, two full years prior to my approaching the school. The alumni community was not alerted to any claims of historical abuse nor was any school policy reviewed until… I went public and the alumni community got loud about wanting change and atonement.
I have a lot of questions about the behavior of the school both current and historically. You should too. Historical abuse cannot just be mentioned without repercussion to the abusers and those in power who helped to cover up abuse or keep it a secret. That’s just me, though. This is why the Child Victim’s Act in NY is so crucial.
Leaders in the alumni community re-emerge to provide hundreds of volunteer hours to review all the school policies over the years. The goal is to discover where the policies failed the students. Kimberly Jones, head of the task force, created an amazing report. The conclusion was the students were left vulnerable. The task force made recommendations. Were their recommendations listened to? Not so much. In fact, a board member after the presentation stated “there don’t need to be any changes, everything is fine.” The school disbanded the task force. To date, there is still no policy that results in the immediate termination of faculty/staff if they engage inappropriately with students. You’d think that would be in the handbook somewhere.
The Alumni Task Force is not taken seriously by Emma Willard School.
Here is a link to the Alumni Task Force report:
An Alumni Task Force
Some survivor friends and I along with NY Loves Kids are going to take a ride in an RV this weekend to take the legislation door to door to constituents. The RV was Bridie Farrell’s idea. Survivors are grass rooting this issue and have been for a very long time. It was important for me to help fund that work.
I felt that a billboard would help direct people to a website that could warn them about NAME REDACTED, because it’s all I can do. My story helps show how deep the issue of sexual assault runs within communities and within institutions and how hard it is as a survivor to look back in time and try to tell their story. It’s a fight, it really is. Living through the fight to just get your truth told is hell. I have gained 45 pounds. I’m on blood pressure medication. I can’t sleep at night. I should have been able to hire a lawyer, sue the school, get discovery, and receive justice. Look at where we are instead.
I want you to know that, in my opinion, trusted and respected administrators were involved in helping my rapist find his way into other schools. I believe that the Emma Willard School is ignoring survivors that have approached them about the harm that was done to them while publicly stating that they welcome survivors and want to offer them help. I want you to know that opponents to the Child Victim’s Act are the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts. They have spent millions of dollars lobbying against this legislation. This legislation, though in NY, affects you too. You have a sexual predator in your state that lives in proximity to schools. He sits on an elected board of the City of South Hadley. He is free to coach soccer and teach. Nothing is stopping him. That means that he has unhindered access to children. That is not ok.