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Emma Willard report details decades of sexual misconduct, abuse

April 19, 2017 03:55 PM

TROY - A new report details more than 75 accounts of sexual abuse, harassment and other misconduct at Emma Willard School from the 1950's until 2016.

The report is part of the Troy boarding school's own external investigation.

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It describes relationships between faculty and students, including one Kat Sullivan said involved her and a former teacher she accuses of raping her in 1998.

"Emma Willard school has engaged child protection experts Leslie Gomez and Gina Smith to investigate allegations of historic sexual abuse at our school," Interim Head of School Sue Groesbeck told NewsChannel 13 in February.

The report also includes a letter former principal, Dr. Frances O’Connor, wrote in 1978.

In it she said, "Several of the students who admit to being sexually involved with faculty have told me that they and their friends feel that sex makes this place go round."

There are also numerous accounts of grooming behavior used by offenders who manipulated students in order to make them accustomed to sexual assault later on.

Sullivan said that is what happened to her.

Trauma of and fear of potentially being blamed are among many reasons attorney Michael Macomber of Tully Rinckey PLLC said victims may wait years to come forward.

"They've just gone through probably the most traumatic thing you can go through and then to draw more attention to that I think a lot of them are very hesitant to come forward with that," Macomber said.

Investigators verified some of the accounts in the report and gave their findings to Troy Police, who determined most reports were beyond the statute of limitations or were not criminal.

"This goes back 50, 60 years and for a lot of them there's going to be not much recourse left other than if a local police department wants to criminally prosecute that person," Macomber said.

In a statement the school said, "We are deeply sorry for anyone who was harmed, or witnessed harm, while at our school."

"It really is on the school, it’s on the students, the faculty, everybody at that point in time to continue that discussion and making sure that it doesn't just end with that report," Macomber said.

The report is one of a number of steps the school has taken to shed light on allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse over the years.

Sullivan said she disputes some claims in the reports and she said it does not include a letter from her father in which he condemns the handling of her situation.

You can view the report and the schools response by clicking on the links tab of NewsChannel 13’s website.

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Nia Hamm

Copyright 2017 - WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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