Following lengthy deliberation and prayer, ABWE today replaced G.R.A.C.E.— the victims’ advocacy organization—with a new investigative firm. G.R.A.C.E. was hired by ABWE in May 2011 to independently investigate the tragic child abuse by former missionary Donn Ketcham in Bangladesh more than 20 years ago, and ABWE’s subsequent handling of the situation. ABWE board members and executives discovered that G.R.A.C.E.’s investigative process was “fatally flawed” and would not find the truth, nor advance the cause of reconciliation with the victims.
Association of Baptists for World Evangelism says that they chose a new private investigative firm after complaints about G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments) by victims of abuse. G.R.A.C.E. was due to submit a semi-final report in five weeks. In it’s press release, ABWE called the G.R.A.C.E. investigation fatally flawed.
In the past few months, several individuals who were interviewed by G.R.A.C.E. during the investigative process voluntarily contacted ABWE, unsolicited, to share their concerns. These individuals reported that the interviews by G.R.A.C.E. were not conducted in a professional way or in complete independence and autonomy, as stipulated by ABWE’s contract with G.R.A.C.E.
As a result of these conversations, ABWE believes that G.R.A.C.E.:
- Has not utilized acceptable practice and professional techniques in interviews to obtain truthful statements. For example, in its Philadelphia interviews of more than 20 witnesses, many of them alleged victims, it was reported that G.R.A.C.E. housed them in the same hotel and allowed the witnesses to compare stories BEFORE the interviews, thereby tainting the testimony so much that it would not have been admissible in a court of law according to former VA Attorney General Mark Earley.
- Has not recorded many of their interviews to ensure accuracy and context of the interviewees’ testimony, which is standard operating procedure for any independent investigation, especially as to alleged victims and key witnesses.
- Has provided to interviewees incomplete and inaccurate transcriptions of their interviews.
- Has asked clearly leading questions to interviewees, demonstrating what appears to be a strong bias in one direction.
- Has added and/or cut out important information, including any favorable information about ABWE, letting the transcript misrepresent facts and not reflecting appropriately what the interviewee stated.
- Has confronted some interviewees with blatant and intimidating statements and suggestions, rather than questions, during the interviews.
- Has refused to use any standard of evidence (such as preponderance of evidence or clear and convincing as adopted by ABWE) in which to apply the facts to reach its conclusions.
- Finally, these wrong investigative tactics and flaws have led victims to withdraw from the investigation with a number of other victims and witnesses expressing similar concerns about the perceived lack of truthfulness of any report due to the fatal investigative flaws. In fact, one of the victims who was allegedly abused by Donn Ketcham has recently withdrawn from G.R.A.C.E. investigation and stated to G.R.A.C.E., “We continue to be very uncomfortable about the incomplete nature of the notes. We were very surprised that G.R.A.C.E. did not record our session in order to get a complete record of the interview . . . Therefore [we] withdraw our consent for G.R.A.C.E. to use any part of our interview both verbal and written in its investigation process.” One of the victims stated to ABWE that she felt that she was “re-victimized by G.R.A.C.E.”.
In an effort to address these issues directly with G.R.A.C.E., ABWE shared its concerns in correspondence in November and December 2012, with additional follow up in recent weeks, but to no avail.
It appears the sticking point for the missionary organization is “clear and convincing evidence and preponderance of the evidence.” Fair enough. However, this organization has been facing allegations of abuse that go back a long way in its 85 year history. Historical abuse is not going to generate evidence, which has understandably been destroyed, lost and degraded, if it was even collected at all. Children on the mission field did not have anyone to go to, no one was there to collect evidence or prosecute their abusers. ABWE seems to be all over the map, having hired a law firm to do an investigation while G.R.A.C.E. was doing theirs. According to abuse survivors statements by ABWE have been vague about disciplinary actions taken against adults in their employ who abused missionary kids.
This decision by ABWE to change horses in mid-stream is going to cause an uproar. The goal of ‘reconciliation’ with abuse survivors is not a healthy end goal for anyone who has suffered abuse through a religious organization, and is not as ABWE believes, biblical.
To once again put abuse survivors through interviews with another investigative firm may be less about getting to the truth than wearing survivors down. Pii states it does not release any information about its investigations publicly as G.R.A.C.E. does. Since ABWE is Pii’s client, it appears that the best interests of survivors aren’t as important as ABWE controlling reputation, information and outcome.
ABWE has demanded that G.R.A.C.E. release it’s investigative records to the new hire Pii.
In its statement today ABWE used survivors to slam G.R.A.C.E. Abuse thrived in a culture of power fear and silence – it is going to be interesting to see how G.R.A.C.E. responds publicly to being shelved and whether abuse survivors continue to be the priority as fallout from this AWE decision unfolds.
ABWE has offices in the US and Canada, and operates with about 1200 staff in 70 countries.
Each investigation is conducted with a strategy customized to our client’s needs. No two investigations are exactly alike. Throughout the course of any investigation, we work to interview all pertinent parties, subjects or witnesses, obtain and review all data, perform necessary research and surveillance, if necessary. Through the course of our investigations we deliver regular reports to our clients providing updates and seeking feedback. Upon completion of an assignment, our clients receive a detailed report as to our findings.
Update: Pii was hired by New Tribes Mission (Independent Historic Abuse Review Team- IHART) a year ago – January 16/12 – to conduct an investigation into abuses at the NTM Panama school between 1962-2006. Pii is expected to complete it’s investigation this summer. It appears Pii is connected with New Tribe Missions. IHART is a division of NTM.
Can anyone clarify this? How would an investigative team set up by New Tribe Missions be hired to investigate abuse at ABWE?