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lyn schollett, executive director for nhcadsv, statement at on nh Department of Justice's agreement with st. paul's school
September 13, 2018
Lyn Schollett, Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence:
The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence applauds the Attorney General for this comprehensive settlement agreement, which focuses on creating lasting change for the community of St. Paul’s School.
This agreement is truly groundbreaking. The scope of this settlement reflects how pervasive the problems at St. Paul’s School are. We believe this agreement will have far reaching implications and become a model for schools throughout the country seeking to create safer and more responsive environments for students who are sexually assaulted.
This settlement became a reality because of the tremendous commitment Attorney General MacDonald and his team have demonstrated to victims of crime. Soon after he was appointed, the Coalition brought concerns about St. Paul’s to them, and they listened. And then they acted.
This intensive investigation involved the investigators, prosecutors and advocates you see here today and literally thousands of hours of work – hard work that involved unearthing the experiences of victims long overlooked or even silenced. Through it all, the Attorney General’s Office was undeterred from its ultimate goal: ensuring the safety and well-being of St. Paul’s students.
The Attorney General’s Office could have taken a more traditional approach and charged the school with criminal offenses. This would have likely resulted in the school merely having to pay a fine, if found guilty. That limited accountability would have been a blip on the screen and a day in the media, yet would have resulted in minimal change for the children who live, work and study on St. Paul’s campus every day.
Today marks a change. After decades of perpetuating the abuse of children, the standard formula for an institution’s “accountability” can no longer be taking a hit in the media, offering an apology, or writing a check.
Instead, the people you see here today invested in monumental change. The Attorney General’s Office prioritized student safety above all else; recognized the need for large-scale, institutional change; and refused to let St. Paul’s School get away with a mere slap on the wrist for failing its students and its community for decades. The message to St. Paul’s and institutions across the country is clear: the systemic discrediting and minimizing of victims will no longer be tolerated or swept under the rug.
In particular, we are encouraged that an overseer will be in place long enough to not only create policies that protect students, but to implement them. Education aimed at preventing future abuse will be prioritized. Guaranteed access to confidential, victim-centered support services will break down the shame and isolation often felt by victims, and insure that they are aware of all of their options after an assault. As you have heard in recent years from students who were victimized at St. Paul’s, how an institution responds to a victim has an enormous impact on how that victim moves through the world after an assault. With evidence-based, trauma-informed training, we are hopeful that St. Paul’s leadership will move from blaming victims to believing them.
Thank you, Attorney General MacDonald and your team, for your vision and leadership in reaching this unprecedented agreement. The Coalition is prepared to help in any way we can. We stand with survivors who have named the violence they experienced at St. Paul’s School and those who have never felt that they can do so. Our hope is that this agreement is a first step to creating an environment where any student who is assaulted is provided the support and services they need and deserve.