6 executives leave RAINN following employee allegations of racism and sexism within the organization


RAIN; Kris Connor/Getty Images; Alyssa Powell / Insider

  • Five executives from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network have left the organization in recent weeks. A sixth will leave on April 13.

  • The departures follow an Insider investigation into allegations of racism and sexism in RAINN’s workplace.

  • Since the publication of this article, RAINN has retained the services of a firm specializing in the investigation of professional malpractice and has promised to “do better”.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, America’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, lost six leaders in the weeks after Insider published an investigation into its workplace, which 22 current employees and alumni have described as being in crisis following allegations of racism and sexism.

As recently as February, the nonprofit – known as RAINN – had seven people on its leadership team, according to its website. Five women on that team left the organization in recent weeks, leaving only President and Founder Scott Berkowitz and Chief Technology Officer Anil Nimmagadda as original members. A sixth executive, human resources director Claudia Kolmer, is due to leave on April 13.

Following Insider’s investigation, Berkowitz wrote a message to RAINN staff confirming most of the departures and announcing a full-scale investigation into the group’s work culture by a firm specializing in professional misconduct. In a similar message to “Friends of RAINN,” Berkowitz wrote that he was “sorry for any impact this article may have had” on the band’s supporters and pledged to redouble RAINN’s commitment by promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.

Departures included RAINN’s vice president of public policy, Camille Cooper; vice president of communications, Heather Drevna; Vice President of Consulting Services Clara Kim; Vice President of Victim Services, Jessica Leslie; and Vice President of Development, Andrea Pagano-Reyes.

In an interview, Drevna confirmed that she gave notice on March 4 and left the organization on March 18. Kim confirmed in an email that she quit for “personal and family considerations” on March 6 and left on April 1. Insider in an emailed statement that she resigned from RAINN “for personal reasons unrelated to the allegations about her that Insider had previously reported, which she continues to dispute,” adding that her last day was April 1st. Kolmer confirmed his resignation in an email to Insider. Cooper resigned and his last day was March 23. In an emailed statement, H. Patrick Morris, an attorney representing Cooper, said Insider’s investigation was a “work of fiction.”

Pagano-Reyes did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and the circumstances of her departure are unclear, but according to her LinkedIn, she left the organization for a new job in March.

Representatives for RAINN did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

Former and current employees who previously spoke to Insider said the famed nonprofit was in a race and gender crisis. At times, RAINN has silenced people deemed political risks, including a sexual assault survivor, stifled employee criticism, and treated some staff members disparately because of their gender or race. said these current and former staff members.

In previous statements to Insider, RAINN accused current and former employees of providing “incomplete, misleading and defamatory” information on “a handful of outdated and long-disputed allegations.”

He hired Clare Locke LLP, a defamation law firm that has represented clients accused of violence or sexual misconduct, including Matt Lauer and former CBS News executive Jeffrey Fager, to respond to claims of initiates.

“Given that your questions contained outright lies about RAINN and our staff, and that the publication of these allegations is potentially defamatory, we have engaged a defamation lawyer,” Clare Locke’s partner Thomas Clare wrote in a statement. previous statement attributed to RAINN. “We recognize that we have the right to be represented by counsel, and our attorneys have helped us refute your ridiculous and defamatory allegations.”

But despite vigorously pushing back on its communications with Insider, including through legal representatives, RAINN’s communications with supporters and staff members following the story acknowledged that there was room for improvement. In a note to supporters, Berkowitz wrote that the story “could have been painful to read and challenged your faith in RAINN and our leadership, including me.”

The statement did not dispute any of the reports, other than objecting to Insider’s use of the term “loan” to describe the debt RAINN repaid to Berkowitz. Two emails sent to staffers by Berkowitz and obtained by Insider also detailed plans to address issues raised in Insider’s reports.

RAINN pledged to ‘do better’ and retained the services of a firm specializing in malpractice investigations

In February, Insider reported that a survivor told his military sexual assault story to a RAINN staffer for an article to appear on the organization’s website. The survivor and RAINN employee who worked with him told Insider they believe his story was taken down because RAINN did not want to jeopardize his contract to run the Department of Defense’s secure hotline. . In another case, the same employee alleged that her supervisor harassed her to continue working while she was using her sick leave to recover from an abortion.

RAINN previously wrote in response to Insider’s questions that he had “no recollection” of why the survivor’s story ever aired and that he was “unaware that the Department of Defense had expressed concern about RAINN’s coverage of military survivors.” He said he was unaware of the staff member’s abortion at the time and that he “supports employees who take time off and does not support managers who encroach on sick leave” .

Following Insider’s investigation, RAINN attempted to respond to the allegations and investigate the alleged issues raised by staff members. In a March 29 email to staff members obtained by Insider, Berkowitz said RAINN had retained Triangle Investigations, a firm that specializes in “allegations of misconduct relating to issues of race, ethnicity , gender, nationality, sexuality and sexual harassment,” according to its website. site. While Triangle was initially hired to investigate an employee’s specific allegation against co-workers, the memo says, it received “candid feedback” and expanded the scope of the investigation to encompass the entire workplace. RAINN’s work.

RAINN has also contracted with the company Diverse & Engaged to host a series of “listening sessions” – some of which will feature Berkowitz and members of RAINN’s senior leadership – for staff members to share their feedback with. organization, according to a March 21 email from Berkowitz, also obtained by Insider.

In his undated message to “Friends of RAINN,” Berkowitz promised to “do better.” The message also said that RAINN was adding new training sessions on management, leadership, implicit bias and microaggression, and that the organization had set up a “confidential external ethics reporting line” where employees can submit anonymously. complaints for investigation.

“This is a big deal for RAINN, and I want you to know that we are committed to doing better – and we will do better,” Berkowitz wrote.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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