GLOBAL HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATION MERCY CORPS OVERLOOKED CHILD SEX ABUSE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST CO-FOUNDER
October 9, 2019
The late co-founder of the Portland-based, global nonprofit organization, Mercy Corps, allegedly abused his daughter from preschool until high school, according to a newly-released investigative report.
The Oregonian found that Mercy Corps executives knew co-founder Ellsworth Culver had been credibly accused of serial sexual abuse by his daughter. They still allowed him to continue working there for more than a decade.
Tania Culver Humphrey, the daughter of Ellsworth Culver, said she told Mercy Corps leaders of the abuse on at least two occasions. As a 21-year-old college student in 1992, Humphrey went to co-founder Dan O'Neill, board chairman Raymond Vath and Portland attorney and board member Robert Newell.
She gave them graphic details of the wide range of sexual, mental and emotional abuse she had endured from her father.
After its initial review of Humphrey's allegations, Mercy Corps determined there was insufficient evidence to support her allegations.
Dr. Raymond Vath, the board chairman at the time, wrote to Humphrey telling her the charity would take a "redemptive approach" with Culver and thanked her for "helping improve Mercy Corps."
She approached the organization again last year when she and her husband asked the organization to reexamine its handling of the original review.
The accounts of Humphrey, who agreed to allow her name to be used in the story, were corroborated by eight friends who knew her during her childhood and teen years. Three of them witnessed the abuse in person, and one woman revealed she had also been abused by Culver.
Michelle Green, 48, one of Humphrey's classmates from St. Mary's Academy in Portland, came forward about the alleged abuse she suffered at the hands of Culver. She also requested to be identified for the story.
The Oregonian spent 10 months investigating the allegations, interviewing Humphrey multiple times. They spoke with elementary school and high school friends, neighbors, counselors, support group leader and Humphrey's mother. They also reviewed correspondence with Mercy Corps, extensive medical and counseling records and reports from Oregon's child welfare agency.
Child Protective Services received two reports of sexual abuse concerning Humphrey: one from a teacher and another from a counselor. It's unclear why the state failed to respond.
Abuse revelations the third time around led to the resignation of longtime board member Robert Newell, and prompted Mercy Corps' CEO Neal Keny-Guyer to send a message to donors and employees worldwide.
"When Ms. Humphrey reached out to Mercy Corps in 2018, we had an opportunity to right a wrong. Instead, we failed her with our response. She should be commended for her courage in bringing these issues to us and we didn't do enough to listen to her. We added to Ms. Humphrey's suffering, and for that I am deeply sorry and profoundly apologetic."
"I firmly believe that survivors deserve the benefit of the doubt. That belief is shared by our Board today as well. And I know we have a lot to learn from this situation about how to be a stronger ally to survivors of abuse."
Message from Executive Director Laura A. Ahearn: Please visit our website at www.crimevictimscenter.org for news, information and resources in your community.