“I just signed your death warrant”
These words echoed through the world of athletics and beyond on January 24th 2018 when Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced the former doctor of the American gymnastics team, Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar to 175 years in prison for multiple sex crimes.
This was an amazing eclipse to a seven-day hearing that drew out more than 150 young women to publicly confront him and speak of their abuse at his hands.
This case is the perfect example of how one man can destroy so many lives and sadly get away with it for many many years. The typical abuser will have an average of several dozen victims before he is ever caught.
This case is extraordinary in who this man and his victims were – an accomplished physician having access to and training the most elite athletes in the world. A rather sad and stark reminder that anyone can be a victim and anyone can be a perpetrator.
The Cayman Islands struggles with many social issues including child sexual abuse. When perpetrators are trusted members of the community it becomes much more challenging to see justice properly administered outside of the courts especially in the organizations they are involved in.
This lack of community justice includes parents who are unwilling to be true advocates for abuse victims. It includes police investigators who lose child abuse files for years and allow abusers to walk free as a result of a botched investigation. It includes school administrators who ignore written complaints about school teachers who acted inappropriately for years. It includes presidents of local associations ignoring their duties in favor of their own personal relationships with accused persons.
Dr. Pavlov Rameau, a former lecturer and head of the math department at the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI), was charged in December with a number of offenses relating to child pornography and child abuse. The prosecutor at his first court hearing described him as a “sexual predator” with a prolific collection of child pornography on various hard drives – some of which have not yet been fully explored.
Anyone with an ear to the ground and listening to the female students at UCCI would hardly be surprised at the allegations that have now ended his career at the school. NO ONE should have been surprised apparently including the school administrators.
Numerous students and former students have contacted Cayman Marl Road to share their stories of how they formally complained in writing for years about his unacceptable behavior. Some made it all the way to the top of the organization and nothing was done. Essentially they were told that he was too valuable to the organization to lose and it would be difficult to replace him.
Some students left the organization and took their studies elsewhere. Many tried to bare it through his class and quickly move on with their academic careers. There were whispers about his meeting students at local hotels and asking for sexual favors for better grades or for tutoring assistance.
Imagine you telling a school that your professor had done or said inappropriate things to you – their response essentially says WE DO NOT VALUE YOU as a human being or student to take the most appropriate action. This is not a private institution but one owned by the Cayman Island Government. They made administrative decisions to continue to keep him employed with their organization and to expose him to underage children with their youth camp programs.
Anywhere else in the western hemisphere that university would be sued for this negligent behavior by his current victim and their guardians.
Their decision to not act directly put children in harm’s way and continued to expose their own student body to his perverse behavior.
The college board has refused to make any comments on the allegations made by its student body and an FOI request asking for a copy of these allegations has gone unresponded to despite at least 4 different emails to various administrators at the school.
By all accounts they have no existing policy on relationships between students and professors. If such a policy does exits its extremely well hidden as no one appears to know where to find it.
Cayman Islands Athletic Associations
Ato Stephens was convicted and sentenced to prison last August for misusing an ICT network to abuse a young female athlete. He was able to get off on more serious charges because of what the court called essentially a botched police investigation.
Once again, anyone paying attention would have heard years of allegations and whispers about this coach also. Years of questionable behavior with you female athletes. When the story first broke one male assistance remarked
“It was only a matter of time. He had been at those young girls a long time now. We have all known it.”
When asked why he didn’t speak up there was no response.
In fact, one of the CMR contributors have been directly contacted by other victims who had come forward in August 2014 this allegation that got him convicted. These children and their parents contacted then president of CIAA with their complaints but they were threatened with legal action should they do anything further with their complaints. They had inappropriate communications to show the president and she did nothing at all.
Back in February 2016 when he fled the Cayman Islands one parent said:
“His wife needs to be looked up, as she condone it and say we fabricating lies against her husband. She allowed this to escalate, as if she had came and sit with me to see messages, she would know.”
Speaking after years of frustration and complaints ignore this parent continued:
“I’m glad this came out, as idiot want anyone to think I was fabricating anything. The truth must come to light and justice must be served for all who have been molested”
Could it be that as his wife her judgment was clouded by her relationship with the coach? Why were allegations from two years prior not acted upon? We should note that they were also reported to the police but this case never made it to the prosecution stage.
Victims live in fear when organizations do not do their part to reign in such actions. Why was he allowed to continue coaching?
In November, the CIAA, under the new leadership of Lance Barnes FINALLY decided to ban him from having any affiliation with their organization or any of its members but his wife continues to serve as secretary to the organization. Where is he staying now? Potentially with a CIAA executive member? Does that give him access to information about CIAA members, meetings etc.?
No steps have been taken as yet to contact the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) to provide them with information on his conviction in order to prevent him from having access to regional children. The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) have likewise not been contacted either about Stephens.
At the time of the allegations he ran from the Cayman Islands to the USA there were allegations that there was continued contact between him and the president. NO doubt this was on a personal level but why wouldn’t the president step down if she was conflicted between doing the right thing and actually supporting her husband despite such serious allegations against him.
Many feel sorry for spouses that are caught in such situations but at the very least they should have the common decency to step down from any position that would have anyone question their ability to be fair and impartial. The very appearance of a conflict of interest should be avoided at all costs. It’s understandable that as human beings when someone you’ve loved and trusted betrays that trust it can leave you flustered and looking for answers yourself. But your obligation to the organization and oath to protect children in your care should supersede all else.
The organization made no statement about the nonacceptance of such behavior among its coaches. Stephens now remains in the Cayman Islands despite the judge’s instructions that he should be deported after serving his sentence.
He has not yet been banned from our national stadium and can show up there at any time to re-traumatize victims and other athletes. All of this on the heal of us celebrating Sports at last last week’s National Hero’s Day!
The pervasive attitude of organizations is that they cannot be held accountability for the actions of their members and staff. This is truly amazing when we know that legally that is not the case. It’s a long standing legal principle called vicarious liability. As is usually the case, no one in the Cayman Islands have yet to take them to task legally and sadly until someone does little is likely to change.
Not only is there no accountability, but there is also the sense that remaining silent makes it acceptable to continue on with business as usual. No one makes an external communication statements nor do they inform and remind its internal stakeholders of its stance when such situations occur. There’s no need for damage control but ultimately they feel as though no damage to their reputation has been done. Rightly so given that no one publicly calls them out.
These two organizations are a prime example of despite that fact that there now reporting and training standards for local NGOs for handling child abuse allegations not much has truly changed. There has been a total disregard for complaints levied against persons in their organizations.
Victims are still made to feel that they cannot truly secure justice and have the full support of the community. The silence of these institutions itself sends a very loud and uncomfortable message that the unlawful behavior is still not being addressed and called out as reprehensible.
These bodies have a direct responsibility for either knowingly or naively turning a blind eye to the scourge of sexual predators.
Meanwhile on Friday the USA Gymnastics board confirmed that all remaining members of its board of directors would resign after coming under pressure from the United States Olympic Committee. The announcement came one day after the head of the Olympic committee threatened in an email to decertify U.S.A. Gymnastics — the sport’s national governing body — if its entire board of more than 20 people did not resign by next Wednesday. Several board members, including the chairman, Paul Parilla, had already resigned by the time the email was sent.
The scandal has also consumed Michigan State University, which employed Dr. Nassar for decades. The university’s president resigned late Wednesday amid mounting state and federal investigations into how much the college knew of Dr. Nassar’s behavior and when. The university’s athletic director also announced his resignation on Friday.
They have admitted “that U.S.A.G. culture needs fundamental rebuilding”. We dare say the same is true of many organizations in the Cayman Islands as well.
The real question however, is why is no one demanding this?