The Christian Academy in Japan, a suburban Tokyo school founded in 1950 as a boarding school for the children of Christian missionaries, is investigating 66 cases of alleged past abuse of students at the school spanning decades.
Those allegations include faculty physically and sexually abusing students mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, though a representative for a school alumni group said she is aware of cases as early as the late 1950s and as recent as the 1990s.
A written statement on the school’s website from Anda Foxwell, head of school, said the alleged abuse reportedly occurred “a quarter to a half century ago.”
But, Foxwell wrote, the Christian Academy in Japan admits that “as a school, CAJ did not provide the nurturing and caring environment for children that we should have provided.
“This is not the school CAJ is now. We renounce a culture of silence that suppressed the truth, which prohibited children from being heard in their suffering. We acknowledge that students were vulnerable to the way staff members used their power against them in ways that were hurtful and harmful, and we want to express our deep grief over learning about the pain some children endured,” the statement reads.
The investigation comes after former students began connecting and sharing stories about their experiences at the school on social media amid the attention given to sexual abuse by #MeToo and similar movements, Foxwell told Religion News Service.
Some of the stories she heard were secondhand, she said. But, she added, “I didn’t doubt the experiences.”
The head of school began responding to people individually after she was made aware of their social media posts about two years ago and later posted a letter of apology on the school website, she said. That letter, which caused a stir in the school’s alumni community, later was removed from the site over concern it could interfere in the investigation, she said.
Perhaps the letter was “naïve,” Foxwell admitted.
“But I was really hoping to address the concerns and express just sorrow over what people experienced,” she said.
For many alumni, the apology that was posted on the school website lacked “specificity and true recognition of the deep underlying roots of the problem of abuse at CAJ,” according to Deborah Rhoads, chair of the CAJ Concerned Alumni Committee.
Earlier this year, alumni sent the Christian Academy in Japan six first-person accounts of alleged sexual harassment and abuse by faculty members and more than 60 other accounts of abuse at the school and its dormitories, Rhoads said.
That was followed by a letter signed by 80 alumni, including those who have reported abuse and their supporters, asking for an investigation by a “reputable, independent and mutually agreed-upon agency,” she said.
What they want most, she said, is for the school and its founding agencies to acknowledge they failed to protect children. They also want survivors’ accounts to be treated in such a way that they feel heard and for alleged abusers to be reported to law enforcement, churches and affiliated missions.
The Christian Academy in Japan, which no longer has a boarding program, was founded by six missionary agencies: Resonate Global Missions, Serve Globally, The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM), WorldVenture, One Mission Society and SEND International.
Last October, Resonate Global Missions became aware of the abuse allegations after it was forwarded a letter alumni had sent to the school urging it to act, according to a May statement on its website.
In January, Resonate received a second letter outlining physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the school, it said. One of four people named as abusers was a missionary with the organization, a ministry of the Christian Reformed Church.
“The biggest thing for us was just really communicating the pain and regret that we understand when we hear these survivors’ stories and that really they have no place within our organization or God’s teaching,” said Josh Leo, communications manager for Resonate.
“With the other founding agencies, we’re really invested in an independent investigation and that we want to move forward appropriately with any recommendations or results that come out of that investigation,” Leo said.
Al Tizon, executive minister of Serve Globally, an agency of the Evangelical Covenant Church, said some children from his denomination are among those who may have been abused physically, sexually or emotionally.
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SOURCE: Religion News Service