Surprisingly, going against everything Mark said in this phone call, the Recovering Alumni Response website was put up less than a month after he promised a thorough investigation. Its also interesting to note that they put it up on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend.
This is the conversation that transpired when I called Mark to discuss it. I didn’t get the beginning recorded very well, but if I remember correctly, he was at an outlet mall with his wife and didn’t have much time to talk.
RA: Did you know that they basically closed the investigation and said that pretty much, everything’s ok?
Mark: Um…pause…I haven’ t seen it so I don’t know what to tell you. I want to read it before I comment talk to you and comment about it.
RA: Ok, well, were you aware that the investigation was over?
Mark: Long Pause
After this conversation with Mark on May 28th, I sent Mark a follow up email on June 2nd. This is where things turn sour.
I’m still anxious to hear from you as the website has been up now for 5 days. I was really surprised to read the Board’s response as it did not at all mirror our last conversation. As you might recall, when we last spoke, you assured me that a panel would be convened to do conduct a thorough investigation. You also said that you would publicly declare who was on the panel and what their expertise was. However, according to the website, this panel and investigation seems like a total sham. I really hope I am wrong about that. Please help me understand this. The only “expert” analysis on the website comes from a psychologist whose children attended the HA and whose brother is on staff. There is no possibly objectivity in that, aside from the fact that he didn’t even do an investigation! He only commented on his own kids and other kids he’d seen socially. That is hardly “thorough.”
If this is really the Board’s response, I have several questions which I was led to believe you would provide answers to:
Who was on the panel?
What has supposedly changed in the HA from the time of these complaints? (Note: Several of the stories are from the past 3-5 years.)
How many people were interviewed? How were they contacted and how long did their interviews take? Was there fair representation from past, recent and current participants?
How many man hours did this investigation take?
And lastly, why did the Board reveal my gender?
I am really befuddled by all of this – especially since you seemed very genuine in our phone conversations. I look forward to your response and hope that there is an objective, independent investigation to come.
Personally, I feel that in light of the situation, this email was very, very respectful on my part. None of these questions came as a surprise to him nor are they out of line in any way. As you know by listening to our prior conversation, Mark told me that he would be happy to provide all this information.
He responded to me later that day with this very painful email:
I have now seen the site and have read the expert letters. My hesitation to respond to your list is that I feel that you are trying desperately to paint me into a corner. Public responses (like the one from the BOD) seek to safeguard the ministry and all of the individuals who are involved. This includes your readers who shared their stories. There are no “Bad” people here. The entire BOD is trying to improve a ministry that has been in existence for years. Entities like this do not transform overnight or in four or five months. We are seeking good council and seeking truth. We are working on improving all elements of TMM including the HA experience. We as a BOD care deeply for the students. The processes are not yet perfect but the group is trying.
I am unable to share interim details with you first, due to my fiduciary responsibility to the ministry and secondly, because of the email blast that went out this Spring to all alumni. The list was stolen from the ministry. The list was used without permission. The trust factor has been damaged.
I really can’t even tell you how disapointing this email was. Not only is Mark totally going back on his word but now he is also trying to paint me as the bad guy. He tries to reframe my asking him legimiate questions as “painting him into a corner.” Then he blames me for damging “the trust factor.” The so called “stolen” email list has never been a problem before, so why bring it up now? (As all alumni know, the emails are available on the official alumni website. Sheesh!) Again, its an attempt to shift the responsibility off of an abusive, lying ministry and onto me, the whistleblower. Even if it was a stolen list – wouldn’t that pale in comparison to the fact that PEOPLE ARE BEING ABUSED? Instead of the investigation, which Mark specifically said would not be a whitewashing or brushing under the rug, we get the same old vague platitudes about seeking truth and making changes.
These are classic Teen Mania tactics:
1) Ignoring the problems and blaming the person who points the problem out.
2) Moving the goal posts whenever they feel like it. “Sure, I’ll tell you all about the panel and the investigation.” “No, I can’t tell you due to my fiduciary responsibility. And you are wrong to even ask.”
3) Vague promises of change with no specifics articulated
I feel I have fulfilled my duty to point out the injustice and abuse at Teen Mania. They clearly do not want to hear it.