According to Ethnos360, I was physically and emotionally abused by Al Lotz as a fifteen year old at Ethnos360’s (formerly named New Tribes Mission) boarding school in Bolivia. After two and a half decades, and years of investigation, the mission has found a “preponderance of evidence” to support this allegation, however, they would prefer that we keep this uncomfortable truth confidential. In fact, the confidentiality extends to the extent that they will not reveal to me what they have done with this information, other than to tell me they have responded in some way.
I find this hard to believe. After decades of hiding abuse, I am expected to simply trust that they have now responded appropriately and I do not need the details. Somehow, Ethnos360 and my abuser get to know all that happened to me, but it is not necessary for me to know how they responded to him. I know I was only one of many victims of his from just my few years at Tambo; some of my friends suffered far worse. Yet more than half a decade after I disclosed my abuse, and more than two years after the investigation was concluded, he continues to serve as the Senior Vice President of Surge International, a mission dedicated to children’s ministry through soccer. Did Ethnos360 truly do all they could to notify authorities and organizations what they had discovered about his abusive past?
More alarming, there are at least 41 such alleged abusers out there that Ethnos360 continues to refuse to name despite collecting a “preponderance of evidence,” putting countless potential new victims at risk each day.
Over the last decade, as stories of abuse in various boarding schools from many mission organizations have come to light, Ethnos360 did make the right decision to begin investigating allegations of abuse in their mission schools. So far, they have investigated five of their many boarding schools, and have issued reports for each:
- Fanda, Senegal; this investigation was led by GRACE, an independent investigation team. They discovered through their investigation 12 abusers, who they named and gave information about the nature of their crimes in the report they issued.
- Vianopolis, Brazil; this investigation was led by IHART, a “process” later revealed to be under the umbrella of Ethnos360, in spite of being described as independent. The Vianopolis report was compiled under the leadership of Pat Hendrix, former director of IHART, and named 6 abusers and a brief description of the categories of abuse committed.
- Panama; this investigation was led by IHART, initially under Pat Hendrix, and then by Theresa Sidebotham, an Ethnos360 lawyer who they transitioned to this role partway through the investigation. The report issued about Panama acknowledged 10 abusers with a preponderance of evidence, as well as 10 additional alleged abusers that did not have a preponderance of evidence to support an allegation. However, this report marked a change in approach; no longer would Ethnos360 name the abusers or alleged abusers.
- Tambo, Bolivia; this report was issued by IHART, under the leadership of Theresa Sidebotham, December, 2016. Through their investigations they found a preponderance of evidence identifying 31 different abusers. Also mentioned in the report was that there were additional alleged offenders that they could not find a preponderance of evidence regarding (in other words, no witnesses to support the allegations of the victims), however, the number of alleged abusers was not identified, and again, no names were released.
- Paraguay; I was shocked to discover that IHART completed an investigation, under the leadership of Theresa Sidebotham, into the Paraguay field this past December. My shock is due to the fact that I was an MK from the Bolivia and Paraguayan mission fields and was never notified that such an investigation was taking place. My parents were actually transferred to Paraguay to replace a man who was discovered to be molesting Manjui children (he was returned to the States with no notice to the Paraguayan government, whose citizens he had been molesting, or American authorities). This investigation marked another change in Ethnos360’s processes; they would no longer notify former missionary kids of investigations, and they would no longer make the summary report public. Consequently, it is unknown how many abusers they identified, and how many alleged abusers there are that they could not find a preponderance of evidence to support an allegation.
In total, Ethnos360 has identified so far – that they will acknowledge, with a preponderance of evidence, 59 child abusers, as well as an undisclosed number of alleged abusers (this does not include Paraguay as they have not released those numbers). Of these 59 abusers; men and women who beat children so severely they are physically scarred to this day, missionaries under the charge of Ethnos360 who raped, molested, threatened, shamed and humiliated children, they have named 18 from the first two investigations. They know of 41 child abusers from Panama and Bolivia, men and women that they have collected the evidence and have done their due diligence to back themselves up in this claim were they ever to be challenged in court by these abusers (they would never sue for libel/slander, because it would force Ethnos360 to produce all of their evidence, evidence that would be horrific for them to have in the public record), and do not feel that it is appropriate for former students, parents, new neighbors, churches they currently attend or ministries they are a part of, to be aware of the danger they represent. They do not feel it is appropriate to name these abusers, information that would empower other victims they may still be silent to come forward and find healing, to discover they are not the only ones who had their lives devastated by these criminals masquerading as missionaries.
I genuinely believe Ethnos360 began this process of investigation into darkness of their boarding school history with the right intentions of bringing these awful truths to light. They have flown investigators around the world to collect the stories and spent years looking into allegations. My speculation is that, to the Executive Board’s shock, they have discovered that the abuse was far more horrific and widespread than they ever imagined and their fear of becoming vulnerable as an institution has led them to make these final steps in such a tragically wrong direction. Rather than giving the victims the validation and healing they so deserve, they have instead chosen the path of continuing to hide and protect the abusers, and ultimately themselves. It came out when ABWE released their report prepared by Pii, and independent investigation organization regarding abuse in their mission that leadership in Ethnos360 gave them advice to avoid truly independent investigation groups so they could “control the information” (p. 254), advice ABWE wisely chose not to follow. This desperate attempt to control and contain the stories of victims is only increasing the frustration and hurt of those who have been wronged; the vulnerability they fear that would come through exposure is actually the stance that would bring healing, both to the victims and the organization. They need to follow the example of other organizations’ boarding schools, such as The Key School, who just issued their report and publicly named the abusers discovered just the other week. It is the only way to put the victims first; Ethnos360’s current course only protects abusers.
They cannot continue to be silent. There are abusers they have identified currently serving in ministries, living next to schools, working with children. How many more have been, and will continue to be, victimized by their decision to keep this information to themselves?