‘We Failed You’

16
5032
Katie Myler, co-founder of the More Than Me Academy

More Than Me apologizes to 10 Girls Repeatedly Raped in 2014 by its community liaison to West Point, Macintosh Johnson; Advisory Board wants Myler step aside, sets up Independent Inquiry

An American charity agency, More Than Me, which sought to stop sexual exploitation of young Liberian girls in the Township of West Point, has admitted to reports that its liaison officer, Mcintosh Johnson (now deceased), raped ten young girls between the ages of 10 and 16, and has expressed remorse for the tragic experience of the girls.

 In a statement posted on its website, More Than Me saidWe are deeply, profoundly sorry. To all the girls who were raped by Macintosh Johnson in 2014 and before: we failed you.

“We gave Johnson power that he exploited to abuse children. Those power dynamics broke staff ability to report the abuse to our leadership immediately. Our leadership should have recognized the signs earlier and we have and will continue to employ training and awareness programs so we do not miss this again. We are moved by the courage and bravery of the girls who came forward and it is a tragedy that they ever had to. To the survivors that have HIV, we remain committed to supporting you.

“We are heartbroken by what happened and also have fundamentally changed how we operate as an organization since this incident.”

However, reports indicated that Johnson’s assault on the young girls continued with the protection of the community because it (community) felt he (Johnson) had brought improvement on the educational lives of many children. But when his crimes were known several attempts were made to make sure that Meyler or MTM’s names were not mentioned in any report.

In More Than Me’s release, they acknowledged the enormous complexity of being responsible for the care of children and that previously “we were naive to believe that providing education alone is enough to protect these girls from the abuses they may face – strong institutions, safeguarding policies and vigilance is, needed to do that.”

It added “More Than Me will now provide private, school-wide HIV testing at the Academy to all students. An independent audit completed this past summer noted our progress in protecting girls and called for the implementation of additional changes including survivor-centered protocols, additional resources to ensure efficient reporting, broad application of safety standards to all of our public schools and organizational culture change and we continue to be firmly committed to further bolstering our safeguarding policies.

“As we work to correct past failures, we welcome the Ministry of Education to the Academy at any time for a complete inspection.

“We regret that coverage in ProPublica and TIME presented a one-sided view of our overall work and achievements, often quoting out of context or minimizing our impact, institutional development, and response at the time and changes over the past four years. We will continue to share any updates as they become available.”

Meanwhile, the Liberian Board of Directors of More Than Me, in a statement to the media yesterday under the signature of Chairman James Dorbor Jallah and six other members, including Aisha Cooper, Fiona Weeks, Rosana Schaack, Dr. Mosoka Fallah, Samuel Sampson and Nelly Cooper, announced the setting up of an independent panel, comprising prominent civil society groups, women’s and professional associations, to review circumstances and the allegations of sexual violence against some young women in the organization since 2014.

The statement further said “We the Liberian Advisory Board (LAB) of More Than Me regret the incidences that were reported in 2014 regarding the sexual exploitation of some of the students in the institution’s care which is the subject of recent media reports. This Liberian Advisory Board was established in September 2015 to advise the US Board of More Than Me.

“More Than Me was founded to help educate vulnerable girls from Liberia, most especially West Point. These incidences are contrary to the values, objectives, and principles of More Than Me. We were informed that when the issue of the sexual exploitation was brought to the attention of the administration of the school on June 12th, 2014, More Than Me immediately reported the matter to the appropriate government authorities and within four days Mr. Macintosh Johnson, the perpetrator, was arrested by the police.

More Than Me Academy (right), co-founded by Katie Meyler and Macintosh Johnson. Several of the schools students (all girls) claimed they were raped on campus by Johnson.

“More Than Me worked assiduously with the law enforcement and the justice system to ensure a speedy trial the first of which resulted in a hung jury and the second of which was ongoing up to the death of the perpetrator in 2016.

“Additionally, we have also been informed that medical records show that examinations were conducted for all 10 of the girls and one of the ten is HIV positive.  She is in treatment and healthy. All the victims are currently in school with access to counseling and health care supported by More Than Me.

“In reviewing the allegations as published by ProPublica and TIME we uncovered several statements that were either inconsistent with the information provided to us by More Than Me leadership or that was new information.

“In this light, the Liberian Advisory Board has constituted an independent panel comprising of prominent civil society groups, women’s and professional associations and appropriate Government of Liberia functionaries to review all of the circumstances and allegations. This panel will have no one who is associated with the incidences or More Than Me involved.

The statement identified members of the panel as follows: National Civil Society Organization, Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), Independent Human Rights Commission, REACH, Servant of All Prayer (SOAP) and Disaster Victims Association of Liberia. It said the panel will be

The panel will be supervised by Counselor T. Negbalee Warner, in collaboration with a globally recognized international counterpart from the African sub-region. The panel will come up with findings to get the Liberian perspective and present it to the public.

Following the release of this report, the Liberian Board in consultation with the US Board will take appropriate actions. Given the urgency of the issue, “we expect the panel to conclude its review within two to three weeks.”

The statement said Katie Meyler, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the organization, has sacrificed a lot to support education for vulnerable children. However, given the sensitive nature of this situation, the “Liberian Board has asked” her, to temporarily step aside while the investigation is ongoing, and she has willingly agreed for the objectivity of the investigation. The US Board concurs with our decision.

The statement further said since 2014, More Than Me has engendered a number of reforms geared towards reducing the risk of the recurrence of that ugly situation. The Liberian Advisory Board had an initial meeting with officials of the Government of Liberia (Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, and Ministry of Education) on October 12th, 2018 and are willing to fully cooperate with the government in whatever it envisions to do.

“It is very important to note that More Than Me’s primary concern and objective is giving our students the opportunity for quality education and a bright future as well as a safer environment for girls. Some of the girls reached out to the Liberian Advisory Board on October 12th, 2018 appealing for the non-closure of the More Than Me Academy and its ancillary programs. They are concerned because they believe that the closure of the program is the end of their hope for a better future.

“Additionally, over the four years following the incidences, More Than Me has been a reliable partner in the fight against Ebola and in supporting the Liberian education system,” the statement said.

However, it may be recalled that the Daily Observer in June 2014 published a story that authorities of the Liberia National Police (LNP) were investigating a senior staff of More Than Me (MTM) Academy over allegations of statutory rape.

In the second report on June 25, this newspaper reported that Macintosh N. Johnson, who was accused of having sexual relations with ten students of the More Than Me Academy, ages 12 to 16, appeared at the Monrovia City Court to face rape charges. After a brief hearing, he was remanded at the Monrovia Central Prison, being probed for rape.

Johnson, who was MTM’s community liaison to West Point, was arrested on June 16 following numerous complaints regarding his sexual misconduct toward the students. “Johnson is being investigated by LNP,” a credible source said at the time.

During interviews conducted in the Township of West Point yesterday, several women explained that while More Than Me’s presence in the township has brought tremendous educational support to many children, the abuses often young girls may have damaged the organization’s reputation.

“We are very poor,” a mother said. “So you can see why I can allow my girl children to get support from other people to go to school. I think our government can set some example because I know that More Than Me means well for us.”

ProPublica and TIME have reported exhaustive investigations on the journey of a young American woman to change the world of young women in one of the most vulnerable communities in Liberia but found the organization, despite its positive intentions, being sucked and manipulated against the very purpose of which it was established.

Author

16 COMMENTS

  1. When one with honeyed words but EVIL mind persuades our people, great woes will befall us. Therefore; fellow country men, not all that glitter is gold. We should learn to dig our own gold. Gold is not only found in RIVERS. It is also found in creeks, rocks, sands and even places of uncertain difficulties. When we learn to dig our own gold, we will then understand that digging gold in the wrong pit can ruin our country. Some fake gold deposits are very treacherous for our young people. Authorities responsible for youth development, should please carry on a routine cyber check on these groups. Our people are quick to fall for new faces and new ‘OPPORTUNITITIES’. Especially so….When coming from that sphere of the globe. Less we know that not all, but some are very toxic and corrosive which can destroy the fabric of our youth.
    Watch out fellow Liberians! They are so many fake GOLD DEPOSITS out there meant to trap you into the wrong GOLD PIT. Some are taking advantage of the mass poverty and illiteracy rate in our society to lure our youth into exploitations.

  2. Katie Meyler is simply making A CROCODILE APOLOGY. She needs to face justice! She knew about every criminal acts and wickedness her boyfriend carried out! All they get involved in these activities for is MONEY MONY MONEY! PERIOD!

  3. Thus sayeth the word of God according to the doctrine of St. Pau, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. The word “All” is applicable to all of us, all human beings!

    I will condemn anyone anytime when something stupid is caused by any individual. It can be the Nigerian phone thrower, Mr. Bejedi, or Ja’neh, the impeachment fighter or the dishonorable judge Peabody, who informed the Liberian people that Bejedi had to go to Nigeria because of illness.

    I know Miss Meyler. I met her on a few occasions in Washington, DC. However, knowing her will not shut my mouth, lest I present myself as a dishonest person. I condemn Meyler in the strongest sense because of the fifth she’s been involved in. On the other hand, Meyler has had good intentions. All along the ten-year period she has served in Liberia, some positive things occurred at MTM. But, because Satan is so devious, Meyler was overwhelmed by Santanic forces. All of us, can be tempted. In fact, sometimes we’re tempted and overwhelmed.

    Meyler has expressed remorse! Any fair-minded individual can see a sense of contrition in her request for forgiveness. Meyler is unlike some hardcore Liberian wrongdoers who have shown no compunction for their transgressions. I think Meyler deserves to be forgiven, but not unpunished. No, she shouldn’t be expelled out of the country. She did a pretty good job.
    Strangely, some Liberian newspaper writers (not the commenters) blamed the USA for Meyler’s excesses. I sincerely and strongly believe that blaming the USA for Meyler’s wrongdoing is wrong. Here is why. Every country has it’s good and bad people. There are good Liberians and bad Liberians. Some Liberians are so bad that you cannot trust them with your sons or daughters. There are good Americans and bad Americans. The NGO that Meyler has operated during the past decade is not owned by the USA, but rather owned by a single American. It’s okay to blame Meyler, the American lady and the “Liberian men” who were involved in this fiasco, not America. The Americans were not involved in this fiasco.

    It is my hope and prayer that MTM will continue to operate in Liberia. MTM is a lifesaver.

  4. Being more concerned about the ‘name’ of the organization than the welfare of the girls is what sickens me. Strongly note, good deeds for 99 days and a blunder on the 100th day, obliterates all those so called worthy deeds. Kpang!
    The intent/dream of MTM is not what matters right now. I see all that has been put in place now to be ‘damage control’. If you’re indeed apologetic, remain remorseful and defend nothing. What did provide the 10 girls???? Allowing them remain in the community was another terrifying action.
    Our hearts are bleeding for our girls too much mehn!

  5. The stories I have read so far about this organization and its mission in Liberia, I believe the stories about sexual exploitation in the public arena compel me not to make a judgment on what should happen to MTM in Liberia.
    To be transparent, I have not lived in Liberia for any significant period, the last of my visit being in 2007 for only a week, and so I am not familiar or acquainted with many key persons in the country body politics and private and non-profit communities. As such, I am relying only on information in the public square.
    Certainly, fighting against sexual exploitation of minors or sexual abuse in any country is a difficult issue, where major institutions (e.g., think of the Catholic Church in the U.S.) entrusted with the goodwill of credibility and integrity may have individuals with ill intent and moral turpitudes end up abusing innocent and/or underprivileged and unprotected others. So, the gravity of the issue here is not taken lightly by me. I believe the probe, investigation and potential indictment of culprits must be of high priority. This involves both legal and psychotherapeutic approach. First, the victims privacy should be protected at all cost, and the media should help in this process by not exposing any name of the victims. Each of the victims, and their affected family members, should receive all the therapeutic treatments.

    The legal approach should be twofold. First, what kind of culture exists and certainly existed at the time of the abuse. Does the organization itself as an institution condone such act due to lack of compliance processes to hold its staffs accountable in their daily functions with supervisory structure subject to both internal and external review on a regular basis? If this structure exists, , then at a minimum, responsible individuals leaders should be held liable for the actual crime against the victims as well as failure to exercise supervisory roles to ensure the safety of the young people at the various centers operated by MTM. The second approach is to identify the governmental institution responsible for supervision over such institutions that exercise care over the most vulnerable in the society. If none exists, this should be a time for the government to begin looking at establishing one.

    With this kind of probe, investigators can appropriately separate criminal acts and actors from a good organization doing a great job in helping to protect many young people from this decadent act of abuse. This is certainly an emotional issue and should be looked at it with a clear mind and not the emotionalism that is naturally triggered by incidents such like this, but that never lead to a viable solution. If MTM is indeed an organization with the intent and purpose to protect young girls from sexual abuse and has demonstrated such, it should be allowed to continue, with few adjustments in its operational structure to ensure proper monitoring, accountability, proper supervision. While I can discern the anger in many of the comments are due to the gravity of the issue, none appear to be based on conclusive knowledge of the details of what happened, and as such can not reliably provide both the legal and therapeutic solutions needed here.

    I have no background in psychotherapy, but have spoken to a good friend of mine who is Liberian and a renowned psychotherapy on issues not related to this specific case, but on other issues in Liberia and I believe that my thoughts are based on my belief that such an approach is credible.

  6. “More Than Me” is not the one who has failed those girls. Let’s put the blame where it belongs. It is Liberia who has failed those girls. This is happening because of the belief that our salvation will come from the white people. It is happening because of the belief that a savior will come from America and miraculously solves all of our problems. And letting them take the blame for this wicked act shows our ignorance and failure to wake up as a nation and people capable of shouldering our own burdens. If we do not stand up now and take the responsibility for this wicked act on these girls and start instituting programs to help them (all girls) then it is us who would have failed our girls.

    Each time you invite these so called NGOs and Aid workers from western nations, you are also inviting them with their problems. Let me point out that some these so called NGO workers are government agents sent by their government to spy on us and to destroy any progress that may be deem threatening to their nation. Let me make this crystal clear in case you don’t know, no amount of aid or NGO effort no matter how great, will lift us from poverty or from the predicament we have found ourselves. And this is not just for Liberia; I’m speaking in term of the whole of Africa and Africans at home and overseas. The solutions to the problems we are facing today must come from us, it must come from the continent of Africa and from Africans. But I also want to make it clear that though we must solve our own problems, we did not create most of the problems we are fighting to solve today. The problems we are facing today are deeply rooted in our foundation and our history speaks for itself. Our efforts over the years have been in response to problems we did not create. And this is why in order to catapult us from the predicament we are in, the solutions must come from us and nowhere else especially not from the same people who are responsible for our problems.

    Do you know how many years it takes for an African to enter the United States of America (if ever) and the type of scrutiny they have to go through to be allowed a visa to America? When we invite these so called NGOs and Aid workers, what type of background check are we conducting on them – at individual, organization, and country level? Because when you invite people from a different nation and cultural background that you don’t know into your country, you must be prepared for the problem that comes with them. It’s quixotic to think they will not bring problems with them. You cannot sail on the sea and not be prepared for the wave or tide. And if you don’t know there’s going to wave or tide then you are doom to drown when one hit. You must understand that people from western nations join these so called NGO organizations for the sole purpose of satisfying their insatiable appetites of diverse nature. And there’s no better place to satisfy their appetites than that of poor Africa where their actions are unchecked and they are seen as Jesus Christ. We must not allow ourselves to be used by these people for their personal gain. You must start to look at the history of nations (pass and present) and their attitude (pass and present) toward us and people like us before allowing them access to our nations (Africa) especially when we are talking about dealing with little children (the future).

    No one cares about us. No one cares about Africans. No one has ever cared about black Africans. It is only because of economic reasons and the demand for man power that black Africans have been allowed to exist on this earth. And if you think this has changed then you know nothing. And just because once in a while one African will be allowed to ascend to some prestigious position does not change this fact. Those of us, who have lived outside the circumference of Africa and have incline our ears and minds to understanding the operation of the world, know this. And I believe lot of African leaders are starting to wake up and speaking sternly on this. Maybe before my time is over in this world, I will be privileged to see a strong and united Africa. I know when Africa leads, the world will be at peace.

    • One last point, this organization “More Than Me” needs to be banned from operation in Liberia effective immediately and further investigation should be conducted of other potential cases they are not telling us about.

  7. What has the United States Embassy in Monrovia to say about this White American woman “More Than Me”? Answer the people. Not me.
    Gone to silence.

  8. Mr. DaVoice,
    This is me, Mamadu Sulahman Bah of Sydney Australia ….of the University of Sydney.
    All the comments posted on this topic, your view touch me in great length, brother.
    As I always stand, when will we ever, ever be able to try solving our own problems.
    Before I started school here in Australia, I wrote to many consulates, and other foreign missions, and they turn me down. I did not give up. Many of friends from West Africa including Liberia, were here also. They left and went to Indonesia, and Malaysia and so forth. Some tried discouraging me about school. I hung on. Finally, I was given a voucher by the Venezuelan Mission in New South Wales, at the time. They told me to maintain my GPA to 3.50 in all the Sciences and Mathematics. It was difficult from the beginning, but I finally, I got it.

    What I m saying here is, we, Liberians, have to keep fighting to make thing work for ourselves. We depend too much on old idea of help falling from across the ‘OLD OVER SEA ADDRESS’.
    No one will ever make it better for us, but ourselves. We been digging gold from some treacherous deposits, and some have a deadly consequences.

Leave a Reply to DaVoice Cancel reply