Listening Ear “Apologizes”, Continues Cover-Up

Are you tiring of reading my Listening Ear posts? I’m tired of writing them. I’m even more tired of them embarrassing me and my fellow alumni.

I’ve spoken with many alumni recently, and none of them was comfortable with the idea of working with someone convicted of forcibly raping someone. Not one of them could recall a policy or “long-standing tradition” that would allow it. After trying to convince the world otherwise, they finally enacted a policy banning registered sex offenders from working at the center. Numerous people in the community, perhaps most notably their highly respected state senator, requested an apology, and a week after the news broke, they finally responded to that.

I thanked them for their “apology”¬†and asked they answer some questions they have left hanging for days now. After all, they’ve been promising transparency. The organization has still not responded despite having answered other questions since these were originally asked. For the record, I re-asked the following questions (with my speculative answers in parentheses). Continue reading

What the Listening Ear Should Have Said

I wrote this before the Listening Ear released their statement about policy changes in the wake of news that they had three registered sex offenders working their crisis lines, including one who disclosed his status before joining the staff. I was trying to get myself back on track with the #LinkYourLife Challenge using the prompt, “Write a false memory.” I thought of things I wish they had said when things came to light.

We are deeply sorry.

It was recently brought to our attention that we had three people on our staff who are on the sex offender registry. While they did serve us honorably, their presence was not appropriate. Many of our clients and staff members are survivors of sexual assault. As a matter of policy, we do not offer counseling to perpetrators because we want to create a safe space for survivors. We should not have allowed people who have perpetrated sexual assaults onto our staff.

We are implementing policy changes including requiring background checks for all volunteers, present and future. We are still in discussion about what offenses will disqualify someone from serving, but rest assured that appearance on the sex offender registry will exclude anyone. We will continuously review and revise these policies and procedures on a regular basis going forward. Continue reading

The Listening Ear Has Failed In Its Mission

I’m really angry today and can’t focus because of it. So it’s time to unleash it.

I spent about five years volunteering at the Listening Ear of East Lansing. Lately, the center has been making headlines after it was revealed that they have three registered sex offenders on their active staff. (You can read out it here and here.) The organization is still in the process of deciding how to handle the situation and whether or not to require background checks of volunteers in the future. The outcry has been so strong that legislation is already in the works that would render that decision moot. (You can read about that here.)

I absolutely believe that these people have value to society and should be able to give back to their community. Granting them unsupervised access to sexual assault survivors, however, is not appropriate. I can’t even entertain any debate on that.

The organization will almost certainly not survive without a swift change in policy. Michigan State University and multiple area non-profits have publicly cut ties with the Listening Ear in the wake of the news. At least two volunteers, including the board chair, have quit, and many alumni and community members are upset. Even without the proposed legislation, the loss of community support will force them to change or cease operations. Continue reading

New Name and Profession: The #LinkYourLife Challenge Day 6

Going a little out of order once again and tweaking things a little. The prompt is to give myself a new name and profession. That would require a whole lot of imagination that I’m not able to muster at the moment. I also need to stall ever so slightly while I handle some other business these next couple of days. So I’m going to talk a little bit about some childhood career aspirations.

Well, this first one I wouldn’t even really call an aspiration. I had this strange feeling that I would end up in show business. I’m not sure why. I had no real desire to do that, but something convinced me that it was inevitable. I guess you could blame it on Kermit the Frog.

The person I really wanted to be back then was Dr. Johnny Fever. As I grew up, I gave up any desire to work in radio. The jobs are way too unstable, and programming is too tightly controlled. But this guy was too cool for all that. Just check out the video from when he got to change WKRP’s format from elevator music to rock and roll.

Unfortunately, that clip ends before the end of the scene. Johnny was a highly successful DJ in L.A. before his career went in the toilet after he was fired for saying what was somehow an offensive word.

Now that I think about it, I still don’t want to work in radio, but I do want to grow up to be Dr. Johnny Fever.