Mercy Corps accused of mishandling abuse allegations


Mercy Corps co-founder Ellsworth Culver had been accused of sexual abuse in the early 1990s

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A long-serving board member of Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian aid group, has resigned following reports that the agency mishandled sexual abuse allegations against one of its founders.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that Robert Newell resigned from the board after Mercy Corps was told the newspaper found that agency executives knew co-founder Ellsworth Culver had been accused of sexual abuse in the early 1990s. Culver died in 2005.

In a statement Tuesday Newell, who helped conduct the initial review into Culver, said the board of the Portland, Oregon-based Mercy Corps took the allegations “very seriously,” and called the investigation challenging.

Mercy Corps this week removed tributes to Culver from its website and took down photos of him from its headquarters.

Mercy Corps released the following statement on Tuesday afternoon:

“The details of sexual abuse allegations made against Mercy Corps’ late co-founder Ellsworth Culver in The Oregonian are horrific. Had I known this information when I joined Mercy Corps as CEO in 1994, Ellsworth Culver would not have remained at the organization.

When Ms. Humphrey reached out to Mercy Corps in 2018, we had an opportunity to right a wrong. Instead, we failed her with our response. She should be commended for her courage in bringing these issues to us and we didn’t do enough to listen to her. We added to Ms. Humphrey’s suffering, and for that I am deeply sorry and profoundly apologetic.

I firmly believe that survivors deserve the benefit of the doubt. That belief is shared by our Board today as well. And I know we have a lot to learn from this situation about how to be a stronger ally to survivors of abuse. Every survivor – whether the daughter of a co-founder or a participant in one of our programs – deserves our greatest efforts to support them and uncover the truth.

To be sure we learn and live up to our commitment to survivors in the future, I have requested the Mercy Corps Board engage an independent, external review to be sure we learn all we can from how we handled Ms. Humphrey’s outreach in 2018. I’m heartbroken that we failed Ms. Humphrey, and I’m determined that we learn all we can from our failures and do better.

As we move forward, my expectations for Mercy Corps are clear: we will be accountable, transparent and committed to our mission and values in every aspect of our work. We will humbly acknowledge that we always need to do more, to be better. That begins with me and extends to each and every one of our team members.

Neal Keny-Guyer, Chief Executive Officer

KOIN 6 News will continue to cover this developing story.

This is a story from The Associated Press with contributions from KOIN 6 News.

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