In early 2020, I and a few of the survivors who were former plaintiffs in the lawsuits against the Children's Theatre Company (CTC) started a new nonprofit organization to hold and administer the seed money provided by CTC to create a wellness fund for other survivors of the abuses suffered by students from the mid-sixties through the mid-eighties. This new organization is called Children's Theatre Alumni Wellness Fund, or CTA Wellness. To find out more about the fund, please visit CTAWellness.org
During the settlement process, a list of reparations to plaintiffs was presented to CTC. They agreed to some items right away, and to continue conversations about the rest of the list. Below is the current status of the list of reparations. CTA Wellness will continue to do what we can to hold CTC accountable to fulfilling this list.
Because of some very specific interactions I had with CTC in the fall of 2020, I have personally decided to step away from involvement in any further negotiations directly with the administration of CTC. For more details on this, please read my post entitled DANCING ON LANDMINES .
WHAT HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED
Public Apology by Children’s Theatre Leadership:
At the 11/1/19 press conference, CTC made a public apology to the survivors, former students and community. You can view it in its entirety here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILcxk-K7QqY.
The collective request from the plaintiffs was for CTC to support the creation of a Survivor’s Fund. CTC honored that request by providing $500,000 as seed money for the fund. CTC is also committed to supporting future community efforts towards fundraising.
A survivor-led non-profit organization was created to hold and administer the fund which provides resources for alumni in need of therapeutic support. This new Non-profit is called Children’s Theater Alumni Wellness Fund (CTAWF) or CTA Wellness as it has come to be known.
Training of CTC Staff in Child Abuse Prevention and Trauma-Informed Practices:
The plaintiffs requested that CTC review their training processes with an eye toward the understanding that even if no child is being abused under their care, recognizing that 1 in 5 children are victims of sexual abuse, all staff should be able to recognize and assist children who are potentially reaching out for help. CTC partnered with RAINN to provide all CTC employees a training on March 5th, 2020, focused on sexual misconduct prevention, recognizing signs of trauma and understanding appropriate responses to children at risk. This is the start of a commitment to continue improving upon CTC’s safety strategies.
Resources in Show Programs:
In the same way that staff training is being developed with the understanding that children performing or attending classes at CTC may be at risk in other areas of their lives, it was also requested that a point of contact for resources for potential victims be placed in CTC’s program. CTC began including an ad for RAINN’s resource hotline in programs starting in January 2020. CTC will work through its partnership with RAINN and MNCASA to find age appropriate language to help audience members find resources, should they need them.
Opening the U of MN Archive:
In 2013, an archive of materials from CTC was established with the University of Minnesota. At that time, a 75 year hold was placed on the archive, including all documents related to John Clarke Donahue’s years at the CTC; 1965 to 1986. Plaintiffs requested that this restriction be lifted and that all alumni members be given access to the archive without prior approval from CTC. In 2022, CTC agreed to lift the restriction for everyone.
Ongoing Staff Training:
As a part of the ongoing commitment to understanding and preventing childhood sexual trauma, as well as onboarding for new staff, a two-year partnership has been created between CTC and MNCASA (MN Coalition Against Sexual Assault) focused on the Rosemary Project. The Rosemary Project is an initiative of MNCASA to raise awareness of the ways in which we can prevent sexual violence in our society. More info can be found here:
The phases of this partnership include leadership, staff training and engagement and follow up training and continued partnership. MNCASA will also conduct a review of CTC’s Adult Youth Engagement policies and practices among other efforts jointly determined.
Board of Directors Training:
Understanding that staff training is not complete without board training in these areas of concern, the request was made to provide specific training for board members. To this end, a few Board members attended the RAINN training in March and ongoing educational activities for the Board will be included in future work with MNCASA.
Board of Directors Survivor Recruitment:
A request was made to include voices of sexual assault survivors on CTC’s Board of Directors. As announced by Kim Motes at the 11/1/19 press conference, a recruitment goal of having two sexual assault survivors (preferably childhood survivors) and/or career specialists on the board of directors has been adopted by the Governance Committee of the Board. This goal has not been met. The makeup of the Board is critical to institutional awareness and understanding of harm. This reparation request sits as a high priority for alumni but has not been fulfilled.
Acknowledgement of History on the CTC Website:
We have requested that CTC create a page on their website dedicated to the acknowledgement of the early years of the theater’s existence and the harms that occurred during that time. For trauma survivors, public acknowledgement of this history is crucial for the process of healing. Additionally, we want alumni-survivors to be able to find access to resources directly on CTC’s website. There was also a request to include an ongoing acknowledgement of the theater's history of abuse in their programs. We were not able to come to an agreement on this issue. Acknowledgement of the history of abuse doesn't appear on their website, but it is mentioned briefly in their Adult/Youth Engagement Policy document accessible through their website.
Community Support of CTC Alumni Healing:
The plaintiffs also wished to have platforms to heal as a community and not just individually. What happened at CTC in the 70s and 80s was a community trauma. Some alumni may find it helpful to heal in community as well. CTC has agreed to help support these alumni driven efforts financially, and are willing to participate if requested, in whatever way would be supportive and useful. Plans include community based opportunities designed with support from qualified professionals trained in complex community trauma, and a survey of the alumni community to help us determine current needs.
Opportunities for Parents to be Involved:
We believe that communication with parents is imperative to the safety of children. CTC has parental involvement policies in place, but we believe it’s important to further investigate how parents can be invited to be more actively involved in their children's participation in shows and their education at CTC.
Memorial Placement on the CTC campus:
The request was made by plaintiffs that CTC not oppose future motions towards creating a survivors’ memorial on the larger campus of CTC, MIA and MCAD. While no plans are in process right now, CTC has committed to not objecting to such a project in the future. Both sides acknowledged that the content would be age-appropriate for CTC audience members.
The space formerly occupied by John Donahue’s office:
This space was the location of much abuse and the intention is to find a way to permanently acknowledge the impact of this difficult past while creating a space for positive experiences and community healing. Discussions are underway and CTC is open to possibilities, but nothing concrete has been planned for this.