Christendom issues second apology, promises to meet victims

FRONT ROYAL – Christendom College officials apologized again this week to victims of sexual assault and harassment and their families amid claims the school brushed off complaints for years.

Christendom Executive Vice President Ken Ferguson also offered to meet with victims, according to a news release posted on the college’s website. The second apology comes a week after a web blogger reported that the college had, according to accounts from former female students, routinely mishandled complaints of sexual assault, harassment and rape.

A news release posted on the private college’s website states that the administration ordered a thorough review of their policies and resources for cases of sexual assault and harassment. The order follows recent alumni accounts and claims that the administration mishandled sexual assault reporting at the college.

Christendom issued an official apology to the victims and their families, the release states. The college reaffirmed its commitment to ensure that workers who provide services to students have the proper training, resources and capacity to respond to the victims’ needs, the release notes.

Neither Ferguson nor Christendom President Timothy O’Donnell would respond to requests for comment on Thursday. Zachary Smith, public relations specialist with Christendom, said the administrators had no further comment and referred to the college’s two media releases posted on the school’s website.

O’Donnell admitted in the release that the college failed some of its students. He goes on to state he is grateful to each woman who came forward with her story, noting that the school needs to hear from them but acknowledged that disclosing abuse and its effects takes courage.

Ferguson offered to meet personally with each victim in the presence of a certified trauma counselor and states in the release that the college values the victims’ insight on ways Christendom can make the campus as safe as possible for women.

The college recently hired experts to review campus compliance with best practices in sexual assault and harassment, the release states. In recent years, Christendom revised its protocols, which it regularly reviews.

Ferguson also expressed gratitude to Simcha and Damien Fisher who recently reported on claims of sexual assault and harassment that occurred at the college some years ago. Simcha Fisher posted a story on her blog in which a former Christendom student spoke about an atmosphere perpetuated at and by the college that ultimately left victims of sexual assault, harassment and rape in the cold. In response to that story, Ferguson claimed the piece contained misinformation and inaccuracies but said in an interview that he could not cite specific examples without first talking to the writer.

Ferguson in the interview also claimed that Simcha Fisher declined an invitation to speak to college representatives about the matter. The Fishers answered Ferguson’s claim in a follow-up piece published Jan. 19 on the blog.

Simcha Fisher’s post also indicates that rape survivors from Christendom referred to the college’s statement as a “non-apology” and a “slap in the face.”

Ferguson joined the college’s administration four years ago. Shortly thereafter the college revised its policies on sexual assault and harassment. The college also added the policy to its student handbook. The college also established a new wellness initiative that provides students ready access to these services. Christendom plans to expand the initiative to include trauma counseling and support for students and alumni who suffered sexual assault.

The college invited anyone seeking to meet with Ferguson to reach him at 540-636-2900 or by email at ken.ferguson@christendom.edu.