Mercy Corps: A Statement of Support for Tania Humphrey
Into Account extends solidarity to Tania Humphrey in her lawsuit against Mercy Corps, the international aid organization co-founded by her sexually abusive father, Ellsworth Culver.
At Into Account, we are deeply, unfortunately familiar with the phenomenon of so-called independent investigations functioning as a means for culpable institutions to manage reputational damage at the expense of survivors. While survivors often request independent investigations and invest much hope and effort in their outcomes, the kind of traumatic institutional betrayal described in Humphrey’s complaint is a disappointingly common outcome.
When accountability and prevention of future violence are priorities, independent investigations center the emotional and physical needs of victims, always with the underlying recognition that a victim’s participation is a gift to the organization. Survivors who are treated with respect and kindness are invaluable allies in the search for the full truth and the public reporting thereof.
When investigations prioritize organizational reputation and lawsuit avoidance, however, they tend to minimize and bury the truth. They exploit the lasting effects of trauma to drain, discredit, and silence those whose truths contradict the organization’s most beloved narratives about itself. They retraumatize survivors and then use the symptoms of trauma to paint survivors as unreliable and untrustworthy. It is painfully apparent from Ms. Humphrey’s complaint that Mercy Corps and its hired investigators did exactly this to her.
In its public statement responding to the lawsuit, Mercy Corps characterizes Ms. Humphrey’s complaint as “distorted and untrue,” then itemizes the paltry steps that Mercy Corps took to support Ms. Humphrey during the investigation as though they were acts of charity.
Mercy Corps executives reveal themselves with this public pettiness. What they list as supportive actions are below the bare minimum of what a genuinely trauma-informed investigation would have provided to Ms. Humphrey. Paying for a year of Ms. Humphrey’s therapy and home security and paying her investigation-related travel costs do little to mitigate the harm she experienced and nothing to take meaningful accountability or begin the cultural changes required to prevent future violence.
The willingness of Mercy Corps executives to attack Ms. Humphrey publicly adds credibility to the contents of her complaint.
Ms. Humphrey’s lawsuit is an act of extraordinary courage. We believe her.
(Image of text reading “No Mercy” is taken from The Oregonian’s 2020 documentary about Mercy Corps’ years-long complicity in and concealment of child sexual abuse)