- Five executives from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network have left the organization in recent weeks. A sixth will depart on April 13.
- The departures follow an Insider investigation into allegations of racism and sexism in RAINN’s workplace.
- Since that article’s publication, RAINN has retained a firm specializing in workplace misconduct investigations, and has promised to “do better.”
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, America’s most prominent anti-sexual-violence organization, has lost six executives in the weeks since Insider published an investigation into its workplace, which 22 current and former staffers described as in crisis over allegations of racism and sexism.
As recently as February, the nonprofit — known as RAINN — counted seven people on its senior leadership team, according to its web site. Five women on that team have left the organization in recent weeks, leaving just president and founder Scott Berkowitz and chief technology officer Anil Nimmagadda as original members. A sixth executive, director of human resources Claudia Kolmer, is set to leave on April 13.
In the wake of Insider’s investigation, Berkowitz wrote a message to RAINN staff confirming most of the departures and announcing a full-scale investigation of the group’s workplace culture by a firm that specializes in workplace misconduct. In a similar message directed at “friends of RAINN,” Berkowitz wrote that he was “sorry for the impact this article may have had” on the group’s supporters and pledged to redouble RAINN’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The departures included RAINN’s vice president of public policy, Camille Cooper; the vice president of communications, Heather Drevna; the vice president of consulting services, Clara Kim; the vice president of victim services, Jessica Leslie; and the vice president of development, Andrea Pagano-Reyes.
In an interview, Drevna confirmed that she gave notice on March 4, and left the organization on March 18. Kim confirmed in an email that she resigned for “personal and family considerations” on March 6, and left on April 1. Leslie’s attorney told Insider in an emailed statement that she resigned from RAINN “for personal reasons having nothing to do with the allegations about her that Insider previously reported, which she continues to dispute,” adding that her last day was April 1. Kolmer confirmed her resignation in an email to Insider. Cooper resigned, and her last day was March 23. In an emailed statement, H. Patrick Morris, an attorney representing Cooper, said Insider’s investigation was a “work of fiction.”
Pagano-Reyes did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and the circumstances of her departure are unclear, but according to her LinkedIn, she left the organization for a new job in March.
Representatives for RAINN did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
Former and current employees who previously spoke to Insider said the famed nonprofit was in crisis over race and gender. At times, RAINN silenced people who were deemed political risks, including a sexual-assault survivor, stifled criticism from employees, and treated certain staffers disparately because of their gender or race, these current and former staffers said.
In previous statements to Insider, RAINN accused the current and former employees of providing “incomplete, misleading, and defamatory” information about “a handful of long-outdated and disproven allegations.”
It hired Clare Locke LLP, a boutique libel law firm that has represented clients facing accusations of sexual violence or misconduct, including Matt Lauer and former CBS News executive Jeffrey Fager, to respond to Insider’s inquiries.
“Given your questions contained outright lies about RAINN and our staff, and publication of those claims is potentially defamatory, we hired defamation counsel,” Clare Locke partner Thomas Clare wrote in a previous statement attributed to RAINN. “We recognize we have a right to legal representation, and our attorneys have helped us disprove your ridiculous and libelous allegations.”
But despite vigorously pushing back in its communications to Insider, including through legal representatives, RAINN’s communications with supporters and staffers in the wake of the story have acknowledged that it has room to improve. In one note to supporters, Berkowitz wrote that the story “might have been painful to read and may have challenged your faith in RAINN and our leadership, including me.”
The statement did not take issue with any of the reporting, aside from objecting to Insider’s use of the term “loan” to describe debt that RAINN repaid to Berkowitz. Two emails sent to staffers by Berkowitz and obtained by Insider also detailed plans to address issues raised in Insider’s reporting.
RAINN has pledged to ‘do better’ and retained a firm specializing in workplace misconduct investigations
In February, Insider reported that one survivor told his story of military sexual assault to a RAINN staffer for an article set to appear on the organization’s website. The survivor and the RAINN employee who worked with him told Insider they believed his story was pulled because RAINN didn’t want to jeopardize its contract to run the Department of Defense’s Safe Helpline. In another instance, the same employee alleged that her supervisor pestered her to keep working while she was using sick days to recover from an abortion.
RAINN previously wrote in response to Insider’s questions that it had “no recollection” of why the survivor’s story never ran and was “not aware of the Department of Defense expressing concern over RAINN’s coverage of military survivors.” It said it was not aware of the staffer’s abortion at the time and that it “supports employees taking time off and does not support managers encroaching on sick time.”
In the wake of Insider’s investigation, RAINN has attempted to address the allegations and investigate the alleged issues staffers raised. In a March 29 email to staffers obtained by Insider, Berkowitz said RAINN had retained Triangle Investigations, a firm that specializes in “misconduct allegations related to matters of race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexuality, and sexual harassment,” according to its web site. While Triangle was initially engaged to look into an employee’s specific allegation against colleagues, the note said, it received “candid feedback” and expanded the scope of the investigation to encompass RAINN’s entire workplace.
RAINN has also contracted with the firm Diverse & Engaged to hold a series of “listening sessions” — some of which will feature Berkowitz and members of RAINN’s senior leadership — for staffers to share their feedback to the organization, according to a March 21 email from Berkowitz, also obtained by Insider.
In his undated message to “Friends of RAINN,” Berkowitz promised to “do better.” The message also said RAINN was adding new training sessions on management, leadership, implicit biases, and microaggressions, and that the organization had implemented a “confidential external ethics reporting line” where employees can anonymously submit complaints to be investigated.
“This is a pivotal point for RAINN, and I want you to know that we are committed to doing better — and we will do better,” Berkowitz wrote.