Second acts for abusers

While there have been several cases of high-profile people losing their perches because they sexually harassed and abused people over whom they had power, one cannot help but wonder if after some time has elapsed and they fade from the headlines, they will slowly creep back into positions of prominence. Sometimes, they move quickly into new positions where they still exercise power over people, thanks to the ‘good old boy’ network that protects its own.

Justin Elliot and Ariana Tobin at ProPublica report on one such case where an executive at the Red Cross who committed gross acts of abuse then went on to a job at Save The Children, aided by a glowing recommendation from a senior executive at Red Cross who knew about his abusive behavior. The Red Cross has been under fire for a whole range of bad practices (which is why it is one charity I do not support) and this adds to its bad reputation.

When Save the Children hired Gerald Anderson in 2013, the global charity believed it was hiring a veteran humanitarian executive with a sterling resume. Anderson had spent more than 15 years working around the world for the American Red Cross, rising through the ranks to lead the group’s massive relief effort after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. After that, the Red Cross made him head of its half-billion-dollar response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Perhaps most crucially, the Red Cross gave him “very positive references,” including from a senior official, Save the Children said.

But the Red Cross didn’t tell its counterparts at Save the Children an important fact about Anderson’s work history: He had just been forced to resign from his job after the charity concluded he sexually harassed at least one subordinate.

Anderson’s accusers were dismayed when a top Red Cross official praised Anderson in an October 2012 email announcing his departure. David Meltzer, then senior vice president for international services, wrote that he regretted to announce Anderson had “decided to make a change.” Meltzer said he was “grateful” to Anderson for his “leadership,” lauded him for “two decades of dedication and hard work in furthering the international mission of ARC,” and wished him well in his “future endeavors.” Meltzer and Anderson are personal friends, according to five people.

A few days later, at a staff meeting, Meltzer, who is now the Red Cross’ general counsel, went further. He said he was upset Anderson was leaving and that if it were up to him, Anderson would continue working at the Red Cross, according to three attendees. “It was flabbergasting. If you are a woman sitting in this room, and you have ever been harassed by Jerry Anderson, you’ve just heard from the VP that he does not believe you or support you,” said Amy Gaver, then an official at the Red Cross, who attended the meeting and knew about the allegations.

Connecticut-based Save the Children said it learned of the circumstances surrounding Anderson’s departure from the Red Cross only last week when contacted by ProPublica. The group said in a statement it has placed Anderson on administrative leave while it looks into the situation. It added there have been no allegations of misconduct against Anderson during his time at Save the Children.

The article describes two cases of abuse committed by Anderson. People who know about, condone, and protect abusers are enablers of abuse and must also be held accountable.


  1. jrkrideau says

    Well, I have no objection to giving him a good recommendation for the good work he has done just as long as one includes the reason why he was fired.

    Sweeping the harassment charges under the rug is totally dishonest.

  2. jrkrideau says

    I should point out that I used to work for a company where a criminal record, at least of many types, was not a problem. Someone once mentioned that XX had spent quite a lot of time in prison for killing three men in a fight.

    XX was a very nice person; anyone getting into a fight with him was a serious challenger for a Darwin

  3. says

    @jrkrideau No. 1,

    Anderson’s case illustrates one of the major problems with extra-judicial actions.

    If I’m charged, tried and found guilty of a crime, then my employer has no problem firing my ass and warning future employers that I’m a risk because truth is always a defense against slander and libel.

    If’ I’m accused of a crime and forced out to avoid hassles for my accuser or my employer, then my employer better not repeat the accusations in any way or I’ll sue his ass for slander (verbal defamation) or libel (written defamation) and most likely win.

    Now, in the case of the Red Cross, I imagine that there may also be an element of “old-boy network” in play but the best way to deal with the problem is to create and support a social system where people don’t fear coming forward and bringing legal charges.

    We have a system of laws for a reason, but they only work when we use them.


  4. says

    There are problems with the law as well.
    What happens if someone is found not guilty? Either because of lack of proof, or actual innocence.
    Can the accused sue in those situations?
    Or going back to my childhood, for defying segregation laws.

  5. jrkrideau says

    @ 4 hyphenman
    Duh, totally missed the lack of court case.
    Unfortunately it is all too easy to “blackball” someone. See Buffy St. Marie as an example.

    On the other hand, it can be almost impossible to get evidence that holds up in court. Our laws, quite reasonably, demand a high standard of proof. What does one do?

    Ah, gossip!

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