A prominent Western charity that began its work to educate Liberian girls under former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf finds itself under intense media scrutiny again, following accusations of sexual abuse at its school.
The More Than Me (MTM) organization, based in the United States but operating in Monrovia, is the subject of new investigative reporting by ProPublica and Time published on Thursday. The in-depth reporting by Finlay Young and Kathleen Flynn questions how the organization handled allegations against the late Macintosh Johnson, a staff worker who was arrested in June 2014 after numerous students, some as young as 11, reported rape allegations.
“Johnson would often play the role of guide and raconteur to aid workers, journalists, ambassadors – even Bono,” writes Young, describing how the highly visible community activist came to the attention of MTM and CEO Katie Meyler.
Johnson died in March 2016, just weeks after a trial process that ProPublica described as compromised and resulted in a hung jury. What remain, however, are questions about how Meyler and MTM handled the allegations and what became of the girls themselves.
“In a country where rape had been used as a weapon by drugged up child soldiers, vulnerable girls continued to be forced to exchange sex for money, food, protection or education,” the report said. “The charity’s marketing materials said Meyler was saving girls from this fate.”
Yet that wasn’t what happened to Macintosh’s targets.
Ahead of ProPublica’s joint report, MTM issued a statement about its continued mission on Thursday.
“The sexual exploitation and abuse of our students is a horrific crime and above all else, our deepest regret is that we were not able to prevent this from ever happening at all. We recognize there are things we could have done better to limit Johnson’s power, and make uncovering abuse easier,” it said. “We have reviewed our policies and protocols and have made significant changes since this incident.”
ProPublica also has produced an “Unprotected” documentary that premieres Friday at the Double Exposure Film Festival in Washington, D.C.
To see the full investigative report, check this link.
To review MTM’s complete response, see this link.