Mark Davis: Decades of monstrous sexual abuse by psychiatrist costs famous Hawaiian school $80 million

The Washington Post, 2/16/18:

Kamehameha School in Honolulu is one of a kind. Situated on a sprawling 600-acrecampus on choice Oahu land, its massive multibillion-dollar endowment supports a first-rate K-12 education for some 3,000 children of Hawaiian ancestry. It offers otherwise deprived families a wealth of facilities, exceeding those of the fanciest private schools in America, with more than 70 buildings, including an Olympic-size swimming pool and an athletic complex seating 3,000 spectators.

Kamehameha School is a towering symbol of Hawaiian pride with a proud legacy, asHawaii News Now expressedit. Named for the greatmonarchwho united the Hawaiian Islands King Kamehameha I and established in the will of his last direct descendant,it has educated some of the Islands leading lights since 1887.

But it also harbored a sordid secret for years: The school was covering up what a lawsuit brought by 32 of those former students described as decades of monstrous sexual abuse perpetrated largely against male boarders who were entirely in the care of Kamehameha.

For 27 years, from 1958 to 1985, under the guise of providing these children with behavioral and psychological therapy, the school forced them, sometimes under threat of expulsion, to see a psychiatrist. He drugged them, raped them and tormented them psychologically at weekend sleepovers in his home, the lawsuit says.

Now, after nearly two years of negotiation, the school and the plaintiffs have reached a settlement for the staggering sum of $80 million, lawyers for the abused men said in a news release. In addition to paying out the money, the school has agreed to take steps to make sure such abuses are never repeated, including establishing an independently run hotline service.

After a bitter battle, Mark S. Davis, one of the plaintiffs lawyers, told The Washington Post, the school trustees began to understand that in this MeToo world, transparency and accountability is a lot more valuable than concealment.

The settlement culminates one of the most high-profile scandals in Hawaiis modern history involving one of the states greatest pillars. Kamehameha Schools, which now includes campuses onthe islands of Hawaii and Maui as well as Oahu, is run by the Bishop Estate, established under the will of King Kamehamehas great granddaughter, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. The estate,according to the schools website,includes more than 365,000 acres of valuable Hawaii real estate which, when combined with other assets, was valued at $11 billion in 2014.

A Kamehameha spokesman did not respond immediately to a request for comment from The Washington Post. But the school has not disputed the allegations.Indeed, it issued a public apology recently as the attention to the lawsuit mounted. In depositions, former school officials admitted that they knew of the abuses.

No one, said the schools CEO Jack Wong in the public apology, was prepared for the horrific revelation that our precioushaumna (students) were secretly abused and physically and emotionally traumatized from 1962-1984 by Dr. Robert Browne, Chief of Psychiatry at St. Francis Hospital. And, after abuses were reported, not nearly enough was done. Kamehameha Schools is deeply and truly sorry.

According to the lawsuit, in fact, nothing was done about theabuses committed by Browne, which are set out in unvarnished detail in the complaint and have been supplemented by interviews conducted in Hawaii media, including Hawaii News Now and the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

Browne required the boys to masturbate for him and sometimes simultaneously with him, engage in oral sex and be penetrated with objects, all to satisfy what appeared to be his insatiable pedophiliac appetite, according to the lawsuit.

He raped, and sodomized one boy from 1975, when he was 11 years old, through 1977, the lawsuit said, inserting his fingers, and large Sharpie-type pens, into the childs rectum, causing bleeding. He brandished a revolver as well, and made the child look at pornography, all the while telling him he was a nobody, no one would believe him, he was lying, nobody loved him, and nobody cared about him except Dr. Browne.

Browne told the boys it was all normal.

He said this was therapy, Emmett Lee Loy, now an attorney and a plaintiff in the suit,told Hawaii News Now. It would break down walls.

Boys who dared to confide in school employees about the abuse got nowhere. A rape by the doctor reported to a house mother, for example, produced no action.

The same boy then told the schools director of counseling about the sexual assault. Her response was to take him off campus and treat him to meals at fancy restaurants, according to the law suit, in an attempt to pacify him and suppress his complaints.

The abuse had lasting impact. Some suffered deep depression in later years and committed suicide or died of overdoses from drug habits acquired under Brownes treatments, according to the lawsuit and Davis.

The boys remained silent into manhood. Browne continued as the schools psychiatrist until one day in 1991 when Loy, then an adult, confronted him.

He starts breaking down and crying on the phone, Loy told Hawaii News Now. Im sorry. Im sorry Hes doing this crybaby thing on the phone. I said, Youre not sorry for what you did, youre sorry for getting caught.

That night Browne shot himself in the head. His body was found the next day in a neighbors backyard.

The suicide and the accusations jolted school officials, Davis said, but they did nothing in response.

In a videodepositionreported by the Hawaii Star Advertiser and Hawaii News Now, Michael Chun, president of the school at the time, admitted that he was concerned that there might be more victims. He went to the high school principal who, in his own deposition, reported being shocked but baffled about what steps to take.

Basically, the principal testified, I said, The man is dead. I dont know what to do with this.

Chun was asked whether there was any attempt whatsoever to at least identify those who were patients of Dr. Browne.

Not to my understanding. No, he responded.

Why not? the plaintiffs lawyer asked him.

Cant say, Chun responded. But did not happen.

Chun went on to say that he went to the schools legal department to get some guidance but that the legal department never got back to him.

But you could have done something, said the lawyer.

Responded Chun: Doing nothing is something, right?

Thats been the culture at the school, said Davis, and in so many institutions that are faced with these crimes.

Until relatively recently, the men had kept their stories largely to themselves. Gradually, they began to share their stories first with one another and then in the media and with the lawyers.

The result was the lawsuit, and ultimately, the settlement.

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Students at Kamehameha School study outside on the Kapalama campus, in Honolulu in 2005. Kamehameha recently lost a lawsuit involving the sexual abuse of students by a school psychiatrist between 1958 and 1985. (Ronen Zilberman/AP)
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The late psychiatrist Robert Browne. (Courtesy of Hawaii News Now)
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