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Innocence Lost: Children's Theatre Company responds to questions

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The outside of The Children's Theatre Company
The outside of The Children's Theatre Company
William Lager | MPR News

Editor’s note: When Managing Director Kimberly Motes and Artistic Director Peter Brosius of Children’s Theatre agreed to an interview with Marianne Combs, they asked that MPR News publish their comments in their entirety. The text of that interview follows:

Marianne Combs: In the last several weeks I've interviewed dozens of former CTC students who've identified themselves as survivors of sexual abuse. As a group, they have named 20 different abusers who were employed by the theater at the time of the abuse. So given this information, I have two questions for you. First question: Do you still stand by your public statement that you believe the survivors?

Kimberly Motes: Yes, we do. As we have said since December 2015, when we learned of new cases from over 35 years ago, we believe the survivors who've come forward and made their experiences of abuse by former employees known to us. We've never challenged a survivor's account who has come forward and shared it with us. As to the others you cite, I don't believe they've ever contacted CTC directly that I'm aware of, but I will tell you that we want to know more from them. We are open and willing to listen if they are open to sharing their experiences with us directly. It's important to note that CTC is a completely different place today, with much stricter and rigorous child safety policies and practices. We have zero tolerance for child abuse today.

Combs: Second question: Do you still stand by CTC’s legal argument that the institution is not responsible or liable for the abuse?

Motes: There's a difference between being legally responsible and taking responsibility. While we do not believe that CTC is liable, we have not let this stand in the way of our taking responsibility. We've apologized privately and publicly to the survivors for what happened to them by former employees. We have made commitments to action steps to help survivors and the community find peace and we have worked and are continuing to work to provide settlements to each survivor that will help them to find resolution in healing. The legal process is one that is difficult, complicated, emotionally draining and frustrating for everyone. Knowing how painful it has been for all of us at CTC today, I can't even imagine how hard it has been for the survivors — even the survivors’ lawyer, Jeff Anderson, stated how hard the legal process is for survivors in a release after our last settlement. This is why we are so focused on settling these suits in a fair and just way.

Combs: In addition, I have a question for you, Peter. A survivor says that soon after your hire in the late 1990s, she approached you and asked you to use your position to examine the widespread abuse that occurred at the Children's Theatre and lead a process that would result in healing for survivors. She says your response was along the lines of, “It's a new day, and this is a new theater.” In the light of recent history, Peter, do you still feel that this was an appropriate response?

Peter Brosius: I'm so sorry, but I don't recall this specific conversation, so I can't say yes or no. But I do recall that I had a number of people come in to talk to me about John Clark Donahue when I first arrived, 22 years ago. There were those who were critical, and there were others who were advocates for him. Some even insisted that it was essential that I meet with Donohue. I never met with him or had a conversation with him because I found John Clark Donahue's actions repulsive and I personally wanted nothing to do with him. From 1997 up until 2015, I did not know the scope or that it involved more than Donohue's abuses. What was clear to me was that there was serious artistic work to do at the theater. My focus was on the present and future of CTC and how it might be able to serve the community and the nation most powerfully and creatively. As the full scope of the abuses were revealed in December 2015, I was appalled by what the survivors had been through, as it goes against everything we stand for today.