Dear NIS Community,
We alumni know what a special place Nishimachi International School is and has been from its inception. For many, it was a place where deep bonds were formed with dedicated teachers and classmates from all over the world, many of which continue on to this day. For many, NIS fostered the love of the Japanese language and culture, as well as individual growth as human beings and good global citizens. Nothing can or should ever change those wonderful memories of happy, unique experiences,
Regretfully, however, the time has come to acknowledge that, for some, NIS had a much darker side.
We, the NIS Survivors, are a group of alumnae who attended NIS in the 1970s. We are united by the trauma we suffered at NIS: we were sexually abused by NIS middle school science teacher, administrator, and basketball coach Jim Hawkins. This abuse ranged from heavy “grooming” and kissing to groping our breasts and genitals and coerced sexual intercourse (rape).
Jim Hawkins taught at NIS from 1967 to 1980. He sexually abused us when we were students as young as twelve. We have been living with the aftermath of our abuse by Hawkins for decades — each thinking she was “the only one,” that she must somehow have been at fault. We each suffered in silence, striving to forget and move forward. Until now.
Over the last several years, we began to learn of each other by chance, through a series of murmurs and hushed conversations amongst former classmates. As we began to connect and share our experiences with each other, we discovered that we had been abused by a serial predator who used his position at NIS to manipulate, groom and sexually abuse each of us.
In the last year, NIS announced that it had recently received information about potential sexual misconduct. The School did not name the reported perpetrator. Instead, the School hired a risk management law firm to conduct an investigation. None of us were even aware at first that an investigation was underway or that it focused on Jim Hawkins; none of us were ever contacted by investigators. We recently learned that the investigation consisted of interviewing a total of five witnesses. Predictably, this type of investigation revealed nothing about the severe and repeated sexual abuse that actually occurred.
In light of our concerns about the School’s investigation, several months ago we enlisted the support of a US-based law firm called Crew Janci LLP, which specializes in investigating and advocating on behalf of victims of child sexual abuse. Crew Janci LLP has a wealth of experience in this area and, in fact, recently conducted similar investigations and advocated on behalf of 21 former students at The Pingry School, as well as the 13 victims of abuse at the American School in Japan (ASIJ). (You can learn more at: www.crewjanci.com.)
Last week, on May 22, 2018, NIS publicly acknowledged for the first time that Jim Hawkins was the focus of their investigation. NIS also indicated that their investigation was incomplete. NIS also announced that it has retained a different law firm – with attorneys that specialize in defending large organizations — to conduct a second investigation.
The School’s lack of transparency and diligence in addressing this important issue head-on over the last year has left us concerned. Based on those concerns, we have authorized Crew Janci LLP to continue conducting a parallel investigation – separate and independent from NIS’s investigation — to ensure that all who have information about sexual misconduct at NIS have a safe avenue for reporting information. Crew Janci LLP will keep the identity of all individuals who share information confidential, unless the reporting individual authorizes otherwise. We will be authorizing Crew Janci LLP to share their investigative findings with the School in a way that protects the identities of those who wish to remain anonymous.
While we are hopeful that the School’s investigation will be fair and thorough, we believe our parallel investigation by advocates for victims will help ensure that the whole truth about sexual abuse at NIS is brought to light.
We believe there are other victims out there. We are reaching out to the community to encourage others to come forward. Please know that you are not alone and you will be treated with respect and discretion when you come forward.
We also believe this process is necessary for the good of the whole NIS community. Understanding this painful history is essential for the school’s future health. We must understand the truth of what happened and how it was allowed to happened, to ensure that no other student ever has to suffer abuse at NIS in silence again.
To that end, our goals are as follows:
- For the whole truth about sexual misconduct at NIS to be revealed (while protecting the safety and privacy of victims);
- For NIS to acknowledge the impact on victims and provide meaningful redress;
- For the schools where Hawkins taught after NIS (including The Maret School and the Maumee Valley Country Day School) to be fully informed and empowered to investigate potential harm to their respective communities; and,
- For NIS to establish a culture of child protection, including clearly defined protocols to prevent abuse of students in the future.
We cannot accomplish these goals on our own; we need your help. To help achieve these goals, we ask that you get involved by doing the following:
- Contact our investigators with any information about Jim Hawkins or other abuse at NIS at: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Encourage anyone you know with information to contact our investigators (even if they have already spoken to investigators for the School);
- “Like” and share the NIS Survivors Facebook Page.
- “Like” and share this letter on social media and by email; and
- Watch for additional opportunities to support this effort.
It is our hope that, together, we will help NIS understand how important it is to hear and honor the experience of survivors, to do everything possible to right the wrongs of the past, and to create positive change that puts the safety of children first. That is a bright future for the entire NIS community.
With Hope and Many Thanks,
The NIS Survivors