Recently a student on a semester abroad program with the Monteverde Institute (MVI) was raped. The school group was on an out of town trip, and the supervising faculty member respected the victim’s right not to report her rape to the police or go to a clinic, but helped her obtain emergency contraception. Upon returning to Monteverde this rape victim was repeatedly harassed by the board members of the Institute who attempted to force her to sign legal documents and report her rape to the police, against her wishes, constantly re-victimizing her. The faculty member who helped her obtain the emergency contraceptive was fired for her actions, which were in accordance with Costa Rican rape protocol.
We would like the board of directors to change before any more students study abroad here and are asking both Debra Hamilton (the executive director) and Randal Smith (the president) to step down. Two United States universities have already pulled their support from the program. The universities still associated with the Monteverde Institute include University of Illinois, Ripon, Rollins, University of Miss
ouri, Amherst College, Oregon State, and the University of Tampa.
The attached documents include the victims account of the events following the rape and her treatment by the institute, the letters written to the board by a previous employee of the MVI and the president’s response, as well as my personal correspondence with the MVI.
My personal correspondence with the board has confirmed that they feel their actions were appropriate. They have given no indication of a plan of action, but continuously talk about letting them deal with it and allowing the community to heal. These people have completely disregarded this woman’s rights and the more emails they receive the better. If you are able to email from a university email that’d be fantastic as their program is funded by university students. Mention that in your email (especially if you are a member of a university they deal with). Attached is a template letter you can add to/change/send and their emails, it is also written out at the bottom of the post:
Although Randal and Debra are those we would like to see resign, I would imagine they are likely to delete emails they get regarding this. So here is a list of emails of the Assembly, including Randal and Debra. Some of these people support Debra and Randal, others do not. It would be nice for the assembly to see that there is support for the side against the MVI.
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*in my emails Debra Hamilton is the executive director and Dr. J. D. Joslin is a husband of a board member and currently is on the board at the Monteverde Friends School
FAQ’s to date:
Why aren’t they just suing the institute?
In Costa Rica emergency contraception is quite controversial. The morning after pill is illegal and a high dose of birth control is prescribed in it’s place. This is legal, but frowned upon and were there a judge who had personal feelings on this issue the case could easily be ruled in favor of the institute. A women’s rights lawyer in the country has advised that the best way to deal with this is not by taking it to court but by getting the community and others involved and essentially burning them in the court of public opinion.
The victim herself does not want to pursue legal action via police report of the rape, which is her choice.
What are my ties to this?
I’m a similarly aged student in this community and as a young woman I hope my wishes following a rape would be respected and I would not be constantly forced to think about it if I did not want to. Basically, my ties to this issue are not important. What is important is getting these board members to step down for the safety of potential future students studying at the institute. Nothing that I have posted is not publicly available.
Dear Monteverde Institute
I have been informed of an incident involving the rape of a student studying abroad at the Monteverde Institute. The way that this young woman was treated by the institute following her rape is appalling, as was the treatment of the faculty member who supplied her with the emergency contraceptive.
Members of the community have asked that the board be reformed. As universities sending students to your program have already pulled their support I would suggest you comply with this request to allow this institute, which has been a great resource for both the community of Monteverde and the universities sending students to it, to thrive.
A public apology to both this student and the fired faculty member are also in order. I hope that after reading the victim’s account of what has happened you can see that the course of actions taken by the institute were inappropriate and take action to right this wrong.