Citadel joins abuse-prevention effort

The Citadel. File/Staff

The Citadel is poised to become the nation’s first college to train its entire campus, from staffers to students, in how to prevent child sexual abuse, officials announced Wednesday.

Citadel President John Rosa and Jolie Logan, president and chief executive officer of Darkness to Light, put forth an ambitious plan to provide prevention training to some 3,650 people at the military college by next spring.

The move follows months of fallout over The Citadel’s handling of a 2007 sexual misconduct complaint involving former cadet Louis “Skip” ReVille, who went on to molest dozens of boys around the Lowcountry. The controversy earned the school comparisons to the notorious sexual abuse scandal at Penn State.

Rosa said the expanded training plan has been one of The Citadel’s long-range goals for some time. The Citadel’s School of Education has had Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children training as part of its curriculum since 2006, and this effort is a “bold step” to build upon that, he said.

“The Citadel has the challenge and opportunity to set a new standard within our community,” Rosa said. “This partnership with Darkness to Light demonstrates our commitment to serving as an example to others and making The Citadel a safe place to live, learn, work and visit.”

Darkness to Light, a Charleston nonprofit, was founded in 2000 with the aim of reducing child sexual abuse through awareness and prevention training programs. Darkness to Light has trained more than 385,000 adults in sexual abuse prevention and is represented in 49 states and 15 countries.

The organization recently partnered with students at Penn State to hold a Walk for Prevention at that school in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky molestation scandal. The Citadel’s expanded partnership will help the organization improve awareness and response to child sex abuse among students destined to become future leaders, Logan said.

“We are honored to stand by The Citadel today and celebrate the leadership to protect families,” Logan said. “Today, a new standard has been set.”

Training will begin next week for 650 Citadel faculty and staff members. More than 3,000 students will go through the training next semester. All will undergo a 21/2- to 3-hour session in which they will learn how to prevent, recognize and respond to signs of child sexual abuse, Logan said.

Logan said her organization is up to the task, having trained several large organizations, including some 6,000 employees of the Charleston County School District.

Rosa said the training will cost The Citadel about $25,000 to provide, as well as some additional costs in future years. The school plans to incorporate the training into its orientation sessions for new hires and incoming students, Rosa said.

“This is not about the cost to me,” he said. “This has got to be done. It’s the right thing to do.”

Stephanie Hewett, an associate professor of education at The Citadel, was one of the first people at the school to receive the training in 2006. She said she is excited about the expansion and envisions a sustainable program in which students go on to become leaders and trainers among their peers.

“This has the potential to have a massive impact,” she said.

When completed, the training will make The Citadel eligible to be designated one of Darkness to Light’s Partners in Prevention, a title bestowed on organizations that train all employees to recognize signs of child sexual abuse. Darkness to Light recently designated 34 organizations as Partners in Prevention.

The Citadel has struggled with fallout from its own handling of sexual misconduct complaints in recent years, including incidents involving ReVille, a Citadel graduate and former lead counselor at the school’s summer camp.

The college failed to report a 2007 complaint from a former camper who accused ReVille of watching porn and masturbating with young boys at the camp five years earlier.

ReVille is serving a 50-year prison term after he pleaded guilty in June to molesting 23 boys in the greater Charleston area.

In August, The Citadel hired two independent firms to investigate its handling of the ReVille episode.

That complaint came to the school just one year after The Citadel paid out $3.8 million to settle lawsuits brought on behalf of five former campers who alleged that they were sexually abused by former Marine Capt. Michael Arpaio at the camp.

More recently, the school asked the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate new allegations of sexually inappropriate conduct at The Citadel involving a former cadet who reportedly groped and fondled underclassmen. Two cadets came forward last month to file police reports against a 23-year-old alumnus who graduated last year, according to campus police.

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