School Hid Sex Abuse for Decades. Now It's Paying Up

Hawaiian school reaches massive $80M settlement with 32 victims
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2018 2:10 PM CST
Hawaiian School Reaches Huge $80M Sex Abuse Settlement
Stock image   (Getty Images/maximkabb)

For 27 years, Dr. Robert Browne drugged, raped, and psychologically tortured students of Hawaii's Kamehameha Schools under the guise of psychiatric care, the Washington Post reports. Now 32 of his victims and their families have been awarded what is believed to be the largest personal injury settlement in Hawaiian history, according to Hawaii News Now. Kamehameha Schools—"a towering symbol of Hawaiian pride" that uses its $8 billion in assets to provide private educations for thousands of children of Hawaiian ancestry—will pay the plaintiffs $80 million. "It was an emotional journey for everyone involved on both sides of the table," says the chairperson of the Kamehameha Schools board. "While we brought closure, it's something we're going to carry for a long period of time." The school didn't deny accusations it failed to investigate and helped cover up Browne's actions.

Browne's abuse of mostly male students at the school dates back to 1958, and victims say they were abused weekly for years. The abuse was reported to school officials by a student as far back as at least 1966, reports the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which has a timeline of events. Regardless, Browne was still a psychiatrist for Kamehameha Schools in 1991 when he killed himself after being confronted by a former victim. Even then school officials failed to investigate accusations against Browne, some of whose victims killed themselves. "It's a lot of dollars, but there are a lot of people who wouldn't trade places with them," a lawyer for the victims says of the settlement, which will also create a hotline to report abuse and a recovery fund for sexual assault victims. "I'm excited that the men stood with me to do this," one of Browne's victims says. "We stood together and we were strong." (Read more sexual abuse stories.)

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