PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - The first lawsuit was filed Monday against Catlin Gabel School in Portland.
In December, the private school released their report on a year-long internal investigation, detailing allegations of sexual abuse by former employees.
On Monday, accuser Kim Wilson stepped forward to speak about the sexual abuse she says she experienced as a sixth grader in the 1990s from her math teacher, Richardson Shoemaker, who was in his 50s at the time.
Wilson is suing Catlin Gabel for $4.5 million. The lawsuit accuses the school of negligence and fraud, alleging school officials knew Shoemaker had molested other girls, too.
She hopes by coming forward, she can empower other survivors to have their voices heard. Here’s her full statement:
It has been a long journey for Catlin’s victims of abuse to start to have their voice heard and for the school to recognize the weight of its negligence. The heavy impact of a community, a “family,” to protect a few adults rather than so many children, is immeasurable. Catlin Gabel showing the public a report of decades, generations, of abuse is just a step in rectifying the systemic issues of a long-standing institution. Brave victims that as children or young adults had come forward and were not protected. Catlin posed as a community that was better than outsiders. I believe it is important Catlin be held accountable for that vanity because it harmed children.
As a devoted member of the Portland community, as a mother of a sixth grader, as a victim of the abuse at Catlin, I encourage my fellow alumni and the Portland community as a whole to stand behind the brave victims that step forward. For those who suffered at the hands of Catlin, I urge you to step forward knowing you are now heard and your voice is important. I am coming forward today because I was quieted and devalued by the school for many years. I come forward publicly to allow other victims and witnesses to feel empowered and find strength in knowing you no longer have to feel alone. It is important to me that we hear the voices of the victims not only so we can heal but so we can make our community safer for generations to come.
Wilson claims Shoemaker repeatedly made her sit on his lap, then ran his hand up her shirt and skirt, touching her bare skin.
This type of abuse, according to the lawsuit, happened at least 80 times inside the classroom.
Documents show Wilson eventually stopped asking him for help with her math assignments, fearing what would happen.
Wilson showed FOX 12 her yearbook with a picture of Shoemaker inside, and next to it a note from him that read in part: “I love you.” It is signed “Shoe,” the name her teacher was known by.
The first lawsuit has been filed against @catlingabel for child sexual abuse. We’re at the attorney’s office from which it is being filed. A picture of the student who claims she was abused by her sixth-grade math teacher sits behind the mic stand. @fox12oregon pic.twitter.com/Ear7P4vVwW— Brenna Kelly (@BrennaKellyNews) January 13, 2020
“It became a culture in which the teachers were protecting each other and the administration was protecting that, but it also meant that children didn’t feel that they had somebody to go to that would protect them,” said Wilson.
Meanwhile, Wilson posted on Facebook in October of 2018 about the abuse, and she believes it’s what prompted Catlin Gabel to initiate the investigation.
“Since the report came out, it’s been heartbreaking to see that I spent most of my life feeling alone,” she said.
Wilson’s attorney, Gilion Dumas, says the investigation was professional but incomplete and Catlin Gabel has a long way to go.
“It’s only when they come clean and really be honest about what happened that an institution can move forward,” Dumas said.
Shoemaker died in 2018. He was never criminally prosecuted.
Dumas tells FOX 12 she will be filing another lawsuit in the coming weeks with a different accuser, raising allegations against a different employee.
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