An organization dedicated to assisting victims of rape, abuse, and incest has been hit with multiple allegations of racism and sexism.
The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) is known for its tireless efforts to not only support survivors of sexual abuse, but also for misleading statistics used to fight against due process rights for accused college students during the Trump administration. As with the #MeToo movement, organizations like RAINN denounced efforts to ensure a fair and honest process for allegations of sexual assault, claiming any addition of due process was akin to reducing protections for “victims.”
Now RAINN is facing allegations of sexism and racism by 22 current and former staffers, who told Business Insider that working for the organization is quite different than the image it projects to the world. April Cisneros told the outlet that she was sexually assaulted on two separate occasions while a college student and turned to RAINN for help. She went to work for the organization during the Trump administration’s attempt to provide due process rights to college students, as Insider reported:
But she soon discovered that it looked very different from the inside. Instead of the supportive, inclusive victims’ advocacy organization that offered her hope in the depths of her depression, Cisneros found herself in a demoralizing workplace overrun by what she described as racism and sexism. She recalled that during the filming of a video about survivors’ stories, her boss asked a participant to smile while recounting a sexual assault. “If you don’t,” Cisneros remembered her boss saying, “it’ll look like you have a b**** face.”
Others in the organization “described a culture in which a routine training was beset by racist caricaturing, executives ignored employees’ requests for change, and people who were deemed political risks — including sexual-assault survivors — were silenced,” Insider reported.
One person told the outlet she was badgered by her supervisor after she took time off to recover from an abortion. Another person claimed an Asian staffer was “replaced on a project with a white man after their boss deemed him a better fit because of his race and gender.”
One employee shared her resignation letter with Insider, which referred to “toxic managerial behavioral patterns” and wrote that “young employees like myself, many of them survivors themselves, are currently being treated like their rights at work do not matter, like their comfort and security and health at work doesn’t matter, like the skills they bring to work are worthless.”
For its part, RAINN told Insider it has been diversifying its staff and addressing the concerns of employees of color. The organization then accused the current and former staffers who spoke to Insider of providing “‘incomplete, misleading, and defamatory’ information about ‘a handful of long-outdated and disproven allegations.'”
“RAINN is proud of the work our committed staff do, day in and day out, to support survivors of sexual violence,” RAINN said in its statement. “As an organization, we owe it to our committed staff to provide a work environment where they feel safe, appreciated, and heard … Over the last several years, like most organizations, RAINN has worked to expand and implement comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and goals. We regularly update staff on our progress toward achieving those goals, and solicit feedback on potential areas of improvement. While there is always room to build on our efforts, we are continually working to foster an open dialogue between employees and leadership to ensure ideas and concerns can be heard and addressed.”
While RAINN didn’t defend the rights of others to protect themselves from harmful accusations, the organization has hired a law firm that has represented men accused of sexual assault and harassment during the #MeToo movement.
Insider asked whether the law firm’s work was consistent with RAINN’s values, to which an attorney responded: “Given your questions contained outright lies about RAINN and our staff, and publication of those claims is potentially defamatory, we hired defamation counsel. We recognize we have a right to legal representation, and our attorneys have helped us disprove your ridiculous and libelous allegations.”