Three Billboards Outside Her Abuser’s Workplace

Ms. Magazine

September 3, 2019

By Carrie N. Baker

Kat Sullivan was 17 when she met Scott Sargent, her soccer coach at Emma Willard School (EWS) in Troy, New York, where she was a boarding student. Sullivan says Sargent raped her at his on-campus apartment—and that when she sought help from school administrators, they instead pressured her to withdraw from the school. Sargent admitted wrongdoing, but was allowed to resign; the school later recommended him for a teaching position at King School in Stamford, Connecticut, where he was terminated in 2005 for similar behavior.

In 2016, Sullivan reported the rape to police in Troy, but learned that her case was outside the statute of limitations. (At the time, New York had one of the country’s most restrictive laws for cases involving child sexual abuse.) The school conducted its own investigation that determined that 105 students had reported sexual abuse and harassment with no reported action by the school to notify police or parents. Sullivan later received a settlement from EWS.

Sullivan vowed to use the settlement money to fight for stronger laws to protect child victims. She joined survivor activists in protesting, lobbying and speaking out about child sex abuse. She marched across the Brooklyn Bridge wearing crime scene tape and chanting: “Protect Children, Not Predators!” Then, in 2018, on a flight from Florida to New York, she saw the film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Five minutes into the film, she decided to use her settlement money to buy billboards to warn people about her perpetrator—and to put pressure on New York Assembly members to pass the Child Victims Act, which extends the statute of limitations for civil and criminal cases against perpetrators of child sex abuse and the institutions that cover up for them.

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