St. George's abuse victims frustrated by R.I. inaction on complaint

By Michelle Smith
Providence Journal
December 12, 2016

[with video]

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Nearly a year after receiving a complaint that a former boarding school psychologist did not do enough to address sexual abuse reports, Rhode Island licensing officials have not resolved it, leaving victims of abuse at the school frustrated at the slow pace.

Two women who were among at least 31 girls abused by a now-deceased athletic trainer at St. George's School in Middletown asked that psychologist Peter Kosseff's license be revoked. They tell The Associated Press they are bothered their complaints still are pending and Kosseff is still practicing.

Kosseff and the state health department would not comment. Both cited the pending case before the state Board of Psychology.

"It's really frustrating," said Katie Wales Lovkay, who told Kosseff about her abuse at the hands of athletic trainer Al Gibbs. As far as she knows, Kosseff never reported it to authorities.

Another of Gibbs' victims filed the first complaint against Kosseff on Dec. 26, 2015.

"To me it's pretty clear cut. Children were being raped and molested. He knew about it he didn't report it. Is that the kind of person you want to license?" the victim said.

She said she was told after the board met Thursday that it was still processing the complaint and would meet again on Jan. 12.

The Associated Press typically does not identify sexual abuse victims unless they come forward publicly.

The school has said previously that Kosseff worked on a one-day-per-week contract from 1979 to January 2014. He now has offices in South Kingstown and Newport.

An independent report into the abuse at St. George's released in September found widespread abuse of dozens of children by several staffers and fellow students, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, and as recently as the early 2000s.

The report found that Kosseff took action in some instances, such as helping fire a choirmaster in 1988 for inappropriate sexual contact with a student. But that case was never reported, and the choirmaster went on to work at another school. The investigation also found that at other times, students came to Kosseff with reports about misconduct and he didn't move quickly to stop it.

Kosseff on Monday said in a brief phone conversation that he did not want to comment while the matter is still before the licensing board. He said he did not know when the complaint would be resolved.

"I understand it's a long time, but they have to go through an investigative process," Kosseff said.

Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the state Department of Health, said in an email that "certain extenuating factors prolong investigations." For example, he said that the department would often wait until any law enforcement investigations have concluded before the Department of Health investigates "because of concerns about working with witnesses and sources."

"We are very sensitive to how important that a sense of closure is, both for people who file complaints and for licensees. That is why we work to be as timely as possible in conducting investigations," he said.

State Police conducted a criminal investigation at St. George's, and that ended in June with no charges.


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