The ABWE and Donn Ketcham Investigation

In 2013, ABWE commissioned Professional Investigators International (Pii) to perform an independent and thorough investigation into multiple instances of child abuse occurring on the mission field between 1966 and 1989.

The investigation, which concluded in April 2016, confirmed that Donn Ketcham, an ABWE missionary doctor who served in Bangladesh, engaged in the sexual abuse of nearly 20 minors — most of whom were the children of fellow ABWE missionaries — and 4 adult women. The abuse primarily consisted of improper and medically unnecessary examinations at the hospital in Bangladesh, and included sexual assault and apparent drugging.

Additionally, the report found that while fellow missionaries observed Ketcham's general inappropriate and sexual behavior toward adult women, and in some cases alerted ABWE leadership, there was a lack of leadership oversight and accountability to generate any true behavioral changes or uncover the true extent of Ketcham’s misconduct. After more victims emerged and sought help from ABWE leadership, the report found that those leaders had made little-or-no attempts to discover and reveal the full extent of Ketcham’s abuse, examine the mission’s response to the situation, and appropriately care for the women, over an extended period of time.

The ABWE leadership and Board of Directors during the time of Donn Ketcham’s misconduct have all been replaced. But in light of these findings, the current ABWE Board is issuing further consequences against the ABWE leaders who either allowed Donn Ketcham’s behavior or who failed to investigate appropriately when it came to their attention.

Additionally, ABWE has adopted a new comprehensive and stringent Child Protection Policy, developed in consultation with the Child Welfare League of America, and is implementing new checks and balances within the organization to ensure the policy is known and followed. We are also initiating extensive mission-wide training programs to ensure people understand and recognize inappropriate behavior and know how to report it swiftly and safely, and that as an organization we are creating administrative processes to quickly and thoroughly respond to all reports.

The ABWE Board has also adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual abuse and has committed to a culture of transparency and accountability related to child protection matters, with an emphasis on caring for victims and their families.

Read the comprehensive Executive Summary Report

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Our Commitments

We recognize the significant missteps by our leadership to address these abuses over such an extended period, including a blatant lack of oversight and accountability is inexcusable and must never be repeated in any context.

To fulfill its mission, ABWE must work to provide safe, responsible and accountable environments for everyone. This involves education, accountability and oversight to help ensure that all involved are aware of their rights and know how to report misconduct.

We Commit to Supporting Victims

We are grateful and indebted to the women and men who boldly and persistently held us accountable. From the women who came forward in July 2002, to the contributors of the MK blog, and everyone else who has supported these individuals in their pursuit of truth and justice, we thank you for continuing to demand responsiveness. We thank those of you who have believed us to be capable of change.

We have worked — and will continue to work — to create an organizational culture where the interest of children is paramount. We accept the obligation to continue to admit, confess and repent of our failures and mistakes to those we have hurt.

We Commit to Telling the Truth

ABWE commissioned in-depth investigations by two independent firms to help us fully identify what has occurred and where we have failed to respond properly, both with Donn Ketcham in Bangladesh, as well as on our fields around the world.

The investigation by Professional Investigators International (Pii) was completed and delivered to the ABWE Board in April 2016, and the organization made an effort to contact all Victim/Survivors to offer them opportunity for review and processing prior to public announcement.

In an effort to provide transparency and fulfill a commitment, ABWE has also made the full report available to the public.

We Commit to Taking Action

ABWE has taken a series of Board- and administrative-level steps, to ensure that going forward, child safety is a top priority for the mission.

In response to this investigation specifically, ABWE delivered the full investigative report to the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Health Services for any further action that could be taken with regard to Donn Ketcham. All members of ABWE leadership and the Board of Directors, including executive and emeriti, from the time of Donn Ketcham’s misconduct have been replaced.

The ABWE Board is also issuing consequences against the ABWE leaders who either allowed Donn Ketcham’s behavior or who failed to investigate appropriately when it came to their attention.

They have adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual abuse and have committed to a culture of transparency and accountability related to child protection matters, with an emphasis on caring for victims and their families.

While it is the desire of every member of the ABWE family today that we could correct the past, we can only commit to a vastly different future. We are steadfast in our commitment to care for every child victim and to create a new culture of vigilance to protect against harm to children.

FAQs

What is ABWE doing to protect children and prevent child abuse?

We have taken numerous steps to ensure that this or any other kind of abuse is reported and addressed promptly. The measures include:

  • Adoption of a new best practices Child Protection Policy, developed in consultation with the Child Welfare League of America, and a top-tier, mission-wide training and educational program about child protection and how to report violations.
  • Making sure that everyone in the organization and the communities we serve knows what child abuse is, how to report it, and that it can be done anonymously and without recriminations.
  • Hiring third-party firms to help us examine our entire organization’s 85-year history. Our goal was to identify all the areas where change was necessary to help ensure the safety of children in the future.
  • Starting in 2011, all missionary candidates have been required to attend training on child safety as part of their prerequisites to join the mission. Additionally, background checks have been implemented for anyone traveling to an ABWE mission field or gaining employment with ABWE.
  • Our commitment to training staff on the best practices for child safety is ongoing, as well as our dedication to accountability and transparency from leadership and throughout the organization.

What actions has ABWE taken in response to this investigation?

As we acknowledge our past failures as an organization, we’ve taken both people and policy action.

People Action:

  • We reported Donn Ketcham to the Michigan Board of Medicine, which resulted in the loss of his medical license.
  • We delivered the full investigative report to the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Health Services.
  • All members of the Board of Directors from the time of Donn Ketcham’s misconduct, including executive and emeriti, have been replaced.
  • The ABWE leadership from the time of Donn Ketcham’s misconduct has been replaced.
  • The ABWE Board is also issuing various consequences against the ABWE leaders who either allowed Donn Ketcham’s behavior or who failed to investigate appropriately when it came to their attention, depending on the extent of their failure. These consequences range from public exposure of their failures, to prohibiting the individual from representing ABWE in any official capacity or attending any ABWE gatherings without express written permission, to all memorials (portraits, naming honors for buildings or conference rooms, etc.) being removed, as examples, and will be assigned by Board decision in response to the Final Report.

Policy Action:

  • Since July 2011, all missionary candidates are required to attend a session on child safety as part of their requirements to join the mission.
  • Since July 2011, background checks have been implemented for anyone traveling to an ABWE mission field or gaining employment with ABWE. We also have much more comprehensive child protection training and advocacy worldwide, thereby beginning to create a new ABWE culture where protecting children is a part of everything we do.
  • We have also adopted a new best-practices Child Protection Policy, developed in concert with the Child Welfare League of America to best address the complexities of child safety in an international context.
  • We are implementing a new top-tier mission-wide training and educational program about child protection and how to report violations.

Why has it taken this long for the organization to respond to the child abuse in Bangladesh in the 1980s?

There were a number of reasons for the delays, none of them acceptable. Primarily, there was a blatant lack of oversight, accountability, action and attention within the organization regarding Ketcham’s misconduct. In addition, there were significant missteps when action was taken, and no follow-through or follow-up to commitments. Changes — leadership, procedural and organizational, including a system of checks and balances within the leadership team — have been implemented to help ensure a more responsible and responsive organization when it comes to child protection.

Why should I trust ABWE?

We recognize that perhaps no sin scars its victims more than child abuse, and that our failures have tragically impacted the lives of some of our missionary children. In the past five years, the mission has confronted its past mistakes, acknowledged the need for operational, cultural and leadership changes, and has implemented them to help prevent situations like this from happening again.

We have been building safeguards against the lack of oversight, action and attention by our leadership for the future. We are also absolutely committed to providing counseling and support to the victims and their families, now and going forward.

Why should I trust current leadership?

As the Pii Report has made us all aware, ABWE leadership failed to act with integrity and accountability regarding ABWE’s handling of abuse perpetrated by Donn Ketcham. That has understandably broken down the trust in today's leadership, and it will take some time for that trust to be rebuilt.

Now that the Final Report has been completed and made public, the primary task of today's leadership is to enact real and lasting changes and consequences. As confirmed in the Final Report's executive summary, "ABWE's interim and current leadership...have demonstrated a commitment to learning the truth and have been readily cooperative and helpful to the investigation. ABWE removed individuals who had been obstructive to the investigation..." (p. 13).

Much can be learned from the wrongs of the past. That includes looking into the root causes that caused harm to so many. Today's leaders are working toward building a healthier culture that values the safety of even our most vulnerable community members, and promotes accountability throughout every level of the mission.

Were other people at the mission, besides those named specifically by the report as "Persons of Interest", aware of Donn Ketcham's sexual misconduct?

We have no reason to believe that anyone in the wider missionary community, not named by the report as a "Person of Interest," allowed Donn Ketcham's behavior or failed to investigate appropriately when it came to their attention. Many faithful missionaries who served in Bangladesh at the same time as Ketcham had no specific knowledge of Ketcham's immorality or his abuse of women and children.

How has ABWE changed as a result of this investigation?

While it is the desire of every member of the ABWE family today that we could correct the past, we can only commit to a vastly different future. We are steadfast in our commitment to care for every child victim and to create a new culture of vigilance to protect against harm to children. The new Child Protection Policy more clearly defines abusive actions and it also sets up clear lines of accountability.

The ABWE leadership and Board of Directors during the time of Donn Ketcham’s misconduct have been replaced. We are also implementing much more comprehensive, stringent and ongoing oversight for the protection of all of our members, particularly our children. These changes include the adoption of a new “best practices” Child Protection Policy developed in consultation with Child Welfare League of America to best address the complexities of child safety in an international context, and a top-tier mission-wide training and education program about child protection and how to report violations.

We must ensure safe, responsible and accountable environments for our staff, missionaries, children and communities. This involves education and accountability, ensuring all involved aware of their rights and how to report any misconduct related to children.

Who conducted the full investigation of the Ketcham child abuse?

Professional Investigators International (Pii) is a multi-disciplinary team of investigators with a vast array of experience from local, state, and federal law enforcement. Led by 35-year FBI veteran investigator, Bob Davis, Pii has a distinguished reputation with a combined 100+ years of investigative experience among its staff. Davis is an expert in child-abuse investigations, particularly in international settings, and has led training on various aspects of child-abuse prevention and investigation throughout the United States.

How has ABWE responded to missionaries and former missionaries impacted by child abuse?

The present administration and Board are committed to provide counseling and support to the Victim/Survivors and their families, now and going forward.

What can current and former missionaries with information regarding child abuse do today?

ABWE Staff Members who have questions or need help determining whether they are mandatory reporters or about whether they should make a report under a mandatory reporting law should contact the Child Safety Response Team (CSRT), immediately. Child abuse reporting laws often require mandatory reporters to make their reports within very short timeframes (e.g., within 48-72 hours). It is therefore critical that persons who obtain, become aware of or suspect abuse, neglect, or other Prohibited Conduct act quickly to alert ABWE and to determine their abuse reporting responsibilities.

The new Child Protection Policy defines a number of behaviors toward children that are prohibited, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse, neglect, criminal conduct, and poor boundaries and grooming. It also requires that Staff Members comply with mandatory child abuse and neglect reporting laws applicable to them when they become aware or suspect that a child has suffered abuse or neglect. Clear internal and external reporting guidelines and expectations are outlined, as well as procedures and consequences.

How does your child protection policy work?

While it's hard to give a one-size fits-all answer to how our policy mandates we handle all allegations of child abuse, there a few things that will always apply in every circumstance.

The first is that ALL allegations of abuse are taken seriously and will be investigated thoroughly.

Secondly, we recognize that we are a missions agency and while we do many things well, we have very little experience in handling matters of child abuse well and appropriately - and in fact, historically have greatly failed in this area, at an enormous cost to the victims. That is why we are developing a team trained specifically to deal with reports of child abuse and to use the protocols outlined by our child protection policy, which was written in conjunction with experts in international child safety issues, to address the complexities of reporting in more than 70 countries. We've also gone to great lengths to have our policy vetted by the Child Welfare League of America, the nation’s oldest and largest child welfare organization. The CWLA provided direct support in creating a policy that meets their standards for child welfare and protection. Their goal is to see that children are protected within the organization, not that the organization protects itself.

Third, any investigation that reveals sexual abuse under our policy has and will continue to result in ABWE making a detailed report to the appropriate authorities, caring for victims, and terminating the perpetrator from ABWE employment and enacting other specific consequences for that individual determined by the specific situation. As an example, after Pii made us aware of the three additional cases of abuse, all three allegations were investigated promptly and perpetrators were reported to appropriate legal authorities. The victims were contacted, followed up with and provided for to the extent they desired at that time.

What do I do if I have a comment or factual clarification about the final report?

If anyone wishes to submit comments regarding the factual accuracy of Pii's investigation as reflected in the Final Report, s/he may do so by sending those comments by email to protectingourchildren@abwe.org. Comments regarding the factual accuracy of the report have been sent to Pii via their attorney’s office.

Pii was hired as an independent third-party investigator. The Final Report is entirely their work product based on their investigation. ABWE has not made any revisions whatsoever to the Final Report that is available for public review through submitting the appropriate request.

Why did ABWE terminate their contract with G.R.A.C.E.?

Concerns from some Victims/Survivors are the primary reason ABWE decided to end its relationship with G.R.A.C.E.

Is the final Pii report public?

ABWE is fulfilling our commitment to make the final investigative report completed by Pii publically accessible. For privacy reasons, we cannot include any references to the identities of the victims. Otherwise, no information from the report is altered or edited. We believe this is the very least we can do for the men and women who had the courage to speak up and challenge us to have transparency and accountability.

*Note: The full report contains mature content. Out of care for constituents and victims and protecting the safety and innocence of our audience, the report is not immediately downloadable from this website. Please use the form provided to receive access and download the final report.

Contact Us

If you have any remaining questions or concerns, please let us know. Please click here to contact one of our response teams, or call 717.909.2315 or email protectingourchildren@abwe.org.