Case settled for 32 victims in Kamehameha sex abuse trial
A settlement has been reached for the 32 victims sexually abused by Kamehameha Schools' psychiatrist Robert M. Browne.
HONOLULU - Kamehameha Schools agreed to pay $80 million to settle the sexual abuse lawsuits.
The allegations span decades. 32 former male students claimed they were molested by a psychiatrist, who was contracted by the school.
Aliko Bajo lived through the sexual abuse, the shame and the litigation.
Now, there's redemption for what he endured at the hands of a psychiatrist hired by Kamehameha schools.
"Because for 40 plus years, I thought I was a victim and I was ashamed of what happened to me. But no longer I live in shame, no longer I carry that it was my fault," Bajo said.
Bajo and 31 other boys had been under the care of the late doctor Robert Browne, when he sexually abused them.
For years, there was no intervention by Kamehameha Schools. But in the span of just months, an official apology and a settlement.
"I firmly believe that they understand now that the culture, which manifested a secrecy of these types of claims is gone... And what we now have is hopefully, an atmosphere of transparency," Mark S. Davis, attorney for survivors said.
A change that comes too late for some victims. Of the 32 plaintiffs, four have died, two by suicide.
Malia Marquez represented her late brother, Anthony Lum. She says he came forward about the abuse six months before he died of heart failure.
"I have nothing against Kamehameha Schools, they provide a lot of good for children. Unfortunately, they didn't provide it for my brother... Abuse and drug abuse came into his life to cope with this horrific monster that took him away from us," Marquez said.
"Kamehameha Schools knows there are hundreds out there. Those that are gone from this earth and those that were maybe fearful of maybe coming forward and being exposed for what happened to them," Green said.
"We have to believe that our pain and our anguish wasn't for nothing. It was for something, for this right now. For what we're going to to protect the future students of Kamehameha Schools," Bajo said.
Kamehameha Schools agreed to start an independently run hotline to report abuse.
"Kamehameha Schools has also agreed there will be an individual, not employed or controlled by Kamehameha School who will review the transcripts of the information reported on the hotline," Davis said.
In addition, the school will hire experts to train faculty on how to identify suspicious behavior. Finally, the school will set up a recovery fund for Kamehameha Students who suffered sexual abuse, even if they didn't sue.
"We know there are many others out there by virtue of the statute of limitations who can no longer sue, cannot recover. But hopefully there will be some fund of money to assist them: their medical expenses, their therapy, the type of things that will assist them on the road to healing," Davis said.
A road that has yet to end for Bajo, despite the massive payout.
"The money, that's a big amount. But will it take away the pain? No, this pain is never gonna leave me," Bajo said.
Kamehameha Schools respond to settlement
The school acknowledges there is "no amount of money that truly will bring closure" to what happened but hope the survivors can begin to heal.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Micah Kane, says the school wants to ensure this never happens again.
He points to the sex abuse hotline the school established when the allegations first surfaced.
Kane adds the hotline was recently enhanced to make it easier to report any wrongdoing or abuse.
He says the current safety programs in place are "good", but thinks the school can make them better going forward. He also says Kamehameha Schools will be more diligent about reporting accusations.
While they were criticized for inaction in the past cases, Kane says the school's top priority will be taking immediate action with any future incidents.
"We wanted to bring closure to this very dark period of time some 40 years ago and we hope that the steps we took as an organization respected them, respected their privacy, but also gives them an opportunity to bring closure," Kane said.
Kane said the school is disappointed that "Saint Francis Medical Center was not part of the settlement" because Dr. Robert Brown was employed by St. Francis.
He hopes they will step forward voluntarily to cover of the settlement costs.
According to published reports on the abuse, Dr. Browne killed himself in 1991 when a former student confronted him.
Island News reporter Melody Gonzales contributed to this report.