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RPD making moves in Louisiana Center for the Blind sexual abuse allegation

Tuesday, April 13, 2021
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Update, April 13, 1:20 p.m. — The RPD initially told the Leader the alleged incident had occurred three or four years ago, but this afternoon a department spokesperson said the timeline had now been established as a little more than two years ago.

Update, April 13, 4:00 p.m. — A newly received statement from LCB Executive Director Pam Allen has now been included.

Today the Ruston Police Department is moving forward with an investigation into an alleged sexual abuse incident between a former student and employee at the Ruston-based Louisiana Center for the Blind.

RPD Deputy Chief Chad Hamlin confirmed to the Leader this morning that investigators will meet today with a woman who recently told the department she been sexually abused a little more than two years ago, while she was a student at the center, by someone who was an LCB staff member at the time. The RPD has not yet confirmed whether or not the accused is still employed by the LCB.

But LCB Executive Director Pam Allen replied to Leader requests for comment by sending an email statement late Thursday afternoon, referring to the accused as a "former summer employee."

"The Louisiana Center for the Blind does not tolerate sexual abuse or misconduct, and we are fully cooperating with the Ruston Police Department on an investigation involving a former summer employee," Allen said.

The complainant now lives out of state. She filed a complaint with the RPD on Jan. 26 and then followed up with investigators two days later to say she wished to pursue pressing charges.

Hamlin said today’s meeting via video conference will be the first time the department has interviewed the complainant face to face.

The complaint came roughly a month after a wave of stories of alleged abuse at the hands of employees at the LCB and other National Federation for the Blind training centers came to light on social media in December.

Hamlin said the RPD’s investigation does not yet involve the LCB as a whole, but the scope may widen depending on what investigators learn.

“This investigation is still very early on,” Hamlin said. “Right now, we have no reason to investigate the center, but based on what the complainant tells us, it may go into that.

“Everything is on the table based on what happened during this alleged incident.”

Hamlin said the initial investigation could lead to “more than one charge that is sexual in nature” stemming from the reported incident.

The #MarchingTogether social media movement in December culminated with a letter demanding structural change in the organization signed by dozens of “victims, survivors, and witnesses of sexual and psychological abuse” and hundreds of allies and supporters.

The NFB and LCB responded by outlining several “action steps” to improve accountability in training center programs.

A March 1 update on the LCB website lists many recent and upcoming sexual assault training sessions for staff, including training from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which the NFB engaged to help review procedures at each of its centers.

When contacted by the Leader for a Jan. 20 story on these events, Allen gave no comment except to claim that none of the allegations at the time involved people who were currently employed by the LCB.

Look for updates on this developing story in upcoming editions of the Ruston Daily Leader.