Friday, July 19, 2013

Salvation Army Officers And Sexual Assault

Finally, a year after Salvation Army officer Luis Valdez was arrested and charged with raping a 16 year old girl, the organization terminated him as an officer.  The rape took place in a house and bed owned by The Salvation Army, yet it took the organization a year to do the right thing.  The Salvation Army claims that Valdez is no longer an officer.  As you will see later in this piece, there is reason to question the claim.

For the sake of argument, let's assume Valdez has truly been terminated.  Why did it take so long?  I was an employee of The Salvation Army for 7 1/2 years.  I would have been fired immediately if I had been arrested and charged with rape.  The answer to the "why" question is not complicated.  Those who are  current, or former employees of The Salvation Army know that officers are held to a very low moral standard.

The Salvation Army pretty much overlooks officer misconduct.  In fact, the Salvation Army covers up officer misconduct if a cover up is needed.  A thin black line of secrecy that exists within the brotherhood/sisterhood of Salvation Army officers.  Many of them have enjoyed the thin black line of cover up with respect to their own personal misconduct.  Those who have not, know the thin black line will be there for them if they do need a cover up in the future.  So they turn their heads to the misconduct of fellow officers.

The evidence against Luis Valdez was immediately overwhelming with respect to the 16 year old.  Semen in the young girls rape kit matched Valdez's DNA.  Other alleged victims also came forward.  Yet The Salvation Army waited one year after the DNA match and other victims came forward to terminate Valdez, stating that he had been suspended, leaving the impression that he was gone. 

He was, in fact, moved from El Paso to Camp Hoblitzelle, in Midlothian, Texas, where he was housed until he was finally terminated.  Camp Hoblitzelle runs day camps for children, and is owned by The Salvation Army.  Where else would The Salvation Army send an alleged rapist?

Sadly, Valdez is not the only officer to be accused of sexual assault of a minor.  He is not the only officer The Salvation Army sent away; "out of sight, out of mind".  One officer was hidden from his victims for 50 years, after The Salvation Army told them he was fired.  The story is almost unbelievable, but very true.

In 1959, on the island of Ohau, a Salvation Army officer, Richard Tenkan Taba, sexually assaulted a minor on at least three occasions.  That minor is now 65 years old.  After Taba sexually assaulted the minor, The Salvation Army assured her, her family and authorities that he was fired.  He left Oahu. 

I've talked with those who are familiar with the case, including reporters who are investigating the incident now.  In 1959 sexual assault was not as aggressively pursued as it is today.  Even though several sources say Taba admitted to his crime, he was not prosecuted, but he did leave the island of Oahu.

The state of Hawaii is made up of six inhabited islands.  Each island is a world of its own.  I lived on one of the islands for five years and rarely new what was going on on any of the other islands.  In 1959, moving from Oahu to Maui was like moving around the world, even though the two islands are neighbors.

Taba died February 17, 2012.  His sexual assault victim learned of his death when she read his obituary in the local newspaper.  She was shocked to read that he was an officer in The Salvation Army when he died, and had been living on the island of Maui, where The Salvation Army sent him when the organization falsely announced that he was terminated.

Over the years Taba rose to the level of Major.  After he committed sexual assault he lived the remainder of his life as a Salvation Army officer on the island of Maui, where no one knew he had sexually assaulted a minor.  The Salvation Army lied to everyone about terminating him.  The thin black line that covers up officer misconduct today existed in 1959.

Of course, there is now an investigation to determine if there are other victims on the island of Maui.  That investigation is necessary because The Salvation Army lied about getting rid of him. If The Salvation Army, and authorities in Hawaii had handled the case properly in 1959, Taba might have lived out his life in a Hawaii prison, instead of enjoying the beauty of the islands.

Taba's Oahu victim has filed suit against The Salvation Army for the organization's deception.  The man who assaulted her is dead, but the fact that The Salvation Army lied about terminating him is a major public relations issue for the organization in the State of Hawaii.  If other sexual assault victims come forward from the island of Maui, The Salvation Army facilitated those assaults. 

It's time for The Salvation Army to hold its officers to the same moral standards it preaches to the rest of the world.  One of the five core values of The Salvation Army is Trustworthy.  The organization was anything but trustworthy with respect to two of its officers, Taba and Valdez. 

We are no now realizing that The Salvation Army, with respect to its officers, has operated for many years like The Catholic Church operated when a priest committed sexual assault.  Both organizations covered up for the offender and transferred that offender to a new location.  This cannot continue!

There are other reports of Salvation Army officer sexual misconduct being brought to my attention from other parts of the country.  I am gathering documentation and will report on those incidents.  We cannot let this blatant disregard for donors and Salvation Army clients continue.

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