You Make Our Service Possible
Back in mid-April, The Center was shaken by the news that one of its former employees was charged with a crime of sexual misconduct. While that charge was distant from the activities of The Center, and while it emanated from a family member, it became the subject of several media reports on the case. The case is pending trial, and it’s inappropriate for us to speak about any former employee because we are bound by confidentiality.
While all that came to pass, I say that we were shaken because your LGBTQ Center came under scrutiny for what was insinuated to be poor or lax operating standards. What shook us as leadership and staff at The Center was that lax operating standards couldn’t be further from the reality here at The Center.
I’m proud to say that while I have been associated with The Center the past twenty-one months, the staff of The Center has taken great care to operate as professionally as possible. The Center’s mission is to offer safety, acceptance, hospitality and support to our brothers and sisters within the LGBTQ community. The Center is a “home” to many. To say that it has been easy to create that kind of environment with limited resources would be an understatement. Nevertheless, on a day-to-day basis, not a day has passed that we have not tried to put the needs and concerns of our clients first. Part of those concerns have been the safety and well-being of all. Most particularly, our utmost concern has always been directed toward the safety and security of our youth. As adults, we have the responsibility to protect them and care for them. Even more, in an LGBTQ context where many of our youth have reported being bullied or harmed by discrimination, we have been concerned about their welfare and their healing. It is essential that The Center be a place of safety and acceptance for members of our community. That service is even more imperative as it pertains to minors who deserve that protection under the law as well as in our service community.
Part of The Center’s story is that we take our responsibility seriously. Despite innuendo and suspicion, I can state, unequivocally, that there has never been an allegation of sexual abuse that was not properly referred to Child Protective Services or Metro (depending on age).
We take our responsibility seriously. All members of The Center’s staff, without exception, have completed the mandated reporter training provided by CPS. In that training we are urged to not just respond minimally or reactively to the potentiality of harm to a minor, but we are urged to be situationally aware of those who may be our clients. To raise a voice of advocacy for them where they may have no voice. To be concerned for their safety and well-being. To date, not only has our entire staff been trained in this protective service but a large number of our volunteers have been trained as mandated reporters. Together, we form a body of care and protection for both young and old who may come to The Center seeking assistance.
In the most recent episode of the mid-April arrest, The Center’s Board of Directors took action and conducted a thorough investigation of all personnel here at The Center, including myself. All staff members were questioned regarding their knowledge of The Center’s policies and procedures for handling allegations of sexual abuse, harassment, or other forms of grievances. In the wake of this episode, it provided an opportunity for us to look internally to make sure that our practices were in synch with our convictions and purpose. The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors conducted that investigation and shared their findings with the entire Board of Directors. In that investigation, a thorough review of The Center’s policies and procedures was completed to ensure that there were no gaps.
The Center has publicly declared for 23 years that it has always, and always will, hold the well-being, positive image, and human rights of our LGBTQ clients — of any age, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression — as our highest of priorities. Since this is part of our mission, all staff are held to strict accountability.
We invite your comments and suggestions at any time on how we can improve our service to the LGBTQ community. This is the LGBTQ Community Center and we hold ourselves accountable to supporting and growing our community as dedicated friends and loved ones of our community, passionate about our movement and passionate about our greater visibility and equality in the wider community. We appreciate the comments, concern and inquiries The Center has received in the past several weeks. It is by your productive reminders and suggestions what we continue to grow. We are grateful to you for your community support and, especially, your trust in our efforts. You, our LGBTQ community, make our very service possible.
BY MICHAEL DIMENGO, CEO
Chief Executive Officer