Prep school abuse victims file complaints about psychologist

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) " Two victims of sexual abuse at the elite Rhode Island boarding school St. George's have filed complaints with state licensing officials about the school's former psychologist.

They tell The Associated Press that Peter Kosseff did not do enough to address and prevent abuse during his 35 years at the school, and they want his license revoked.

Kosseff, who still practices and has offices in South Kingstown and Newport, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The first complaint was filed in December and the other soon after, the two women told the AP. Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the Department of Health, which oversees such licenses, said such complaints are confidential and he could not confirm them. The department said Kosseff's license was last renewed in May.

The Associated Press typically doesn't name sexual abuse victims unless they come forward publicly.

The woman who filed the first complaint spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity and said she believes Kosseff failed in his professional responsibilities.

"People should feel that if they go to a child psychologist and tell him of abuse, that he should report it," she said. "He shouldn't be licensed. He shouldn't have that privilege."

An independent report into abuse at the school, released last week, detailed what it described as a "private hell" for dozens of students in the 1970s and '80s . Thirty-one girls " one in five who attended the school in the 1970s " were sexually abused by the same athletic trainer, Al Gibbs, who died in 1996. Numerous students were subjected to abuse by other staff members, and the misconduct stretched into the 2000s, the report found.

Kosseff's name is mentioned frequently in the 390-page report and exhibits, though he declined to speak with investigators. He worked on a one-day-per-week contract at the school from 1979 to January 2014, according to a school spokeswoman.

The report shows he took action in some instances, such as helping fire a choirmaster in 1988 for inappropriate sexual contact with a student. But the report also shows students at other times came to him with reports about misconduct by staff, including the choirmaster, and he didn't move quickly to stop it.

Katie Wales Lovkay, who also filed a complaint and agreed to come forward publicly, said in the spring of 1979 she reported to then-Headmaster Tony Zane that Gibbs abused her. Zane didn't believe her and sent her to Kosseff for counseling. She reported the abuse to Kosseff as well. To her knowledge, Kosseff never reported it to authorities, she said.

Gibbs remained at the school for months afterward until he was finally fired the following year, when another girl reported she was abused.

The report said it is unclear whether there was a legal requirement to report the abuse, but Eric MacLeish, a lawyer who represents Lovkay and dozens of other victims at the school, said Kosseff had a greater responsibility as a mental health professional.

"Did Kosseff do enough? I think he did not," MacLeish said.

The woman who filed the first complaint, also a victim of Gibbs', said she sent the Department of Health the report. She noted that Kosseff's name is mentioned 50 times.

The woman said she is frustrated she sent in her complaint nearly nine months ago and there still has been no action taken.

Wendelken said in general, the Department of Health waits for criminal investigations to conclude before deciding whether unprofessional conduct took place, provided that there is no immediate threat to public health. The criminal investigation ended in June with no charges.

He said the department receives many complaints, and often no unprofessional misconduct is found.

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Follow Michelle R. Smith at www.twitter.com/MRSmithAP . Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/author/michelle-r-smith .

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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