By Makena Huey

In response to allegations of decades-long sexual misconduct at the Thacher School in Ojai Valley, the Ventura County Family Justice Center is offering its mental health and legal services to current or former students of the boarding school who may have been abused.

The center, which aims to improve the lives of survivors of family violence and trauma, offers free and confidential services to the community. In a June 24 news release, the center announced it is extending those services to victims from the private boarding school.

“These cases are extremely important to me and to this office, and I take allegations of sexual abuse incredibly seriously,” Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko said. “My philosophy is that we are here to listen, not to judge. We are here to provide support and assistance and help individuals heal and find justice.”

The Thacher School’s board of trustees hired Munger, Tolles & Olson—a Los Angeles-based law firm—in August 2020 to independently investigate claims of sexual misconduct, according to a letter Thacher published Aug. 18.

The investigation was sparked by claims on the Instagram account @rpecultureatthacher, which a student created to be a safe space for those who experienced sexual abuse at the $65,000-per-year school.

The school released a 91-page report June 16 documenting four decades of allegations of rape, groping, and inappropriate comments, and describes the administration’s response to the allegations. It includes sexual misconduct allegations against six named former faculty members.

“The school failed to properly protect its students and alumni” and “allowed sexual misconduct to be minimized, ignored, and dismissed,” according to the board of trustees’ conclusions.

As of June 30, Nasarenko was not aware of anyone from Thacher who had used the center’s services. Regardless of the statute of limitations, he said, he encourages anyone who believes they were victims of sexual misconduct to benefit from the therapy, counseling and restraining order assistance.

“We understand that this is a traumatic and difficult revelation,” Nasarenko said. “I want people to know that even if the crime occurred 10 years ago or 40 years ago, the Family Justice Center is available to assist them.”

Victims may be eligible for benefits through the California Victim Compensation Board, emergency assistance, and referrals to other local services.

Nasarenko emphasized that by coming forward, victims can provide valuable help to law enforcement. According to the news release, he directed prosecutors to cooperate with the sheriff’s investigation and take appropriate legal action.

The Ventura County sheriff’s major crime unit is investigating the allegations to determine whether crimes occurred and if the statute of limitations allows for prosecution.

As of June 30, no one has been charged, Sgt. Tim Lohman told the Acorn.

Officials believe there may be additional victims or witnesses who were not contacted or included in the law firm’s report, according to a June 7 news release. Anyone with information is encouraged to call Sgt. Hector Macias at (805) 384-4730.

“We know survivors of sexual assault and abuse are often reluctant to come forward for many different reasons,” the news release states. “Just know there are resources available to you regardless of your decision to participate in a criminal investigation.”

The Ventura County Family Justice Center is at 3170 Loma Vista Road, Ventura. Call the center at (805) 652-7655 or email vcfjc.coop@ventura.org.