In a fair investigation, investigators review not only what accusers tell them verbally, but also what accusers have written (i.e. in their emails or on social media).
In an April 2, 2020 email from Katheryn Wiedman from An Olive Branch, she said:
“The SSSC and the Collaborative Response Team have stated that An Olive Branch is completing a totally independent investigation, free from their direction or control. They committed in writing that they would not attempt to influence or direct the investigation or the report.”
Contrary to this best practice for a fair investigation, the CRT directed the investigators not to look on social media.
In an email dated 5/7/2020 from Barbara Gray, one of the AOB investigators, she provided the following response to questions raised by Guru Terath Singh:
“Our mandate from the CRT exempts us from searching for social media conversations. First of all, we do not have subpoena power to access such messages. Secondly, it is not customary for privately commissioned investigations of sexual misconduct of religious leaders to search social media especially because it is impossible to ask probing questions in response to such posts. Although we have seen some social media provided to us by others, we are relying on interviews in which we can ask such questions and some historical documents as the basis for our report.”
In Guru Terath Singh’s February 28, 2020 online statement, he wrote about the critical importance of reviewing accuser’s writings:
“In the typical “he said-she said” sex cases where both people could be believed, investigations would look at other things and interview other people regarding what the parties did, said and wrote in the context of the sex claim to try to determine who was credible.”
Here is Guru Terath Singh’s May 8, 2020 response to Ms. Gray:
“You wrote that you do not have subpoena power, and you do not. But you have significant leverage. If in trying to get to the bottom of an allegation (let’s say Premka’s with the history of the “back story” of the 1986 lawsuit), you could and probably should ask her to provide those of her emails over the past 2 years that in any way refer to YB or her claims. If she did, you would know if there is a back story to what is going on now. If she refused, after conferring with your attorneys, you could let her know that if she does not produce the emails, your Report will state that she made a claim, refused to cooperate with the investigation, and for that reason her claim was not pursued.
And why would you ever accept a “mandate from the CRT (that) exempts you from searching for social media conversations?” Either you are conducting an independent investigation, or you are not. Of course you should be able to ask “probing questions” about something one of the accusers wrote on social media, especially if it is inconsistent with what she told you in an interview. As you know, some the very most important things that investigators use to determine the credibility of people making accusations are their other consistent or inconsistent writings. And there is no such thing as “it is not customary for privately commissioned investigations of sexual misconduct of religious leaders to search social media…” Customary? How many have there been since the advent of social media – 2, 3?”
In addition to this, in at least one interview, Ms. Gray told the interviewee that the investigation team had not seen the ‘first person’ written list of statements by the accusers, which has been circulating on social media, through both a Next Gen Facebook group and as a Google Doc on Pamela Dyson’s Facebook group. This list was sent to the CRT on February 28, 2020. Ms. Gray also said that social media conversations are hearsay and that they were only getting the stories from the accusers from verbal conversations with them directly.
As part of the “best practice” of a fair investigation, comparing both the written and verbal communications by an accuser is very valuable when determining the credibility of anyone giving information. And that very important information is being kept from the investigators by the CRT.
Because there is no representative of the Siri Singh Sahib, the only way for our Sangat members who believe they may be in a position to refute “supposed” allegations, is to review information shared in a public forum, which the investigators themselves do not have and cannot access, and these Sangat members who may be in a position to refute information about the allegations, do not know what has actually been brought to the investigators. So both sides are at a disadvantage.
This can be fixed
The Olive Branch should be told that they can request and review from anyone making an allegation and any witness their writings and responses received on the subject, including their social media contact messages, emails, letters, etc. in assessing their credibility.