Oprah Winfrey ’shaken to the core’ by school sex abuse scandal

November 14th, 2007 - 8:34 am ICT by admin  
During a videoconference from Chicago, the talk show queen spoke of the ongoing investigation and her conversations with 15 girls, asserting that the incident has shaken her to the core.

“This has been one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating, experiences of my life. A horrible situation has been uncovered and rooted out. This is what leadership is all about-so that abuse will end and truth will prevail,” E! Online quoted her, as saying.

“I was, needless to say, devastated and shaken to the core,” she added.

Oprah insisted that though her students had been living in an environment that “repressed their voices,” the experience has motivated the girls to “break the silence and to take their voices back.”

“As often is the case, child abuse, sexual abuse, happens right within … the confines of the people you know. I personally spoke to all the girls and encouraged them to come forward over the sex abuse claims. The girls are receiving counselling. I told the girls that we are going to clean out the school. There is still a lot of potential there,” she said.

Winfrey’s remarks came just hours after former dorm matron, 27-year-old Virginia Makopo, was released on bail on Nov 5. She pleaded not guilty to 13 charges including indecent assault; assault and criminal injury committed against at least six students aged 13-15 and a 23-year-old at the school.

Last week, Winfrey flew to South Africa to offer a tearful plea to pupils and their parents to forgive her. During the press conference, she acknowledged that the screening of employees had been inadequate.

“We are going to redefine what that position should mean and what the qualifications should be for the future. No one is ever happy when a scandal like this happens, but I am glad it happened now and not two years from now. It gives us the opportunity to completely course-correct,” she said.

However, she added that she is moving to create a safe, open and receptive environment for the girls.

“What I know is no one, not the accused nor any persons, can destroy the dream I have held or that the girls have at this school. No matter what adversity these girls have endured in their short life-and let me assure you, they have endured a lot-their light and courage will not diminish,” she said.

She also vowed to ‘clean house’ and said she would not be renewing the contract of the school’s headmistress. (ANI)

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