Scott Berkowitz is the founder and president of RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the US. While his organization has helped countless people, it seems he himself is an abusive leader with reports coming out about his sexist and racist behavior.
According to a Business Insider report, 22 current and former employees of Scott Berkowitz came forward to highlight the rampant abuse going on under his leadership.
Moreover, many staffers have revealed that Scott himself is an extremely abusive leader who doesn’t care about his employees and sometimes, even the victims. Considering how the entire ethos of RAINN is to help people, it’s alarming how the organization itself is ridden with issues.
The following write up shares insights from Business Insider’s reports on the matter and will help you understand why you should be extremely cautious of Scott Berkowitz.
In fact, it would be great if you could share this article with others to raise awareness against the atrocious conduct of the RAINN founder.
How Scott Berkowitz Devastated an Enthusiastic Staffer:
The report highlights the experiences of April Cisneros, a victim of sexual assault herself who had joined RAINN to be a part of the good fight.
She had faced the assault in 2015 when she was still in college. A music tutor had entered her small practice room and began touching her. Later, she faced another assault after having drinks with her classmates.
Both of the incidents devastated her.
One pastor had even said, “Maybe the demons attached to you attracted this fate”. Similarly, other members of that community put the blame on her.
Later, she went into depression and attempted to take her own life. However, when she googled for help, she found the website of Scott Berkowitz’s organization, RAINN.
RAINN runs a 24-hour hotline for victims and pushes for state and federal policies to punish sex offenders.
Scott Berkowitz’s firm has deep ties with Hollywood and tech firms as well. For example, it partnered with Google and ran the “I May Destroy You” campaign. For April, RAINN was like a beacon of hope.
Soon, she started working hard to support the organization as much as possible. As part of her efforts to help the organization, she cycled 1,500 across the US to raise funds for it.
In 2018, she joined Scott Berkowitz’s company as a communication associate and became a staff member.
When April Realized the Truth About Scott Berkowitz: Racism and Sexism
After April joined Scott Berkowitz’s organization, she realized that it was quite different from what she expected. She had expected it to be a supportive and inclusive organization.
However, it was a demoralizing workplace with rampant racism and sexism.
For example, April recalled that when they were filming a video about survivors, her boss asked one of the participants to smile when recounting the assault. He said “If you don’t smile, it’ll look like you have a bitch face”.
April and around 22 other RAINN staff members revealed that Scott Berkowitz’s organization is going through a race and gender crisis.
They highlight that the organization has racist caricaturing and the leadership never listens to their pleas for change. Moreover, they revealed that Scott even silences people who he deemed politically risky. They may include survivors as well.
The RAINN staffers revealed that once, a supervisor had badgered an employee when she had taken off to recover from an abortion. Similarly, Scott Berkowitz’s company has replaced an Asian employee with a white man after deeming him to be a better fit because of his race and gender.
Also, one employee had sent a resignation letter because of “toxic managerial behavioral patterns”. She worried that young staffers like herself and many of the survivors get treated like their rights don’t matter.
Moreover, the resigning staffer had complained that RAINN doesn’t make it seem like the comfort, health and security of its staff matter in any way.
How Scott Berkowitz and His Team Responded to the Allegations:
In response to the allegations, RAINN claimed that the former employees who came forward were giving “incomplete, misleading and defamatory” information.
Moreover, the firm even hired Clare Locke LLP, a defamation law firm which gained a reputation after representing multiple people who faced #MeToo allegations. These include Matt Lauer and former CBS News exec, Jeffrey Fager.
RAINN said that they are proud of the work their committed staff does day in and out to support sexual violence survivors. Also, it responded by saying that over the last few years, RAINN has worked to expand and implement Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policies.
Moreover, the firm claims that it constantly updates staff on their progress toward achieving its diversity and inclusion goals.
When Insider asked them if Clare Locke’s work is consistent with their mission and values, Scott Berkowitz’s organization said that they have hired defamation counsel. The company claimed that the allegations were ridiculous and libelous.
Some RAINN staffers fear that corporate dysfunction is adversely affecting Scott Berkowitz’s firm.
Hollywood, Companies and #MeToo: How Scott Berkowitz Made RAINN Successful
Savvy marketing and hard work have helped RAINN become one of the most successful organizations that operate in this sector. It is to sexual assault what Planned Parenthood is to reproductive health.
Currently, Scott Berkwotiz’s company is a full-service resource for people who go through this crisis. Moreover, it is the ultimate destination for donations to help victims.
The #MeToo movement helped propel this organization into the mainstream and companies began flocking to it as part of their commitment to social responsibility.
When numerous women had filed lawsuits against Lyft, the company worked with Scott Berkowitz and RAINN to release safety initiatives. Also, the tech firm had contributed more than $1.5 million to the organization.
Even Hollywood has had a major role in Scott’s success.
Tori Amos, a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter is the co-founder of RAINN. She promoted its hotline at her concerts and used to sit in its advisory board. Globally renowned pop star and musician, Taylor Swift has donated to RAINN as well.
Scott Berkowitz and RAINN found their initial success after the WOodstock ‘99 festival. The promoters and record labels did damage control at the time of the controversy by giving RAINN 1% of the proceeds from their CD and video releases.
Those funds helped the organization promote its hotline better and perform better marketing.
Its total revenue has grown from $1.2 million in 2009 to around $16 million in 2019. Similarly, the company’s payments to Scott Berkowitz have increased from $168,000 to $481,000 during this period.
However, this brings us to another fishy aspect of this organization.
The Shady Compensation of Scott Berkowitz:
Scott Berkowitz is listed as the president of the organization and RAINN’s tax returns indicate that he received over half a million dollars in 2019-20. However, he is not an employee of the company.
The man doesn’t receive a salary. Instead, RAINN pays him through A&I Publishing, a company which Scott Berkowitz owns and has contracts with RAINN.
According to their tax records, the organization has paid a total of $561,500 as consulting fees to A&I Publishing from 2001 to 2006. Also, Scott didn’t get any salary from RAINN during this period.
However, from 2007 to 2020, the company had paid him more than $3.5 million.
During this period, the company began reporting payments to A&I Publishing to service $288,000 in debt. Apparently, the organization owed the consultancy firm at 5% interest even though their tax records don’t mention it ever receiving any cash from A&I.
According to their tax records, the company describes its 2006 tax return as “issuance of debt for prior year services”.
Choosing Money Over Victims: Staffers Explain the Greedy Nature of Scott Berkowitz
While the Woodstock ‘99 controversy helped Scott tremendously in growing his bank balance, he has always looked to the public sector for additional funding opportunities.
A prominent source of revenue for Scott’s organization is the Department of Defense as RAINN runs their Safe Helpline. The helpline offers confidential, anonymous counseling to military members who have faced sexual violence.
According to RAINN employees, Scott Berkowitz is extremely sensitive about maintaining this contract. Moreover, he goes to great lengths to ensure that the organization remains in the good graces of the government department.
However, this has caused people to suffer a lot.
The Insider report shared the insurance of Michael Weidenhoeft-Wilder. He is a former flight attendant and roller-rink operator who used to serve as a medic in the Navy.
In 1982, within a few months of his enlistment, Michael was raped by a physician.
The culprit outranked him and threatened him with prison time if he came forward. According to Michael, it was one of the many sexual assaults he suffered. All of them ended up giving him post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, he didn’t mention a word about this to anyone for more than three decades. Michael suffered from depression and even experienced paranoid suspicions about being watched.
Still, he was brave. Michael went through decades of therapy and it helped him come forward. He found the Safe Helpline and became involved in RAINN’s Speakers Bureau. Eventually, the organization selected his story to publish on its website.
In 2019, he worked with April Cisneros to prepare the story. However, Scot Berkowitz killed it abruptly.
Why did he stop such a crucial story from publishing? Because, he realized that it involved an officer assaulting an enlisted person.
According to April, when they wrote up the story, Scott said they are not getting into this. Also, he refused to send it to the Department of Defense for review, which was odd. Usually, the organization sent such accounts to the department whenever it decided to publish a story.
April shared that Scott told the team that the story could harm the military’s reputation and as a result, upset the Department of Defense. She believed that Scott Berkowitz just didn’t want to risk losing the contract.
However, the victim was shocked. He had spent a lot of time recounting the horrors and sharing his tale with April. Michael told interviewers that he felt victimized all over again.
April was worried about Michael’s mental health. So, she discussed this matter with the VP of victim services who told her that she should take the blame for it.
Eventually, she lied about it and took the blame. April told Michael that it was a scheduling error and blamed it all on herself. Surely, Michael didn’t believe her and felt betrayed.
April told Insider’s journalists that the incident broke her heart. She felt that she betrayed a survivor and the fact that an organization created to help such victims failed one.
When journalists asked RAINN about this incident, they said that they had no knowledge of April’s promise to Michael about getting him a spot on their website. However, they added that she had no authority to make such a commitment as well.
April said that RAINN was lying. Apparently, she had told Scott Berkowitz about the entire story and he had given her the approval at first.
When Scott Berkowitz and RAINN Forced an Employee to Retract Her Statement:
In 2019, when the Trump administration was trying to expel trans people from the military, a RAINN employee had made comments in support of Black trans victims of violence. Surprisingly, Scott’s firm forced that staffer to retract her statements.
Moreover, the staffer mysteriously vanished from the company the day her statements were published.
Journalists had talked to her but didn’t reveal her identity for her privacy.
In March 2019, a women-centric website had ranked that RAINN staffer as one of their “8 everyday women” to mark International Women’s Day.
It had listed her age, background and position at RAINN. Also, it consisted of a small QnA section.
The question was: What’s one thing you’re really angry about? Why?
This was her response:
“I’m tired of the homophobic lies that continue to be spread about the LGBTQ community. People’s lives are at stake, especially those of black trans women, given the rates at which tehy continue to be murdered”.
A few months later, the Trump-era ban on transgender military staff sparked debates over trans rights in the media.
Sources reveal that Scott Berkowitz and other leaders at RAINN were concerned about these statements. Moreover, they were frustrated that she had spoken to the media without getting permission from them.
They deemed the statements to be “too controversial” and worried that it would ruin their contract with the Department of Defense. Later, the RAINN staffer had to contact the journalists who had interviewed her and requested her to remove those statements.
The online version of the article doesn’t contain those statements now.
Also, employees revealed that the RAINN staffer was escorted out of the office by the HR. Moreover, some of the staff members who worked closely with her were shocked with her sudden disappearance because she was quite active in the firm.
The Racism of Scott Berkowitz and RAINN:
When looking into RAINN and its operations, journalists learned about the problem of rampant racism as well.
They shared the story of Jackii Wang. Wang had joined the firm in 2019 hoping that her experience of working in national congressional offices would help them.
However, she revealed that her boss at RAINN, Camille Cooper, would constantly discount her ideas and berate her if they disagreed on even the smallest issues. So, it was quite terrifying for Wang to work with her.
Initially, she didn’t consider this behavior to stem from racism. However, during a performance review, her boss started justifying her perspective and it only made matters worse. During the performance review, she asked Wang various stereotypical questions such as “Is your family very strict?”, “Do they expect perfectionism from you?”
Also, she asked her if she had problems with authority because of her family background.
These racist implications became explicit when Cooper told Wang that she won’t be working on a lobbying assignment.
The assignment was regarding a Florida bill to close a loophole in the state’s statute of limitations for teen survivors. She called Wang and another employee into her office and told them that she had replaced Wang with a white man.
Surely, Wang was shocked to hear about this. When she asked why she was replaced, Cooper told her it was because of his race.
The male colleague didn’t even have the registration to lobby in Florida. According to Cooper, the white male colleague would connect better with the white conservatives in the state.
Wang told the journalists that the reasoning was he would be perceived better. But from that logic, a white man would be perceived better than an Asian woman everywhere, according to Wang.
Later, she reported this incident to Scott Berkowitz. While he thanked her for bringing this issue to him, he took no action.
In response to these allegations, Scott’s firm said that Wang was too junior to lead a statewide lobbying effort. Moreover, they called her discrimination allegations “false and defamatory”.
Also, Scott Berkowitz’s company claimed that they took her allegations seriously but their investigations revealed that they were unfounded.
Another Example of Racism at RAINN:
Cooper isn’t the only RAINN executive who has received allegations of racism. Scott Berkowitz himself has been called racist by multiple staffers.
According to some employees, the VP of victim services, Jessical Leslie tried to defend Scott’s unwillingness to address employees of color in a meeting.
She said, “You have to understand where he’s coming from. I mean, he’s a white man, and you’re all people of color. He’s really nervous around you.”
The staff members only wanted to meet with Scott. Howve,r they ouldn’t.
RAINN called these allegations untrue and claimed that the shift managers only wanted to “craft an agenda”.
Pay Disparity and Racist Training Under Scott Berkowitz:
Employees of color have revealed that they are often underpaid in comparison to their white counterparts.
For example, a Latina staffer revealed that she made $35,000 a year at RAINN and when she left the company for a better-paying position, RAINN replaced her with a white person. That white person made around $20,000 more than the Latina staffer.
April told the Insider’s journalists that it’s a pretty major problem in Scott Berkowitz’s organization.
RAINN gave the justification that the role was “restructured”. Hence, it demanded more pay.
In another instance, multiple employees revealed that when their white office manager left the job, her replacement, Valinshia Walker, a Black woman, was asked to perform janitorial tasks. It’s worth noting that their previous office manager didn’t “scrub the floors, wash the dishes or disinfect conference rooms” as Walker was made to.
Shockingly, an employee revealed that they would often come in and see Walker wiping down the tables and doing the kitchen.
RAINN responded to these allegations by calling them untrue. It claimed that she was an “office coordinator” and not an office manager.
They claimed that keeping hte office clean has always been one of hte responsibilities of the admin staff.
Extremely Racist Training:
Employees revealed that in early 2020, an outside employment attorney was performing mandatory sexual-harassment training.
There,the attorney used various racist stereotypes to explain their examples.
For example, the lawyer asked what if Cardi B was their employee and they start twerking at their desks, would that be inappropriate workplace behavior?
Similarly, the lawyer proposed a hypothetical scenario where a Latino man kissed a coworker. The lawyer asked if this behavior would be appropriate because it’s “Latino culture”.
In their response, RAINN said that this information was inaccurate. Also, they claimed that they had addressed the concerns of their staffers immediately.
However, a staffer revealed that she had sent multiple emails regarding this infuriating training to RAINN executives, including Scott Berkowitz.
One of the executives acknowledged her complaints and promised to meet her alongside Scott Berkowitz.
Initially, the meeting wasn’t taking place but after the intervention of some of her colleagues, she was able to meet with Scott to discuss this incident. However, it was underwhelming.
She revealed that they pick what they want you to talk about. Hence, the meeting wasn’t any useful.
The George Floyd Incident and the Disappointing Response of Scott Berkowitz:
In 2020, Scott Beerkowitz sent an email to the entire staff where he addressed the unrest and pledged to support the firm’s Black employees.
However, employees reveal that nothing has changed.
Sarcia Adkins, the employee who has raised hte issue of the racist training, sent multiple emails to RAINN executives. This time, she asked for mandatory cultural-competency training and a focus on hiring Black staffers for leadership positions.
Also, she asked Scott Berkowitz why he didn’t reach out to his staff after the deaths of Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray and various other victims of police brutality.
Moreover, she wrote in her email that RAINN has never acknowledged or uplifted its black staff.
In response, Scott’s firm started releasing draft proposals on diversity, equity and inclusion internally. One of their objectives was to collect more data to find the causes of turnover and build a diverse pool of internal and external candidates for all open positions.
Still, employees reveal that Scott Berkowitz’s company has failed to improve its inclusion efforts.
In response, RAINN showed the journalists an email from one of their black employees thanking them for taking the initiative. However, when journalists reached out to her, she revealed that the email was from 2 years ago and RAINN hasn’t taken any action since.
She was disappointed by the fact that the firm only focuses on the optics rather than how its staff actually feels.
Poor Management and Inaction:
The reason why April left Scott Berkowitz’s company was when her manager, Jodi Omear, didn’t even let her go through an abortion without constant badgering.
April revealed that Omear would constantly joked about how offices can reduce sexual assault risk by changing dress codes. In January 2019, April faced a surprise pregnancy.
So, she decided to take a sick day to see a doctor. However, she informed Omear a day before and explained when her unfinished work would be completed.
Instead of being supportive, teh manager started pestering April about why she didn’t notify her sooner about the pregnancy. April broke down and said that it was a surprise pregnancy.
When she was meeting with her doctor, her phone was constantly getting calls and texts from her manager.
Later, April received a prescription for a 2-day medical abortion. She asked for an extra day off so she could recover but Omear’s pestering didn’t stop.
Moreover, she would constantly call and text her to get updates on her monthly marketing report.
April revealed that she finished her report from home while waiting for the bleeding to die down.
This conduct was the final straw for April and she sent out multiple complaints against Omear to Scott Berkowitz and other RAINN execs.
Moreover, she rallied other staff members and sent their collective complaints against Omear to the firm’s leadership. However, she simply left the organization.
Scott Berkowitz told April that they had pushed her out because of her complaints. However, the fact that they refused to take any serious action and simply let her leave the firm on her own accord infuriated a lot of their staff.
What Happens Now?
Although Scott Berkowitz is an experienced manager and leader, it seems he is insensitive about various issues pertaining to sexism and racism within his own organization.
Numerous staffers have complained about his own racist behavior.
It’s time that he is called out and forced to make a change.
Please share this story with others so they can call him out as well. The more people know about what goes on at RAINN the better.
Scott Berkowitz has received numerous complaints for being an inconsiderate leader who values money over the victims who seek help from RAINN. Also, he has been exposed as a racist manager.
- Runs an organization that helps survivors
- Values funding over the sexual assault survivors his organization is supposed to help
- Inconsiderate of his staff's complaints