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Seymour was reluctant to disclose many details of the investigation on the record. But she did reassure victims who were reticent to talk to her out of fear that their information could be turned against them during a civil lawsuit that their identities would be “anonymized.” She reiterated that the information is not being “gathered for the purposes of the defense.”
Still, many former students say they do not trust a law firm paid by Y.U. to conduct a truly independent investigation. “I did not trust that through my talking to them I would reach any sort of closure,” said one former student, who is in his late 40s and who did not wish to be named, in an email. “I had no assurances as to what Y.U. would do with any information I shared with them.”
The man said that the Forward’s articles about Y.U. had reawakened terrible memories that he had suppressed for decades. “People can’t and do not realize that the mind can hide something like this for years and then suffer flashbacks,” he said.
“I have been seeing a therapist since December and have been diagnosed with [post-traumatic stress disorder],” he added. “It keeps me awake some nights, or I wake up having had a nightmare. I am typing this with one hand because I finally snapped and punched a… wall and broke my hand about three weeks ago.”
After more than four months, Y.U.’s investigation is now longer than a three-month probe that Deerfield Academy, an elite Massachusetts boarding school, conducted into abuse allegations at its campus. It is also just one month short of a five-month investigation into abuse at the Orthodox Union’s youth organization, NCSY, which was led by Joel before he became president of Y.U.
At its current pace, the Y.U. investigation threatens to take as long as the probe into abuse at Penn State University, led by former FBI director Louis Freeh. Although that investigation, which took about eight months, included more than 400 interviews and the examination of more than 3.5 million emails and documents.
Asked how Y.U.’s investigation was progressing and when it might be completed, a Y.U. spokesman said the probe “continues to be ongoing, and as soon as it has been completed in the proper way and to the satisfaction of investigators, we will have an update to offer.” Asked whether there was a conflict of interest between Sullivan & Cromwell, whose mission is to shed light on the abuse, and Greenberg Traurig, whose mission is to protect Y.U from abuse claims, the spokesman did not respond.
A spokesman for Greenberg Traurig said no one from the firm was available to comment.