We Can No Longer Look the Other Way

By: Amrith Fernandes Prabhu and Isa Woldeguiorguis
Lowell, MA
August 28, 2019

Yesterday, Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged accusers appeared in a federal courtroom for a hearing where they “told their story” of how he had abused them, and then had leveraged his power and wealth to silence them, sometimes for years. For many, it was their first time speaking about their experience in public.”

Here in Lowell, incidents similar to this are far too common. Following the recent rape allegations from a homeless teen against a Lowell Police Officer, Kevin Garneau last month, we are now faced with yet another heinous act by a high profile local man. Timothy Grover, founder of Megan’s House, a nonprofit designed to support women recovering from substance use, was arraigned in Lowell District Court yesterday on several charges including intent to rape, two counts of assault and battery, two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of threat to commit a crime, assault and battery of a police officer, and resisting arrest. Judge Tejal Mehta presided at the arraignment and Grover was held without bail.

The incident took place in the afternoon hours on Monday, August 26th at Lowell High School, just a day before the beginning of the school year. Grover shouted threats of violence toward students and teachers— clear acts of aggression, threats of sexual violence, and intent to commit further harm. These blatant acts are shocking, but the number of people in our community who are “not surprised” and report witnessing or knowing of many other similar actions from Mr. Grover is unacceptable.

Local Facebook blogs and Twitter are buzzing with comments from community members who knew Grover has a history of abusing young women, asserted his power over people, and even call him a “sleeze.” One person mentions “pulling him off a 19-year-old after [Grover] plied her with alcohol.” Many other comments describe “looking the other way” behavior and note that “[Grover] could have been stopped by those around him.” Our question is: Why didn’t we? Are certain people, often well-known and powerful, above reproach and above the law, even as many witness their violence?

It is estimated that every 92 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. On average, there are 321,500 victims of rape and sexual assault (age 12 or older) in the U.S. every year. When we look the other way, we lose focus on survivors and the long lasting impact on their physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial well being. One survivor we work with who was victimized by Grover said about healing, “[Survivors] can’t just “get over” something bad that happened to them in the past, because even as we think that logically, the traumatic shock echoes through all the systems of the body as PTSD— sometimes daily, for years. I may be safe now, but my nervous system still rings with fear. It’s the emotional equivalent of learning how to walk again and [I wish] judges [would] treat sentencing as such.”

While we must consider the influence Grover wields and the accountability called for in this case, let’s not forget about the survivors. This same survivor bravely commented “once we all accept that many predators are people we have admired or befriended, then believing and supporting survivors can happen more readily and effectively.” People like Epstein, Garneau, and now Grover continue to leverage power and wealth.

As the school year begins in Lowell, The Center for Hope and Healing, Inc. is here to support teachers, students, and families through our 24-hour hotline 1-800-542-5212 or at our office line weekdays from 9am-5pm at 978-452-7721. Visit us at chhinc.org to learn more and at our social media handle @chhlowell.

Amrith Fernandes Prabhu is the Data and Capacity Building Manager of The Center for Hope and Healing, Inc. in Lowell
Isa Woldeguiorguis is the Executive Director of The Center for Hope and Healing, Inc. in Lowell