LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - International relief group Oxfam said on Wednesday it saw a sharp spike in claims of sexual misconduct at its British arm over last year after a sex abuse scandal surfaced in February.
The number of reports rose to 155 in the 2017-18 financial year, up from 87 the year previously, Oxfam GB said in its annual report.
Chief Executive Mark Goldring said the charity was “deeply sorry” for failings over Oxfam staff’s use of prostitutes in Haiti during an earthquake relief mission in 2010 and for other sexual misconduct by those employed by the charity.
The scandal has snowballed into widespread reports of sexual misconduct in the charity sector.
Charities, including Oxfam, have since pledged to overhaul their approach to dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment.
Oxfam said nearly half the 155 reports in the last year came within two months after accounts of the Haiti sex scandal were published.
At the time the charity appealed for those who had experienced abuse or harassment to make contact.
A spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that police were involved in at least 24 of the complaints it received, while 23 others resulted in findings of misconduct by internal investigations.
A further 23 reports were not given a full internal investigation for reasons including the victim not wishing to take the matter forward or the issue being deemed minor enough to be dealt with by training, advice or performance management.
“I don’t think Oxfam have done anything like enough,” said Andrew MacLeod, a spokesman for Hear Their Cries, a charity fighting sex abuse in the aid sector.
He said Oxfam should report all alleged misconduct to police and employ an independent, external body to scrutinize claims.
“They should be erring on the side of protecting the victims and understanding they should not be analyzing themselves.... It’s the bank robber investigating the bank robbery,” he said.
Oxfam said it takes a “robust approach” to allegations, considers police involvement in every case and referred 93 of the reports received last year to the British watchdog Charity Commission.
It has also appointed an independent commission to review its safeguarding systems and is committed to implementing their findings, the organization said.
An exclusive survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in February found more than 120 staff from leading global charities were fired or lost their jobs in 2017 over sexual misconduct. here
Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org