Skip to main content

So this is what happens when Duke quietly lets go a theatre professor (Jay O’Berski) with a history of grooming and sleeping with his students, and pays him off not to sue them

This was originally posted to Facebook on Feb 6, 2023 by Monica Byrne. The original post can be found here

So this is what happens when Duke quietly lets go a theatre professor (Jay O’Berski) with a history of grooming and sleeping with his students, and pays him off not to sue them: he enrolls in the counseling program at Wake Forest and sets himself up as a therapist in Chapel Hill, specializing in “sex addiction.”

This is not a case of him “working on himself.” Sorry. Compulsive sexual abuse of power can’t be cured in three years. And even if it could, you know what that looks like? Taking responsibility for the abuse and making amends to the people you’ve harmed. Not immediately seeking ANOTHER position of authority where you have even MORE intimate access to even MORE vulnerable people. If you think that’s what healing looks like…!? I don’t know how to help you.

Here are the questions I keep getting and I’ll answer them here:
1. “Why did Duke not fire him publicly?” Because Duke’s harassment policies are deliberately constructed *to protect the institution from lawsuits,* not to protect students from the abuser. Which of course means protecting the abuser. I learned this by going through it firsthand. Anyone who speaks to Duke’s Office of Institutional Equity—the body responsible for sexual harassment complaints against faculty—is first informed that anything they say will be then be told to the faculty member. This is so that the faculty member “has a chance to respond,” i.e. so that the institution can protect itself from lawsuits. This is actually very common in universities (see this study: So of course, fearing retribution—which Duke would have no way to control, despite its lip service to “not tolerating” it—almost none of the students spoke to them.

2. “Why was there never an IndyWeek story about it?” Similar reasons. Because none of Jay’s students would go on record, because of grooming (i.e. he conditioned them to believe that they were equally responsible) and fear of retribution (Jay threatened the employment of at least two whistleblowers, which is illegal). Not to mention what communities do to young women who speak up about predators, period.

3. “Why are there no lawsuits related to the abuse?” Again, similar reasons. If university policy is bad, the law is worse. The entire legal system is stacked against survivors and they know it.
This is #MeToo 101, y’all.

Those of you who write me privately, thanking me for speaking up: you know you can too, right? You know you wouldn’t be risking any more than we already have? Jay tried to sue me for defamation. My lawyers asked his lawyer to point out which statements I’d made on social media were defamatory (i.e. untrue and malicious). They came back with literally nothing. Except a vague warning that they’d continue to “monitor my social media.” (They’re…welcome to? It’s all public and always has been.)

When people tell themselves that abuse is “not their business,” predators thrive. They get to pick up, move somewhere else, and start all over. Keeping a community safe cannot depend on a handful of vulnerable people taking on all of the risk. It takes the whole community.

(Redacted section)

If you disagree with me or my approach, say it elsewhere or unfriend me. I’ve been through too much hell cleaning up this man’s messes to have any patience left for his defenders/enablers/dissemblers. I’m done.