UPDATE: 7/1/18: Shortly after publication, it came to our attention that the Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict had incorrectly referred to Joel Davis as a volunteer coordinator, when in fact he served as the Director of the Campaign. This article has been updated to reflect that change.
Disobedient Media recently reported on the arrest of Joel Davis, Executive Director of Youth to End Sexual Violence and former Director of the Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict, who was arrested on charges related to child pornography as well as an attempt to arrange the rape of a nine-year-old and two-year-old.
In the wake of our initial report, astounding questions have been raised about Davis’s history as well as that of the organization he founded. Disobedient Media has learned that Davis, 22, is a two-time college drop out, (from both American University and Columbia University) and was pursuing a third attempt at completing his undergraduate degree at the time of his arrest.
Upon examination, it appears that Youth to End Sexual Violence (Davis’s NGO) is no longer a registered 501c charity. Records show that the 501c status of Youth to End Sexual Violence was revoked in May 2017 due to the group failing to submit relevant tax forms for three consecutive years.
Given the fact that the organization was founded in 2014, it would follow that the group never submitted the 990-series form required by the IRS. This finding adds to the general lack of concrete information given by the NGO’s website, which provides no identification regarding staff, no address, and generally appears to have been run by Davis himself with the contribution of a handful of international bloggers.
Such revocation may not seem all that surprising given recent events surrounding Davis. However, the importance of the NGO’S defunct 501c status extends far beyond Davis’s charity and his reputation.
In 2017, the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict, a coalition of highly reputable humanitarian aid groups, put themselves under the leadership of Davis’s (defunct) Youth To End Sexual Violence charity, and at an unknown date, had appointed Davis as Director of the entire Campaign. This decision to “restructure” under the leadership of the Charity Davis headed occurred in the same year that this same NGO lost 501c status.
As previously noted by Disobedient Media, the coalition’s Steering Committee includes highly respected organizations, such as: Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the Global Fund for Women, Youth to End Sexual Violence, The Italian Mine Campaign, Promundo, Every Woman Everywhere, Sofepadi, and Change Center for Health and Gender Equity. In addition to the involvement of these respected entities, the coalition itself was said to be made up of 5,000 organizations and individuals.
The Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict released the following statement in the wake of Davis’s arrest, in which they failed to address the leadership role of his defunct charity at the head of the entire coalition and incorrectly described him as a volunteer coordinator, despite having earlier described him as Director of the Campaign.
Although the press release describes Davis as a: “Former volunteer coordinator of the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence In Conflict,” this appears to be an outright fabrication. The Campaign referred to Davis as the Director of the Campaign as recently as April of this year, when he gave a TEDx lecture where he also referred to himself as Director of the Campaign.
The press release also fails to discuss the fact that the already-defunct charity served as the helm of their entire coalition. Press reports have repeatedly described Davis as the Chairman of the Campaign, and it is unclear at this time whether the moniker was incorrectly applied, or referred to his role at the head of the NGO which led said Coalition. In 2015, NBC reported that Davis had been appointed to the Board of the Directors of the Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence.
Lars Anderson, the media contact included in the press release, is a co-founder of BlueDot Strategies according to his LinkedIn profile. BlueDot describes Anderson and fellow co-founder Moira Whelan as: “Former Federal Government insiders with international communications experience.” According to BlueDot, Anderson held: “Several senior-level appointments in the Obama Administration, most recently as the deputy chief of staff and counselor to the administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.” Blue Dot adds that Anderson also served as director and spokesman for USAID, and was the NATO spokesman in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
At the time of writing, the Campaign’s website still states: “In 2017, Campaign members voted unanimously to reorganize and restructure under the leadership of Davis’s Youth to End Sexual Violence, the first international organization of young survivors working in conflict countries.” That the coalition states that they unanimously voted to restructure under the leadership of Youth To End Sexual Violence in 2017 is astounding.
In light of all this, it is unavoidable to ask questions, including: How was it possible for a two-time college dropout to be appointed as the Director of a vast coalition of thousands of groups and individuals, with many member-organizations possessing entire legal departments and staff who could have easily recognized that Davis’s charity did not have 501c status? The Campaign describes itself as: “The first ever global collaboration between Nobel Laureates, NGOs, and Humanitarian experts to end sexual violence in conflict.”
We do not know at this time what financial relationship, if any, existed between Davis’s Youth to End Sexual Violence and the 5000 members of the Campaign coalition after their 2017 decision. However, the fact that they describe themselves specifically as restructuring under the leadership of Davis’s defunct group, with Davis formerly serving as the Director of the Coalition itself, raises damning questions about their vetting process, financial oversight, and how that restructuring happened given the revocation of Youth to End Sexual Violence’s 501c status that year.
Even if there was no financial relationship between the members of the coalition and Davis’s NGO, questions remain as to why the unanimous decision was made to place these prestigious organizations under the leadership of his group, and his Directorship given his total lack of experience or even a college degree.
Did no one at Human Rights Watch, the Global Fund For Women, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Promundo, Amnesty International, Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling, or others take the time to read Davis’s CV? Surely their vetting process in choosing the entity and individual to head their coalition should have balked at his lack of experience, much less the revocation of his NGO’s 501c status?
Again: How, did a vast group of highly prestigious and respected NGO’s gather together under the banner of Davis’s defunct charity and his leadership? What vetting if any was done that preceded this “unanimous” decision by such a vast number of people and entities, the likes of which have worked with some of the most well-known humanitarians of our era?
It seems unavoidable, at this juncture, to question whether Davis’s NGO may have acted as a front organization of some kind. If not, are we to believe a college dropout was capable of swindling the top humanitarian aid groups on the planet? If so, how were they swindled so easily?
Questions have also been raised about the legitimacy of Davis’s claim to have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015. According to NobelPrize.org, the list of nominees for the prestigious award are officially sealed for 50 years after the award is given. Press reports surrounding Davis’s supposed nomination do not provide any source that verifies the nomination occurred other than Davis himself.
While it is technically possible that one of Davis’s college professors did nominate him, his lack of corrorobation raises serious questions as to the legitimacy of his claim. If Davis fabricated the story, it would be a perfect deception in the sense that it can’t be proven or disproven in fifty years – a timeframe that would help him create a veneer of respectability with which he could access and abuse children with little likelihood of repercussion.
Shortly after Disobedient Media published our initial coverage of this issue, TEDx deleted the video of Joel Davis’ talk, delivered just two months ago at TEDx Columbia University.
Disobedient Media has duly preserved the video. The importance of Davis’s lecture is not only that he was able to groom respected groups in the humanitarian community, but also the fact that he included the fatal rape of a six-month-old girl in his talk. He also clearly states in the video that he became the Director of a coalition of over 5,000 NGO’s, a clear reference to the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence In Conflict. It is important to preserve the historical record surrounding Davis’ ‘humanitarian’ activities and the depth of hypocrisy he was able to maintain prior to his arrest.
All of this begs the following questions: What would have happened if Davis had not been caught at such a young age? How many children would he have had access to over the ensuing decades in a humanitarian career based on lies and defunct charities? How many monsters like Davis slip by unnoticed within the humanitarian aid industry? If a 22-year-old can fake his way into a position of trust at the head of a coalition of the most prestigious aid groups on the planet, and work alongside the likes of Angelina Jolie, how can we trust that this case is not the tip of a silent, lurking, monstrous iceberg?
Why did the Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict lie about Davis’s role in their press release in response to his arrest? Does truth and accountability mean nothing in the world of humanitarian aid?
A serious discussion on vetting and accountability in charity work must take place as a result of this arrest and the multiple questionable and outright duplicitous aspects of Joel Davis’ “aid work” that went unnoticed and unquestioned by the NGO world. This must serve as a wake-up-call and lead to demands for drastically increased accountability – otherwise, this horrendous norm is doomed to repeat itself ad infinitum.