Now imagine the horror and heartbreak of realizing the father you love is using power, wealth, and position to sexually abuse women and young girls. And that he has been doing so for decades with no apparent repercussions.
How do you handle the emotional pressure of sorting out possible courses of action and deciding what to do? “It killed me, it broke my heart,” says Kai Zen Bickle, echoing the raw, devastating feelings of many who’ve discovered relatives are perpetrators of sexual abuse. After processing his grief of “losing the father he thought he knew.” Kai says he was left with “the monster.” Kai has since taken his mother’s name, renounced any possible inheritance of a massive family fortune (to which Kai was listed as the main heir), and channeled his energy into closing legal loopholes that his father used to hide and enable his alleged criminal conduct.
“I was in a position to get him out of the country and protect his assets while maintaining my position as heir to those resources,” Kai recalls, “or I could roll up my sleeves, support the investigation and do what I could to ensure the accusers right to face their alleged abuser.” Kai chose to work aggressively, at great personal cost, to make it possible for sexually abused girls and women to have their voices heard in court-of-law.
Peter Nygard, whose net worth was calculated at more than $900 million in 2020, rose to prominence as a fashion designer. He founded Nygard International in 1967 as a Canadian design, manufacturing and supply concern. The business expanded into the United States and internationally, becoming one of the world’s largest women’s clothing manufacturers. As his success and fortune grew, he cultivated a lifestyle patterned after Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame, purchasing and developing a lavish estate in the Bahamas, accompanied by a constantly changing group of female companions.
In 2019, during one of Nygard’s occasional trips to Los Angeles, he held a small dinner party that Kai attended. During the meal, he believes he saw Nygard behaving inappropriately, “sexually grooming” an eight-year-old girl.
Sick at heart, Kai took all the correct steps to report it, was attacked for it, and experienced how difficult the process can be. Nine months later, in February 2020, formal accusations against Nygard came in, for which Kai gives much credit to the civil attorneys involved. “People that I had been reaching out to when I saw something, began to speak up now that accusations became public, the floodgates of information broke open and it started to become clear that we were dealing with a dangerous and active super predator.”
Two months after the initial 10 women came forward, civil attorneys had found an additional 47 women bringing the total accusers to 57 women and children who alleged abuse at Nygard’s hands. Today, more than 125 accusers have come forward in the civil case. “The pattern of behavior followed wherever he went,” Kai notes, “and spanned over five decades.” The victims included 14-year-old girls, so Kai reasoned it shouldn’t be too hard to press criminal charges because children were involved. “That’s when I found out how truly difficult it is, over and over again I was told no criminal charges could be filed because of a jurisdiction loophole. The abuse occurred against USA citizens but outside of the USA jurisdiction, a short flight away to the Bahamas.”
Despite connecting accusers to the FBI and to police in the United States and Canada, Kai found their hands were essentially tied. No one could stop Nygard from fleeing the country. His passport could not be flagged without an arrest warrant, even though he posed a significant flight risk. “It kept me up at night, wondering what he would do for the rest of his life if allowed to flee to a jurisdiction outside of the reach of the USA.,” Kai recalls.
Behind the scenes within the company, Kai secretly worked to delay the liquidation of $100 million in company assets, engaging in business tactics to keep Nygard from moving money offshore. In the summer of 2020, Kai helped his brothers file a lawsuit against Nygard when Kai discovered that they were also survivors who had been abused at the direction of Nygard, through sex workers, when they were minors. When it appeared Nygard would flee the country, Kai went public, calling his father out as a flight risk, and he began participating in documentaries and podcasts in support of survivors.
Through it all, Kai maintains, “It’s not up to me to determine whether he’s guilty. However, he should have to go through due process and face his accusers in a court-of-law.” Consequently, Kai went to work on getting laws changed, noting the loopholes within the justice system his father exploited. “The greatest enabler of Peter Nygard was the legal loopholes he exploited within the legal system. When we update the laws to expand protections, we create real and lasting changes for the better.”
In 2021 Kai received the “Voice of the Voiceless” Award from ChildUSA, a non-profit organization that focuses on changing laws. Over the past year of working with ChildUSA, Kai has completed a Jurisdiction Reform Bill that would expand protections for US citizens who have a sex crime committed against them on foreign soil. This bill would allow a USA citizen to take a rape kit in any country that a sex crime was committed and bring evidence back to the USA to be used by USA authorities to prosecute crimes committed against their citizens.
In 2022 Kai received the “Champion for Social Justice and Human Rights Award” from the Social Justice Institute, at the University of Toledo. Kai uses his background of public speaking to raise awareness and promote solutions for some of the many challenges. He is also passionate about facilitating the fast-tracking of solutions for PTSD treatments and blockchain backed technology breakthroughs that aid as tools for survivors to seek justice, prevent crimes and heal from traumas.