VA--Mennonite Panel recommends investigation
For immediate release: Monday, May 16,2016
Statement by Barbra Graber, SNAP Leader, 540-214-8874, Mennonite@snapnetwork.org
We applaud the recommendation of a Mennonite church panel charged with prevention of sexual abuse to bring in outside investigators to look into the case of an ex-Mennonite university vice president accused of sexual abuse, stalking, threats of violence, and verbal abuses.
No institution can police itself. Though it takes courage to do so, those with information or suspicions of sexual violence or cover-ups in churches and universities must call the unbiased, independent, experienced civil and legal authorities. If or after this is done, it may be appropriate for other investigations to start, but only if they are conducted by truly independent parties.
For now, though, we urge current and former students and staff at Eastern Mennonite University, congregants at Lindale Mennonite Church, and members of VA Mennonite Conference who may know or suspect misdeeds by Luke Hartman or other credibly accused offenders to come forward. We advise seeking out independent advocacy through a local crisis center, a specially trained therapist, or a survivor network like SNAP. Together with an advocate, we urge victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to contact law enforcement authorities, prosecutors, or a civil attorney with anything they may know or suspect concerning offenders and those who protect and conceal their misdeeds.
This is how our church institutions will become safer, the vulnerable will be protected, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover-ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is the world’s oldest and largest support group for survivors of sexual abuse and their loved ones. SNAP was founded by victims of Catholic priests in 1988 and now has more than 21,000 members in 79 countries. Even though “Priests” is in its title, SNAP is open to religious and nonreligious persons who were sexually violated by anyone inside or outside a faith community. The Anabaptist Mennonite Chapter of SNAP established the Mennonite Abuse Prevention List of credibly accused church workers in April of 2016.)