VA--Support group hears from others hurt by university official

VA--Support group hears from others hurt by university official

PRESS STATEMENT   March 3, 2016, For immediate release

Statement by Barbra Graber, Leader, Anabaptist-Mennonite Chapter of *SNAP, 540-214-8874, mennonite@SNAPnetwork.org

After a Mennonite university official was accused of soliciting prostitution, our group urged anyone who might have seen, suspected or suffered any misdeeds by him to come forward. We have since heard from others who he hurt.

He is Luke Hartman, a former Vice President at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA. In January, he was arrested and he resigned his post. Days later, the Anabaptist-Mennonite Chapter of SNAP responded with a public statement urging anyone with more information to speak up.

We thank The Mennonite and other news outlets for posting our appeal.  We thank those concerned persons who have come forward to us via our confidential email at mennonite@snapnetwork.org and by word of mouth.

Hartman has reportedly harmed vulnerable women in the church before he was caught in a sting operation by Harrisonburg Police Department and Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office. We believe Eastern Mennonite University, Mennonite Church USA, and Virginia Mennonite Conference officials may have withheld information concerning possible criminal behavior of Hartman. The pieces of the puzzle we have received put together a picture of a sexually coercive, exploitative, and abusive church employee whose superiors gave him continued access to vulnerable students, staff and church members.

Today we repeat our invitation. If anyone has seen, suspected, or suffered misconduct at the hands of Luke Hartman or any other Mennonite church official, we urge them to report to local law enforcement professionals, a civil attorney, a therapist or crisis counselor trained in sexual abuse, or an independent survivors’ group like SNAP. All information SNAP receives is confidential.  Due to potential conflicts of interest, we do not recommend reporting to employees or appointees of the Mennonite church or its institutions or agencies.

We urge Mennonite church institutions and agencies to use their financial resources and legal protections under the law to seek out and support victims, witnesses and whistleblowers in reporting to a trained law professional or independent agency what they suspect or know about the sexual misconduct of any Mennonite church worker, ordained or lay.

Neither the accused, the violated, nor the public safety is served by protecting the names of church officials who are at risk for doing sexual harm to others. Those anointed with the power of the Church to lead a faith community must remain above suspicion of any criminal or unethical behavior that could cause harm to those under their care or supervision.

*Even though “Priests” is in its title, SNAP, The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org) is open to persons of faith or no faith who were sexually violated by anyone inside or outside a faith community. SNAP is the world’s oldest and largest support group for sexual abuse survivors and their loved ones. It was founded by victims of Catholic priests in 1988 and now has more than 21,000 members in over 79 countries. See the Oscar winning Best Picture, “Spotlight,” about SNAP’s role in helping to uncover the clergy abuse crisis in Boston.

SNAP CONTACTS: Executive Director, David Clohessy 314 645 5915 home, 314 566 9790 cell, davidgclohessy@gmail.com, Outreach Director, Barbara Dorris 314 503 0003, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org, President, Barbara Blaine 312 399 4747, bblaine@SNAPnetwork.org

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