VA--Survivors call on church and school officials to end all forms of sexual misconduct

VA--Survivors call on church and school officials to end all forms of sexual misconduct

For immediate release, January 11, 2016

Statement by Barbra Graber, 540-214-8874, Email: Mennonite@SNAPnetwork.org

Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA has reported that its Vice President for Enrollment, Luke Hartman, was among those charged by the Harrisonburg Police Department for solicitation of prostitution. Hartman has since been suspended from his duties.

We do not presume Hartman’s innocence or guilt and have no reason to believe he hurt any EMU students. We hope that is not the case. A distinction should be made between solicitation of prostitution and abuse. A person who does one does not necessarily do the other.

However, research indicates many people engaged in prostitution are victims of sexual abuse. The average age of persons entering prostitution is 12. Sex trafficking is a major problem in the Shenandoah Valley. Research also finds that men who buy sex may have much in common with sexually coercive men.

Thus, Mennonite institutions have a responsibility to respond to charges of soliciting prostitution with sensitivity to its relationship with sexual abuse.

As a concerned group of Mennonite-related survivors and advocates, we urge Eastern Mennonite University and Skyline Middle School officials in Virginia and Hesston College officials in Kansas, where Hartman has worked, as well as Mennonite Church USA officials, where Hartman has been a prominent speaker at youth conventions, to use mailings, newsletters, websites and any other means to reach out publicly to potential victims, witnesses or whistleblowers and invite them to provide any additional information they may have. These officials should actively help police and prosecutors by encouraging anyone in their organizations who may have seen, suspected, or suffered any crimes committed by Hartman to come forward.  

Such public actions by church and school officials make it clear beyond any doubt that they are serious about truly preventing and ending all forms of sexual misconduct by those in their employ. 

To be prudent, our church and educational institutions must become boldly pro-active and transparent, not silent, in cases of suspected sexual crimes and exploitation against innocent young people and vulnerable adults.

*The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (www.SNAPnetwork.org) is the world’s oldest and largest support group for sexual abuse victims 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.  SNAP is open to all religious and nonreligious persons who were sexually violated by anyone inside or outside a faith community. The Anabaptist Mennonite Chapter of SNAP was established in early 2015.  A confidential SNAP Survivors Support Group meets the first Thursday of every month in Harrisonburg, VA.  Call or text 540-214-8874 for more information.

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