Panel terminates participation in investigation process

From the Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention:

Beginning in June, on behalf of the Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention, Anna Groff (chair) has been working with representatives from the Executive Board staff (EB), Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) and Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) to select an outside organization to investigate institutional responses to allegations of abuse by Luke Hartman, former vice president of enrollment at EMU. To participate in the process, EMU required confidentiality, which limited the information Anna was permitted to share with the panel, but more importantly, with Lauren Shifflett, who brought the complaints against Hartman.

Following conversations with Lauren this week, after listening to her concerns, we as a panel feel the need to stand with her and other victims and survivors. We have decided to terminate our participation in the investigation at EMU and in the selection of investigators for Virginia Mennonite Conference (VMC) and Lindale Mennonite Church (LMC). We cannot affirm the process that resulted in the selection of D. Stafford and Associates (DSA) for EMU, or any process that does not involve Lauren.

We will continue to hope and pray that the investigation will produce learnings that will help Mennonite Church USA and its institutions move forward in their ability to better respond to instances of sexual abuse in ways that support and honor victims. That said, the process undertaken, and in which we participated to this point, has focused too much on the needs of the institutions involved, and too little on the needs of the victim.

Keeping information from Lauren and excluding her from the process has created more mistrust and has betrayed the church’s commitment to victim-centered responses to sexual abuse.

We are sorry for the ways in which we have been complicit in this, and view it as a missed opportunity. Now we are choosing to support Lauren, victims and survivors over this flawed process.

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Representatives from Mennonite Church USA’s EB staff are currently in conversation with LMC and VMC to discuss the implications about what the panel’s decision means for their participation with DSA in the investigation process. Meanwhile, EMU will continue to move forward with DSA in a separate process.

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4 thoughts on “Panel terminates participation in investigation process

  1. I am moved and encouraged by your decision. May the light shine brighter as a result. Praying with hope and thanksgiving!

  2. Thank you panel members for your courage and clarity of purpose to keep the offended at the center of a healing process.
    My heart and fervent prayers continue on behalf of processes that hold in high regard any who have experienced sexual abuse. This is embodied hope.

  3. I affirm and appreciate the panels decision. I am discouraged to see EMU choose an organization that will concern themselves with EMU’s compliance with laws rather than inclusion of victims. I am discouraged that EMU took part in choosing the organization that would investigate them. I am truly encouraged that advocates have been present for victims who have come forward, and that victims have continued to add their voice even when their voices have not been solicited or included. Mennonites are a community. If we value the vulnerable among us, we all grow and become safer. If we don’t, who is safe?

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