From: Marissa Buck Sent: Friday, June 24, 2016 8:43 PM
To: Ervin Stutzman; Anna Groff; Carlos Romero
Cc: Regina Shands Stolzfus ; Ross Erb ; Nancy Kauffmann; David B Miller; Jennifer Castro; Barbra Graber
Ervin Stutzman and others to whom it may concern,
I am writing to tell you that I am uncomfortable with the current process, as I understand it, that is in place for choosing an investigative organization to work with LMC, EMU, and VMC on the “Luke Hartman case.” Although Anna Groff from the Panel is involved, I find it alarming that the institutions that will be investigated are helping choose who will investigate them. This is a huge conflict of interest. Honestly, I believe it is a conflict of interest for you, Ervin, and for Carlos Romero to be involved in selecting the investigating agency as well. You have/had strong connections to Luke, and if not to him, you do to the leaders of Lindale, EMU, and VMC who will be under scrutiny. Anna is the only person in your group without a conflict of interest which puts her in a difficult position should she have concerns about how or why decisions are being made.
After Lauren and I spoke out about the mishandling of abuse by LMC and EMU, no one – not ONE leader from LMC, EMU, VMC, or MCUSA – reached out to us to show concern, apologize, or tell us how they would deal with the information we shared. We heard nothing, we saw no action taken, and recieved no communication – we still haven’t. Then we find out that the entities who we “called-out” got together, backed up by MCUSA and MEA leadership, and made a plan. How am I supposed to trust you? Do you think that you have supported Lauren and made a safe space for her? You have not. On top of your silence, the tone of your press release on June 14th made me feel like you want us to be interrogated; “The agreement with the investigating organization will include the request to seek interviews with Luke Hartman, Lauren Shifflett, and the Benner family.” I don’t believe that was your intention, but reading that sentence hurt. It put MCUSA and the three entities on one side, and Luke, Lauren and my family on the other. My family and I are not on trial here.
I am frustrated that Lauren has not been involved in this process. She should have been present at the meetings where you have been discussing her abuse and how to proceed – she was the one who is suffering because of Luke’s abuse and because of how it is being handled. Lauren’s opinion should matter. She has no idea what you are talking about or deciding behind the scenes. If you are serious about making a safe place for survivors of abuse in the Mennonite Church, you need to understand that your silence, lack of action and communication will never accomplish that. You are failing Lauren.
I was alarmed again when I heard that you will not publicly share which organizations you are considering along with G.R.A.C.E. What is your reason? If you truly want to be transparent this information should be public and the fact that it is not makes me very suspicious of your motives. Whatever your reasons, Lauren should have access to this information – she was the victim here and not giving her this information and a voice in your decision (if she wants it) is blatantly not considering her in this process.
To the Panel for Prevention of Sexual Abuse, thank you. Thank you for your statement asking for an investigation. You have built up my trust by communicating, apologizing, and listening. I hope that you see why I am concerned about the process currently in place to choose an investigative organization and understand the danger of the conflict of interest. I support your original recommendation of G.R.A.C.E. – I have read about them and trust that they would be thorough and effective in education and preventing this kind of abuse from happening again. I would prefer that you as a panel, along with Lauren’s input, choose the organization. At the very least, Lauren, an advocate of her choice, and the entire panel should be involved in future discussions with LMC, EMU, and VMC.
Please know that I am not looking for apologies or caring words now – it would be hard for me to believe their sincerity at this point. Ervin, I want you to back up your words with actions. Hire G.R.A.C.E. Hold the Mennonite Church community accountable. Prevent abuse and when it does happen, stand with the victim. Contact Lauren through Barbra Graber and involve her in any future actions/decisions.