On July 1, 2016, at 3:40 PM, Marissa Buck wrote:
To Ervin and the Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention,
I appreciate you responding to me quickly and clarifying how the process for choosing an organization is being carried out, though I am sorry to say I am not at all reassured.
I am baffled by the fact that you think choosing members from the boards of VMC, EMU, and LMC means there is no conflict of interest. Gloria Lehman respects Duane very highly and chose to stop communicating with me and Lauren. She and the Elders told the congregation they fully support their pastors and believe they did everything right in this abuse case. If this is not a conflict of interest, I don’t know what is. Anyone who had/has a relationship with Luke, Duane, Loren, Clyde or others associated with these organizations has a conflict of interest. Even the Panel for Prevention of Sexual Abuse has a conflict of interest, as at least one member told us honestly that they respect and have friendships with Duane and Loren. Conflict of interest is why the Panel publicly stated that anyone experiencing abuse should go outside of the Mennonite church and to professionals – because the Mennonite world is extremely interconnected and victims of abuse are ignored or silenced for the sake of maintaining “harmonious” relationships and community.
I am not feeling any more reassured by the fact that P. Marshall Yoder, EMU’s legal counsel, is involved in your decision. I have no confidence that he would choose an organization that might uncover information that would incriminate EMU. His job is to protect EMU, not survivors of sexual abuse. I do not know who the “EMU leaders” were who first heard about Luke’s relationship with an “unnamed female,” but if the EMU board was involved, then Herman Bontrager has a conflict of interest. Was Herman in the room when Luke “confessed”?
I understand that there must be cooperation and buy-in from the three institutions in order to have a successful investigation. However, these institutions should be agreeing to an investigation by the organization the Panel chooses, no questions asked. If they are truly concerned about uncovering abuse and not about protecting themselves, they will agree with the Panel’s recommendation. If they are unwilling to be investigated by GRACE we should be worried about their motives and there should be consequences.
Ervin, I am having a hard time believing that you “want to do what is best…particularly for the sake of victims of sexual abuse anywhere in our church,” when I am telling you that what you are NOT doing what is best for Lauren. Your words do not match your actions. Many people including survivors of abuse are watching this process and can see that you are not involving or informing Lauren and that you are giving decision-making power to people with conflicts of interest. Cutting Lauren out of the decision-making process is not doing what is best for victims. You should be doing everything in your power to protect, support, and include her. It’s clear that you believe you are making the right decisions and that you do not plan to communicate with Lauren through her advocate.
I will decline your invitation to meet in person. You should realize that it is inappropriate for you to offer to meet with us personally when Lauren has continually made it clear that people who want to contact her should do so through her advocate. There is far too much of a power imbalance for us to meet with you without an advocate present. This is basic ethics. At this time, even if you were to agree to have an advocate present, I do not trust you and would prefer to communicate by email.
Ervin, even if your intentions were good, it does not appear that way to those watching you. You are losing people’s trust and failing to show Lauren and other victims that you support them.
Panel, I am extremely uncomfortable and feel that this process lacks integrity and is compromised by conflicts of interest (and for other reasons which I have not covered in this email but would be happy to discuss with you). I ask that you stand firm and demand that GRACE do this investigation. You should expect to be given power in this decision and Ervin’s full support and cooperation. I would love to hear from you as individuals and understand your thought process during this – silence has been Lauren and my family’s worst enemy. Feel free to email me privately.