Help us put the fire out.
On October 19, on the steps of the Eisenhower Office Building in Topeka, Kansas, I said the following:
I’ve been in the profession of victim advocacy since 2016, and I consider myself an ally of the mental health professions. Most of my clients, concurrent to working with my colleagues and me, are also seeing mental health professionals. While I have seen abuses of power and mental health stigmatization in my own, largely unregulated profession, until Mike Peters [licensed clinical social worker in the state of Kansas], I had never encountered a mental health professional hiding behind his own credentials in order to stalk, emotionally abuse, and publicly humiliate a survivor in this fashion. As a victim advocate, in order to do my job effectively, I need mental health professionals to do their jobs as well, and to hold one another to the highest ethical standards.
I stood with Kimberly Hunter, the Kansas City survivor whose story is detailed in Into Account’s Fire at Rainbow Mennonite Church: A Study in Organizational Trauma. Alongside us were friends, supporters, and current and former members of Rainbow Mennonite Church. Our attention was on the Kansas Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board, and on a social worker by the name of Mike Peters.
Kimberly’s speech begins at 5:25 in the video of our press conference. You can read the text of her powerful remarks below.
One thing that isn’t evident in the video is the visceral shock on the faces of Kimberly’s supporters when we played the 911 call in which Peters used a manufactured arson threat as a pretense to draw the KCK police to Kimberly’s home. For those who have the stomach for it, we invite you to listen, either in the video or through the link provided in the text. I find it nearly unbearable to listen to myself.
It sounds like what it is: a social worker with too much power misusing a weapon of the state to terrorize a traumatized young woman in his congregation, because he can.
Stephanie Krehbiel, Executive Director
Press Conference Remarks by Kimberly Hunter
when they hear your story.
this is how
That poem by nayyirah waheed has been a guiding light for me over the past two years.
The people here with me today are the ones who expanded rather than contracted.
Some people here today, like my friend Terry Rouse, have been walking this journey with me since before Mike Peters made that 911 call back in 2019.
Others here today are showing up for the first time because they heard part of my story, and they know about institutional abuse. They know what happens when an official authority figure, representing a beloved institution, wields the public trust like a weapon of power over vulnerable individuals.
Such power is what Mike Peters wielded over me, as he was representing both the institution of Rainbow Mennonite Church, in his role as deacon, and the social work profession in his role as a “trauma-informed” social worker.
The actions Mike Peters took against me exploded my life as I knew it. In one night, I lost my home, my church, and soon thereafter, my job.
All this less than 3 months after I requested my abusive former boyfriend – who had keys and authority to access my residence – be required to give notice before entering my home for repairs.
It began at 6:17 AM on Tuesday, September 3, 2019, when Mike Peters emailed me requesting a meeting as soon as possible. He did not state the reason, nor did he call me, as my auto-reply instructs people to do if matters are urgent.
So I went to work, like normal. And after work, I went to my weekly therapy appointment with Amber Thomas at the Family Conservancy of Wyandotte County.
But when I walked into my therapist’s office that day, my life began exploding. First she asked me if I was okay. I said yes. Then she said she had received multiple voicemails from a deacon at my church, stating they thought I had Borderline Personality Disorder and were concerned because I had been making threats.
We sat on the floor of her office for the rest of the session, trying to sort out the pieces. But they made no sense. First of all, I had not been making threats; as a Mennonite, I have a deep commitment to nonviolence. Second, earlier that summer, my therapist had written my church deacons a letter, stating she had diagnosed me with Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depression, while I was recovering from an abusive intimate partner relationship – not BPD.
After leaving therapy that day, I sat in the parking lot for an hour, texting and calling friends, to share that things were getting weird, and to seek advice.
One friend said not to worry about it; to go home and revisit the matter in 24 hours, if it still felt important then.
Another friend urged me not to go home at all.
I decided to set up an emergency text group, so I could easily request company if things got worse and I didn’t want to be alone. Then I got groceries and went home.
Things got worse. Less than 5 minutes after I walked in my front door, I heard a knock, and the police were outside. It felt as though someone had been stalking me, watching my house, just waiting for me to come home, so they could make their move.
What you are about to hear is the moment that shattered my sense of reality, and nearly shattered my faith.
This is the 911 call Mike Peters made to the Kansas City, Kansas Police moments after I returned home, after dark, the night of Tuesday, September 9, 2019.
telling the truth you could not face
struck instead of tended.
— put the fire out (unburn)
When I posted that nayyirah waheed poem on my Facebook months after Peters called police to my door, church leaders claimed even that – a poem entitled “unburn” – was an arson threat!
The actions Mike Peters took against me shattered my sense of reality through what became the most disorienting and destructive experience of my life.
The police – who did not seem to believe I was a threat – left without speaking to me that night. The only note about me in their report says, “Ms. Hunter felt afraid.”
Nevertheless, at 1:25 AM that same night, Mike Peters emailed me an eviction and excommunication notice from his professional email account – for a business that touts his psychotherapy experience. He gave me until Friday – less than 3 days – to vacate the church-owned residence where I had lived, worked and paid rent for nearly 3 years. His eviction was an illegal one, but I was too terrified, exhausted, and disoriented to fight it – so I fled as fast as I could.
Peters’s eviction and excommunication email stated he had done his best to “provide Christian love,” implying I was so beyond God’s love that I deserved his punishment.
Peters made me doubt my own sanity and self worth. Because of Mike Peters, today I am intimately acquainted with trauma, gaslighting, institutional betrayal, and DARVO (Deny, Attach, Reverse Victim & Offender) – all terms which I was blissfully unaware of a few years ago.
For years now, I have asked Mike Peters to explain his actions to me, to put the fire out. The source Peters cited for his information about my being a “threat” wrote a statement saying Peters had misrepresented her words. She said the same thing to the police the night of the 911 call. And over a year ago, my therapist wrote a letter stating she had “not found clinical validation to support diagnosing me with borderline personality disorder… [nor] observed any behaviors or heard any thought content indicating that I would be of harm to myself or others.”
But Mike Peters treated those women the same way he treated me – as if they did not matter.
But the people here today – whether they are showing up with me for the 1st or the 100th time – know that I matter, that every person matters.
They also know, as my friend Khadijah Hardaway often says,
“Everyone has power and authority, and power and authority are best used when they are shared.”
And so, we are here, standing together in our power and authority, outside the Kansas Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board office to ask:
Please, help us put the fire out. Restore our sense of trust. If there are no penalties for actions like those Mike Peters took against me, then men like Mike Peters threaten the reputation and public trust of the entire social work profession.
If the Board holds Mike Peters accountable, this would help restore my sense of reality. It would be a form of narrative restitution, where the truth is finally taken into account after years of silence, false narratives, and rumors that still whisper:
Be careful. She’s crazy, dangerous. She lost her mind once. Don’t get too close.
Some people urge me to “let go,” to “move on.” It’s been over two years, and I practice letting go everyday. I am moving on, moving forward – toward truth and justice. Healing is not linear, and justice takes time.
In closing, for any survivor or ally listening, I share with you this poem by my friend Alex Martinez, which they recently published in their new book, “Concealment.”
There are so many of us that continue to hold on
and carry what was done to us
There are so many of us who are silenced
by society and the roles we get to play
There are so many of us who suffering in silence
while functioning perfectly
To you, my dear love, I write this:
You are not broken
You are not empty
You are not guilty
You are not wrong
You are a gift to all of us.
When you heal, we all do.
Take your time!
Thank you for your time.