Over the past six months, Into Account has received numerous reports concerning unethical and abusive treatment of survivors by a nonprofit organization based in Mifflinsburg, Pennsylvania called Never Stand Alone (NSA).
NSA’s mission statement is “To support and stand with victims of sexual abuse crimes in the courtroom,” and they appear to focus their efforts on survivors of abuse perpetrated in conservative Anabaptist communities. The reports made to Into Account include first person accounts from multiple survivors and former NSA volunteers, as well as from several other advocacy organizations that work consistently with Anabaptist and ex-Anabaptist survivors.
Some common themes emerge from the reports we’ve received:
Survivors report intense verbal and psychological abuse from NSA advocates, including yelling, berating, and emotional manipulation.
Survivors report NSA attempts to isolate them from their support system (partners, therapists and other support people they may have).
Survivors report being made to promise that they will not discuss their own cases with anyone outside of NSA.
Survivors describe invasive, sexually explicit questioning from NSA advocates about the details of survivors’ previous sexual abuse.
Survivors who have not disclosed details of their abuse to anyone but their NSA advocates describe being contacted with questions about those details by community members outside of the organization.
Survivors describe unprecedented suicidal ideation resulting from their treatment by NSA advocates.
Survivors describe NSA advocates controlling their interactions with law enforcement and the court system, to the point that they were “not allowed” to contact other professionals, including police, except through their NSA advocates.
Current advocates of these survivors report law enforcement telling them that NSA advocates interfered with cases to the point of rendering evidence useless.
Advocates from multiple organizations (not including Into Account) have reported abusive and/or threatening behavior directed at them from NSA advocates.
Former NSA volunteers have reported deceptive and abusive practices within the organization.
Nearly all of those reporting have shared text messages and/or voice messages with Into Account that corroborate the incidents and abusive patterns that they describe.
If you have experienced harm from NSA advocates, we want you to know that you do not deserve this treatment, regardless of what has been said to you.
Legitimate advocates do not coerce survivors to describe sexually explicit details of their abuse, nor do they push survivors to share their stories with others. Your story belongs to you.
Your advocate should be there to help you, not to shame you, isolate you, make you feel indebted to them, or take away your choices.
Survivors reporting NSA abuse to us have exhibited intense fear of retaliation from people within the organization, particularly Joanna Yoder, the founder. This fear is completely understandable, and we take it very seriously. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about how Into Account protects your identity.
We also want you to know that you are not alone in your experiences, and intimidation tactics can’t bury the truth forever. We are here to help shine a light.
You can report your experiences and/or questions to Into Account through our confidential online report form, and one of our advocates will follow up with you.
You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you prefer to work with an advocate who has more experience with survivors of Amish or other conservative Anabaptist communities, we are happy to help you find someone reputable with those qualifications.
Survivor advocacy is a largely unregulated field. As advocacy professionals, we are only as good as our ability to uphold ethical standards for ourselves and one another, and when we see the mantle of advocacy being misused, we have a moral obligation to address it, for the sake of the survivor communities we serve.
While disagreements over ethical practice are normal among advocates and abuse prevention professionals, NSA’s alleged behavior goes far beyond the norms of ethical practice and well into the realm of outright abuse and even life-endangering harm.
When survivors report a perpetrator to Into Account and ask for accountability, we work with those survivors to find the safest, most ethical way to disrupt that perpetrator’s power, their access to vulnerable populations, and their good regard in relevant communities. Given the volume and consistency of disturbing reports about Never Stand Alone, we believe survivors of that organization deserve a similar approach.
Here is the code of ethics we follow at Into Account, in addition to collective ethics-building among our staff.
Stephanie Krehbiel, PhD, Executive Director