Many of Into Account’s followers, particularly those in Anabaptist communities, are aware of the controversy surrounding Dr. Jeanette Harder’s work on child sexual abuse in Amish and Plain Mennonite communities, particularly as it pertains to the book For the Sake of a Child, which Dr. Harder co-wrote with Old Order Mennonite business leader Allen Hoover and published in 2019. According to an August 2021 story in Anabaptist World, Dove’s Nest helped distribute this book to over 46,000 Amish and Plain homes.
The book itself is that most dangerous combination of good, solid, best practice-based advice, and deeply harmful recommendations, including a Recommended Resources section that lists the Amish-authored “Sacred Subjects” series, which normalizes incest and child rape and suggests that young girls can prevent sexual assault by dressing modestly. The resource list also recommends a number of Plain-run facilities that operate completely outside of regulatory frameworks and have been credibly accused of numerous abuses. The book caused widespread dismay and justifiable frustration among Plain survivor advocates, some of whom have fought for many years to discredit the victim-blaming resources that it promotes.
Dove’s Nest accepted some responsibility for their role in promoting the book in a May 11, 2022 statement, which they published on their website and then removed within several weeks of its publication. After learning the reasons for the removal, detailed in the whistleblower statement below, Into Account agreed to temporarily preserve the statement on our own website, with the understanding that Dove’s Nest’s staff and board were targets of abusive and possibly illegal retaliation.
Months passed. To the extent that we have been able to communicate with the Dove’s Nest board, Into Account has urged them to be transparent about the reasons for the statement’s removal. Increasingly, we feel that keeping the secret about Dr. Harder’s apparent misconduct compromises our own integrity as a survivor advocacy organization that remains accountable to the Plain survivors who asked for our help with this situation in the first place, and who have been personally affected by Dove’s Nest as an organization. We recently alerted Dove’s Nest that we no longer feel their statement has integrity, and cannot continue to host it without some public explanation for why we are doing so.
While the board as a whole has denied our request for transparency, one whistleblower within the board has made a statement that they wish us to share publicly. I hope that at the very least, this explanation brings some clarity to our Amish and Plain clients, colleagues, and friends.
Stephanie Krehbiel, Executive Director
Dove’s Nest Board Whistleblower Statement
Soon after learning that our Executive Director was stepping down and in the midst of an organizational overhaul, on March 12, 2022, several Amish and Plain Mennonite survivors presented three members of the Dove’s Nest board with testimony about the negative impact of Dr. Jeanette Harder’s work within Plain communities, as well as the unethical recommendations in her book co-authored by Allen Hoover. The information they presented was compelling and the more research this writer did, the more concerning the information became.
After refusing help from the board, Dr. Harder assured us that she would “take care of it.” We made the mistake of believing her. We as a board responded publicly with our May 11 statement, after which Jeanette stepped down from the board.
After her resignation, Dr. Harder and her husband, Stan, began threatening Dove’s Nest in various ways, impeding our new Executive Director’s ability to carry out day-to-day operations. Dove’s Nest’s Google Suite, Paypal, PO Box, and website were still under Dr. Harder or Stan’s name and control. The Harders refused to give us access to any of these things until we removed the May 11 statement. In a June 20 email Stan Harder informed us that “If anything… is shared outside of the Dove’s Nest board or if it is published or commented on publicly by anyone, either inside or outside of the Dove’s Nest organization, the current Dove’s Nest website will be immediately removed from the internet for ethical violations.”
Under threat of losing our website entirely, we removed the May 11 Statement from our website in late June. However, the Harders did not return our access to the website until one of our board members shared the Harders’ threatening emails with Goshen College president Dr. Rebecca Stoltzfus in September. Shortly after this, Dr. Harder gave us access to our accounts–specifically the website–and attempted to pretend that her previous behavior had been an oversight. Countless staff hours were spent creating work-arounds to regain access for our other accounts.
At this time, we also recognized that Dove’s Nest as an independent nonprofit was no longer viable. In our grief, the majority of the board asserted that our Fall meetings must be spent addressing Dove’s Nest’s closure, in order to “move forward” and close well, rather than focus on our past with Dr. Harder. There was disagreement among board members about what to share publicly, when, and how. This was done out of a desire to not enter into a neverending back and forth battle with Dr. Harder.
I am sharing this information as an individual board member because I believe Dove’s Nest has a fiduciary duty to inform our donors that multiple aspects of our day-to-day operations were held hostage by the Harders for nearly five months. I also believe we have an obligation to be honest with Amish and Plain survivors about the reasons for our statement, and for its removal.