SERIES INTRODUCTION: Survivor advocate Lisa Schirch’s voice provides Part 3 in this series of posts by those who want the opportunity to respond to the findings released in November by Eastern Mennonite University’s (EMU) hired compliance firm D. Stafford and Associates (DSA). Read Part 1 by Stephanie Krehbiel here and Part 2 by Lisa Schirch here.
Today Dr. Schirch provides her analysis of the wider context for the DSA report by looking at Mennonite institutional patterns and the Pandora’s box of secrets the church continues to keep under tight control.
If you are new to this story here’s some background: In August of 2016 EMU hired DSA in order to, among other things, look into matters brought to light on this website in April of 2016 by two remarkable sisters: Lauren (Benner) Shifflett and Marissa (Benner) Buck. They wrote in detail about the hidden abuses of a former EMU vice president and how the church officials, to whom those abuses were eventually reported, failed to act in the interests of the public safety or in a way that made it safer for additional victims to come forward. Lauren and Marissa also wrote about why they chose to decline participation in EMU’s DSA inquiry. You can find those articles here and here.
If you are burning with an untold story of your own to tell, please contact us. If you have seen, suspected or suffered sexual misdeeds, no matter how long ago the offense occurred–speak up. Protect children by calling child protective services, civil authorities, or a local crisis center. Start healing by calling a therapist or body worker with special training in sexual violence or join a survivor support group near you. Expose wrongdoers by contacting law enforcement, journalists, civil attorneys, or the Mennonite Abuse Prevention List. This is how your corner of the world will become safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover-ups will be deterred, and the truth will surface.
Thank you for your strong and public advocacy, Lisa.
Part 3: Opening Pandora’s Box
–how EMU’s DSA report carries on institutional patterns
On a warm May morning in 2016, the President of Eastern Mennonite University stood before the faculty and staff in the sunny Martin Chapel to explain how he had been deceived by the university’s vice president, who had been charged with soliciting prostitution by the local police in January and reported for stalking and threatening a young woman much earlier in August of 2014. A prominent faculty leader stood up in response, applauding EMU’s efforts to break with the past and handle this situation responsibly. From the back of the room, my heart sank.
In the 1980s and 1990s, I watched the Mennonite Church suppress stories about the secret files and secret accountability processes it had used to address its star theologian, John Howard Yoder. More than one hundred female students and colleagues had reported sexual violations by Yoder. I watched as prominent Mennonites denounced the victims who spoke out, and made efforts to silence advocates who spoke truth about the Mennonite church’s wider problem with sexual violence. I watched Mennonite theologians explain away Yoder’s sexual violence as “affairs between equals” rather than manipulative and coercive sexual violence that had far more to do with power and control than it did with love and mutuality.
From my seat in the back of EMU’s chapel, I knew that the story at EMU had more similarities than differences with the Mennonite thicket of secrets, abuses of power, cover ups, and victim blaming.
I am turning to social media to share my concerns only after too many hours of unpaid time attempting to inform and influence Mennonite institutions to do the right thing. My last article, Part 2 in this OSU series, addressed the “9 Remaining Questions on EMU’s DSA Report.” This article, Part 3 in the series, sets the wider context, illustrating how this particular case at EMU demonstrates the disturbing common themes in Mennonite institutional patterns of sexual violence.
A fog of silence and secrets surrounds the stories of sexual abuse in the Mennonite Church by pastors, professors, Sunday school teachers, Christian therapists, youth group leaders, the sons of church officials, choir directors, sports team coaches and captains, and in the homes of too many Mennonite families. For over thirty years, I have listened to dozens of stories of sexual abuse in the Mennonite Church. I have witnessed the impact of sexual abuse over decades of their lives. Many have had lasting trauma from abuse, have been unable to fulfill their dreams, relive memories of humiliation, face challenges in intimacy and trust, have left the church, and refuse to donate to church institutions. And for thirty years I have seen the women and men who speak out against sexual abuse be vilified and hated by their Mennonite communities.
Mennonites have pride in our many accomplishments and unique communities. We are known for our pacifist theology, and our practical work for peace. But that pride prevents the necessary self-reflection and critical thinking. Mennonite pride gets in the way of addressing the sexual violence that plagues our communities.
I have met with victims and heard their stories of being harmed first by an offender, second by institutional leaders who gently recommend they stay quiet, and third by Mennonite community members who shun them for speaking out.
Jesus taught that “whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” This should also apply to victims of sexual violence. Yet while progressive Mennonites speak out for victims of war, racism, and many support LGBTQ inclusion in churches, when it comes to sexual violence in the church, few are willing to speak out on behalf of victims. Few publicly challenge church leaders to change their policies and procedures that protect offenders.
I have attended Mennonite churches, schools, and camps and worked for Mennonite institutions my entire life. My conscience and sense of ethics are a product of Mennonite institutions. Mennonites generally support my peace activism with the US military and my peacebuilding work in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet some Mennonites oppose me when I apply these same ethics or peacebuilding processes to our own Mennonite institutions.
I have a bookshelf full of research on sexual violence. I teach courses on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) Eastern Mennonite University. I have published multiple articles on sexual abuse and sexual integrity for the Mennonite press (Click here, here, and here). I have provided training on responding to sexual violence at the United Nations, the Pentagon, and to the Swedish government. How can I have integrity teaching the US military about sexual violence while not doing everything I can to respond to sexual violence in Mennonite institutions? How can I keep silent while victims of sexual violence in Mennonite institutions continue to suffer? Why do Mennonites ask for my blind loyalty and trust in our leaders when I know leaders are actively resisting the most effective changes needed to make Mennonite institutions safe?
Mennonite Accounts of Sexual Violence
Is sexual violence really a problem in Mennonite institutions? Yes. Mennonite researcher Conrad Kanagy’s 2006 Church Member Profile found 20% of female Mennonite Church USA church members and 5.6% of Mennonite males reported the experience of sexual violence in their lifetimes. And as discussed later in this article, most victims never report and most likely these numbers of victims are much higher. For a church that professes pacifism and prides itself on its peace witness, that level of violence within the church is significant.
Sexual violence seems like such a harsh term, can’t we call it something else? No. The harm from sexual violence includes far more than violent rape. The Center for Disease Control defines sexual violence as an umbrella term of harms including the following
- “verbal sexual harassment (e.g., making sexual comments),”
- “unwanted sexual contact… including touching,”
- Abuses of power “through intimidation or misuse of authority,” and “feeling pressured by being lied to, or being told promises that were untrue; having someone threaten to end a relationship or spread rumors; and sexual pressure by use of influence or authority.”
- “Alcohol or drug-facilitated sexual contact”
- Forcible sexual contact including “pinning the victim’s arms… using one’s body weight… using a weapon, or … threatening a victim with physical harm.”
Sexual violence may include physical force. But the term also refers to other situations where people may be harmed by non-physical actions, coercion or threats. It is common in the field of peacebuilding to acknowledge non-physical forms of violence. We commonly speak of structural violence and cultural violence. In the same way, sexual violence is a term that indicates a broad range of types of harm. An act of sexual violence may last only a few seconds. But it can have a lasting impact on those who feel humiliated, coerced, and manipulated. This is why some refer to sexual violence as “soul murder.”
Sexual harassment from men in Mennonite communities is so commonplace for me and other Mennonite women that it seems to be as natural as the air we breathe. It is hard to quantify the energy it takes to fend it off, or the time it takes to process with our friends what happened to us. Just in the last year, several older Mennonite men asked me for prolonged hugs, left their hands on my knees, lower back and head for too long or seemed to feel they have my permission to make sexual advances, even though I’m married. One older married Mennonite man insisted on giving me a backrub in my private conference dorm room “to help me relax.” I had to say “no” three times, the third time at the door of my room.
I’ve been taught to be nice, so I didn’t get angry at him. But this interaction kept me awake at night for months wondering why I felt so afraid of hurting his feelings. Instead of expressing anger at his rude, inappropriate suggestion, I politely declined when he told me that he “massages his wife’s buttucks” every night and that he would be happy to do the same for me. Mennonites work especially hard to train girls to smile and be nice and always cooperative. This cultural training makes me and other women afraid of hurting men’s feelings when they harass us. This cultural training is a significant problem for Mennonites trying to stop sexual violence.
If I cannot assert myself as a 49 year old woman with thirty years of activism, how are much younger Mennonite girls and boys able to respond to harassment and grooming from older men?
While working as an advocate on sexual violence for the last three decades within Mennonite communities in Waterloo, Ontario; Goshen, Indiana; and Harrisonburg, Virginia; I have sat and listened to the stories of many survivors. Consider some of these accounts reported to me or my colleagues indicating a range of sexual harassment, coercion, and rape happening at Mennonite institutions.
- A Mennonite professor flirts with his female students, joking with them about sex, and praising them intellectually. He abruptly stops when his wife enters the room, indicating the true intention of the interaction.
- The son of a Mennonite school administrator pushes his college dates to be “cool” by getting drunk and having casual sex, even when the girls do not want to get drunk or to have sex. The girls share these troubling experiences with others. By legal definitions, these girls have been raped.
- One young woman writes of her rape at Eastern Mennonite University in a blog, We Can Do Better: how my report of rape at a Christian school made things worse, and speaks of her experience in a spoken word video of all the unhelpful responses she got from EMU when she reported rape and how the man who raped her was hired by EMU when he graduated.
- A male coach for a Mennonite school’s sports team suddenly grabs and twists a female player’s hand behind her back, pins her against a wall, and grinds his groin into her backside. She is in her first semester of college and 17 years old. He is a married man with a family.
- On a Mennonite school’s sports team, team captains and other upperclassmen sexually assault younger players as a hazing ritual. The hazing happens with their coach’s consent, though he may not have been aware of the sexual nature of the hazing. One team member complains. The school makes some efforts to support this person’s healing. But the university never asks other team players if they too were assaulted. And the school never publicly names, reports to law enforcement, or sanctions the team captains.
- A Mennonite pastor asks his female congregant to have sex with him. When he is caught, he convinces others that the sex was the congregant’s idea, and that this younger woman coerced him, the pastor, to have sex with her. This Mennonite pastor now trains other Mennonite pastors and teaches about integrity, yet does not publically confess to his own abuse of power. His Mennonite institution keeps this a secret, believing the public would demand his resignation if they knew and he ‘does too much good’ to be removed from ministry.
In each of these reports, the victim may be treated with respect to his or her face, but the offender(s) ultimately receives protection. A secret accountability process is put in place, but the larger community is rarely informed of the true extent of what happened. The institution does not put out any sort of bulletin naming the reported perpetrator to ask if others were violated in order to discover the full truth. Men and women suffer in silence, knowing that to speak out will bring more pain, not less. The abuse is often referred to as an “affair” or “sexual misconduct” rather than sexual violence, despite the clear and lasting harm it inflicts.
In the last few months, I have heard many more stories of sexual violence at EMU. Church leaders must know far more stories than the ones I have heard. And they must know more details. Why haven’t they shared their concern for the level of sexual violence in Mennonite institutions publicly? When will more Mennonite leaders stand with survivors?
Four Mennonite Institutional Patterns of Handling Sexual Violence
Like the DSA report and the questions regarding it, these first person accounts illustrate four patterns for how Mennonite institutions tend to respond to and enable sexual violence.
- Mennonite institutions often hold secrets on people who commit and enable sexual violence. Only a small group of Mennonite executives have access to secret files or secret knowledge of sexual violence. Some Mennonite officials refuse to keep any files, a trick Catholic bishops have learned since they have been sued for keeping secret files on abusive priests. These executives have never to my knowledge informed the wider Mennonite community when they hire someone who has been credibly accused of sexual violence.
- Mennonite institutions frequently use secret accountability processes rather than inform the community of the wrongdoing reported to them. If a one time offense is exposed and reported, there is a good chance it will not be repeated. More than one report indicates that there it is likely an addictive or compulsive behavior. Naive attempts to stop perpetrators of sexual abuse through secret accountability processes fail to understand that sexual abuse often indicates an addiction that is difficult to stop. If not publicly exposed or motivated to go into rehab, repeat offenders can and will often continue to perpetrate sexual abuse throughout their lives. Using secret church groups instead of informing the wider Mennonite community as well as reporting to civil authorities, who are trained and equipped to handle it, puts children and adults at serious risk of further violations.
- In many cases, Mennonite institutions quietly and covertly blame and shun those who report sexual violence. Victims and advocates are especially blamed when they identify abuses by a popular, powerful or influential church worker.
- Mennonite institutions usually fail to understand sexual “consent” and to see the power dynamics in sexual violence. Mennonite institutions refer to “sexual misconduct,” “relationships” or “consensual affairs” between older married men in positions of authority and younger, single women and men. Institutional leaders often refuse to recognize the significant power imbalance between a pastor, professor, Sunday school teacher, choir director, camp counselor, or sports team coach or captain and his student, congregant, employee, or younger team member.
Jesus was very clear that whatever secrets you hear in private should be shouted from the mountaintops (Matthew 10:27). So why has secrecy and silence on sexual violence become a church-sanctioned strategy for response?
Why Do Mennonites Blame or Dismiss Victims of Sexual Violence?
Victim blaming is a persistent pattern in Mennonite institutional responses to sexual violence. It makes it easier for the church to avoid taking action to stop sexual violence. In meetings with Mennonite administrators, I have heard leaders say “She needs to take responsibility!” and “Why didn’t she come to us to report?” or “She was drunk!” This victim blaming shows a lack of understanding of the dynamics of power and sexual violence. Victim blaming in the Mennonite church has many dimensions.
First, Mennonites tend to blame victims because they think victims are lying. Mennonite trust in authority means many believe that a famous theologian, popular sports coach, or beloved pastor could never sexually assault women and men. In a patriarchy where men hold most of the power and women defend their power, the community rallies around the call, “The women must be lying.” Myths, distortions and outright lies about child sexual abuse and sexual violence on college campuses are rampant even among the Mennonite administrators I know. The research cited in these two links indicates that 92-99% of those who report sexual violence tell the truth.
Most cases of sexual violence are never reported. Many victims underestimate, minimize, or dismiss what has happened to them. Many victims never speak out because they fear further humiliation from those who may disbelieve them. There are hundreds of reasons why women and men who suffer sexual violence do not speak out. We do not know how many remain silent. But we do know that those who do speak out are too often not believed.
Second, some Mennonites believe that sexual violence really isn’t that bad. The worst armies and terrorist groups in the world routinely use sexual violence because it is deemed the most brutal, humiliating form of violence. Some Mennonite theologians who speak out on state violence question attention to sexual violence. They don’t seem to be aware that the United Nations, governments around the world, and public universities have taken more significant measures to stop sexual violence than church institutions. Pacifists lose their integrity when they dismiss the severity of sexual violence or suggest that sexual harassment or abuses of power are not “violence.”
Third, Mennonites justify sexual violence with a theology of redemptive suffering. When the first of John Howard Yoder’s victims began speaking out, other Mennonite women chastised these women for not “bearing the cross silently, as Jesus did.” Mennonites tend to see suffering as a good thing, with redemptive power, even as a religious experience. Sexual violence, then, is an opportunity to become closer to God. This is simply bad theology that justifies violence. It has no place in pacifist theology.
Fourth, people tend to see victims as somehow responsible for the sexual violence they experience. This ignores the fact that many victims already blame themselves and carry more of the burden of responsibility than they should. It is simply false to say that women and men who experience sexual violence do not reflect on their own choices.
People generally think that if they were in the same situation as the victim, they would make different choices and evade sexual violence. To think otherwise leaves one with a frightening sense of powerlessness. So people tend to focus on what the victim did wrong, rather than look at the troubling reality that a sexual offender exists in their church institution.
Many victims are young, have already been the victim of child sexual abuse, and have been carefully “groomed” by older, more powerful offenders who manipulate and deceive them. Offenders use their power and authority as a lever to gain trust and sexual access to a young people of all genders. Sexual offenders offer love and gifts as “bait.” Then these potential victims who seek out the approval and attention of the offender, often a respected and charismatic Christian man, can be cast as having consented to or invited sex and will believe the misplaced accusations that she has “ruined a good man’s life” .
When a Mennonite uses his position of authority to gain emotional intimacy and groom younger women and men by flirting with them and suggesting that they would like to have sex, it is not the young woman or man’s fault for flirting back. Power imbalances negate consent. Many states have laws that indicate this. When a young Mennonite boy encourages Mennonite girls to drink excessive alcohol or drugs, it is impossible for this young woman to give consent. She is not to blame for being raped in this context. The boy who rapes inebriated girls is responsible. This is common knowledge among sexual violence experts.
Yet Mennonite college administrators that I myself have spoken with show a lack of knowledge about legal standards and best practices that are common practice at other public universities. Because of this shocking level of ignorance and because church authorities have betrayed their trust over and over, it is no wonder SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) survivor-advocates discourage victims from reporting to any church insider or authority.
In the past, women who worked outside of the home or who wore pants instead of skirts were accused of inviting sexual violence. It is never justifiable to excuse sexual violence by the behavior, dress, or choices of the victims, as discussed in more depth by Hilary Scarsella in her blog Alcohol is the New Short Skirt. The problem of sexual violence has always been justified by the behavior of victims who talked too much, walked a certain way, or who just looked like they were vulnerable. Just because young female students respond positively to their professors’ sexual advances on them does not mean that these young women are responsible for the sexual harassment and assaults that follow. There is no justification for sexual violence. Anyone who engages in sexualized behavior or actions without the explicit consent of the recipient is committing sexual violence. Sexual violence forever alters one’s life. The sexual offender is therefore always the one responsible for hurting others.
Fifth, Mennonites blame victims because they do not understand that repeat offenders have an addiction and a sickness that can best be managed by public accountability and exposure. People who commit sexual offenses are often well-loved community members. Because people expect that sexual offenders will be monsters that can be clearly recognized, they disbelieve that Mennonite youth pastors, sports coaches, and beloved professors can commit sexual violence. Dr. Anna Salter documents countless stories of offenders describing how they deceived others. For many offenders, the thrill of sexual violence is not the sex. It is the deception and secrecy. The thrill is grooming, deceiving, and coercing a victim, their family, and the wider community. Mennonite lack of understanding of the sickness of sexual offending leads them to put unfair blame on victims.
Sixth, the Mennonite theology of love of enemies makes it easy for Mennonites to quickly forgive offenders. This cheap forgiveness is no gift to an offender or their family, as it does not stop the offender’s behavior. Forgiveness without public accountability is dangerous; it makes institutions responsible for the harm these offenders may do to other vulnerable people. The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) states that there is no definitive “cure” for many of those who commit sexual abuse. Rather, it takes lifelong management strategies to prevent those who feel tempted to commit sexual abuse.
Finally, Mennonites want to believe the world is safer than it actually is. People don’t want to see their churches and church institutions as unsafe places. This is understandable. In a world of war and violence, we want to believe that church is safe. But this belief is not backed up by reality. Sexual violence in all religious institutions around the world is prevalent.
Sexual violence takes place in religious contexts precisely because people have their guard down, people submit to the authority of religious leaders, and people come to doubt their own experiences of violation because so much of their worldview is tied to their religious communities.
Mennonites are called to love both victims and offenders. Our peace theology hasn’t caught up with this dilemma of how to keep victims in the center of our peacebuilding when the victims challenge the church’s integrity. In sexualized violence, the church rushes to love the enemy (Luke 6:27). But love for offender means holding them accountable so they cannot hurt other people. The passage from Luke 6 certainly must not be an excuse to ignore Jesus’ warning that “Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done to me”(Matthew 25:40). Or Jesus uncharacteristically strong denouncement of those who hurt children (Matthew 18:6). The integrity of Mennonite peacebuilding depends upon our ability to listen to and respect those who have experienced sexual violence.
Opening Pandora’s Box
Sexual violence happening in Mennonite institutions is a Pandora’s box of secrets. In her research listening to and documenting the strategies used by sexual offenders, Dr. Anna Salter concludes, “secrecy is the lifeblood of sexual aggression.” Those who commit sexual violence groom their victims and their communities, convincing them of their goodness while keeping the secret of the inner sickness to control, humiliate, and hurt others. Church leaders enable more sexual violence when they attempt to keep the lid closed on Pandora’s box of stories of sexual violence.
There are real costs to Mennonite institutions keeping the lid closed and protecting these secrets.
First, there are real men and women in Mennonite institutions suffering right now because their experiences of sexual violence in Mennonite institutions have been ignored or denied. Some of these survivors want Mennonite institutions to listen to and acknowledge what happened to them last week, last year, or twenty or more years ago. Harms from sexual violence may last a lifetime, especially if there is no public acknowledgement, accountability, and support for healing. Survivors from the past and present want acknowledgement of the mistakes institutions made in responding to them, including failing to inform others of harms and putting more people at risk.
Second, right now, there are admitted sexual offenders working within Mennonite institutions without public knowledge of their past. We have no way of knowing the risk these people pose to others around them. We do know that most repeat sexual offenders continue to offend, especially if they are not surrounded with an informed community that is aware of these risks and helps them manage.
Third, many people leave the church and its institutions because of traumatic experiences with sexual violence. Church institutions are already suffering from this loss of membership. We have no way of knowing how many donations of both money and talents are withheld because of institutional denial of sexual violence. We have no way of counting how many students don’t attend Mennonite schools because of knowledge of sexual violence happening on campus.
Finally, secrets have a way of exploding out the bottom of the box if no one opens them carefully from the top. Mennonite Church institutions have been taping and sealing the Pandora’s box of secrets of some of the most charismatic and brilliant pastors, teachers, choir directors and coaches for decades and generations. They put Mennonite institutions at legal risk for enabling sexual violence in these institutions.
Inevitably, secrets get out. Survivors find support. The box of secrets falls apart. If Mennonite institutions will not take responsibility, apologize to victims and hold offenders accountable, they will face lawsuits like all the other churches and institutions who have attempted to keep their own Pandora’s box closed. In a world where the internet has given protestors on the streets of Cairo the power to name abuses of state power, so too can Mennonite survivors and their advocates use the internet to tell their experiences of sexual violence and the institutional efforts employed to keep these secrets locked up in the church’s Pandora’s box.
Research on apologies in medical institutions finds that the risk of lawsuits decreases when doctors apologize. The same is also true with sexual abuse in the church. Although apologies and recognition of what happened to them is only a first step toward accountability and justice, if the church refuses to take responsibility and apologize, they can expect that victims will turn to lawyers. Too many church institutions fear that apologies will lead to lawsuits. When churches can let go of their fears of lawsuits and act from their theology and ethics, reconciliation is possible. In Vienna, Virginia, a Presbyterian church took responsibility for its youth pastor sexual abusing over a dozen young women. “We failed as leaders to extend the compassion and mercy that you needed… Some of you felt uncared for, neglected and even blamed for this abuse. I am sorry. The church is sorry.”
MCUSA and EMU have taken some positive steps to address the problem of sexual violence. MCUSA formed a Panel on Sexual Abuse. MCUSA allowed an investigation into AMBS and Mennonite Church decision-making related to John Howard Yoder. EMU’s counseling center facilitated an on-campus task force that developed policy and procedural recommendations and best practices for preventing and responding to sexual violence. EMU hosted Catholic sexual abuse and victim advocate Father Tom Doyle and hosted a half-day workshop for faculty, staff, and administrators to learn more about sexual violence. After persistent outreach from victims and victim advocates to EMU, EMU has opened some small windows of communication. Yet there continue to be persistent problems and concerns with Mennonite institutions policies and procedures related to sexual violence.
- Mennonite institutions continue the practice of keeping secret their knowledge of employees and students with a history of reports of sexual violence. We must be open and transparent in naming when abuses of sexualized violence happen and identify those responsible for and those who enable sexual violence. Survivors have asked EMU to survey its past and current students and employees to identify how EMU can make amends to those who have experienced sexual violence at EMU. At this writing they have not responded positively.
- Mennonite institutions continue the practice of attempting to handle sexual violence through untrained “private accountability” processes. They should stop using secret processes, as they are ineffective to address the addictive and complex motivations and deception of most offenders. Instead, Mennonite institutions should help victims seek the advice of law enforcement, civil attorneys, local sexual assault centers and established independent survivor networks like SNAP in creating the public awareness necessary to prevent further harm to people.
- Mennonite institutions and communities continue to blame victims and their advocates. Institutions should offer apologies, take responsibility for institutional mistakes, and be willing to learn from the experiences and knowledge of sexual violence experts. Communities should learn to listen to and respect the voices of victims. We need a truth and reconciliation process for victims of sexual violence in church institutions, including at EMU.
- Mennonite institutions continue to show by their actions and public statements that they do not know how to distinguish between consensual affairs and sexual violence. Sexual affairs occur between two people of roughly equal power and capacity. Sexual violence includes acts of grooming, coercion, manipulation, and control by one person who holds a position of power over another, often including a significant age difference.
Over the last year, I have met privately with EMU officials and staff to urge them to do the right thing. I have listened patiently. I have submitted proposals detailing how they could better protect both students and their institutional interests. Here are links to two longer and more detailed sets of proposals:
- Mennonite Institutional Policies and Procedures on Sexual Violence
- Peacebuilding and Restorative Justice Approaches to Crisis: An EMU Guide
I cannot be silent about the sexual violence happening within Mennonite institutions. The church that nurtured my sense of ethics and skills in peacebuilding needs to change. This is why I am turning to Our Stories Untold to share my concerns only after hundreds of hours of unpaid time attempting to inform and influence Mennonite institutions to do the right thing.
Dr. Lisa Schirch attends Shalom Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and is a member of the Anabaptist-Mennonite Chapter of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests). She has written several books and chapters on sexual violence and has provided training on the topic for the United Nations, the Swedish government and as a Fulbright scholar in East and West Africa. firstname.lastname@example.org