An invitation in light of the events surrounding Luke Hartman
February 2, 2016
Anna Groff is executive director of Dove’s Nest and chair of the Sexual Abuse Panel appointed by Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Education Agency.
Ervin Stutzman is executive director of Mennonite Church USA.
Mennonite Church USA Executive Board, Mennonite Education Agency and the Sexual Abuse Prevention Panel are extending a broad invitation to any individuals interested in confidentially disclosing if they have been approached or abused by Luke Hartman, formerly of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Mennonite Church USA has named Linda Gehman Peachey, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Regina Shands Stoltzfus, Goshen, Indiana, as the individuals to receive any complaints regarding Hartman’s behavior.
Hartman was the former vice president for enrollment at EMU. He also served as a professor in the EMU teacher education program and an instructor in the master of education program for the past 12 years.
With great sadness, we received the news that Hartman resigned from EMU on Jan. 12 as a result of a Jan. 8 misdemeanor charge of solicitation of prostitution by Harrisonburg Police Department. We pray for God’s grace upon Hartman, his family, friends, and the EMU community. At the same time, we feel called to extend an invitation to persons who may have been hurt by Hartman’s actions.
To be clear, this invitation does not presume Hartman’s innocence or guilt regarding the charge of solicitation of prostitution before him. Neither are we accusing Hartman of abuse. We do not have any knowledge that he hurt any individuals connected to his work at EMU or elsewhere.
Yet we believe it is important to offer this invitation as we seek to actively respond and proactively prevent sexual abuse, as we follow the Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse passed by the delegates at Kansas City 2015 that encourages the church to make it safer for victims to come forward with stories of abuse.
We aim to acknowledge and learn more about the reality of sexual abuse in our homes, churches and institutions. Without accusing Hartman of any wrongdoing, we want to give any potential victims space to tell their story. And we seek to respond justly and appropriately to any complaints brought to us.
According to a statement from SNAP Menno, “A distinction should be made between solicitation of prostitution and abuse. A person who does one does not necessarily do the other. However, research indicates many people engaged in prostitution are victims of sexual abuse… Sex trafficking is a major problem in the Shenandoah Valley [of Virginia.] Research also finds that men who buy sex may have much in common with sexually coercive men. Thus, Mennonite institutions have a responsibility to respond to charges of soliciting prostitution with sensitivity to its relationship with sexual abuse.”
Individuals may contact Linda Gehman Peachey or Regina Shands Stoltzfus via email or at the following addresses and phone numbers:
Linda Gehman Peachey
617 S. Lime St.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 17602
Regina Shands Stoltzfus
c/o Goshen College
1700 S. Main
Goshen, Indiana, 46526
Once again, all information from and about potential victims will remain confidential, unless the victim indicates otherwise. The Sexual Abuse Panel is currently working to define a process of response should victims come forward. Please pray for us and our work.