Despite a mixed promise by Prairie Bible Institute for appropriate third-party help for abuse survivors who came forward last year, it appears PBI is confused about 3rd party responsibility. The latest confusion comes an announcement of a PBI initiated project The announcement was posted on two PBI alumni Facebook pages last night. One Facebook page, Friends of PBI, which is populated by PBI staff and alumni has been closed to abuse survivors and the other, Prairie Bible College Alumni and Current Students, is an open group for alumni and students. This is the announcement:
Abuse survivors who had been asking for Prairie to hire an independent 3rd party investigative group out of the US (G.R.A.C.E) were not notified by PBI and Jim Crites.
Why not? This failure to communicate has become a sorry habit.
The Survivor Fund Project announcement was not posted at the third-party (Centre Street Church in Calgary) website, twitter feed, or Facebook page, there is no pr from Prairie Bible Institute, nor is this announcement posted at their main website or secondary Facebook pages.
One one hand Prairie Bible Institute is doing exactly what the administration has publicly telegraphed they were going to do since the first day the institution went public about allegations of abuse at the 90-year-old school in Three Hills Alberta. With the first announcement in November, PBI announced that administrators had reported allegations of abuse to the RCMP Three Hills detachment. The RCMP also publicly corrected PBI administration on the use of the term ‘reported’, since PBI merely photocopied Facebook pages from We Were Prairie School kids, the central group of abuse survivors who have been asking for help from PBI for some time. The story that former staff kids and students who were physically, sexually, emotionally, spiritually and mentally abused while in Three Hills was picked up by media globally. PBI made it clear that requests by abuse survivors would not be met. (ie: a clear policy statement and the hiring of G.R.A.C.E.)
Now RCMP have had to communicate again, after the muddled message the Prairie Bible Institute Survivor Fund Project put out last night. Constable Mark McDonald RCMP Calgary General Investigations Section:
To be perfectly clear. The RCMP as an organization along with myself as an investigator have absolutely nothing to do with any attempts by the Prairie Bible Institute, its Alumni or the Centre Street Church to raise funds for victims connected to Prairie Bible Institute. Our message has always been and continues to be that if someone, somewhere has been the victim of a crime or has information relating to a crime whether or not it is directly or indirectly related to the Prairie Bible Institute we want to speak with them, hear their story and investigate the offence to the best of our ability. My personal message to those your represent is exactly the same as it was in my last message to you. I am willing to speak with anyone who has a story to tell. I have not and will not turn anyone who comes forward away.
I would also like to make it perfectly clear that the information we obtain during our investigation has not and will not be shared with other parties involved in this investigation. We are here only to collect information not pass it around.
I hope this clears up the misinterpretation of the information on this post. If you or any of the victim’s you are in contact with have further questions, as always, I am available.
Did Jim Crites and PBI administration intend to convey that any abuse survivor seeking financial assistance would have to go through a three-step process where ‘sharing their stories’ involves among other things, a substantial risk of ongoing abuse by alumni loyal to PBI? Obviously the RCMP weren’t informed they were assumed to be working with the Survivor Fund Project.
Was PBI expecting the RCMP to tell any abuse survivor who has the courage to report that PBI will only disburse funds if the Project criteria are met? That is how the announcement reads whether that was the intent of Jim Crites and PBI or not.
This muddled and incomplete announcement begs the question about the second group named; Centre Street Church and team leader Dr. Mollering. Were church staff consulted about the process abuse survivors are being requested to go through in this Survivor Fund Project? I honestly don’t think any professional would or could ethically condone the conditions Crites and PBI demand. I think last nights announcement publicly shows a lack of respect for the chosen 3rd party by PBI.
We don’t know who was consulted for this project (abuse survivors, mental health professionals, the church, etc) Dr. Miriam Mollering is away the next ten days, just as she was when PBI President Mark Maxwell made the announcement Centre Street Church was chosen as ‘an independent third-party’. The third party announcement was sent out by newsletter to PBI alumni just prior to Christmas. President Mark Maxwell:
2) Independent Third Party: We have been in contact with Centre Street Church in Calgary, a prominent Canadian church with professional counselors on staff. This church is not conflicted by virtue of any relationship with Prairie. Centre Street offers a safe and secure place for injured people to be heard and given professional advice on steps to move forward, including directing individuals to the appropriate authorities, referring them for additional counselling or bringing them to the appropriate parties at Prairie. The contact person at the church is Dr. Miriam Mollering.
The ongoing request by abuse survivors for an investigation is not going to happen.
Centre Street Church is not equipped to make recommendations on policy, nor will they. The Church as a governing body which entered into a contract with PBI has been stone cold silent, and it is astonishing that a church which claims to have professional counselors on site would permit PBI to make this or any other announcement on their behalf with no transparency and high demands toward those who have been harmed. Centre Street Church has been unwilling to be publicly clear about their role, acquiescing to the legal and administration team at PBI.
Silence is not always golden.
Now unnamed, unqualified, unknown volunteer alumni are working directly with the PBI and stating they will work with abuse survivors. I can fully understand why any abuse survivor would be hesitant to step forward and ask Dr. Mollering and her team for help. Centre Street Church permitting PBI to do their talking has cast a shadow of doubt over their role. I have empathy for Dr. Mollering and her team, I am not prepared to accept a professional would condone the demands of PBI toward those who have been harmed. I think there has been an ongoing lack of respect for abuse survivors and qualified professionals who are willing to help.
To be fair, this Survivor Fund Project announcement is addressed to several groups. First and foremost the announcement is directed at alumni who are willing to donate financially and who want their tax receipt. It is addressed to abuse survivors President Mark Maxwell claims came to him to share their stories. We don’t know how many people have approached him, what type of contact they had with him, or what they have said their needs are, let alone what PBI thinks their needs are. The next group is abuse survivors who have told their pastor or another trusted person, what happened to them during their time at PBI. To date, I’ve found one minister who has been willing to publicly acknowledge survivors have confided in him. I think he runs a risk of being shut out and shunned by PBI, but that is a risk he has publicly been willing to take. The final group is the group of about 150 communicating with each other on the Facebook group We Were Prairie School Kids. Most abuse survivors are hanging back, having been part of the PBI environment, they are understandably unwilling to trust ‘volunteer alumni’ with their stories. What checks and balances are in place? Who reads these stories and make decisions? I’ve written Mr. Crites and asked the basic questions any abuse survivor needs to ask. If he choses to respond I’ll am more than willing to make his response public. I find this Survivor Fund announcement well intentioned, poorly executed, communicated badly, and frankly an indication of evangelical ignorance of what abuse survivors have been through and are going through. Hopefully answers will be forthcoming.
I fail to understand why PBI alumni and administration are not being transparent about their project, process, agenda and their qualifications around trust and safety. What staff sees these pre-requisite stories? What alumni? Who is supposedly willing to provide transportation and to where? Why are survivors being told they are expected to show up at PBI for ‘reconciliation?’
In rejecting G.R.A.C.E. as an investigative group, PBI is following a model which is not only proven to be seriously flawed for abuse cases, but is taught at the Institute.
CH 625 Interpersonal Com. and ConflictManagementTextbook: Ken Sande The Peacemaker A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict 3rd edition
This post is turning into a rant. Google Ken Sande and Peacemaker Ministries. Ministers have gone public acknowledging that his model does not serve members of their congregations who have been abused. Yet PBI clings to Sandes methods.
I’m going to end with an email to PBI by an administrator of We Were Prairie School kids. I personally think Linda is spitting into the wind, PBI has willfully chosen not to communicate and I openly admire the willingness of the group to keep trying to open channels. I hope I’m proven wrong. I think one reason PBI has clammed up is the feeling of threat that exists at Three Hills. The process which abuse survivors go through in disclosure and reporting is a rocky and emotional one involving grief, relief, hope, anger, depression despair and other untidy ‘un-Christian’ emotions which sheltered bible school administrators students, staff and alumni recoil and react to. When, despite protestations, loyalty to an institution takes priority, it is all to easy to dismiss the wounded as ‘other.’ As has been the case of other institutions dealing with reports of abuse, marginalizing, defensiveness and withdrawal are the default response to those tasked with protecting ‘their’ institution. This polarizing is a strange and sad thing to witness. Those who have been abused and those who administer an environment where abuse took place, are products of the same environment, culture and teachings. The refusal and inability to communicate seems to be merely a confirmation of how dysfunctional the culture at PBI has been, and continues to be. Linda Fossen:
I would like to share my story with PBI as would about 90+ other abuse survivors that have been completely ignored by the announcement that was made by Jim Crites on the Friends of PBI Facebook group.
Until this announcement was brought to my attention, I did not even know that this email address existed or which alumni we were to contact. The reason being that once again the survivors I represent were not included. I am not sure if we are supposed to wait to find out in the media or through word of mouth. The lack of communication can be very confusing sometimes.
I am not sure why Mark Maxwell would tell the media that he is being open and honest about the abuse scandal when he has not even told us about this email address, how to reach the alumni team or the fund that is in place to bring survivors to PBI. Is this because we don’t count or because he doesn’t care about us? I would really like to know the answer.
A response would be greatly appreciated but also very shocking as well as I have found that my correspondence tends to go into a black hole somewhere. I am going to copy Mark Maxwell on this so that I can assured that if my email is not responded to that it was because he deliberately made sure of it. The media would appreciate that information as well so that the true picture can be reported in the news and not just the one that Mark Maxwell wants to portray.
Until every voice is heard,
Linda M. Fossen