Author Topic: Hephzibah House under the microscope.  (Read 3215 times)

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Offline wdtony

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Hephzibah House under the microscope.
« on: October 20, 2008, 08:40:52 PM »
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
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Offline wdtony

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October 17th 2008
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2008, 08:45:10 PM »
Former students accuse local boarding school of abuse

Story Created: Oct 17, 2008 at 5:42 PM EDT

Story Updated: Oct 17, 2008 at 6:32 PM EDT

WARSAW — A local Christian boarding school for girls faces allegations of abuse. Dozens of former students of Hephzibah House in Winona Lake say they were physically and mentally abused.

Hephzibah House is a private facility where some parents choose to send their daughters.

These women waited several years to talk. Some of them have kept their stories quiet for more than 20 years. Some say they didn't think anyone would believe them; others say shame stopped them from coming forward.

But now they're ready to face the past and change the future.

Renee Showers traveled hundreds of miles to spread a message, and she shared her story outside the courthouse in Warsaw.

Showers attended Hephzibah House for nine months in 1981. "And during that time I was starved. I was paddled," she said. "I had no real contact with my family."

It's a story Gabriella Fleury says she knows all too well. She says the treatment she endured made her feel violated.

"A man came in, he was never introduced us. We weren't put in a gown and given a proper exam. We were in dresses. Our dresses were forced up and we had to undergo a physical, invasive vaginal exam right there at the facility,” she recalled.

WSBT News traveled to Hephzibah House to get their side of the story; but they refused to talk to us.

“I'm not at liberty right now to do that, OK,” said Pastor Don Williams of Believers Baptist Church, which is affiliated with the school. “So I can't give you an interview right now. But I will discuss it with the director."

Through the Internet, 80 former students from across the country have reconnected and shared their stories. But now they have more than each other — a task force recently formed, giving them a local support system.

“[It’s] just a way to make some connections, and to help pull the people together in this community that do want to get involved and do want to help them,” explained Becky Moreno, a victims assistance coordinator with the Warsaw Police Department.

Moreno says under current state law, organizations like Hephzibah House are not regulated by the government. The task force hopes to change that.

"Focusing on 24-hour residential care centers for children so that there is some accountability there, so that the state can regulate things and make sure that these children are being taken care of,” she said.

But Showers is hoping for a different solution … one that will protect girls forever.

"I hope it is shut down because there's girls that are there that are being abused,” she said.

State Representative Dave Wolkins of Winona Lake gave the following statement to WSBT News:

“I believe in parental rights. I believe in the separation of church and state. And it’s a fact that those parents have placed those children in that facility and I think they know what type of facility they’re putting them into. I don’t think the state should interfere with those types of parental decisions. Anytime there is an accusation of abuse, I believe it should be taken seriously and investigated. I’m not ready to put more regulations on church ministries than we already have. It’s hard to draw the line because the law will affect all church ministries not just this one.”

Officials say because the statute of limitations has expired, the allegations by these former students can not be investigated.

The school's director released a statement saying it’s routinely inspected by the fire and health department. The school also says it allows girls' parents and pastors to make regular phone calls and personal visits.

source: http://www.wsbt.com/news/local/31185769.html
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Offline wdtony

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October 17th, FOX 28 report
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2008, 08:48:03 PM »
Former Hephzibah students attract support

A group of protestors sent a message today.

They're not going away and they're gaining more support.

You may have seen them in front of the Kosciusko County Courthouse, today.

Fox 28's Traci Capellman has been following the allegations against Hephzibah House for several months now and has the latest.

Warsaw has seen some of these protestors before, a group of former students from Hephzibah House. It's a religious boarding school for troubled teen girls.

But today, they were joined by alot of new faces. A group of students from Grace College, and community members were showing their support by handing out fliers.

We introduced you to these former students back in June. They were there at the school at different times, but have similar allegations. They say they were severely beaten, strip searched, in some cases starved, and isolated from their families.

The former students and protestors would like to see a change in Indiana law holding residential care facilities for children more accountable. And a local task force of concerned community members has formed to offer their support.

These students are also seeing support from former students of other schools across the country. Students like Suzanne Pucket who came from Ohio and Tony Connelly who came from Kentucky. They went to different boarding schools for at-risk kids, schools they say used similar tactics.

 Tony Connelly who was supporting the protestors says, "I really just hope the truth comes out. I want the public to be aware of what is actually truthfully happening inside these programs because I believe if the public really knew what happened inside these programs because I believe if the public really knew what happened instead of believing the lies told by these organizations, they wouldn't stand for it."

Likewise, Susanne Puckett says, "Alot of these places try to silence their victims voices and we're here to let them know, we're not gonna be silenced anymore."

In another new development, the former Hephzibah students tell Fox 28 they have requested their medical records from the school. While the school hasn't complied, yet, they are trying to see if there is a link between health issues many of them have experienced. "Girls that have had reproductive problems, female problems, children with birth defects, difficulty conceiving. So, we're just finding compared to the general population, we have a much higher precentage of problems."

We placed calls to both Hephzibah House and their attorney, but they haven't returned our phone calls.
Fox 28 will continue to bring you the very latest.

source: http://www.fox28.com/global/story.asp?s=9197969
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Offline wdtony

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October 18th, Times-Union
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2008, 08:51:21 PM »
Former Hephzibah House Students Demonstrate, Advocate For Change

Tim Robertson
Staff Writer

Eight women sat in the lobby of a local hotel Friday morning, swapping stories of common experiences they say occurred when they were students at Hephzibah House, a Warsaw boarding school for girls.

The women come from several different states, and the stories they tell are stories of physical, emotional and mental abuse.

"They'd lay us on the floor with one staff woman on our legs and one at our head to hold us down," said Katrina Little, Ohio, who was a student at Hephzibah House from March 1983 to July 1984. Little was describing spankings that others also have described as one of the physical forms of punishment at the school.

"I was terrified all the time, because you could get paddled for anything," said Renee Showers, Michigan, a Hephzibah House student for nine months between 1981 and 1982.

Showers said she was paddled several times per week for the first three or four months of her stay at the school, and she said she wasn't the only one punished that way.

"It was horrible hearing other girls down there screaming," she said, "and they come up crying and you couldn't even give them a hug or anything."

Hephzibah House officials did not return a phone call for comment Friday morning, but, in June released a statement that they would not grant any interviews. In the release, Hephzibah staff wrote, "Because of the nature of our work, which includes working with minors and the resulting needs for privacy of the girls and their parents, tours of the facility, interviews with staff members or students and other normal needs of the news media cannot be honored."

However, the school did provide letters from supporters, all denying that physical, emotional or mental abuse took place at the school.

Friday, in the hotel lobby, the women said they enjoyed the opportunity to talk together and affirm each other, but that wasn't the only reason they came to Warsaw Friday; they also came to demonstrate. The women stood in front of the Kosciusko Courthouse from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. holding signs and handing out flyers to boost community awareness of the abuse they say they survived at Hephzibah House. It was the third time in five months that former students from the school have demonstrated there. Some, like Gabriella Fleury, Michigan, and Susan Grotte, Minnesota, have attended the other demonstrations. For five of the former students, Friday's demonstration was the first time they've taken a stand against the alleged abuse.

"With all of us coming together, it has helped a lot," said Little. "Instead of keeping the experience and emotion in our heads, we can get it out."

The demonstrators were joined by several other supporters, including two former students of a similar institution headquartered in Indianapolis and members of a new local task force formed to pursue a change in state law that would allow private residential facilities for children to be monitored by the state.

Hephzibah House is a private, not-for-profit organization connected to Believers Baptist Church, Winona Lake. That means the school isn't under any government oversight with regard to activities that take place on the campus.

"They file a business entity report with the state; why can't they be regulated by the state?" said former student Connie Wagner, Lafayette. "I understand it's a religious base, but they still have an incorporation with the secretary of state."

"Even a prisoner has an advocate," said Grotte, "just someone the kid can tell if there's something bad going on."

Jo Faulkner, Warsaw, is a member of the local task force. Faulkner said she got involved because she sees the women's accusations as a community issue.

"When I read this stuff and heard some of the stories, I thought, 'What a black eye for our community,'" Faulkner said. "Obviously, something has to be done. We're not anti-any church, we're anti-abuse. We want to make sure the abuse stops."

Becky Moreno, victim assistance advocate at the Warsaw Police Department, headed up the formation of the task force. Moreno said Thursday she had the opportunity to talk with some of the former Hephzibah House students and hear their stories. She said what impressed her most when listening to the women was that they weren't calling for personal vengeance on those they claimed abused them, but were more concerned with protecting others.

"Their attitudes are amazing," Moreno said. "They truly just want to make sure children in Indiana are protected. That's why it is so easy to support them."

Former Hephzibah House student Dannetta Fisher, Fort Wayne, said she is starting a Fort Wayne chapter of the task force and recently launched a Web site, www.freewebs.com/voicesofthepast

Rachel Greene, Chicago, a Grace College student, said she plans to join the task force as well. Greene and several of her classmates joined Friday's demonstration.

"Something at our school we've been talking about is awareness and the effect it can have," said Sarah Barkan, Ohio.

For more information about Hephzibah House, call the school's office at 574-269-2376 or 574-269-2375.

For more information about former students' accusations against the school, visit online at www.formerhephzibahgirls.webs.org or www.hephzibahhouse.com or www.hephzibah-girls.blogspot.com

source: http://www.timesuniononline.com/main.as ... leID=36303
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Offline wdtony

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October 16th Times-Union
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2008, 08:54:15 PM »
Local Hephzibah House Task Force Formed

Tim Robertson
Staff Writer

Twice within the past five months, former students of Hephzibah House, a boarding school for girls in Warsaw, have stood in front of the Kosciusko County Courthouse demonstrating to raise awareness of alleged abuse they claim they suffered while students at the school.

Some local residents heard their message and have decided to get involved in the former students' efforts to change Indiana law.

"When (the former students) came to town, they brought a lot of awareness of something that people in town didn't even know we had," said Becky Moreno, Winona Lake.



 

Moreno, victims' assistance coordinator at the Warsaw Police Department, is organizing a task force for people who are concerned about the claims that students were abused at Hephzibah House. She said the goal of the task force is to change what they say is a gap in Indiana's laws. The gap concerns the state's code regarding the duties of the Department of Child Services and child care institutions operated by private institutions.

Hephzibah House is a private, not-for-profit organization connected to Believers Baptist Church, Winona Lake. That means the school isn't under any government oversight with regard to activities that take place on the campus. Former Hephzibah House students allege, without that accountability, they underwent physical, mental and emotional abuse which included beatings, humiliation and isolation.

Hephzibah House released a statement in June when former students were demonstrating in Warsaw, stating they could not grant any interviews. In the release, Hephzibah staff wrote, "Because of the nature of our work, which includes working with minors and the resulting needs for privacy of the girls and their parents, tours of the facility, interviews with staff members or students and other normal needs of the news media cannot be honored."

However, the school did provide letters from supporters and former students, all denying that physical, emotional or mental abuse took place at the school.

Moreno said the task force she is organizing is aimed at helping all children in private residential facilities in Indiana.

"It's not churches or adult organizations," she said. "We're talking about where children are involved. If they aren't being held accountable, is that safe for these children?"

When former Hephzibah House students came to Warsaw in July, they met with Dist. 18 State Representative Dave Wolkins, Winona Lake, to try to enlist his support to begin an initiative to examine the state laws in Indianapolis. However, after the meeting, Wolkins said he doesn't support a change that would give the government more supervision of private religious organizations.

Hephzibah House staff provided a statement reporting that Wolkins toured their facilities July 10. The statement claimed Wolkins has toured the facility "several times over the last several years."

According to the statement, "Wolkins and others toured the educational and recreation areas, as well as the commercial kitchen, ministry property and maintenance shop."

Wolkins said during his tour of Hephzibah House he questioned the school's director Ron Williams about the accusations against the school staff.

"I asked Dr. Williams about them, he says there's a grain of truth to all of them, depending on how you interpret it," Wolkins said.

As for the women's accusations against the school, Wolkins said, "I have no doubts that they are sincere. They felt intimidated, I have no doubt. But, that is all part of the program. Behavior modification we would call it."

He said the women's impression that what they underwent was abuse is just one interpretation.

"They believe they were abused and I guarantee you Dr. Williams believes they were not abused," he said. "To me, abuse has to have some intent of some sort. I am convinced that everything they're doing out there, they're doing with the best intentions of changing the behavior of the girls who come there."

Wolkins said he was happy to meet with the women, but he is not ready to support their initiative, which he does not expect to gain steam in Indianapolis.

"This is a pretty conservative state," he said. "I think they would have a very hard time being successful in doing it."

Moreno said, right now, her task force is just a handful of people. They plan to have their first meeting today at 7:30 p.m.

"I'm hoping, as we meet and get a plan, that more people will want to get involved," she said.

Gabriella Fleury, Wisconsin, is a former Hephzibah House student. Fleury said she was a student at the school from August 1989 to November 1990. She has helped organize the recent demonstrations at the courthouse. She said the formation of the local task force is encouraging.

"At first, we weren't really convinced that anyone in the community really cared," she said. "It seems that our past trips here have really paid off."

Fleury said she is glad to see local awareness of her and other former students' claims turn into action.

"Now they feel there's something they can do to help since it's something affecting their community," she said.

The first meeting of the task force coincides with another local demonstration by Fleury and other Hephzibah House students. Fleury said about eight former Hephzibah House students, along with several students from another program headquartered in Indianapolis, will demonstrate in front of the courthouse Friday at 11 a.m.

For more information about the task force, call Moreno at 574-372-9539.

source: http://www.timesuniononline.com/main.as ... ID=224&S=1
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Offline Ursus

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Re: Hephzibah House under the microscope.
« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2008, 02:43:11 PM »
Quote
As for the women's accusations against the school, Wolkins said, "I have no doubts that they are sincere. They felt intimidated, I have no doubt. But, that is all part of the program. Behavior modification we would call it."

He said the women's impression that what they underwent was abuse is just one interpretation.

"They believe they were abused and I guarantee you Dr. Williams believes they were not abused," he said. "To me, abuse has to have some intent of some sort. I am convinced that everything they're doing out there, they're doing with the best intentions of changing the behavior of the girls who come there."

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

How is it possible that someone seemingly functional in politics, a State Representative, no less, can be so blatantly illogical and patronizing in the face of it all?

Plain and simple: abuse does not need intent to be abuse. If that were not the case, any random fruitcake could claim ideological grounds for committing any heretic act on anyone they chose, young children would still be employed by sweatshops, and our legal system would more closely resemble a theocracy.

Here's something to think about: how are you going to prove what a person's intent is or isn't if they happen to be a pathological liar, a borderline sociopath who hides it really well, or someone suffering from an as-yet-undiagnosed mental illness?
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Offline wdtony

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Re: Hephzibah House under the microscope.
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2008, 04:47:23 PM »
@Ursus:

Very good points. You hit upon the part that got me stirred up. Interpretation? Best of Intentions?

Dave Wolkins. Republican Representative, District 18 has admitted that he has had contact with Hephzibah House in the past and as is apparent now, fully supports them. Wolkins is being a real douche-bag because it seems like everyone else with half a brain is calling for accountability of these unregulated programs except for him.

And, in the last article it states:

Hephzibah House released a statement in June when former students were demonstrating in Warsaw, stating they could not grant any interviews. In the release, Hephzibah staff wrote, "Because of the nature of our work, which includes working with minors and the resulting needs for privacy of the girls and their parents, tours of the facility, interviews with staff members or students and other normal needs of the news media cannot be honored."

Hmmmmm,  Sound familiar?

A great program would have nothing to hide. With all of this negative attention tarnishing their shiny reputation, if they were truly legitimate, Williams would hastily request that the parents sign consent forms so that this all might be put to rest. The kids and staff would be interviewed. This would legally let everyone off the hook and everyone would be happy...............except... THIS IS A BRAINWASHING CAMP! And the truth would come out. Preposterous.

When I brought up this idea to Pathway Family Center, I think they were shocked because they knew the parents would sign anything if the program told them to do it. And they know it is feasable. But PFC wouldn't do it even though it would stop the negative press because.................THIS IS ALSO A BRAINWASHING CAMP!
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