Alleged Hephzibah House Abuse Survivors “Must Be Silenced”?

Additional note 7/8/09 — just to be completely clear, I personally know the pastor who made this statement, but I am not the author of the letter I received. Because the writer of the letter specifically asked not to be identified, I cannot identify the pastor either. But, what matters even more is that this pastor’s sentiments are not unique. So his identity is virtually irrelevant. In fact, the pastor’s words were an extension of the actions, general verbiage, and attitude of Ron Williams, who has been invited to speak and generate financial support at that church multiple times.

[This was sent to me and the writer wishes to remain anonymous. The writer is not one of the alleged victims of abuse at Hephzibah House but is knowledgeable about the situation.]

They Must Be Silenced…
“The women must be silenced in one way or another.”

In a Sunday evening church service a discourse about the alleged victims of Hepzibah House troubled me greatly. There was no room given for the possibility that the victims were telling the truth. It was obvious that in the mind of the speaker Hepzibah House had been acquitted.

I grew more uneasy, then righteously angry, with every word spoken. When the discourse ended with the words, “the women must be silenced one way or the other” my heart wrenched for every victim of abuse who have broken their silence, taken a stand for justice and the protection of other children.

[Commentary by Danni]

This writer quotes a pastor’s words, “the women must be silenced one way or the other.” What kind of attitude is this? It is appalling!

First of all, the alleged victims are being assumed to be liars (another direct quote) without any research into the situation at all. The leadership of this church has assumptively taken the side of the leadership of Hephzibah House, which the church supports financially. While this same church says they have a “safe” policy regarding abuse allegations against church leadership, they are demonstrating that this policy would only be followed if they personally have not taken a “side” on the issue based on their own personal likes and dislikes. Since they have a personal relationship with the leadership of Hephzibah House, they will not consider that the allegations made just might be true.

This happens all the time in churches and is part of the reason the church is not a safe place for victims. The church leadership is almost always automatically believed and the alleged victims both disbelieved and condemned. Every situation is the “exception to the rule” because “we know these people and they would never do that.” But that’s what people always think — always! Abusers in church leadership didn’t get to that position by being stupid and obvious! They can play the game flawlessly.

Another horrifying thing about this is that a pastor would say these words from the pulpit — “the women must be silenced one way or the other.” I have no idea what that man meant by “or the other” but the words are an implied threat, even if he would never actually do anything tangible against one of the women involved. By making the threat, he has uttered a curse against these women.

And words are powerful. Death and life are in the power of the tongue — and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. That is a powerful indictment against a pastor who would express this attitude.

Further, by making these statements (and not just in one church service; the theme has been revisited multiple times from the pulpit) this pastor is clearly communicating to any and every victim of abuse in his church that they will be automatically judged and condemned unless their abuser is a blatant unbeliever. This pastor has made a public statement that anyone wounded by a “Christian” is not welcome here; they will be beaten and trampled by the leadership in this body.

Former Hephzibah House Students Continue to Raise Abuse Awareness

Former Hephzibah House students continued to raise awareness of their allegations of abuse at the home for troubled teens in Winona Lake, IN, on Friday, Oct. 17. Using the medium of the internet, about 80 former students have reconnected and shared their stories. Many are attempting to speak out and stop the school from continuing practices former students feel are both physically and mentally abusive.

To aid in that goal, a task force of former students and concerned citizens has been formed. Presently, institutions such as Hephzibah House are not under any type of governmental regulation and have no accountability for their actions. They are virtually free to do as they wish as long as they can spin a convincing tale to parents and church supporters. Those who are ignorant of the mechanics and mind-games of abuse are unable to see through the machinations of master manipulators who have been doing this for decades, and the publicity spin sounds perfect if you don’t know better. However, once you have seen the inside of the system, you can see the buzz words for what they are and it is very obvious.

For example, there is one incident in this story which should make every reader of the article a believer. I will quote the article directly.

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.

This is a school full of teenaged girls. This is not a medical facility. There are no doctors or nurses present. In the incident mentioned, there is no medical exam taking place in the context. This is just a moment when a man walks into a room (where, obviously a girl and another staff member are present during some sort of interview), and the girl is forced to have a vaginal exam, apparently without adequate explanation. This is at the very least a physically abusive incident because it takes place outside any medical context, and I would say that for a teenager who is a virgin it is a sexually abusive one! There is no context under which this incident is acceptable, period. It is absolutely abusive.

Perhaps you want to think it is an isolated incident; ill-advised. And maybe the director of the school would say that they have thought better of such a practice and would never do such a thing now. Here is a greater truth. The attitude and heart that would allow such treatment of the girls is a heart of disrespect. It is a heart that thinks of these girls as worthless things that need to be beaten into shape because they are disgusting trash.

If you read more about how these girls were treated, this is, in fact, the attitude with which they were treated across the board. The setting of the entire institution was one of dehumanization and humiliation, extreme and frequent punishment, with reward for complete and absolute compliance, and sacrifice of all personality and humanity. If you can still find the founder’s writings about parenting and his attitude toward the formation of children’s character (once people began to find it online he removed it; I wish I had copied it when I first found and read it) you will find that is his attitude toward children in general. This is not a man I would trust to raise a dog, much less have the molding of my troubled teenager. In fact, he might be arrested for treating a dog the way he treats children. The ASPCA would certainly be picketing at his doorstep.

In case readers cannot tell, on this issue I am by no means unbiased. I know without a single doubt this institution is abusive. I wish these former students all success and hope they never give up as long as there is a single girl in residence at Hephzibah House.

Strong Accusations About Hephzibah House

This story courtesy of


The accusations are troubling.

Teenaged girls being strip-searched, beaten, their communication monitored, being given little contact with the outside world.

Several women are coming forward to talk about their experiences at Hephzibah House, a boarding school for troubled teens in our own backyard of Warsaw.

In a Fox 28 exclusive investigation, we spoke to many former students who say, for them, Hepsibah House was a house of horrors.

“The paddlings or beatings were very frequent.”
“Every single day, we had to write down what our bodily functions were on a board, they called it the b.m. board.”

“She actually had a pail and she threw up into the pale and they literally made her drink it.”

“They were all about controlling you and the different incoming mail and and your communication with other people. They did everything in their power to control your every movement.”

These former students are all from different parts of the country. Their stories span decades. But they all have Hepsibah House in common. These women were students at the religious school for troubled teen girls in Warsaw.

For years, they say their story has remained under cover much like the school.

Jennifer was a student 11 years ago and she says this happened on the first day.

“People started circling around me and they all held me down. People were sitting on my legs and on my arms and they just started smashing me with this rod and I heard them calling it the rod of God,” Jennifer Sengpiehl says.

Susan was a student there 25 years ago.

“When I first got there, the first 3 to 4 months, I was paddled almost every day. And very severe. I fainted twice when I was being paddled. I saw a girl who had puss and blood oozing through her clothes,” Susan Grotee says.

They say all of their communication was monitored and they had a “talking list.”

“It was a real list and each girl had specific people they were all to talk to or were not allowed to talk to. Some girls actually could not talk to anybody for months on end,” former student, Gabriella Fluery says.

Many spend anywhere from 15 months to more than 3 years here, never leaving the property. And most of them tell us they remember vividly strip searches and female exams.

“They took me into a closet and there was a nurse and a man and at this point, I was a virgin. I had never had a physical exam. Just thinking about it to this day disgusts me.”

So why are these women who’s experience range from 4 years ago to 25 years ago, talking now? They found each other through the internet after several started web pages about their experience.

“As we came together. Alot of us talked about it. Alot of us prayed about it and I for myself want to make sure other girls don’t have to go through this experience.

“So What does Hephzibah House and Pastor Ron Williams say about the accusations? We started trying to sit down with them last week. Their attorney told us Williams wouldn’t be available until this Thursday. They did ask many others to call on their behalf, including some former students.”

“I can’t say it was a walk in the park. It was hard. I didn’t want to e there. I wanted to be with my family.” according to Shannon Grant.
Grant continues, “When I look back at it, there are alot of things that today I would not be able to do if it weren’t for that. Hephzibah House had given me character.”

Another former student, Alisha Gorbet says, “My experience there was great. I didn’t have any problems with the place. I was never beaten into submission or forced into anything.”
She goes on to say, “My parents just were never there and when I went there, they became family to me. I couldn’t trade it for the world.”

We also received countless phone calls from Pastors across the country supporting Hephzibah House and saying they have alot of success stories from there.

Pastor Williams attorney has told us he will sit down to interview with us on Thursday.

And Wednesday, the group we spoke with is protesting in front of the Kosciusko County Courthouse.