Hephzibah House Response to Allegations
Sent by Pastor Dave Halyaman: Sunday 11/17/19
· Assistant Director of Hephzibah House, Assistant Pastor at Believers Baptist Church, held positions since 1990
· He also sent a link with pictures for us to use.
Prison-Like Living Conditions:
• House dark basement; outside occasionally, 12 ft. fence
The girls live in a ground level walk out basement which has many windows looking out to a large yard. Sunlight comes in every day. Our ministry facility is equipped with good lighting and many large windows. The outside recreation area is large and includes a volleyball net, a fire pit where the girls enjoy songs, fellowship on warm summer evenings, roasting marshmallows, and singing songs together. This area also includes a large garden for raising vegetables and beautiful flowers, as well as a picnic area where meals and other outdoor activities are enjoyed in good weather. They also often enjoy ministry animals such as dogs, rabbits, kittens, and even a farm animal or two, complements of a farmer from our church. The girls are outside five days a week, and in nice weather, on weekends as well. They walk every day after school around a track, or if it’s raining, they do a Leslie Sansone walking program. The fence is 10 ft. tall.
• Extra chain locks; windows screwed shut
There are no chain locks. The windows are opened often, except when the air conditioning is on. When opened, there are stops to prevent the window from being opened wide enough to allow a person to enter or exit. This and the 10-foot fences are needed security measures. We do not want an unprotected teen girl to be taken advantage of in our present violent culture. Their living and school areas are ample, spacious, and well lit, both by natural and artificial light. There are NO chain locks here. No windows are screwed shut.
• 4 rooms: school, living, dining, & big bedroom w/ 40 beds.
The dormitory is equipped with triple bunks--currently there are 23 beds. We have never had more than 30 students at a time. There never have been 40 beds. The rooms are very spacious, colorful, and although the student residence is not “home“, we try to make it as bright, cheerful, and comfortable, as possible. Frequently changed seasonal decorations add to the enjoyable atmosphere.
• Dressed like Amish, long skirts
The only girls dressing like Amish girls are those Amish girls who were sent to us by their Amish parents. The other students wear modest clothing which is long and loose, just as our staff ladies and the ladies in our church. Dresses are required and they must be below the knee.
• Forced to eat “horrible” food:
• Watered down powdered milk.
Powdered milk was made according to package directions. It has been years since we have used powdered milk. We now use store bought milk.
· Bread said “bird food” (not for humans), sloppy joes w/rice (no meat)
We are not sure what they are talking about here, but often we purchased bulk grains such as Millet, barley, oats etc and served them as hot cereal.
· Garbage bags lettuce
Years ago, We were often donated large quantities of produce that needed sorted through. The bad lettuce would be thrown and the good was eaten. Sometimes large salads were served for several days, but they were chef salads with other ingredients like hard-boiled eggs, meat or beans for protein.
· Eat everything even if sick, bugs, rotten
No one has ever been made to eat bugs or rotten food. If a girl is sick, she is not required to eat all her food, but is encouraged to inform the cook before the meal if she would like a lesser portion, or has the option to go to bed if too sick to eat.
If got sick from food, sometimes made eat your vomit
No one has ever been made to eat vomit
· So hungry would eat chicken bones
This has NEVER seen this in 44 years.
· Caterpillar in food; told eat around it
There have been many staff who served here over 48 years. We have never heard of such a thing! If a student was ever required a student to eat such a thing, the leadership was never notified and would not have condoned such a thing.
• If work duties don’t pass, no dinner/protein shake
25+ years ago, if a girl refused to do her chores, she did, in fact, receive a protein drink, such as Ensure. This was not common but did happen. It has been discontinued for many years.
• The ministry uses ACE, Accelerated Christian Education (non-accredited)
An organization in existence for half a century.
Not accepted in many colleges/university
Many students (including staff children) have gone on to further education such as nursing school, Criminal justice etc. Careful records and transcripts were kept. In most cases, high school accreditation is not required to enter a college. Hephzibah House follows the state requirements for a General and or College prep diploma. ACE is recognized by the State of Indiana, as well as many other states.
Women: no skills, need to marry & have kids
This is false. Our students are taught to be productive and responsible members of society. The girls are encouraged to follow the counsel of their parents/pastor and if they desire to become a nurse or pursue another career, they are encouraged to do their best in their high school work to accomplish these goals.
• Taught to fear outside world; terrified to leave
This is false.
• Work crew instead of school
The girls receive the required amount of school days as a designated by the state of Indiana
• Forced church (in town) Wednesdays, 2x Sunday
All students and staff do attend church on Sundays, Wednesday evenings, and occasionally special meetings. This is not an option. We are not a secular institution. Parents who bring their children to us are interested in having that child discipled in the biblical Christian faith. This biblical training is one of the chief reasons they choose our ministry for their daughter.
All students participate in chores after school each day. They are not overworked, All share in the work, including the staff. These are typical household chores that are done at any home. We do gardening in the summer, as well.
• Hard labor, sand bus, re-wire things, dig ditches w/ 5-gallon buckets, carry lumber/buckets of nails
Back in the early 1980's while the buildings were being built, the students did participate in helping with various projects. It was hard work but there were a lot of people helping and sharing the work load.
Monitored 24/7, Forced to lie:
No student has ever has a student been forced to lie.
Students are monitored all the time, but for their own safety.
• Screen letters, rewrite if negative, cross out news from family
• Can’t ask to go home, cry, tell sad, sick or hungry
Girls are allowed and even encouraged to be honest in their letters home. The only requirement is that they be honest in what they are saying even if they wish to complain, but it has to be the full truth. Letters have always been monitored and every parent who brings their daughter knows this rule and consents to it.
• Supervised call 1x month; visit every 3 months
This is accurate, again, parents agree to all this when they bring their daughter
• Said wanted to go home, they ended visit w/parents
This does not sound right and we are not aware of this
• Not allowed interact w/ staff/other girls only speak abt church
We are not sure what this means. The students and staff interact daily as they live together, like a family. One example of this is mealtime. The girls commonly joke and tease around with each other and the staff. This type interaction is a lively part of each day.
• Alarms; if moved too much in bed or get up
This is true; there are alarms set at night to prevent girls from running and doing unethical things among each other during the night.
• No electronics, newspaper, outside news, singing pop
Media is limited, but not completely. Students are kept informed and updated on news, often shown news clips etc. from the Internet. Pop songs or rock music is not allowed. We are a distinctively Christian facility and focus on wholesome, Christian and sacred music. (From time to time the girls also make up silly songs to fit in with some activity they are doing.)
• Can’t check self out even after 18yo
When students turn 18 years of age, they are legally allowed to leave, if they wish. We do try to encourage them to finish their high school, if they are close, but we never force any girl who is over 18 to stay against her will. If one chooses or demands to go home, arrangements have to be made for them to get home, which we do. We have had many students over the years choose to stay beyond age 18 to complete their high school work.
• Had to wear blue jumper w/ ugly red shirt if in trouble; Wear to church so everyone knew messed up
For many years, we had a school uniform that was a blue jumper with a red shirt to match. These have been discontinued within the last 8 years. They were worn for school every day and to church if the student had been in trouble during the week. It was never intended to humiliate the girl, but to help her see there are consequences for wrong behavior.
• Force hydrate; punish if accident, wear diaper
Over the years, many students come to us having various physical issues that were simply solved by being properly hydrated. The amount they were expected to intake has changed from time to time to fit their needs, but usually it is approximately 32 ounces, spread throughout the entire day. Bathroom times are usually every one and a half hours. (They are allowed to go sooner than that, if needed.) Some students have refused to go when a break was offered, but would then urinate on themselves without requesting to be permitted to visit the restroom. They were asked to clean up their mess and usually learned to use the bathroom when the others did. if a student exhibited signs of a bladder problem, they were taken to a doctor for testing, and if they had an infection, they were treated accordingly. Occasionally a girl was required to wear protective underclothing to prevent the furniture from being soiled. This was not broadcast to others, and ended as soon as the problem was solved. if a student exhibits signs of a bladder problem, we take have them tested by a dr. for infection and they are treated accordingly.
• No bathroom when needed; staff woke 2x a night
Every night there are scheduled bathroom times offered, should the girls choose to use them. The girls are well-informed about this and have prior knowledge as to these regular opportunities. These scheduled times ensure that both the girls’ needs are met, and that staff and students safely get the appropriately needed sleep.
• “Psychologically, it was like hell”
Not sure what they are talking about.
It is, admittedly, a Christian environment.
• Don’t become whore; God disappointed; short of God’s grace; God doesn’t love you bc you’re damaged
The meaning of the biblical name “Hephzibah” means “The Lord delights in her" and that is exactly what these girls are taught. No matter how much they have messed up their lives or have been abused, they are special to God and are shown, from the Bible, how to move forward in victory, no matter what their past has been. We have never told the girls that they were worthless. Quite to the contrary, we teach that they are precious in God’s sight. We have the noble purpose and goal that each of them Might serve the Lord and experience His blessing in their lives.
• “You’ll become drug addict or end up in prison”
• Told parents didn’t love them bc didn’t send much money
• Only listen scripture songs; watched Nazis and war video
Our students listen to a wide variety of wholesome Christian music, both from CDs and Internet radio stations, played over our sound system. Because many of them come very uninformed about major historical events, they are taught history which would include what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany, They are also shown documentaries about September 11 and many other notable events from past and present history. Other suitable movies are enjoyed, such as “Amazing Love”, ”Time Changer”, “Finding Dory”, as well some PBS shows on things current event items such as Artificial Intelligence and The Facebook Dilemma.
• Not allowed talk for over 30 weeks of her 60 week stay
Through the years, if a student was persistent in defiant rebellion to authority, refusing to obey, such cases might have a temporarily short term talking restriction, but certainly not for the aforesaid 30 weeks. For example: a girl might be expected to quietly write disciplinary sentences while the other girls watched a video, partook in a fun activity, etc.
• Tried to kill self; ate stuff in bath basket, staff said not way out
There have been isolated instances over the years in which a student has tried to ingest something that was not food such as a face cleaner or some other type of cleanser. This is one of the reasons they are under such close scrutiny while in our ministry.
Neglected Medical Care:
• Didn’t believe in meds; if really sick: put to bed w/ no food, just broth; lay on a mat in closet
Students are given pain medications upon request. If one is ill, she usually lies on the couch with her own blanket/pillow. She is offered tea and Ensure, if she desires it. Some parents also send extra supplements for the daughters to take while they are in our ministry.
• No period 2yrs; thinks vitamins birth control, fertility probs
There have been some girls who have missed their cycles while they were students, but typically all have them regularly. Often a girl will request pain medications or go to bed for a day while on her cycle. We firmly deny using hormones or birth control of any kind in the history of our ministry. If girls did experience fertility problems after leaving our ministry, it is difficult to conceive that there was any relationship with her stay at Hephzibah House.
• Took away anti-depressants; told sick bc improper relationship w/ God/or bc devil
Students who are on antidepressants are not allowed at Hephzibah House. They are weaned from these by their own personal doctor before matriculating in our school. Some of these have been highly addictive and would have required frequent medical attention. If a child is ill, we do not blame that sickness on the child or on God.
• No dentist
Prior to matriculation in our school, every student is required to have a medical, eye, and dental examination. Should a girl becomes ill while a student in our ministry, she is given prompt medical attention, including whatever visits to a healthcare provider are required.
• No medical attention, ear infection, respiratory, neck problems
If a girl needs medical attention she is given it without a problem. If a physician is needed, they are taken to a doctor or the hospital.
• If coughed in church got in trouble
• No dentist when needed; had emergency extraction
• Older women say paddling w/ board, pull hair, slaps
Our staff did not pull hair or slap students, but in the early years of our work, corporal correction was utilized for those who were defiant and rebellious in someway. Corporal correction was legal in Indiana, and was done with written consent and foreknowledge of the parents involved. Such correction was discontinued in our ministry in the mid-1990s. Two or more staff were always present.
• Punished for: swearing, biting nails, hair not being curled, dropping pencil shavings, not pushing in chair, eye contact w/ a girl, if thought cheating, chores not well done
In order to teach students self control and personal responsibility, there have to be reasonable rules that must be followed. Students are usually given several warnings before they receive any consequences. Our staff ladies show much mercy and grace, even when a teenage girl is acting very rebellious and defiant.
• Watched baby get beat
Babies are not beaten in our ministry. Not sure what they are talking about.
• Pulled out of bed by ankles
This is the first time we have heard of this and had no prior knowledge of this incident. We also have posted in several locations a notice to every student that if they are mistreated in any way they are to inform the leadership and it is looked into and dealt with accordingly. Additionally, every student is told repeatedly if there are any complaints they are to let the leadership know immediately
• Forced vaginal exam; tested if hymen intact, anal exam
It is an egregious, false accusation to say a medical doctor “sexually assaulted" our students while doing a very common feminine exam. These exams were required with the written consent of the parents for many years due to the risk of asymptomatic sexually transmitted diseases with which some girls would arrive because of their history of sexual activity or sexual abuse. These licensed physicians always performed these procedures in privacy with a nurse or female staff member being a witness. As medical technology has improved, these pelvic exams have been discontinued and every matriculating student sees her own personal physician before entering our school.
• Man not dressed like doctor
We were more concerned with their legitimate medical credentials than with their physical appearance.