The tragic series of events unleashed on our church near Bayfield, by The Travelling Missionary… Rapist quickly became the elephant in church. No one talked about it, or helped victims of the ‘domino effect’. There should not have been gossip, but appropriate leadership should have been given to the families traumatized by the aftermath.
Instead, we suffered silently. I thought I was the only one on whom an attempt was made. Each ‘victim turned perpetrator’ was aware of themselves, plus the one or more they victimized.
Having come from the ‘outside’ our family was already viewed as ‘different’. And we were. We were not as crafted in the art of living pretentious lives. We had issues. Obvious ones. And lots of them. There was Dad’s temper. Our finances. We didn’t ‘think’ like they did. At first we didn’t dress right, or talk right, having not yet learned their cultural norms.
Because of silence within our family, I thought that I was the only one who had been abused. I had suppressed childhood sexual abuses, but the attempts made in my teens made me feel like there was something wrong with me, that I was somehow at fault. This left me feeling isolated in our family, and our family isolated in church.
When it was just God and me, I prayed and cried out to Him. I didn’t understand what had happened to me, and I certainly didn’t understand my struggle with my identity and sexuality. Even my gender became a struggle for me, as I raged against God for making me a girl, wondering if by some miracle He could change that so I, too, could have power and not be victimized.
In this struggle I asked God why He had not simply ended my life before birth, as He had the nine other babies my mother had lost. I imagined what it would have been like to never be born and simply go to heaven, and the thought seemed quite appealing. Other times between ages nine and fourteen, I begged God to take my life, and end the pain that I could not understand. All of these struggles surfaced in various ways.
To the church I appeared to be a rebel, getting me into trouble with leaders. I wonder now, did it ever occur to them that I had been victimized? Were there many who knew and did nothing? Or was it only the father, our then lead minister, whose son was victimized, who knew? Did he withhold the truth from others? Did he hide it to protect his son, who had become a perpetrator, or did he hide it to protect his role in the church?
Was it ignorance that made them hide it from other parents and pretend it would all go away, eventually. Was the over focus on our behaviour their way of distracting themselves? Of willing themselves to believe that it was not as bad is it seemed?
So many questions remain unanswered.
The elephant still remains in church. Growing ever larger, crowding out life, crowding out hope. Silence is the feeding trough from which it dines and the ongoing abuses force the church deeper into silence. Even if they dared to break the silence, the elephant has grown so large, how would they ever remove it?
Maybe the elephant seemed innocent when it was little, but it’s big and ugly now. It’s filling the pew where yester-years’ children should sit, where their children should hear of Jesus.. the place where their grandchildren should laugh and squeal and do the things that little children do.
If we will dare to speak, to help victims, and hold perpetrators accountable, then we stand a chance at making a difference, and protecting our children and grandchildren from this evil.
But the pews are empty, with only the sound of deafening silence. And the elephant grows fat, as the church thins out… and it will continue to….
…. until we break the silence.
© Trudy Metzger
Return to 1st post in Sexual Abuse Series
It makes me wonder if the rapist was also a visitor at the Aylmer Amish church? I faintly remember a man coming and going, staying for weeks. Then he also came to visit us at Cookeville TN, but was there told never to return.
I can’t say whether he travelled into the states or not. It is only in the last eight years or so that I learned of his visits to the Mennonite communities out west. If so, they were wise to tell him not to return. It’s one thing to help people who sincerely want help. It’s another thing to allow predators to have access to the vulnerable.