PLEASE BE AWARE THIS POST CONTAINS EXTREME TRIGGERS AND BLUNT TALK ABOUT VIOLENT SEX ACTS, INCLUDING AGAINST LITTLE ANIMALS (AKA, VIOLENT BESTIALITY) AND INCLUDES A COMMENT FROM THE PERPETRATOR
In the last week I posted several blogs on the Melody Bannister case. This seems to be a particularly unpopular thing to do. Which, in my opinion, makes it necessary. The ‘untouchable’ cases are where children are most likely to get lost in the system, and their needs neglected. Particularly their need for safety.
Nothing has changed as far as my perception of the case goes. At the risk of sounding like a broken record (for those who remember what that is like), I still hold the position that, since I was not there, I cannot know with certainty what went down. And I hold just as certainly that something was dreadfully wrong.
Admittedly, I find the allegations much more believable than some other readers do. For those who cannot fathom the horrible things described in Melody Bannister’s blog, the reason I DO NOT struggle to believe them is because I have heard similar things before. And, what’s more, I’ve heard confessions of some of vile abuses from those who committed the acts.
One is on record at a police station. I supported the man who self-reported everything from sexual interference, to sexual assault, and torturing little animals and violently sexually assaulting them. The man had told me some of what he had done before stating he would like to turn himself in, however I did not know all the horrific details until several years later.
I met him at the police station. Here I was asked to write up a report of what he had told me. If memory serves me right, he was in the interview room for almost an 90 minutes. I waited.
When the officer emerged from the room, he walked toward me and offered two words in his initial response to what he had heard: “H*ly…! Sh*t!”
I do not know the officer well (ie; not a personal friend), but had interacted enough to know his response was drastic.
Here is the thing… This man was self-reporting crimes that started when he was a child. Torturing animals began before his age reached double digits. Sexually assaulting animals violently began before he reached double digits. The first sexual assault on a human took place soon after he reached the double digits. The trajectory of his life was one of self-destruction.
Fortunately he desperately wanted help. Fortunately he was still a young man when he reached for help.
Tim and I have gotten to know the man and his wife better since then, and if he had not come clean with what he had done, and if he had stayed on the path he was on earlier in his life, there is no doubt in my mind he would have been capable of every allegation in Melody’s writings. Every. Single. One.
I wrote this man to let him know I am writing about him in my blog. The following is his feedback:
From my standpoint, I would state it even stronger. Not only would I have been “capable” of every single allegation. I would have committed that and more. I am not surprised or shocked at the allegations of that case. Because I understand well, the progression, the slippery slope on which the offender has seemingly no control over his own actions. No one starts there. But the progression will take him there. There is no level ground. No convenient “stopping place”. There is no “enough”
The following is an excerpt from my memoir, Between 2 Gods; A memoir of Abuse in the Mennonite Community:
“On one occasion, visiting relatives with teenagers, when I was three, several siblings and these teens headed for the barn, where they were going to play. I tagged along. Walking along the dirt path to the barn, one of the teens stopped me. “You have to stay here. You’re too young to play our games,” she said.
Curious, I followed a bit later to see what it was they ‘played’. Confused, I watched as the teenagers—closer to twenty years old than to ten—used my siblings for sexual gratification. By pretending to be animals, feeding their babies, they made oral sex appear as innocent play. I wondered if mommies and daddies really feed babies that way. But, being too much for my child’s mind to grasp, I pushed the thoughts from my memory, without a word to anyone of what I had seen. And there the memories lay dormant, locked up in my subconscious for many years, resurfacing only in nightmares and one or two childhood conversations, before disappearing from conscious memory for several decades.
Oral sexual abuse and child-to-child interaction was the only form of sexuality I knew, consciously, and knew it well… I only knew it as something people do, not aware how wrong and devastating these acts were. Other than what I witnessed, always it was me doing what I was asked to do, performing favours, and it would remain this way throughout childhood as other children and preteens used me this way, over and over again.” (Chapter 2)
Does this mean the allegations in Melody’s blogs are 100% as written? It means anything is possible. And it is on these grounds that I maintain it is irresponsible to not investigate the allegations thoroughly. It is, frankly, irresponsible (in my opinion) to have a warrant out for the arrest of a woman desperate to protect her children. There is no way for her to come forward safely for help. She goes to jail. Her kids go to the man they say they fear (read below for their alleged testimony). And the men who ALLEGEDLY assaulted them have access again.
What mother would come out of hiding for that?
I’ve received a few calls and messages from total strangers connected to Melody since releasing the initial blogs. Opinions are mixed among them. Some insist she has a mental illness and it is unlikely (or impossible) that the allegations are true. Some of the individuals who do not believe all the allegations made insist the father is not safe for the children. As you will see below, there are professionals who have vouched for her.
My interest is not in determining what is true and what is not. My interest is the safety of the children and their mother. But especially the children. I’m a mom. My safety would be secondary to me over the wellbeing of my children.
I believe firmly that, mental illness or not, all allegations being true or not, that Melody believes the allegations 100%. And this is my belief following conversations with people directly connected to Melody and her children. I do not understand punishing a woman for that.
I am also aware that for some law enforcement the allegations are so extreme that they are deemed impossible, if not ludicrous, and therefore are not taken seriously. This is troubling to me. No matter how extreme, how ludicrous and how impossible, they ought to be treated as worthy of serious and sincere investigation. In part for the mother’s mental health, and in part because humans are capable of extremely depraved things.
What is more, Melody grew up in an extreme cult environment, and then married into another cult, and has had her own trauma to recover from. (I do not know many details of that trauma, but it is there). Being told to beat the devil out of the children, and (as you will see below) her husband beating the children until they bled (again, a religious duty), is more than enough trauma already. (This comes not only from Melody, but others who have known the family for years have contacted me and shared the same allegations). To come from that and then be sent back to the father, even if every other allegation is bogus, is not right and it is not safe.
These things must be considered in this case, if there is to be any justice at all.
A US Marshall contacted me December 16. We spoke briefly. The exchange, from my perspective, was respectful. He expressed interest in the children’s safety, which is my highest priority as well. I shared concerns that such safety does not exist for the children in their father’s care, by the children’s own testimony.
He also said he doesn’t want to see Melody Bannister spend a day in jail. I echo this.
Yet, presently, if she were to come forward two things would happen:
- The children would go to Bill Bannister.
- Melody would go to jail
I told him I would rather die or go to jail myself than to do that to the children. I couldn’t in good conscience even attempt to help locate them unless I knew the children would NOT be sent to their dad, and Melody would NOT be arrested for trying to protect her children… or for mental illness… or whatever is (or is presumed to be) going on. If she is mentally ill, an arrest will not help. If the children’s allegations are true, arresting their mom will not keep them safe.
The following was written by Tim Yarbraugh from Alabama, where Melody and her children stayed temporarily in July. I briefly interacted with Mr. Yarbrough before posting this.
For anyone at all familiar with domestic violence and sex crimes, and especially those who know the children from pre-escape, this is a particularly insightful glimpse into the lives of the children. Included are excerpts from professionals regarding Melody and the children. These speak powerfully to the case.
A Voice From Alabama: How joyfully surprised my wife and I were to awaken one recent morning to find our social media flooded with a blog by Melody Bannister going public with the tragedy of what has happened to her and her children . That post from Melody at least informed us that she and her dear children were somewhere and at least safe enough that she could communicate her story. We had not seen Melody or the children since August 20, 2019. That faithful day in Jefferson County, Alabama when Melody and the children, as well as all other parties of interest, should have had the benefit of a court hearing, the open reception of significant evidence from various parties including the husband because JUSTICE was the desired goal, and the entertaining of the testimony of a forensic physiatrist and her conclusions about the story told by Melody Bannister and her children. I am both angry and embarrassed that such a day of justice did not happen for Melody and her children. Our Alabama court failed – and miserably so. No hearing took place. No evidence was gathered. No process of justice even broached the courthouse that day. Our court left those children stranded in no-man’s land.
Why was reading that blog that eventful morning even important to my wife and I? We were the original, though not only, family in the State of Alabama where Melody and her children came in the middle of July. They needed a place of safety, acceptance, and an offer of help and somehow our small town work with widows, abused women and children, and single moms had made its way onto the “information network” out there in cyber world. Melody found us and we are so thankful she did. We never ask how and we honestly don’t concern ourselves with that. It is just not important. What was important is that she and her children were here. Perhaps we could help – we never know. But we do know we can love them – and it never fails, to be loved by them. To be loved by vulnerable people is one of the most humbling events in life. Well, so our experience has taught us to think.
Over the course of the next few days, Melody shared, to a limited degree, her concerns about the abuse of her children, her fear of what had happened to them, and what could happen to them. It was not difficult to pick up on her “momma-bear convictions” that what her children had shared with her she believed. She was searching for what direction to take. It was also easy to observe this was a good mother and her children loved her company.
Having people in these kind of trauma situations “drop-in” is not an uncommon experience for us. It is also not a daily event. Melody and the children arrived in our town and we, with thankful hearts to our God, welcomed them into our home. It was a joy for us to have them stay in our home, a privilege to have the opportunity to love them, and to interact with them, and — to listen to their story. One of the first things we knew, based on what we were learning, is that Melody and the children needed legal help and we participated in getting Melody in touch with Mr. Sam McLure – an attorney here in Alabama who has touched our family more than once through adoption. Sam is a man with integrity of character and honorable toward those he serves. They took the legal process from there.
While staying in our home we had many conversations with Melody and with each of the children. We actually had the opportunity to take them fishing and watch each of the children catch their first fish! That made for laughter, squeals, and bonding (the worms “were a thing”). During the time Melody and the children were with us, it was often that opportunity arose for conversations about what had happened that brought them to the place where they were. We came, in such a short time, to have a tremendous affection for this wonderful mother and these dear children. Our experience and observation taught us, contrary to the propaganda that has been spewed over social media and primetime networks, these children are loved and are safe with this mother. To paint it otherwise is a concocted boldfaced and knowing lie.
There have been exceptionally qualified individuals speak on these matters. For instance, Marie Anderson, MA, LPC, and a licensed professional therapist in Virginia was Melody’s therapist from September 10, 2016 through November 1, 2018. She conducted 30 sessions of 50 minute durations over that time frame – approximately once a month. Her August 19, 2019, letter of submission to the Alabama court, concluded as follows (these files are all a matter of record at the Alabama Civil Court of Appeals):
“. . . when treatment was ended in November 2018 I was confident in her ability to do extremely well as she faced the challenges in her marriage and caring for her children.”
Consider Dr. Michael Stone, of Columbia College, preeminent in his profession, in his letter of submission for the Alabama Court dated August 19, 2019, provided:
“Having spoken with Ms Melody Bannister and having also reviewed what she has written concerning the situation with her children, I can attest that she is a woman of 34 . . . with four children . . . – who is of sound mind – and who speaks truthfully and believably about the circumstances involving the abuse of her children (the girls, most especially). She comes across as a bright, articulate, and empathic woman.
Apart from an understandable measure of anxiety vis-a-vis the situation and fate of her children, she shows no signs of any mental illness or disorder.”
Dr. Carole Lieberman, M.D., M. P. H., submitted a 24 page “Psychiatric Evaluation of Bannister Family” after doing significant interviews with the children and Melody for consideration by the Alabama court. Dr. Lieberman, a delightful lady in her own personality, and a professional with the dignity of honor at what she does, believes Melody and the children. She has described some of her involvement in this case on her radio show:
Our Conversations: Probably the only thing we can add to the ongoing conversation is what we learned directly from the children themselves. I have never met William (Bill, Billy) Bannister, Melody’s husband and the children’s father. Mr. Bannister did reach out to me on social media and by private message and wanted to talk and provided his phone number. By this time my wife and I, as well as some of my neighbors and other members of the Bannister family we later learned, had been visited by the federal marshals who were looking for Melody and the children. We saw the warrant for the first time that night. They apparently thought we were hiding them. Due to their threatening demeanor for the course of two hours or so, we deferred conversations and referred them to our attorney for further interaction. I am aware they were just trying to do their job – I was doing mine. What has happened to Melody Bannister and her children is criminal – you are looking in the wrong direction. BTW, Professor James Duane of Regent University has given a tremendous lecture on “Why You Should Never Talk To The Police” over on youtube. Look it up – educational and practical for the citizen and police. Due to a need to exercise constitutional priorities and protect ourselves from possible attempts of deception, Mr. Bannister’s request was declined.
The following are some brief snippets of what the children revealed in conversations and which we have heard with our own ears:
1. The most dominant characteristic that each of the four children related about their dad was his anger. All of them saw their dad as a man controlled by his anger and they were afraid of that anger and never knew when it would go “volcano”. Note: In all the cases of abuse/counseling we have been involved in over the years, this one characteristic is the most common cited problem by the children. It controls the household environment and is itself a tool of control.
2. Each of the children discussed how their dad would take them to a room or a basement and would use a belt, including the metal part, and spank them until they sometimes bled
3. Each of the children talked about how their dad was suppose to be working from home but would rather spend hours playing video games. Two of the children shared that they observed when he started heavily playing the video games, his anger level against them seem to lessen.
4. All of the girls discussed to varying degrees being taken to the barn by their dad in the middle of the night, being forced to climb the ladder to where other men were located and knowing what was going to happened to them (many times relating being forced to perform oral sex on several men as well as some acts of violence against small animals with a machete), sometimes standing at the bottom of the ladder and hearing the muffled screams of one of their sisters in the top of the barn and simply being filled with horror and not knowing what to do, – you have read the stories elsewhere – we heard them first hand. I believe these children.
5. Prior to the court hearing of August 20, 2019, sitting at our kitchen table, I ask each of the children what they would do if a judge ordered them to return to their home. WITHOUT EXCEPTION, each child told us they would find a way to run away. It was crushing to listen too that “home” was not a place in their mind that was “safe”. How horrible.
6. When we ask the children about the detective and CPS worker who interviewed them in Virginia, WITHOUT EXCEPTION those children told us they did not trust them. That is not uncommon in our experience. Children under those circumstances have their antenna up and are generally quite perceptive.
I cannot think of any reason for us to say more because people far more qualified and far more involved have. I will conclude with this to Melody and her children:
Our community of believers in Jesus Christ that you met throughout this area do not know how this will fall out though we pray for justice for you and the children and we will do all that we can to further that end. However, we want you to know that whenever this is over, you and your children are welcome to come to our community (or we will come get you) and we will provide you a home and shelter, work for your hands, training for your children, and opportunities to grown beyond this evil and turn it for good. It is an option open to you for you to exercise in whatever discretion you decide. We love you and we love your children. May it please God to give you justice and we are thankful that you wrote your post – at least we know you are alive and well. Thank you for coming to our home.
We also know you are no danger to your children. We have seen you with your children; we have heard you sing; we have watched you laugh; we have watched you cry; we have watched you pray. I am so sorry that the Alabama courts have so failed you and your children. You have a good attorney in Sam McLure – but you know that.
Those are the words of a gentleman who spent time with Melody Bannister and the children. I have not spent time with them, and share this as written from his heart, as he perceives things to be.
There are many unanswered questions… Of the countless children that disappear each year, with no resources allocated to finding them, and no public statements made, why is a case like this so important? Is it the father’s money? Is it that Melody went to the law and is now seen to be ‘thumbing her nose’ by speaking out and not trusting them with her kids?
The ‘stacks of 100-dollar bills’ sitting around, mentioned in Melody’s blog, were also seen by others who have offered first hand testimony to that fact. Where did the money come from? How could Bill afford to sit around playing video games when he had a family to provide for?
Why are allegations like this determined to be impossible or imagination before a deep investigation is done? (Not something that can happen in a few days, a week or a month. It’s not that uncomplicated).
It is my hope and prayer that the Bannister children are not forgotten. That they are not forced to return to a father who was allegedly emotionally and otherwise absent, and from whom they allegedly feel disconnected. A father they allegedly fear. That they will not need to stay in hiding to be with their mom, but can safely come out and have their allegations investigated as though they have been heard for the first time and are possible.
What is absolute truth and what is not, in this case, remains a mystery to me. But the one certainty is this, the children should not be pawns used by Melody, by her husband, or by the law. They deserve to be cared for. They deserve to have their voices heard and respected. Power plays that revolve around children are evil, plain and simple, no matter who does it. No matter why.
The children deserve better.
For those interested, we now have 146 response to the survey on Conservative Anabaptist (CA) Leaders’ Response to Abuse. I’m still hoping for 200 responses before analyzing the data. If you have been sexually abused and interacted with a CA leader regarding the abuse, this survey is for you. I am preparing several other surveys and will release them on our SURVEYS PAGE.
© Trudy Metzger 2019