Call from US Marshals; Word on Bannister children; About torturing & raping little animals

TRIGGER WARNING:
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:

  1. The children would go to Bill Bannister.
  2. 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:

https://www.voiceamerica.com/…/mom-and-kids-flee-for-their-…

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.

 

As always…

Love,
Trudy

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

PLEASE SHARE & READ: BANNISTER CHILDREN ARE SAFE! Detective cites ‘clandestine religious group’ as concern for their wellbeing; Mrs. B isn’t part of a cult…

Recent developments, the news is reporting, are raising concerns for the wellbeing of Melody Bannister’s children, whom she abducted in June of 2019.  (In my previous blog s US MARSHALS issue warrant for MELODY BANNISTER’S Arrest I posted links to her writings and various news reports, for those interested in the backstory).

What are those recent developments?

The only obvious new development is that Melody Bannister started blogging and sharing publicly of the vile sexual abuse allegations against the children’s father, grandfather and other men in the community. How sharing their allegations publicly puts the children at risk is beyond me. I would think with public accountability comes greater safety.

That’s all I could find that ‘due to recent developments’ could have put the children in danger.

But… then LIVE PD WANTED interviewed the detective on the case…

When questioned about this risk to the children (Video), Detective James Wright said, (transcribed verbatim): “We believe they’re in danger because they’re… they be..uh.. be.. belong to a religious organization that … ah… in it’s clandestine nature we just don’t have a whole lot of information on.. and… we’re concerned about the welfare because they’re unable to take care of themselves.. they don’t have any means to take care of them… Melody doesn’t have any means to take care of them…”

How does this have anything to do with risk to the children? Let alone new risk? Firstly, that is not a recent development. Melody Bannister left the cult she was part of when she married Mr. Bannister. More on that later…

Det. Wright goes on to say that Melody Bannister, herself, calls the group a cult…. (Read her comments here… she is referring to one of the alleged abusers in her comment about a cult; Charles Simpson).  He also states they don’t have the means to care for themselves. While true, other people DO have the means and ARE taking care of them. (Since I started blogging, without asking for help, people have been reaching out to me to offer what they can!)

I’ve heard from several individuals who have known Melody Bannister a long time. They have filled in some of the following gaps for me.

Charles Simpson, one of the founders of the Shepherding Movement cult became the “spiritual father” to a man named Jim McNally and often had McNally participate in his Charles Simpson Ministries conferences.

The confusion comes from this…. Mrs. Bannister was part of a cult called VISION FORUM BUT she left that cult when she married Mr. Bannister at age 19! (This movement folded after its founder, Doug Phillips was accused in 2013 of sexual activity with his children’s nanny.) 

Melody and Mr. Bannister were then part of the religious cult, Harvest Christian Fellowship (HCF), which was founded by Jim McNally. This church allegedly promoted unquestioned church leader authority, unquestioned male dominance and corresponding female submission, even to the point of wife spanking.  As Jim McNally traveled all over the world, allegedly preaching his doctrine of “fatherhood,” Harvest Christian Fellowship branched out into Harvest International Ministries. It was in this cult that the Senior Bannister raised Bill and his other children. And it is into this cult that Melody Bannister entered upon marrying Bill.

(Interesting rabbit trail… that Ephrata-based Charity-type church I mentioned in my previous blog, where they made a paddle with holes to spank children without leaving marks… There was allegedly wife spanking among them too, and an infestation of child sexual abuse. And they also promoted unquestioned male dominance. What is with these cults?! See a pattern?)

However, Harvest dissolved in January of 2015 when McNally, his health deteriorating, moved with his wife to Florida to be near their son. He died November 2015. It was only after this movement folded that the Bannister family began visiting other churches.

Only then did Melody begin to see and experience what normal life is like outside the cult. Her whole life until 2015 was entangled with cults. Now that she is finally free from all cults, suddenly, when she begins speaking out, her children are in danger because of a religious group that is ‘clandestine in nature?

Vision Forum, for context, is the same cult with which the Duggar family were entangled. The cult that taught the Duggars to blame victims, in their case, the daughters, for the abuse. (Most of us remember the Josh Duggar scandal. And to the “you can’t bring it up, he was sorry” crowd: save it. The Bible is full of forbidden, forgiven stories). Even Michael Pearl — whose teachings I abhor for their abusive and ‘perverted form of patriarchy’ tone, and training gullible parents to be abusive parents — allegedly has spoken out against the extremist patriarchal approach of Vision Forum. And if I’m endorsing something Michael Pearl said, those who know me (and know my opinion of his parenting teachings) will know that only one thing could motivate me to do so; the belief that (in this case) he is speaking truth. In this case, he has some a few good things to say. … and then… some not so good. So this is no endorsement of him or his teachings.

Google them and do some reading. Interesting stuff. And if Melody was involved with them, I’d be tripping over myself to help Det. Wright and the US Marshals find them.

HCF cults… they seem to have been truly obscure. If anyone has info on them, please send it to me. I’m trying to research them, but the bulk of info will likely need to come from those once involved. The bit I know is the teachings on Fatherhood… Father MUST be listened to and obeyed without question. Always. And the ‘Father’ position, as I understand, extends to the leader (ie; Jim McNally) who must also be obeyed without question. Therefore, if church leaders tell you to “beat the devil out of the children” (which members were allegedly told), then that is what you must do. They were required to beat their children.

This, again, is not something Melody is part of. It is something she married into when she married Bill. It is what they left in 2015.

IF THE CULT CONNECTIONS really was/is the cause for concern, why were things silent from June until now? Why was the law not frantically trying to find Mrs. Bannister and the children, and notifying media all along? Why, immediately after Bannister publicizes the horrendous allegations, is a group to which she is no longer connected cause for concern?

Especially since she IS NOT part of any cult, and has not been since 2015. 

I would be interested in hearing more from Det. Wright regarding cults and the Bannister’s involvement, and why this is a concern now that they are finally out.

 

*****

Mrs. Bannister is KEEPING HER CHILDREN SAFE FROM THE ALLEGED ABUSERS.

SHE IS FLEEING FROM the group she referred to as a cult (or the ‘clandestine group’), IT WAS ONE OF THE ALLEGED ABUSERS, CHARLES SIMPSON, SHE CALLS A CULT LEADER… She is fleeing from the accused men and the law BECAUSE SHE BELIEVES HER CHILDREN HAVE NOT BEEN GIVEN APPROPRIATE CARE OR VOICE. (No forensic interviews done by Stafford VA police in spite of horrendous allegations! Read about that in her blog by clicking this link.) And Mr. Bannister IS part of whatever ‘clandestine group’ the alleged abusers have formed…. if they are actually a group.

I continue to state that I do not know if the allegations are all true, or some, but I am 100% confident that SOMETHING is very wrong. What would make children so desperate that they would make such allegations and maintain the story while police investigate them? There are two things that I can think of:

  1. They experienced every bit of the horror they allege to have experienced
    – or –
  2. They experienced other horror to make them speak agains their dad… horror that deserves deep investigation

The latter is problematic because it would require four children maintaining accurate testimony about a lie, without contradicting itself and/or each other. One child lying and keeping the story straight is hard. Any more than one? Not gonna happen.

Screen Shot 2019-12-16 at 10.41.55 AM
Please click the picture and continue signing the petition!  Dr. Lieberman risking her reputation for these children speaks for itself.

 

What I wouldn’t give to sit with these four children and have a conversation with them! I have a list of questions…  But that’s not my place any more than declaring that the allegations are all true.

In any case, if it the children reneged their testimony, and there was evidence it was all the work of their mom, heaven knows I’d be tripping over myself to bring truth to light.

My questions remain unanswered. What was so very wrong in their lives and household that children bring forward such allegations? And, if Det. Wright and the CPS worker are right, and the allegations are their ‘imagination’, then how did these children manage to all lie convincingly enough to dupe “two of the most prestigious forensic psychiatrists in the country: Dr. Michael Stone and Dr. Carole Lieberman“? And why was their professional testimony not considered when it was brought forward?

Screen Shot 2019-12-16 at 10.41.55 AM

Last, but not least, let’s assume Mrs. Bannister did in fact have some mental health issues… That wouldn’t answer the above questions as to how children could keep their stories straight. And unless a parent is a threat to their child, since when do we take children away from parents who have mental illness based on that assumption? (I say ‘assumption because in this case Dr. Stone and Dr. Lieberman have refuted it).

Regardless what is true in this case, it goes without saying that these children need help. Mrs. Bannister needs help. And Mr. Bannister needs help. By the time a man calls his wife insane and manages to convince a judge to such an extent that the testimony of forensic psychiatrists means nothing, there is already something badly wrong.

And I stand firm on that. There is something badly, badly wrong for kids to make these allegations against their father and grandfather and maintain those allegations after it has cost them this much. And when two forensic psychiatrists determine they are not lying.

The way this is being handled by professionals in Virginia raises many unanswered questions.

Those questions deserve to be addressed.

For the sake of the children.

*****

NOTE: To the best of my ability I have collected information that is true and accurate. If you know me at all, you know I love truth. And you also know I apologize freely and publicly when I get it wrong.

The urgency in this case requires the conversation to continue, which creates higher risk of error. I am doing my utmost to avoid that.

*****

Again, please sign the petition. Since it began a few days ago, we are at almost 30,000! Keep the momentum going. Keep sharing even if you’ve signed. Let America know that the children’s well being is of #1 priority. And then, for a little ‘feel good’, sit with the tab open and watch the numbers rise. It’s so satisfying.

And for easy access to the backstory and Melody’s blogs, other news reports etc, I’ve included them  them in my previous blog.

*****

Be careful not to despise — disregard or think little of; not give proper value to — these little children. I’m telling you… their angels in heaven are always before the face of my Father in heaven. ~ JESUS ~  (Matthew 18:10)

The children are safe.

 

As always…

Love,
Trudy

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

PLEASE SHARE! URGENT: US MARSHALS issue warrant for MELODY BANNISTER’S Arrest!! (The other side of the story)

If the news articles released regarding Melody Bannister’s children being in danger — the case I wrote about a few days ago — is all people know, they will report when they see them and put the children back in alleged danger!

The news stations are only reporting what they have been told; they don’t have the bigger backstory. Therefore I am pushing it as hard as I can, so they and the public are forced to contemplate WHAT THE CHILDREN REALLY NEED. HOW IS THAT NOT HIGHEST PRIORITY HERE?

WMBF News shared an article stating the children of Melody Bannister may be in danger, according to deputies. This is utter nonsense. The mother fled with them after they disclosed horrific abuse by their father (who was then granted custody), their grandfather, and other men.

WPMT FOX43 released a statement saying the US Marshals have issued a warrant for her arrest.

SHARING THE FOLLOWING LINKS IS NOT INTENDED AS AN ENDORSEMENT OF THE CONTENT, BUT TO ALERT THE PUBLIC TO THE BACKSTORY. AND HOPEFULLY ASK OURSELVES WHAT IN THE WORLD WOULD MAKE CHILDREN BRING ALLEGATIONS THIS HORRENDOUS (EVEN IF NOT ALL TRUE) AGAINST THE FATHER AND GRANDFATHER IF NOTHING  IS WRONG. THIS IS THE PART THAT NEEDS TO BE INVESTIGATED. (AND BY ALL MEANS, IF MOM IS GUILTY AND THE CHILDREN DID NOT SAY THOSE THINGS, MOM SHOULD BE DEALT WITH BY LAW). FOR NOW, THE KIDS NEED TO BE CARED FOR AND IF THERE IS TRAUMA WITH DAD, HE SHOULD NOT HAVE CUSTODY.

BANNISTER STORY PART ONE

BANNISTER STORY PART TWO

BANNISTER STORY PART THREE: TRIGGER WARNING!

AND IF YOU FIND THAT STORY UNBELIEVABLE, AND WONDER HOW THE ABOVE ATROCITIES ARE EVEN POSSIBLE, READ THE GHOST RAPES OF BOLIVIA. IT SHOWS CLEARLY HOW SUCH A THINGS *WOULD* BE POSSIBLE, WITHOUT A MOTHER EVER KNOWING. (This is not to say that every allegation made is true. I repeat that this is not my point. My motive is to get people to realize the extent of wickedness that is possible).

UPDATE: People are messaging and asking how it would be possible to use the bullwhip and physical abuse without leaving marks. It’s not that hard. Here is my response to them:

All the abusers have to do is put a protective layer over the children to prevent bruising/scarring, and still have the terror an a bit of pain. It’s not hard. The greatest power these sadists have is controlling the mind, instilling debilitating fear, and making their victims sound ‘crazy’ and their stories not believable. It is their best cover.
 
The Charity church in Ephrata PA (where Mose Stoltzfus was formerly a leader) had a paddle especially designed with holes in it, which they kept in a soundproof room. This, to increase aerodynamics, decrease risk of marks and bruising, and cause serious pain. (And I spoke with a family member of the individual who created it. That’s how I know the purpose and details). In that sound proof room I have numerous testimonies of babies being beaten until they went limp, including infants under a year old.
 
If a *church* (Anabaptist and ‘peace-loving’ at that) can be this conniving, why should we be surprised when others are creative in their sadism?
I reiterate that I do not know what all went on, and what each alleged perp is guilty of.  And I reiterate that even if only 10% is truth, the children need to be protected and heard. (And even IF the mom is whacko and making things up, the children need to be heard). But to write the allegations off as the imagination of children is irresponsible.
*****

WPMT FOX43: US MARSHALS ISSUE WARRANT FOR BANNISTER’S ARREST

DEPUTIES TELL WMBT NEWS: BANNISTER CHILDREN MAY BE IN DANGER (THE BANNISTER CHILDREN ARE NOT IN DANGER. I KNOW THIS WITH CERTAINTYTHIS IS INTENDED TO PLAY ON THE EMOTIONS OF THE PUBLIC. DO NOT FALL FOR IT. PLEASE DO NOT REPORT THEM IF YOU SEE THEM). What has changed in recent days? Mrs. Bannister is blogging. She is telling the children’s stories. And suddenly news stations everywhere are being alerted that her children are in danger! On what grounds?

LIVE PD WANTED Video:
DETECTIVE JAMES WRIGHT (Transcribed verbatim): “We believe they’re in danger because they’re… they be..uh.. be.. belong to a religious organization that … ah… in it’s clandestine nature we just don’t have a whole lot of information on.. and… we’re concerned about the welfare because they’re unable to take care of themselves.. they don’t have any means to take care of them… Melody doesn’t have any means to take care of them…

Given the vast number of cult-like groups where children are being raped, abused, and cases still left for the community to have say, this ‘concern’ is bizarre, in my opinion.

OTHER STATIONS ISSUING THE WARNINGS WHO DO NOT LIKELY HAVE THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY (IN ABOVE LINKS), AND WHO NEED TO DO INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING ON THIS, ARE:

LEX 18 NEWS
WYFF 4

WHSV

That seems like a SILENCING TACTIC! So I did my own investigative work. The children are safe. (I will repeat this several times).  I don’t know what of the allegations are true, or if all, but (and I will repeat this) something is wrong. And that something needs to be looked into. 

TO SIGN A PETITION ON THEIR BEHALF: SAVE THE BANNISTER CHILDREN FROM SEX TRAFFICKING

 

*******

No matter how well-intentioned, this appeal to the public to ‘help the children’ is not because the children are in danger. (I have personally confirmed they are safe). It’s because a mother defied the law to do what she genuinely believes is best for her children. I have not yet saId, nor will I say that every allegation these children made is 100% as they say it was. I do not know this; I am not God. But there is nothing believable about young children whose father provides well (over six digit US dollars) and gives them ‘the good life’, making these extreme allegations if they are 100% unfounded.

SOMETHING,.. SOMETHING IS VERY, VERY WRONG! Kids who are loved and respected by parents, and well provided for, don’t give up everything to live on the run ‘just because’. Think it through. Do the math. Be logical. And then bring in SEX ABUSE PROFESSIONALS to help these kids and their mother! 

It may be true that the law found no evidence. That does not negate the validity of the children’s allegations. Children who have not experienced trauma do not have such extreme nightmares, and traumatic aftermath. These children have been interviewed by professionals who say their stories are true. I still maintain none of us are God to know with certainty every detail. But I have worked with sexual violence against children for over 10 years, and I insist further investigation is necessary. At the very least, if the children are that traumatized by their father and grandfather and other men in the community, they should not be returned to the source of their trauma. That is irresponsible.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am 100% FOR REPORTING TO THE LAW.  And I have much respect for many law enforcement officers. But, I will say this… I have yet to meet a law-enforcement officer who is truly an expert in sex crimes. I am not saying they don’t exist, I am saying I have yet to meet one. There is no way they should be the final authority on these children going back to what they say is the source of their trauma. Especially when several professionals have interviewed the children and said they are not lying. Child safety takes priority over the law, and every other thing. We, as adults across the world, HAVE A DUTY TO PROTECT THE CHILDREN at all cost.

Have we learned nothing from the Epstein case… and others? Those with means to commit crimes and ‘make them go away’ are very difficult to prosecute. And I’ve been involved in cases that ‘fell by the wayside’ with undeniable evidence (recorded confession etc). I have evidence for these cases that, if victims would ask me to do so, I would blow wide open and expose what really goes on behind the scenes. (And we all saw how the CAM/JERIAH MAST case was impacted and held accountable when I leaked evidence to the public and the media got hold of that story this summer). We, the public, have a lot more influence than we realize. Let’s use it for the most powerless among us: the children. And if even half of these allegations… nay, if even one tenth are true, these children must be protected! 

PLEASE SHARE!!
Let the public know the other side of this story. Force it into the spotlight. I am only interested in truth and the safety of these children. We owe it to them to LET THEIR CHILD VOICES BE HEARD

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

A mother flees with children after they disclose being ‘shared’ (for sex) by their father, grandfather; Virginia Law enforcement looks the other way

A mother is told by her children of the horror they have endured at the hands of those they trusted most, and the law blows them off. She asks the following questions in her blog post:

Why in the world would an upper-middle-class child, in a picture-perfect community complete with good schools, a social life, a backyard in-ground pool, and even a friendly neighborhood ice cream truck, concoct such a tale? What could possibly motivate them to whisper soul-crushing horrors to their mother on the back deck swing, when they knew what it could cost them: their home, their friends, their beloved cousins, their bedrooms and nearly all their worldly possessions? All this they would trade for a life on the run, hiding like frightened cottontails in the tall grass?

When the law fails like this, chalking up childhood reports of vile abuses to ‘active imaginations’, and continues to give abusers access, we, too, need to ask some hard questions.

Why are children not heard? (Not only out there, but ‘among us’).

What frame of reference do children have for concocting extreme and outlandish stories of sexual assault?

And, maybe most importantly: How many people with influence are involved in the abuses with a vested interest in making this go away? Or, how many benefit from relationships with such high profile abusers in other ways, including judges, law enforcement and others?

To read the rest of that blog, and the tragic story unfolding: MILLSTONES OF JUSTICE. And consider signing the petitions and sharing.

This is one story I hope go viral, drawing the attention of reporters and the general public who must hold the legal system accountable.

Doing nothing is never the right option. We have a moral obligation to stand in the gap for children.

To sign the petition: https://www.change.org/p/save-the-bannister-children-from-sex-trafficking.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

True forgiveness leaves offenders in their own noose… And a sneak peek at survey results

We Anabaptists say that for a Catholic priest to forgive a penitent sinner is false doctrine. He has no such authority, we say, to stand in the place of God and forgive sins.

We then turn around and teach that victims of sexual abuse and violence must forgive their offenders. It is his/her Christian duty. And we teach that it brings freedom not only to the offended but also to the offender. Moreover, we have members’ meetings in which the guilty are singled out, and the congregation stands to declare forgiveness.

Tell me, if the Catholic priest has no such rights and authority, how can we say that we do? Do we not also stand in the place of God, and encourage victims to do so, when we make forgiveness about the offender? (I understand the priest ‘absolves’ the sinner, which sounds much worse, but only means to set free from guilt or responsibility. So, same thing as forgiveness. Same doctrinal practice).

Forgiveness is one of the most crucial aspects of *our own healing*. It has nothing to do with setting the other person free from their sins or wrongs. It sets *us* free from *their* sins and wrongs. It’s like it cuts the rope of the noose the offender placed around our neck, and allows us to truly live, completely released from him/her and the crimes committed against us.

Part of that noose is vindictiveness; entertaining the urge to retaliate. Part of that noose is vengeance; the act of getting even and letting them have it. Part of that noose is hatred; despising the person rather than the vile acts they committed. When we cut the noose, we release hatred for the person, and we release vengeance and vindictiveness. We are no longer obsessed with getting back at them. We trade those things for compassion, and maintain a desire for truth and justice, and to protect the vulnerable. The latter qualities do not evaporate with forgiveness. In this exchange, when we forgive, we become whole and the noose about our neck is severed.

When we cut that noose, however, offenders are no more free from their noose than before we forgave. He/she must come before God taking full ownership and in full repentance to be freed from the noose around his/her neck. Both ‘cheap forgiveness’ — the kind that quickly tidies things up to look good,  and lack of forgiveness — that keeps us constantly seeking vengeance, hold offender in bondage and do nothing for the freedom of the victim. It is a gift to the offender to be held accountable.

We are set free when we forgive, and we release them to accountability before God and the law.

In other words, forgiveness is an act of faith in God. Through forgiveness we recognize that the offender remains accountable before God for his/her sins/crimes, not to us. Vengeance is not ours; it is Gods.

Forgiveness also does not fulfil the demand of law and government. That is a separate accountability structure. (Romans 13). We have no more authority to ‘forgive’ the offender and ‘free them from responsibility to the law’ than we have to offer eternal life through forgiveness of sins.

False doctrine surrounding forgiveness keeps both victim and offender in bondage to the sin/crime committed. It keeps the victim in bondage to the consequences of the offender’s sins/crimes. We were not designed to carry the consequences of our own sins, let alone the sins of another. We can only choose to take ownership of our healing needs that result from those sins/crimes.

Forgiveness leaves the offender, right there in his/her own noose, before God. Because that noose has nothing to do with the victim. It has everything to do with his/her heart before God. It leaves the offender with the choice to reach up and cry out for forgiveness from God, and turn from the wickedness, or to slowly strangle the life out of him/herself. Our false doctrine of forgiveness leaves the offender to strangle, not realizing that’s what is happening.

True forgiveness, separated from the offender and his/her story, sets the victim free from the offender. It sets the victim free from the offence. It sets the victim free *from the consequences of the offence*. It releases the victim *from* being a victim *to* being empowered.

True forgiveness frees the victim to become an overcomer. And it frees the victim to take ownership of his/her own healing.

That’s what real forgiveness does.

***

SURVEY:

Currently we have a survey looking at Conservative Anabaptist Leaders’ Responses to Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence.  We have 77 responses in under two days, which is outstanding. We are also collecting data on relationship of offender(s) to victims. Some of the results, as usual, are pretty much what we expected. Others are startling. For example:

SNEAK PREVIEW OF SURVEY RESULTS BASED ON 78 respondents:
• 40% of victims have been assaulted by their brothers
• 31%  of victims have been assaulted by family friends
• 27% of victims have been assaulted by their fathers
• 10% of victims have been assaulted by their mothers
• 15% of victims have been sexually assaulted by more than 5 offenders
• Roughly 57% of victims who suffered only SA or only DV left the conservative; When the two are combined — SA & DV — that number jumps to nearly 70%
• 30% of SA victims (no DV) who left the church say leaders played a significant role in their leaving the church; coincidentally 42% of all SA victims (no DV)  would recommend going to leaders
• 36% of DV victims who left the church say leaders’ response played a significant role in leaving the church; 87% advise victims NOT to go to leaders for support
• 42% of SA & DV victims who left the church say leaders’ response played a significant role in leaving the church; 100% advise victims NOT to go to leaders for support

NOTE: While the numbers are startling, it should not be assumed that 10% of all CA survivors (outside of this study) were molested by mothers. There are many factors that could contribute to this representation in this particular survey.
….

There is much more emerging, and when we have enough participants to feel fairly confident in the data, I plan to do a deep analysis and share some of the graphs and stats here. I’m hopeful that we will have around 200 participants with a bit of time. (Currently we are at 78, so climbing even since writing the last two paragraphs).

I have fine-tuned that survey, and will release the improved version on our new Survey’s Page shortly. (Hoping later tonight). I plan to update this page with new surveys as I get then ready, so check back. While this blog is the sole ownership and responsibility of myself, Trudy Metzger, the data gathered will be used by Generations Unleashed to better understand sexual abuse in our culture. I will also share surveys for other individual i trust, and who are researching sexual abuse.

I am hopeful that as the conversations continue, professionals and support persons alike will be equipped to give better advice and support sexual abuse survivors in our conservative Mennonite culture. For example, if professionals are encouraging victims to go to their leaders, but victims are finding their leaders to be abusive, then such advice should stop.

But it should not end there. Leaders should be trained and equipped to respond in more effective ways. Looking at the results above it appears (and has consistently throughout the survey) that leaders’ response to DV is even more neglectful than sexual abuse. There are many things that play into responses, including silence surrounding the topic. Respondents talked about ‘seeing change’ and ‘being hopeful’ that there is improvement. And some referenced ‘the last 10 years’.

This makes sense to me. The last 10 years is when we’ve started addressing sexual abuse more and more openly. It is anecdotal evidence that conversation is necessary for change. So let’s keep talking!

And, lest I’ve completely distracted you from good intentions, you can take the survey Conservative Anabaptist Leaders’ Responses to Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence and let your voice make a difference. Also, for more accurate results.

As always,

Love,
~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Should survivors of sexual abuse or domestic to go to church leaders to report and/or seek support?

Survivors of SEXUAL ABUSE and DOMESTIC VIOLENCE in ANABAPTIST COMMUNITY:

Should professionals advise survivors of sexual abuse or domestic to go to church leaders to report and/or seek support? Would you advise them to go to leaders, based on your experience? Why, or why not?

In the past I’ve said (and probably will again in the future) that it is not fair to put it on leaders to counsel victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence. They have no training for it. They are not counsellors or psychologists. Not usually, anyway. And how do they effectively support 1 in 3 to 4 women and 1 in 5 to 6 who have been sexually abused, and the domestic violence cases besides? Is it reasonable to expect this? Is it even wise?

Some say it is their duty. Others say it does more harm than good to have those with limited (or no) training and knowledge on these topics be the ‘go to’.  I have my thoughts and opinions, formulated through ten years of working with sexual abuse and occasionally domestic violence victims.

I would love to hear your thoughts, either for or against. To take the survey visit: Conservative Anabaptist Leaders’ Response to Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence. The survey is completely anonymous.

As always…
Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Supporting Survivors & Offenders… And Former offender shares his story

Tomorrow and Friday, November 28-29, we are doing a training here in Elmira, Ontario. Thursday’s focus is on supporting survivors of abuse well, and Friday is supporting offenders responsibly.

This will be the third time we’ve had a former offender coming for an interview to share parts of his story in an interview on the second day. Both previous times the feedback was very positive, with attendees saying it is helpful to hear from someone who offended who takes full ownership, especially sex abuse victims.

Even so, please be aware that for some survivors this can be triggering. We do not recommend you register if that is your situation. 

Screen Shot 2019-11-05 at 11.55.12 AM

While survivors of sexual abuse are welcome, we do not advertise this training as being for survivors. It can be hard for survivors to hear behavioural symptoms of abuse talked about in a more clinical matter of fact way. By this I mean that conferences are designed to support the abused, and acknowledge their suffering, and we speak gently to the victims. Training, on the other hand, addresses some of the pitfalls and risks associated with helping victims, and negative behaviours victims exhibit. One example is the manipulation that many victims adopt to survive, and how this can become a dysfunctional part of the mentor/mentee relationship. We discuss how to manage those well when supporting survivors, and in such a way that it does not damage both parties.

Though the gentleman makes no excuses for his choices — he owns those — it can still be triggering for survivors to hear someone who has offended share their backstory.  In the interview I ask him about his childhood, and how it shaped him, because early life experience inevitably influences us, our identity (or perception of ourselves — not our true identity), and the trajectory of our life. As part of his sharing, we will talk about extreme sexual addictions and his journey to facing those addictions and taking ownership.

The more we understand this, the more we can work toward both prevention and healing. Is there a place for those who have offended in the Kingdom of God? How do help them responsibly? What can we do to help those who have offended without compromising the wellbeing of victims and the vulnerable? We will talk about offenders’ needs — accountability, consequences (different from ‘punishment’, though church and legal consequences can be part of that), and community of support. 

Training days are typically attended by a small group — 15 to 20 individuals is common — which is great for discussion and interaction. If you prefer smaller groups with vibrant Q&A discussions, and opportunity to contribute, this is a great event to attend.

To ensure there are no surprises for survivors who consider attending, the former offender plans to serve lunch both days.  However, he will only be in sessions on Thursday. 

To register: Generations Unleashed Events

Hope to see you there!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Forgiveness; Compassion; William McGrath a Conservative Anabaptist Leader and Sex Offender, and all the Things

FORGIVENESS
In all the Christian talk about the beauty of forgiveness, we have made the mistake of teaching and believing that forgiveness and justice are at odds. They are compatible. It is not ‘forgiveness *or* justice’. It is ‘forgiveness *and* justice’. God loves both.

The problem is that we really do not understand what forgiveness is and means, and we really don’t understand what justice is and means. (I do not propose to have the understanding either! But to think they are at odds is evidence we are missing something). As a result, most teachings on forgiveness are imbalanced, saying you must choose ‘only’ forgiveness. Many even teach that to forgive means “I am taking the consequences of your sin on myself.”

I would propose that we release ourselves from the consequences of their wrongs and sins when we forgive. Forgiveness is a matter of releasing my heart from the burden I carry as a result of the evils done against me. The greatest longterm ongoing consequence for most sins committed against me is what I believe as a result of that wrong. (There are exceptions. If a drunk driver kills my child, the longterm consequences is my grief, the loss of that child and all that goes with it. I speak here specifically to my experience and most wrong committed against me).

My forgiveness cannot free the other person; only God’s forgiveness can do that. In fact, if handled in such a way that the other person never truly comes to grips with their wrongdoing, ‘forgiveness’ (as taught by many) keeps that person in bondage. There is a kindness in a person being confronted with their own capacity for evil, when paired with compassion, mercy, grace and consequences that holds him/her accountable. If the offender is truly repentant, this encounter is life altering and a gift to him/her and those in relationship with them.

I believe in forgiveness. It transformed my life. It continues to transform my life. It is what set me free to live a whole life, to pursue my calling. And it is what breaks the power their actions had over me. It does not impose on me any code of silence. It does change the way I speak about it. I still call out evil. I still call out corruption and manipulation. I do not hate. I do not call for beheadings, literally or figuratively. I still support going to the law and ensuring offenders cannot continue to hurt people. That’s part of justice.

There is no justice in leaving children vulnerable to predators. None. Nor is that forgiveness. That is ignorance. But true justice never calls for the destruction (death or other) of the wrongdoer. Because true justice recognizes that I, too, am fallen humanity who deserves judgement, and the grace I have received is the grace I pass on. God did not remove this life’s consequences; I continue to live with those to this day. But He did offer me eternal life and removed from me the consequence of eternal death.  That is a gift I offer others, along with restoring their humanity, seeing them as having both capacity for good and for evil, and treating them with dignity even while holding them accountable for that evil.

***

Over my mother’s funeral several of my offenders showed up . One, in particular, stood out. He looks but a broken shell of humanity. Though he is not a family member, I’ve seen him at numerous family events such as weddings and funerals — I anticipate I will see him again tomorrow — and always what it stirs in my heart is grief. Not for what was done against me — I’m done with that grieving and am healed — but of what sin robbed him of. That’s not to say he hasn’t made his heart right before God. I’m not one to judge that. But the eyes tell a story…. and the story his tell… 

I saw him there… So I walked over, stood behind the gentleman talking to him and waited ‘in line’ to speak with him. When my turn came, I shook his hand, and thanked him for his expression of sympathy by coming to mom’s funeral. Admittedly, he looked relieved when my thanks was all I had to say to him.

Whatever he took from me when he molested me, it does not compare with what he lost within himself, and the consequences he has to live with for his choices. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not downplaying his crimes; they had a huge impact on me. Truth is, odds are high I would still be conservative Anabaptist if he had not done what he did. That is where and when I started feeling lost in the culture to such a degree that I knew I could not stay. I saw myself as a misfit who would never survive, and whose dreams would never come true ‘among them’. Trust me, I do not bemoan the outcome, but at the time, as a young teen who dreamed of marrying a Mennonite man — ideally a farmer — it was devastating. I saw only ‘old rejected spinster’ in my future, and that belief isolated me.

The greater harm was the sexual confusion it threw me into. Feeling things for which I had no words or teaching, and the ensuing years of deep shame it cost me. And because word got out, I had no idea who all knew. Every time a young man looked at me, I was sure he was thinking “slut”. So I would sit through special meetings at other churches, blushing and ashamed, whenever a young man looked my way. Yes, the cost was significant.

But I saw the consequences in his eyes at mom’s funeral, and felt only compassion. Since seeing him at mom’s funeral, I’ve said to Tim from time to time, “I think I need to go visit him and his wife. I need to have a conversation with them….”

We will see. If and when the time is right, I will do it. And that visit won’t be for my own good or healing; it will be for his redemption. Not relational restoration. That is not necessary. But his deep soul redemption and freedom.

If I do it, I do it of my own choice. And that choice has nothing whatsoever to do with forgiveness, other than to give me the courage to do it. Forgiveness is something I did in my heart before God many years ago. These things should not be confused with forgiveness, because they are not a requirement of the forgiving process.

COMPASSION
I felt that same compassion standing in the courtroom at Jeriah Mast’s hearing. First, and foremost, I felt deep grief for those whom Jeriah victimized. When the judge read the list of crimes Jeriah confessed to committing, it was all I could do to hold myself together and not begin sobbing. When the judge read how only weeks before the sentencing, Jeriah still said his sexual assaults (at age 25) of minors under 13 was ‘consensual’, I felt frustrated that he still doesn’t ‘get it’ how incredibly vile it is to use children and that there is no such thing as ‘consensual’ when adults take advantage of children. And when the judge handed down the sentence and explained why he chose the 9 years instead of a lesser sentence– because Jeriah is an ongoing risk to the public, in part because he doesn’t get it — I felt a mix of sadness and gratitude. Sad that it is a judge who ‘gets it’, not the church, and gratitude that at least someone does.

And when I saw Jeriah handcuffed and taken from the courtroom before a numb audience (his church and family, by all appearances), I felt compassion and deep sorrow. Sorrow that Jeriah’s crimes caused so much loss and harm to the victims, his wife and family, and his friends. Sorrow that so much of religion doesn’t grasp the harm and rallies for the offender. (I was one of less than a handful of people – and that’s a generous number – who were there to support the victims in a courtroom so full that people were standing around the room). And compassion for Jeriah’s soul and the things that took him down this path. It came out in court that he had been sexually abused by an older brother. This in now way excuses his evil deeds. To commit them was a choice, and he must own that before God and man.

Some say he has owned it. I reiterate that his comments not long before sentencing, minimizing his crimes to ‘consensual acts’, are revealing of his lack of grasping the severity of his crimes, which means he isn’t safe around the vulnerable, but the rest — repentance and forgiveness — I leave between him and God. And leave it with God to fully break him and help him understand how evil and far reaching the crimes/sins are. And to understand that children should be protected by 25 year old men; they should not need to be protected from them. 

***

William McGrath. The name evokes many and various responses, depending who is in the audience. Those who hold him high, and idolize this cultural trophy with his charismatic (so some say) personality, it evokes high praise and reverence. For his victims, and those near them, who watched a religious culture idolize him, then (some) question him, followed by deafening silence and cover-up, the name is a reminder of loss and suffering without proper acknowledgement of truth, and certainly a lack of justice. For the Beachy Amish leaders who investigated and then fell short of being honourable, I imagine the name brings shame.

For the woman whose husband — a victim of McGrath — committed suicide… I cannot imagine the deep suffering she has experienced at the silence, and at not hearing McGrath’s name where it should have been spoken, and where his actions should have been unequivocally condemned. And I can’t imagine how healing it must be for her to know that someone has heard her cries.

And ‘that someone’ who heard is the author of Anabaptist Medical Matters, a Conservative Anabaptist (CA) Medical doctor who has recently written several articles addressing the epidemic of sexual abuse in the CA community, including a current one on McGrath. He is forthright, gentle, honest, and — from what I see at a distance — seems to live honourably. (I have never met him, but still hope to one day).

In this article he tells of the case of William, and dares to speak to that which lies carefully buried. But the truth does not die with the body, and the consequences ripple throughout the generations, when sex crimes are left unaddressed. Especially when it is at a religious leadership level. To read the article, visit, “Blessed Are They That Mourn“.

(Warning: The article may be triggering for survivors. Trigger or not, I would read it for the gold that is in it. By giving you a heads up, I hope it will prevent extreme triggering and make it possible for you to push past the triggers. The first potential trigger is in ‘mourn for the offenders’. I agree with the author, but have worked long enough with survivors to know the general consensus is that offenders’ needs are always placed first. If able, push past this and read on. The second trigger is in addressing Jeriah Mast. The author may not be aware that only weeks prior to his sentencing, Mast was still defending/excusing his actions against boys as young as 11 — when he was 25 — as consensual. For those who know this, the author’s statement “By all accounts, he has sincerely repented, even expressing a desire to be rebaptized” could be very triggering).

I do not agree with everything written here, and that’s ok. I see a sincere and honest acknowledgement of deep failure in the CA community, in this writing, and bless the author for daring to go there. It is not a popular move in that culture.

Frankly, until survivors have permission to speak, and those who remain (whether family or culture) repent for the coverups and abuses, there is no changing the course of history. But God forbid that the abusers be the ones to ‘stand in the gap’ and repent for other offenders, if they have not first done so with their own offences. If you are godly, and if you have taken ownership for your wrongs and repented at a personal level, only then have you any right to stand in that gap without making things worse.

***

Tomorrow is my 50th birthday. I feel blessed to be alive and doing so well. I’ve had some near-death encounters in my life — two in particular stand out — including numerous events this year that reminded me of the fragility of life. To have made it half way to 100 and thriving, is the mercy and grace of God.

I have no personal needs but have many in my life who do have needs, so to celebrate my 50th, I invite you to support the following:

  1. THE GATHERING, our second annual event offering survivors of abuse a safe place to gather and connect, a place to find hope, safety and healing. This year we were able to offer attendance considerably below cost, thanks to donors. It is our hope to continue making this event affordable through donations. To donate, visit Generations Unleashed Donate and scroll down to The Gathering 2020.
  2. Support for victims of Jeriah Mast in Haiti who did not accept payouts from Christian Aid Ministries. We started this fund just prior to my mother’s decline and death, with a team of people willing to help oversee it, and with reports. To date we have received two donations — one for $200 and one for $20 — but unfortunately holds were placed on both donations (presumably because it was a new PayPal account, since we could not put this through GU). One hold has now been lifted. Furthermore, the tragic events in Haiti have made it impossible for us to set up vendors where these survivors can go for prepaid supplies, whether groceries or other. As of this week, that has changed for some survivors who have relocated. We will now work toward arranging for their needs to be met, where they have relocated, but will require considerably more funding than the $220 we presently have. Donate: Here and scroll down to Haiti Victims.

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

***

UPCOMING EVENT, ELMIRA ONTARIO:
November 28 and 29
Emmanuel Missionary Church in Elmira Ontario

To see details and register visit: Generations Unleashed Events Page or print flyer (below)Thanks to donors, we are able to offer this training at discounted. If you have questions, please contact Generations Unleashed.

To read more about what to expect on Training day, click HERE and scroll down to the Elmira training announcement.

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© Trudy Metzger 2019

Religious community urges forgiveness after ‘foot shooting’ spree

To the pastor whose wife was shot in the foot:
A man wearing a navy hoodie walks into your house one night, shoots your wife in the foot. You read a few bible verses and pray for her. No hospital. No doctor. Just a simple bandage. No police officer.

The next night a man walks in, shoots her in the foot. You respond precisely as the night before.

The third night, same thing.

Each night you urge your wife to forgive. You suggest reading her bible and praying more. You ask her what she might have done to make the men shoot her in the foot. There must be some explanation. Men don’t just walk into a random houses and shoot women in the feet without cause.

Your wife tries to continue with her normal duties. She hobbles about on the festering wound, limping and wincing. It is an ever present reminder of the traumatic events.

You urge your wife to forgive. Once she has truly forgiven, her foot will stop hurting, and the limp will go away. With each improvement, you are relieved to be one milestone further from the shootings.

Some time later, your wife — still hobbling, foot still infected — sees a man walking in the lane wearing a navy hoodie. She freaks. It turns out to be a neighbour. You chide your wife. You tell her she’s overreacting. She must not have forgiven the other man if she’s reacting so strongly to the neighbour in his navy hoodie.

A broader epidemic & proposed solution:
At church you learn that other men’s wives have been shot in similar fashion. But it doesn’t end there. You learn that this has been happening in other churches too. It’s at epidemic levels. And women are freaking out at the sight of hoodies for no reason. What’s more, you discover the men doing the shooting are fellow church members. Several are even fellow leaders; pillars of the church who would never do such a thing! Now you are certain that the women are causing this!

Troubled, and uncertain what to do with it, yet not wanting your church to fall apart, you address it by preaching a series on Forgiveness. Five Sundays in a row you preach on Forgiveness. Surely, if all of the women who were shot could only forgive, things would not be as they are.

You then preach on what the women may have done to trigger such an epidemic. You point out that every woman who was shot was not in the kitchen at the time she was shot. If each had been in the kitchen, none of this would have happened. You urge the women to take ownership of their failure, thus protecting the oncoming generation from having their feet shot. And, though your message this Sunday is not about forgiveness, due to the critical role forgiveness plays, you put in a gentle reminder to forgive.

Following this you dedicate a Sunday to speaking against seeking attention. You point out how they are using emotional responses at the sight of hoodies to control the men and dramatize their experiences. You gently let them know that their exaggerated limping is a tool of the devil to shame the men and bringing great harm to the church.

A few good men and some wounded:
You meet with the men,
including those who did the shooting. Some admit to having at least held a gun and considered shooting, a few admit to pulling the trigger. Other insist they have never even seen a gun, let alone held one. The allegations are absurd! False allegations, most are! It is the women sticking their feet in front of the guns, asking to be shot, that is the problem.

Some who had no part in the shootings speak up in defence of these honourable men, echoing their sentiments; the women were wanting their feet shot. Others suggest that maybe it isn’t the women’s fault at all. The latter are asked to be silent or leave. Most of them leave.

Good riddance, you think to yourself… no one needs their bitterness and negativity. Until they see how divisive they are, it’s better they are gone.

And no one notices that half of the men who leave are limping. They too have been shot in the foot and have festering wounds. 

A gentle reminder to forgive:
You wrap it up with one final message on forgiveness. You share how meaningful your meeting was with the ‘brothers’. Some admitted to having thoughts of shooting feet. Yes, a few were guilty, but they are deeply sorry. Having learned from their mistakes, they are now more equipped than before; better men for having sinned and repented.

You cannot emphasize enough the importance of allowing the men in the navy hoodies return to leadership. God has called us to forgiveness and unity. We should receive them in full fellowship, restoring all relationships and supporting them in their positions, and trust they will never do it again.

You remind them of the Apostle Paul who murdered. He didn’t just shoot women in the feet. He murdered God’s people. Surely, if God can forgive him and have him preach, there is still a place behind the pulpit for men who shoot feet. 

And nothing has changed:
Women’s feet are still bleeding. Festering wounds are turning gangrenous. Slowly they die. The men who were shot, too.

The men who shot them, keep on shooting. Shooting other men. Shooting women. Shooting boys. Shooting girls. All in the feet so they must find some way to live, while they die slowly.

And then you hear that women are shooting boys and girls in the feet.

The children are shooting each other in the feet.

People are dying. Slowly. 

What went wrong?
You go back to your notes on Forgiveness and wonder what went so wrong. Why didn’t it heal everyone? Why didn’t it stop the shooting. The bleeding. The gangrene. The epidemic.

It never occurred to you to kneel down and get your own hands bloody. To pour ointment gently on their wound. To wrap her feet tenderly, and offer her a footstool. To teach your congregation to tend to her needs while the wounds heal. It never crossed your mind to lay aside your sermons for a few weeks, and instead pull up a stool and lean in to hear her heart. Truly listen. To wipe her tears, look her in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry. You did not deserve this. It is not your fault.” 

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A wounded bride, dying children and the Jesus who wept
And Jesus weeps. His bride’s wounds have become a cancer, slowly killing her soul. 

His bride’s tears flow uncomforted. Her infants lie scattered, lifeless at her feet. 

Jesus cries, again, from the cross, “I thirst!”

And the best we have offered Him is vinegar and gall, served on a hyssop branch — to numb His pain and purify His lips.

When all His heart cried for was that we love His bride enough to protect her, and care for her children; that we love Him.

 

***

The preceding story is a parable.

Sexual abuse continues, an epidemic in church. Allegations, carelessly labeled false without ever leaning in and listening to the victims.

Mothers are blamed for their children’s traumatic experience, and sometimes fathers. Unless the parents are ‘model’ members, then the children somehow removed themselves from protection.

Excuses abound. Forgiveness is treated with the care of a cuss word. Hearts even less gently.

And a few godly men rise up with their sisters, and wipe the tears of the Christ, in the eyes of the children, and the oppressed.

To those honourable ones, “Thank you.”

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

 ***

UPCOMING EVENT, ELMIRA ONTARIO:
November 28 and 29
Emmanuel Missionary Church in Elmira Ontario

To see details and register visit: Generations Unleashed Events Page or print flyer (below)Thanks to donors, we are able to offer this training at discounted. If you have questions, please contact Generations Unleashed.

To read more about what to expect on Training day, click HERE and scroll down to the Elmira training announcement.

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© Trudy Metzger 2019