In Harold Herr’s own Voice… CAM/Life knew; Jeriah tells the Law & Repentance Pizza Party


During my time in Haiti I met with Harold Herr. I did not seek out this meeting, but was advised by several people to meet with “Grandpa Harold’ to talk about this case. I was completely disinterested. I do not know him. Nonetheless, after some nudging I agreed to have him answer what others could not. Who knew?

I sat with him and another gentleman and said, “I was told Paul Weaver knew. I was told Eli Weaver knew. And … I was also told that you knew.” To this he replied, “I’ll tell you exactly how it is…”

Rather than transcribe it, here I’ll let you listen for yourself:

Note: What is troubling is that some people will be more outraged that I recorded this information than they ever were or will be that Jeriah molested so many children. I know the drill.

EDIT: To avoid it being a distraction to readers, I will add this. I checked with a lawyer about Haiti law and if I am within legal boundaries here with this recording. I am. Had CAM told the truth, there would have been no need for sharing this.

***

It seems a follow up blog addressing some of the events of Jeriah Mast’s first three weeks back on USA soil would be appropriate. I’ve heard from numerous sources – both public and private – that I failed to present the full story. As I stated in my previous blog, there are things I cannot say, related to more crimes unrelated to Haiti. There is an investigation, and I will do my best to leave that to law enforcement.

Then there are things I chose not to say, simply to keep the focus on the case and the boys. Now, with word having reached nearly 50,000 people – plus the email copies that were made and sent via ‘mass email’ through CAM… well, who really knows how far it went – and given CAM feels I have not been forthcoming, I will tell some of those details. (Still excluding info regarding stateside crimes). It is my expectation that CAM will wish I did not know what I am about to tell you. Yet, you, the donors and fellow believers, deserve to know the other side of the story.

***

The following is what I wrote to law enforcement before posting the blog:

I am most interested that truth is told and that this will not be another case that slides under the proverbial rug. Having done my best to cooperate with the law, whether Jeriah gets jail time or not is not my problem. Whether the American (including Canada) church is informed or not is my duty, just as reporting to the law is.”

My personal thoughts are that a serial sex offender/pedophile/child molester who has duped the public for 20 years would do well to spend time in prison. We are not talking about a 14-year-old who has looked at a child and returned to plead forgiveness, unsolicited. We are talking about a man who has completely pulled the wool over the eyes of many, many people. With the help of leaders who reduced the crimes to ‘moral failings’, he was able to do this. Had they named it, he would never have gotten by with it. So, yes, prison is a reasonable outcome. But my responsibility is limited to reporting and giving information to the law. I have done that. As more reportable info comes in, I will continue to do just that.

***

I will now create a bit of a timeline, with less storytelling than the previous blog:

Friday May 3, 2019: Confronted by Pastor Eris:

Pastor Eris confronted Jeriah regarding allegations of molesting many Haitian boys. Initially Jeriah denies, but with enough pressure, he admits to the crimes.

(There is some discrepancy in reports. Some say Jeriah is immediately ‘let go’ (aka fired) from CAM. Others say this is not true. The only relevance to the case is that if they fired him, there was at least one person taking it serious… or at least trying to protect CAM).

May 3 to May 4, 2019: Jeriah Flees Haiti:

Realizing he is exposed, Jeriah takes his family in the middle of the night and flees to Dominican Republic, rather than flying out of Haiti. He has an accomplice for this, and takes a vehicle that is not his usual transportation.

May 11, 2019: Jeriah and Marian renew wedding vows:

Six days after fleeing Haiti for the crimes he committed, Jeriah and Marian renewed their vows. (This ‘ceremony’ to be somewhat known in Ohio, where I was only days ago). When I asked why, I was told because of his moral failings and unfaithfulness to her.

May 6 – May 21, 2019 (approximately and throughout):

Visits stateside victims:

Jeriah apologizes and learns that none are interested in pressing charges. This information is useful. He plans to turn himself in after these visits.

Connect with Amish Steering Committee (ASC) for help:

A ‘restoration plan’ is put in place including accountability and professional counseling.

Regarding ASC  & the “restoration plan” one of the family in Ohio says the following:

It is basically doing what the law would do, but it’s in a church setting, and it also includes professional counseling and all that.  Basically, it’s a Restoration Plan to bring restoration and healing to the situation… Through the ASC working with the law enforcement they have been able to keep these people from having to pay the consequences…” And, regarding the crimes they say, it’s definitely been an addiction. I think looking at it from that perspective helps everyone understand more how some of these things could happen.

Also during this time period, there was great enthusiasm and encouragement brewing that God would redeem this mess and that Jeriah would be used powerfully in men’s ministry after the “Restoration Plan”

Somewhere in these weeks, they also prayed daily for the victims. I am told the prayers were by name. I’ve been told that they maintain that all sins are equal, and that those talking are sinning.

And I’m told that Jeriah spent much time in prayer weeping. Good. But until we see repentance with fruit – and in this case it involves facing the people and the law where he committed his crimes, those tears don’t mean too much in the way of practical transformation.

May 22, 2019, Jeriah ‘turned himself in’ to law … with no intentions of admitting to crimes in Haiti:

To that end, the following details are critical when looking at the ‘turning himself in’ part of this story:

  • he intended only to report stateside crimes and tell the law the victims don’t want to press charges
  • he lined up Amish Steering Committee support and had a “Restoration Plan” to avoid consequences (Whether stated or not, those involved said they would request going to Whispering Hope or Fresh Start instead of prison)
  • was not going to talk about the Haiti crimes because CAM had a lawyer looking after that

That was the plan. But… alas…

Several people reported and made sure the FBI knew. (How the interview was scheduled I have not asked and do not know). But the FBI liaison was there for the interview, and what he was not planning to confess, ended up being confessed because it had already been reported.

This was followed by a pizza party to celebrate finding favour with the law. In attendance was CAM staff member Dwayne Stoltzfus and wife Lois.

Pictures of this event, I am told, are floating around USA… If you have photos, I’d welcome them as they would make a convincing addition to this blog post.

***

 That same day I reported to FBI everything I knew and had received from numerous sources; individuals who were concerned it would all be covered up again. This included missionaries, former CAM staff, and friends of Jeriah.

***

I have a very good friend who I learned early on is closely connected to the case. I told her two things:

1. I will do what is right, no matter how close this strikes. And I am so sorry if you get hurt in the process.

2. I will get information from other sources. It will come to me. And it did.

 

***

And, now, I am told, a public statement has been released by CAM… I will go and read that and possibly do an update after the fact, depending on how closely what is said there matches what I learned from Harold Herr.

I am interested in truth and justice, with mercy. In the face of lies, deception and coverup, not one of those can truly exist.

So let’s hope they’ve admitted they knew since 2012, that they did nothing for years, and only now that they are public exposed they finally are doing something. It isn’t good enough, for an organization to neglect crime so blatantly, but it is a starting point.

Until we get that level of truth, there’s nothing to work with.

To read part one: “Haiti Commissioner Order CAM to Appear in Court...”

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

 

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

 

Haiti Commissioner Orders Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) to appear in court with offender

Introduction:

June 6, 2019

The court hearing has come to a close. Le Commissaire (the commissioner) sits in the judge’s chair. The court summons sent weeks earlier, was signed by the Supreme Commissioner Me Jonas Bertrang, and Le Commissaire is here on his authority. Today he has the power to arrest and imprison.

Haiti_Court Summons name hidden

Le Commissaire speaks in (French/Creole), just as lawyers and witnesses have throughout. I do not understand either language and rely on interpreters. Le Commissaire has given CAM (Christian Aid Ministries) 15 days for their top officials to appear in court accompanied by Jeriah Mast, the sex offender, several interpreters tell me after court is dismissed. If they fail to do so, not only will they arrest a pastor who is present and hold him until they do so; they will also close doors to CAM in Haiti. Little do they realize that CAM is unlikely to be moved to action; it would have to be one of their own or one of Life Literature’s staff members for it to inspire action. Pastor has had no ties with CAM for years already.

Le Commissaire and legal representatives, alike, made it clear that failing to report crimes will not be tolerated; not even by an organization such as CAM. I find myself wishing I was hearing this in church.

The pastor they say they will imprison if CAM officials do not show up with Mast, has been placed in a holding cell, to the right of the courtroom, where he watches the proceedings. He bows his head, appearing to pray. The injustice is hard to stomach. While the offender rests and recovers on American soil, others pay the price. And those speaking out are already being judged as unforgiving gossips.

Pastor Brucely

Jeriah has admitted to the crimes, but only after first lying repeatedly when confronted by a pastor May 3, 2019. With enough pressure he has confessed that he has at least 30 victims.

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***

We, fellow Christians and fellow Anabaptists, alike, insist on transparency and honesty. For organization leaders to say “we knew, but didn’t know details” is not good enough. And if what these leaders did was so Christ-like, they should be ready to die for it and not avoid traveling to the countries where these crimes were committed.

Pedophiles and sex offenders, no matter how repentant, cannot and must not be left on missions. They must be reported. Under no circumstances will we look the other way, the lot of us who are rising up to bring to account the sex crimes, and the federal crimes committed in other countries by organizations looking the other was as something much akin to sex trafficking takes place in the guise of religious service. It is our duty to take a stand, and take a stand we will.

***

For me the story begins in Ontario Canada. Someone messages to say that a missionary has assaulted young boys. They are overwhelmed. The number, the offender admits are “too many to count”. Initially it is unclear if he came forward on his own, or if he was caught, but reports from within America’s Anabaptist community say he is broken and penitent. The few people who know offer him their support and prayer, grateful he is forthcoming. Fellow Christians are encouraged to be forgiving and not speak of the atrocities, now that they are repented of and forgiven. What few, if any, realize, is that the thirty victims to which he has confessed, is not representative of the true number. There are victims in numerous communities.

Initially, I am given no information. This appears at first to be a blessing. My intentions are to not get involved in the case. I am recovering from a spontaneous coronary artery dissection and minor heart attack, only weeks ago. Things remain relatively silent for a week, and I have no information to work with; nothing to provide leads. Not what mission organization. Not the name of the offender. Nothing.

Then, gradually, bits and pieces of the story appear in my inboxes and conversations trickle in. The name of family members. The state the offender lives. The organization. Like a puzzle in a box, as I look at the pieces, the details begin to shape into a coherent story. Still concerned about my health and suffering from fatigue, edema and other symptoms, I stand back.

Having been born into an Anabaptist family, and having worked for nearly ten years with Anabaptist victims of sexual violence, predominantly female victims of childhood sexual abuse, I am keenly aware of the crisis of epidemic proportions. As a donor many years ago, I am familiar with CAM Canada. I presume there is some connection between CAM USA and them, but don’t know the extent.

“I would hope they would do the right thing,” I tell someone. They are a massive organization. They know the law. You don’t get that far and that big through naivety. Besides, there’s enough conversations about sexual violence in our conservative Anabaptist culture that no one can easily claim innocence any longer.

I hope against hope that they will put out a public statement. I will give them two weeks from the time of his arrival in USA, I tell my informants, to do the right thing, and then I will do something if it appears the case will slip through the cracks. They have not given me enough details to report, but years of working with these crimes have taught me that lay members of the Anabaptist community are weary of these crimes; I will get the details sooner or later. Probably sooner.

As details of his time in USA trickle in from various sources – all of whom are forbidden to speak – I grow increasingly alarmed. He has spent two weeks in USA building a fortress that will serve him well, if law enforcement takes at face value, his repentance. His church and family have recruited the support of the Amish Steering Committee (ASC), a team of Amish men who come up with a Restoration Plan to be presented to law enforcement, to help Anabaptist sex offenders escape prison as consequences. A powerful committee, these men boast having had only 2 men sentenced to prison, of over 100 brought to them, in their two [edit: and a half] years since being implemented. People seem hopeful that the ASC will be able to keep this serial child molester out of prison.

Nearly twenty years of crimes, and this is the priority? My spirit grows restless.

***

A CAM leader, Dwayne Stoltzfus, who is also a leader at Mast’s home congregation, accompanies Mast to the police station. Nothing is heard of the victims, other than comments that CAM will reach out and help them; law enforcement likes to see that as part of a Restoration Plan. Word trickles out of Ohio stating that CAM has turned the case over to Mast’s church to handle, thus joining Pilate at the wash basin. This has been done before, when Life Literature staff, Harold Herr, was told of the crimes in 2012, four [EDIT: two] years after Mast was excommunicated from church in Haiti for molesting boys. [EDIT: The crimes were committed in 2008. Excommunication was 2010. Harold Herr was approached 2012 about crimes committed in 2011].

Stories surface stating there were more crimes in other countries, by other CAM staff members. Not all informants feel comfortable sharing names of alleged offenders, but some names and details by various informants begin to fill the gaps left by others. An orphanage. Three offenders.

These details, coming from unrelated sources, combined with CAM’s failure to address the current crimes publicly, compels me to speak out. Heart condition or no heart condition, I find myself committed. Some things, I have learned, are worth dying for. Giving voice to the victims of heinous crimes is one of those things.

We, the Western church, and more importantly to this case, the Anabaptist church, must learn from these tragedies to better screen our missionaries, to take seriously allegations against potential missionaries, and to respond more adequately when we fail. Victims should not bear the weight of crimes committed against them. Crimes, committed in the guise of presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ; that same Christ would unequivocally condemn such actions.

To learn from these tragedies, the darkness must be brought to light. And to do so, we must speak.

***

A former CAM staff member contacted me and asked if I would consider going to Haiti if CAM were to agree to fund such a trip. Sadly, I responded, I cannot align with their handling of things, and would not accept their funding. If I would go, it would need to be completely apart from their involvement. I remember well other cases of exposing crimes and how it worked out attempting to work in partnership. I would be willing to go, but it would have to be without CAM’s involvement.

The idea took root but, practically speaking, it was not feasible. I am still recovering from the heart attack, albeit steadily improving. I have many other commitments as a mother. I’m a PhD student and have ongoing medical testing, not to mention the financial commitment. However, as the time of the Haiti court case drew near, and I learned it was unlikely that CAM would appear as summoned, nor had they reached out to victims, I felt compelled to respond to the question, “Would you go…?”

Wednesday morning, June 4, I posted a status on Facebook, asking my friends – most of who remain conservative Anabaptists – if they would consider funding a flight for me to meet with numerous survivors of sexual violence at the hands of one of our own. Response was slow, and I understood that. I couldn’t offer any public information about the case, the organization, or the country. At 5pm we had almost enough for a one-way ticket to Haiti. The phone rang. A gentleman asked what we had raised and what we still need. “I’ll give $500,” he offered.

With that, I booked a one-way ticket to Haiti, trusting the remaining funds would come in. On Facebook, I offered an update. More friends responded. I decided to do a countdown, “.. now only need $375 … now $300…. ” and within minutes we had the funds. It was surreal.

***

June 5, 2019

The air is heavy, much like my heart, and surely the hearts of those we are about to meet; Haitian victims of an American missionary. I have come to Haiti to hear them; to give life and voice to their stories. This is more than a federal and international crime investigation for the Haitian government and FBI. It is that. And necessarily so. But it is more.

This is about lives, shattered and broken. Their stories matter. They matter. I have committed to do everything within my power to let them know this. My comfort is of little interest to me in the process. Truth must be told.

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Apart from several chairs and an old bench, and a few bags, the room is empty. Here we seat ourselves for the interviews. With the help of my interpreter, I introduce myself and explain why I’ve come. I have heard of the terrible tragedy Haiti communities have suffered at the hands of a professing Christian from my culture. I tell them how sorry I am, and that I am offering to hear their stories and share them with Christians in USA and Canada. They are under no obligation to speak if they would rather not.

Almost immediately they say they would like to tell their stories. I explain that we will do this with one victim at a time rather than as a group, with none sitting in as the other shares. Each tells their story. And to each I express my sorrow at their suffering and apologize to them for the crimes committed in God’s name. I remind them that they are worth so much more, that God loves them, and that there are people back home who care and are not going to look the other way. I promise to do my best to have the stories heard and used in a way to influence accountability and deep and lasting change.

They tell of all the lost. They tell of his crimes; how he manipulated and accessed them at sleepovers. His ‘Modus Operandi’ matches what I’ve heard in other testimonials from other communities. It is compelling. But it would be in any case. Their eyes. The grief and sorrow. The mother whose son told her and was spared further assaults. Other boys who did not speak, and endured years of abuse.

A Haitian gentleman who has filled the role of mentor and father shares briefly what it has been like for the community and for the boys. It has brought deep, deep shame, he tells me. The boys are called “Madanm Jeriah” whenever they walk the streets and are mocked for being ‘gay’ because of the abuse they suffered at the hands of a male. They were not able to attend school without being bullied, and they cannot find work because of the shame. They have no place in the community.

The mother speaks. She is angry, she tells me. Angry that her only child, is paying this high price for the crimes of a missionary. Angry that her survival depended on CAM’s support, and that she had to choose between silence about the crimes to survive, and her son’s wellbeing. Angry that CAM knew [edit: knew that Jeriah was a molester] and did nothing. She tells me how, in his hardest struggles, she couldn’t manage and had to reach out to the mentor gentleman.

I hear her anger, but I feel her broken heart. I tell her how fortunate her son is to have her. Fortunate that someone cares about his suffering and about him. He nods. The two share a bond in suffering, but it is more than that. I tell her, too, how very sorry I am.

I ask them if they have a message for the churches in USA and Canada. They plead for churches and organizations to screen people properly and not send child molesters. At one point a young man makes a comment that it seems like all missionary men are homosexuals. (Their word for molesting boys is the same as the word for homosexual). I don’t blame them for feeling that way. Even as we speak a missionary gentleman they trust is translating, so I know that isn’t how it really is, but they don’t need to hear that right now. It seems too often that is the story that plays out.

“If you could send a message to Jeriah Mast, what would you say to him?” I ask.

Most ask for Jeriah to really repent and come back to face the crimes he committed against them, in their country. They ask him to stop thinking about himself and start thinking about them and the harm he has done to them, if he is truly repentant. All ask him for restitution. They have lost all standing in the community and any hope of thriving as homosexuals. (Again, they are sexual assault victims, not homosexuals).

At one point in the interview, “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban, plays loudly. A young Haitian girl’s voice joins in. The laundry on the wash line moves gently in the breeze. The sweltering heat has become almost unbearable, and my head ache is getting worse.

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I ask permission to take photos, and they grant it, on the condition that I will not post them. I may post pictures of the empty room and those without people. They feel vulnerable. I make a promise.

Will I come back, they ask. I hope so. I truly hope so. Silently I pray. I ask God for health and life, and the opportunity to return, even as I feel the strain of the heat on my heart and observe the swelling it has caused in just a few hours. I will do everything I can, I say again. There are many things I cannot do, certainly not alone, but I can remind America that this is about victims, not about silencing crimes and protecting offenders from consequences. I can keep fighting for victims, and particularly for them. I can keep holding toes to the fire and press for accountability and insist that our religious communities stop looking the other way.

I thank them for being so gracious and sharing such vulnerable stories. They thank me for coming and giving them permission to speak the unspeakable.

We step outside. Here, a handful of children and youth gather around. A few linger, curious why this stranger has come.

The wash is off the line now. A lonely bird sings.

We are wrapping up our time in this community. Even as we do, I feel my heart wrapping around the community. A part of me is staying, right here. I will never forget these young men, this mama, and the gentleman who has fought for these boys.

***

Would to God that my culture, the conservative Anabaptists, could begin to grasp what we, collectively, have done to these children. Through sending pedophiles as missionaries, knowing they abused children. Through silence. Through looking away when the shame of their sin was more than we could bear. Through shaming those who speak out. Through perverting forgiveness to mean we dare not tell truth. To make any claims at all that Jesus would respond in kind. He would not.

The Bible is chuck full of bad stories that would have remained untold if such a God existed at all, and such a Gospel had even a sprinkling of truth to it. If such a Jesus had ever walked among us. Because that Jesus called for truth. He ripped the cover off the nest of vipers oppressing and subjecting the people to their own power. He flipped tables. He spoke with healing and gentleness to the broken-hearted. And never did he favour religious oppressors over the wellbeing of the wounded.

His Gospel… that’s what we need here. The Good News of Salvation that cries for truth, invites it… yes, even demands it, for the Gospel to be real at all.

That’s my Jesus. That’s the Gospel. Any other should never be spoken, and certainly not imposed on the wounded. And most definitely not taken to an impoverished people who rely on us for sustenance, so that we can take advantage of them.

***

JUNE 6, 2019

Outside the courthouse, prior to the hearing, the handful of victims pressing charges have initially declined to comment or have their photos taken. The lawyer forbids taking photos, saying is not permissible. I respect their decision. Instead, Pastor Blakely and I engage in conversation and he shares his story. He has been summoned to stand trial for knowing many years of Mr. Mast’s crimes against their children of Haiti and not reporting these horrific crimes. As a pastor, he says, he did the only thing he understood to do, and that was to excommunicate Mr. Mast and turn him over to CAM. If he could do it over with the knowledge he has today, he states, he would report Mr. Mast and support the families of victims in reporting. He grants permission to take a photo, and use it as needed to help them seek justice and acknowledgment of suffering.

My interest in the case is to give victims opportunity to share their stories, I explain, and hold churches and organizations accountable so that these crimes are not taken lightly. I do not wish to harm anyone, including CAM and Jeriah Mast, but assure the I will stop at nothing within my means to bring truth to light and have victims voices heard. I express concern that CAM did not immediately report Mast, and notify the public, their donors and all families and communities with whom Mast had contact. I also extend an apology, as a Christian and fellow Caucasian, for their ongoing failure to release a public statement condemning the actions and apologizing for their failure to respond adequately years ago when the crimes first became known. What has been done is very wrong, and hopefully accountability will ensure better protocol for screening missionaries, thus protecting children from such horrific crimes. Pastor Brucely expresses his appreciation.

***

Mast’s crimes did not begin in Haiti, though details of former crimes on US soil remain a closely guarded secret [edit: as far as the public is concerned. The law is aware. Hence my reticence to address them before charges are laid]. Mast’s church leaders – of whom Mast’s father is bishop – knew of crimes [edit: though not called crimes] many years ago, and still sent him as a missionary in Haiti, giving him access to many, many victims without accountability. When it was discovered he committed more sex crimes in Haiti, he was sent home and the community was informed there had been moral failure. Being allowed to return, they assumed it was likely porn; other missionaries had been sent home permanently for porn use. Never did they imagine that Mast, who was their friend and fellow missionary, was so skilled that even those closest to him did not see the signs. Having repented, Mast was allowed to return and continue his crimes, unchecked.

One community member told me of 25 victims in 3 communities. But the count is much higher, in numerous other communities. Mr. Mast allegedly admitted to 30, after initially denying the allegations when questioned by a pastor on Friday, May 3 2019. Within hours of learning that he was exposed, Mast packed up his family and fled to USA via Dominican Republic , leaving pastors and other staff members to face the consequences of his crimes.

According to some Haitians, Mast is a talented speaker who preached a fine message; he was as skilled at maneuvering and accessing victims. His position within CAM required him to visit many communities.  While some Haitians knew or suspected the crimes were taking place, they held little power to do anything, as they rely heavily on CAM for basic provision, and lacked the corporate and financial backing the CAM provides. An impoverished people are no match for such a massive organization (approximately  EDIT: $150m $130 budget). It wasn’t until a handful of courageous young men came forward with a lawsuit that there was any hope of the crimes coming to an end, victims’ voices being heard, or there being any semblance of justice in this case.

As people seek to come to terms with the news, in Haiti and across the world, the list of Haitian communities impacted by Mast’s crimes continues to grow. Missionaries who condemn Mast’s actions are concerned at CAM’s lack of response and have reached out to various communities. Testimonials from other communities confirmed that the Ti Goave was only one of many impacted.

Mast befriended young boys, mentored them and scheduled sleepovers, giving him access. The details of acts committed, were similar, with slight variation from community to community, case to case, but similar basic MO. Mast carried with him a bottle of oil for the purpose of the assaults. He went under the guise of loving children and mentoring boys. He offered some gifts and cash, thus using their poverty against them.

Mr. Mast has repented numerous times for ‘moral failure’, offering a vague statement leading those nearest him under the impression that he struggles with pornography, or some personal sexual struggle. Nearly all are shocked to discover that he has, in fact, sexually assaulted so many children or the course of almost 20 years, that no one is quite sure how many there are. That shock intensifies at the discovery that leaders knew and did not send him home or warn the public.

Yet more shocking to some, is the discovery that Mr. Mast used bribes to silence some of his victims. Others say they heard unconfirmed rumours prior to victims coming forward.  An attempted rape of one young man, sources say, resulted in Mr. Mast paying to build a house to silence him. (To this I ask, how did no one get suspicious of this type of ‘generosity’?) That gentleman’s brother also received a house. His story, for the most part, remains untold. A mother, whose son was assaulted, received a plot of land, but the deed was never given to her. And another young man was given money which was used to by a motorbike. And now, Haitians say that CAM’s lawyer has offered hush money, and even pressured victims to meet up for the purpose of silencing them.

After the court hearing it is announced that CAM’s lawyer and the victims’ lawyer have reached a tentative agreement. All that is needed is for CAM officials to sign off.

This is legal ‘hush money’, but hardly becoming of a transparent organization seeking to represent Jesus. Going to court against brother is forbidden, but paying off the victimized … I’ll leave that there. Again, if what was done by the organization is Christlike, there ought to be no need to pay off these victims to silence them. To help them, sure, but silence them? Never!

***

Now, sitting in court, I look at the pastor, behind bars. He has been temporarily arrested during the proceedings. He granted me permission to take photos of him and use them as needed. His trust is an honour, as they are in the thick of addressing trauma inflicted by my culture; my people. I promise to use them only to create awareness, help the victims, and ensure their story is told. I will not exploit them.

Prior to the hearing my interpreter has asked the Commissioner’s secretary permission to audio record, no video, and take photos. Permission is granted.

Much of the hearing is in French, some in Creole. I understand little, but several interpreters give me updates. I have read the boys’ testimonies, translated into English by several people, to cross reference and compare for accuracy, so while I do not understand, I know their stories.

***

Le Commissaire speaks in (French/Creole), giving CAM (Christian Aid Ministries) 15 days for their top officials to appear in court accompanied by Jeriah Mast, the sex offender, several interpreters tell me after court is dismissed. Mast has admitted guilt, albeit after lying repeatedly until backed in a corner.  If they fail to do so, not only will they arrest a pastor who is present and hold him until they do so; they will also close doors to CAM in Haiti.

Le Commissaire and legal representatives, alike, have made it clear that failing to report crimes will not be tolerated; not even by an organization such as CAM.

That, frankly, is how it should be. However, it should be the church rising up to say it, rather than the law.

***

NOTE: I have documentation of court records, as well as evidence that certain CAM leaders, Life Literature, and other individuals were aware of these crimes. I forwarded all information I have to FBI. I have also informed the FBI liaison of my intentions to write and expose what I learned in Haiti. There are many details I know about the USA side of happenings that I have chosen not to include here. This is to avoid interfering with the FBI investigation. What I have shared here is public knowledge in Haiti, and I was grated permission to share, by victims and their lawyer. Following translation of the victim testimonies I collected, I intend to post them here at a later time.

 

Love,
~ T ~

 

PS. To the best of my ability, I have portrayed truth. There is more information that I am not free to share. I have documents, recordings, and photos to support what I have exposed here. The following is one of the numerous messages I received from Haiti affirming the accuracy of the above information.

God hates injustice. Manipulating those who expose abuse is injustice.

“Blessed are…”
(God extends His benefits
and reward and makes large the blessing of)
“…those who are persecuted…”
(mistreated and used wrongfully)
“…for righteousness sake…”
(for the sake of justice)
“…for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Matthew 5:10

 

There are leaders who have gone out of their way to handle abusively those who have tried to address abuses and wrongs. Those who stand up against abuses (not just sexual, but those too) are being sued by churches (see a post I put up yesterday), and leaders are using their power to seek to destroy those who have legitimate concerns…. concerns that have been addressed first privately (for those who are hung up on Matthew 18… albeit out of context, often), and then publicly. Those who address abuse are losing friends and family as leaders use their power to sabotage relationships. Some leaders have gone so far as to ensure that those speaking out have lost their jobs — positions in church, as well as other jobs — including both men and women who speak out.

These abusive leaders who are sabotaging the lives of people standing for truth and justice are leaders many of us look to for guidance. We need to recognize that they cannot lead us into truth or justice until they value it in their day-to-day personal lives. Leading with self-preservation and retaliation is not the way of Jesus. True believers and godly leaders humbly receive correction when they have wronged someone. And when accusations are false, the same humility and honour is expressed. True representatives of Jesus Christ do not retaliate in the face of wrong and persecution, and they certainly do not set out to destroy people’s relationships and livelihoods or cause intentional damage.

When leaders retaliate, it is sometimes misconstrued as a response to persecution. Exposing truth is not persecution, nor is retaliation a godly response to anything; it is self-serving and often linked either to insecurity or to the individual’s guilt; an indication that the allegations are true, not false. When allegations are false, Jesus followers will try to respond with honour. When they respond wrongly, which sometimes they will, they humbly repent and do everything in their power to restore what they have destroyed, or at least acknowledge it. Because often it cannot be restored. Godly leaders are human. They will fail. But they will not blithely go on, having destroyed a person’s relationships or livelihood, or other damage done. Those who do not pause and take ownership are not godly, they are arrogant.

Manipulating, to destroy relationships of those speaking against injustice and bringing  them harm, is very different from the fallout that comes from exposing abuse and bringing corruption to light. Often we are told that someone destroyed a person’s reputation by speaking of their sins. That’s utter nonsense. The Bible is full of ‘bad stories’ told openly — think King David, or the Cussing Apostle (Peter) among others — and it didn’t ‘ruin their reputation’ because they walked in humility and did not hide their sins. The sins and crimes committed can destroy a reputation if the offender hides, refuses humble correction and consequences, but telling of their sins and crimes cannot destroy them. It is biblical to expose the hidden thing, and it is biblical to remove from leadership those who do such things. (If leaders are first to have their house in order, don’t imagine for a moment that this begins anywhere but in their own hearts. It has nothing to do with controlling their children).

Sadly, when evil is confronted, we see over and over again as ‘pedestal leaders’ cry victim. They declare they are the victims of heartless persecution. Yet, when looking at what righteousness they are persecuted for, it is merely that injustice, oppression and wrongdoing are being exposed. Matthew 5:10 offers blessing to those who suffer for the pursuit of justice, not those who resist justice being pursued. That’s not persecution. That’s avoiding truth, and heaping injustice upon injustice when there should be repentance.

True leaders rise up for justice. That’s what righteousness is. It isn’t some perfectionist religious performance, religious presentation or other such accomplishment. Righteousness is justice. Justice is righteousness. And God has strong opinions about justice among His people.

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 3.18.35 PMKingdoms are unraveling. God has given us years to repent. And when the exposing started, it was a gradual thing. Now it is snowballing. In each phase, we as ‘the church of Jesus Christ, and churches as institutions and organizations (dare I say, empires and kingdoms with pedestals, too often), have had opportunity after opportunity to humbly acknowledge that the things God hates are thriving among us, and repent. At each phase we have had opportunity to “let justice flow like a river”,  not a little stream. Not a wee crick, or some overflow running from a puddle. Not a tiny pond, dug out near the church house to look like justice. But a river, flowing. A river, with momentum. Moving waters. Justice that is does not sit still, but has and offers life to the oppressed.

justice like a river

And we still have that opportunity. Many, including honourable leaders, are rising up against oppression and injustice inside church walls. People are asking for accountability among leaders, and for evil to be exposed. God’s people are rising up, across the nations, to stand for truth and against evil. Those who continue to harbour evil, turn a blind eye to injustice, God will allow consequences to play out.

Note, too, that the scripture addresses, specifically, ‘justice in the courts’ for the oppressed. We say “New Testament, New Testament… that no longer applies!” But we borrow all manner of other Old Testament references when convenient, so this deserves consideration. Where the oppressed are not offered justice, God rejects worship and offerings, and eventually brings the oppressors to destruction. Exile. Nothingness. No kingdoms. No pedestals. The end. 

… but always with opportunity to repent in the place of exile, when stripped of all personal glory.

To those standing against corruption, when resistance comes against you for standing against injustice… when relationships are sabotaged… when jobs are lost as a result of corrupt leaders manipulating circumstances…  when your church kicks you out for blowing the whistle… leave the outcome of Amos 5 to God. And remember it was Jesus who said, in Matthew 5:10, that God will bring His rewards and benefits to those who suffer for the sake of injustice. And when God speaks, His words accomplish their purpose.

So, rise up in truth. Rise up in defence of the poor and the oppressed. And let justice flow like a river. God has your justice covered.

 

Love,
~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

God, pizza, & a ‘reunion’ of strangers; A place where victims meet Jesus and worship together…

Who knew that God could use pizza for ministry. A woman in USA who has a heart for God to heal the broken, took it upon herself to do a pizza fundraiser for them. Phone calls, knocking on doors and reaching out to her community, she was able to raise over $2000 for the event being planned for November 2, 2019. But, what’s far more valuable than the funds raised, is that she connected with many in her area and heard their stories, their broken hearts…  How fascinating! God gently invaded our world through a baby, to show His love… and He invaded the community through pizza, and the love of one compassionate woman, to show that their pain, their stories, their suffering matters! 

Together with a group of 10 people (and another 15 volunteers lined up, plus a dozen prayer warriors), we are organizing the event for November 2, 2019 that, God willing and based on current registrations, will bring together  a host of survivors of sexual abuse. We opened up registration early for those on the email list at a discounted price, and already we have over 50 people registered to attend at 10.5 months out. Emails from others are coming in saying they plan to register in the new years… The response has been astounding!

The encouragement, the emails saying they (the survivors) wept when they saw/heard this is happening… the prophetic words of healing spoken… the sense of a radical ‘something beautiful’ coming as we gather… It has been an incredible experience, just the beginning stages of planning it. I can’t imagine what God has in store for the day. 

We will gather to heal, to encourage, to stand together and to move into a new empowerment through the Holy Spirit. 

It was a difficult decision to restrict the event to sex abuse survivors (and their *spouse/partner or support person), but in the end we felt this would make it the safest for survivors for a first attempt at such a public gathering. 

We will have a time of acknowledgement and lament, a time of grieving what was lost, a time of inviting Jesus into our suffering as we also remember His suffering for us, a time of worshiping with our talents and artistic expression of suffering and healing, a time of reclaiming what has been stolen, and a time of worship… deep worship. Symbolically, we bring back both the wailing wall and the King David’s dance, as we seek God, and allow ourselves to be sought after by Him…

A kind God who sees the evil committed and feels compassion for the abused, and offers understanding. No harsh words. Just a gentle invitation to be held, to be loved, to be accepted. … To discover we have been held, loved and accepted all along. We may have felt abandoned, alone, neglected, outcast, but that is not the truth of who we are, or our position in God’ Kingdom. And the position we have, is what we intend to embrace and celebrate. 

All survivors from the Mennonite and Anabaptist churches are invited to attend, regardless of current faith and beliefs (excluding those who as adults abused, molested children, and/or assaulted other peers or adults sexually). But all should know in advance that this is a profoundly spiritual event, with a focus on two things: being together and Jesus being among us. We have requested an extra room or two, for those who do not wish to participate or be present for a particular session  – or those who simply need a place to retreat.

Speaking practically, the early registration fee *for survivors only, and their support people* is $35, including lunch and snacks, as well as no additional cost for the evening concert. (If you have questions or wish to receive registration links, we are sending them out via the email list at AslanHasHeard@gmail.com. This is for survivors and their support people only). Those who cannot afford the $35, may request to go on a sponsorship list which will be on a ‘first come’ basis, and will require those attendees to pay only $10. We really want to make this feasible for all, so that no one feels left out or unable to attend due to finances. God forbid that money stand in the way of healing and support! But sadly, too often it prevents access. We do not wish for that to be the case

To make up for event expenses above $35 registration fees, we are doing a fundraiser to sell pizza in Lancaster/Lebanon Pennsylvania area. Pick up for pizza orders will be January 5, 2019 in Ephrata, when I plan to be in the area. The price is $22 for a cheese pizza kit (2 per kit) and $24 for pepperoni (2 per kit). Pizza must be ordered in advanace. To do so, email with subject line ‘pizza’ via our Contact page.  If you would like a copy of my memoir, we will also have them available as well for $20. To pre-order the book and pizza, use subject line ‘pizza and book’, or purchase on site while supplies last. Please include phone number and address when placing order. (EDIT: In response to requests/orders… Yes! I will be at the pick up location, God willing! And I’m happy to sign the books! I look forward to meeting you!) 

We are thankful for those who have donated to fundraiser’s the past few weeks, and are happy to report we are within a few hundred dollars of our goal for initial costs to secure the venue, the musician — currently waiting to hear back regarding the contract with Jason Gray — and several other upfront costs. 

God has shown incredible favour on this event already. Frankly, I’ve never seen anything like it in my years of ministry, with so many people rising up together — with those who are not victims giving so generously for the cause. And for registrations to start coming in so quickly and so many in less than a week. The sense of excitement and hope is palatable, and the Spirit is moving and bringing us together.

We are thankful! And this is just the beginning! 

As always, and with much thanks, 

Love,
~ T ~ 

© Trudy Metzger 2018 

Poll Re: Responses to Sex Abuse Victims in Conservative Mennonite/Anabaptists

In a recent post on Facebook, I was trying to point out two wrong response to the whole topic of sexual abuse:
 
1. That child molesters are most despised in society
2. And victims who speak out are most despised in church
 
Both statements have exceptions, and I was not intending to overlook those exceptions to say that ‘all people, in all situations’ respond this way. (In fact, that short quote was a mini-introduction to the longer post I was working on, which immediately followed and addressed the bigger message).  But the initial status was met with a defensive response to how wrong I am about how victims are treated and that it isn’t all churches, because I failed to ‘say it in so many words’ that it is not all, in every situation. 
 
I made a statement, based on 8 years of working internationally with victims of sexual abuse in conservative Anabaptist communities and spending the past two years reading academic papers from other religious communities, that victims who speak out are most despised in church and offenders most despised in society. I absolutely believe what I said. The statement about victims applies in two ways. Victims are not as despised outside of church, they are most despised in church. And, when considering those who are despised in church, I know no group to be more despised than victims who speak out about abuse and won’t be silenced. 
Acknowledging this was not meant to stir hatred toward offenders. It is what victims experience (less so in my case than in many), and to acknowledge and look at it is key to changing how things are. Frankly, I believe this is why half the crowd can’t read what is intended because someone is hell-bent on preventing Christians seeing it for what it is. If we do, we stand a chance at making a powerful impact.
 
Nonetheless, rather than take my word for it, and in order to let the stats speak for themselves, I created a poll for all victims of sexual abuse in/from conservative Mennonite/Anabaptist churches to vote on their experience in this regard. I trust the responses will be honourable and honest. (It is completely anonymous… I don’t even have access to names or identities of who voted).
The victims I work with may well be the group who are damaged through abusive response from church, and represent a small portion. The rest might be thriving because the church responded so well; I do not know. What I know and am confident in is that what I said is truth in the demographic of hundreds, even thousands with whom I have interacted, internationally, for nearly 9 years. And the statement regarding offenders is also true, based on academic papers written regarding sex offenders in prison — child molesters in particular — and the testimony of child molesters who have done time.
If you were abused in the conservative Mennonite/Anabaptist church, you can take the poll here: poll on response to sexual abuse.  After you have voted, the results (in percentages, will pop up. Currently, for 50% their church never found out, and the other 50% the church new and did not offer support to the victims.
As always…
Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

50 years… almost…and a dream..

Some time ago, I said to Tim, “I hope we die together, holding hands in our sleep, when we’re in our early 80’s.” 

“Speak for yourself,” he said, “I want to live into my 90’s”. 

I laughed. “Well, I hope your last years aren’t too lonely!” And then I instructed him, as I do from time to time, that if I should die before him, he should get married again soon so he’s not too lonely. 

I am about to start my 50th year. It’s reasonable to believe that this means over half of my life is gone. (Is it okay to say, “I hope so!”? I have no ambitions of living to 100. None. Yes, yes, I know. God ordains my days and I get no say. I’m good with that. I’m just saying I don’t get it about people who want to make it to 100. It baffles me.

We were never ones to celebrate birthdays much, at home. I had one party at age 10, with three friends over, and Mrs. Frank Roth, my one friend’s mother, had sewn me an apron in white with lime green frills around it, and flowers painted on the white centre panel. I think I still have it tucked away in a box of treasures somewhere. It was pretty special. Not because I cooked a lot — I was more likely found in the barn than in the house — but it was from my friend, and her mom had taken time to make it.

With the start of my 50th year being just a jog away (I turn 49 on Friday November 23), I started thinking about what I want that year to be…

And the only thing I long for is a breakthrough year for survivors of sexual abuse in our conservative Mennonite/Anabaptist communities. We are planning an event, and  limiting it to various conservative Mennonites and Anabaptists because we are a unique culture. We have suffered in unique ways, and process abuse with mindsets shaped in very specific ways within the culture, not easily understood by those who were not raised like us. (This includes everyone from conservative Mennonites, Amish, Old Order, Hutterite, Markham, Old Colony, Mid-West, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-West, Eastern, NorthEastern, SouthEastern, Pilgrim, Nationwide, Fellowship, River Brethren, German Baptist and everyone in between and beyond. And if you don’t have a clue what any of those mean or are… I’m guessing you are not from a conservative Anabaptist community.) And it is for both male and female survivors of abuse, but excludes those who went on to victimize and abuse others as adults. 

We’ve had conferences and seminars, and they’ve been good. More recently we’ve done training days, offering sessions for those wishing to support victims. These have been very well received, and I’ve enjoyed doing them. (Tentatively we plan to do a two-day even here in Ontario, April 2019, followed up with a Friday evening to Saturday conference.)

But this year I want to do something special for the survivors who are often neglected among us. Rather than a teaching conference, I’ve long dreamed of bringing survivors together to acknowledge and grieve/mourn the suffering, and also celebrating purpose and hope and experiencing God with us… the God who enters in and suffers with us and among us… who weeps with us and gives us permission to enter raw places in our hearts, without pretence. (Jesus wept. King David sat in sackcloth and ashes. Job… the prophets… These heroes of faith grieved. It’s time to shatter the politeness that denies suffering, and let God visit our sorrow. Only then will healing come. No amount of teaching, training and ‘fixing’ will change the course of history until God has dwelt among us in our suffering, and that suffering is acknowledged.)

We will have compassionate leaders speak life and hope over the audience. No preaching…. let along long preaching or ‘advice’. No telling them how to get over it or do better. Just life. Spoken in the present. Purpose, declared. In the present. Love offered, without judgement. In the present. Just as we are. Because it is that ‘present hope’ that transforms us, not the pressure of trying to attain.

We will have some survivors share poetry, art, and will all worship God in the midst of suffering. There is something powerful that happens in worship, and there is something powerful that happens when pain is acknowledged and we discover we are not alone. People care. We are in this together…. Bring together the acknowledgement of suffering with the presence and worship of God… Ah… yes please!

And the beauty of how God has wired us! In trauma we tend to lock up and lose our words. Yet, through art He gives us expression that cannot come out any other way, and though it He invites us to healing. And in that expression, we connect with others and it opens up their spirits to hope and healing. This is true of music, painting, poetry, dance, mime and so many avenues. We are not all the same. A painting may do nothing for one of us, yet move the heart of another to tears. The same with poetry. But when expression pours from the heart of the other, we enter into their story and find permission to enter ours. When I studied this in trauma class, I spent several weeks on a project, and in 12 weeks of that course, the healing that came to locked up places was almost surreal.  Yet, when I return to the project I did — a poem set to dramatic background music — I still weep because it still unlocks a place in my soul, connected to childhood, that only art can touch. And it is beautiful. Because the pain means I survived, I overcame. I am alive! And that connection with fellow survivors is what my heart longs to create, with the help of many.

I shared it with a handful of people, and the response was exceptionally positive. I posted an email address to sign up for updates, and within minutes the emails came in. Updates have been well received, with many taking time to give feedback in response to ideas. Voting on things like location — with Lancaster PA by far in the lead — and whether to have a concert at the end of the day, or with what musician…. Jason Gray took a strong lead here, as many have already found his music to be very healing and uplifting. So we put in a request to have him come, and are waiting to hear back.

Over the years I’ve used his music (as well as Matthew West, 10th Avenue North, and others, but especially Jason Gray’s) to minister to the brokenhearted, to give them a safe space after sexual assault or other abuse, when down and out or struggling with suicidal ideation. In one of my earlier blogs I shared a young woman’s story – with permission – and the night of breakthrough God used Jason Gray’s song Nothing is Wasted to open her heart, and set her on a journey of freedom. Another young woman asked me to take her to the location where she had suffered deep trauma, and we played Remind me Who I Am, as she faced her trauma and wept. Many of my early clients could tell stories of finding permission to grieve and struggle through chaos of their stories, inviting God to speak through the avenue of music, when the spirit cannot hear Him for the pain.

To make it all happen is going to require a ton of organizing and planning. Which I love, fortunately! And I’ve recruited the help of a handful of other individuals, with yet others messaging to offer their assistance! (We are so thankful for each of you!) A few of us are already talking food prep, because… well, it’s our culture and we love good food! (We’ll try to feed you well, though we may not compete with a traditional Mennonite Sunday dinner.) One enthusiastic volunteer spent the night after a conversation dreaming we were making food together, so she’s all in! I will be donating hundreds of hours throughout the year, and many volunteers will also be giving of their time and resources, for which we are thankful. If you want to be updated, please send an email to AslanHasHeard@gmail.com.

I’ve set up a fundraiser on FB – which has generated almost $2000 since Saturday.  (However, the majority of donors have given through our website at Generations Unleashed since this is an American event, and the FB fundraiser only allows Canadians to give). All funds are specifically allocated for this event expenses, with the hopes that it will allow hundreds of victims to attend at minimal cost to them. (We ask for a non-refundable $15 to $20 contribution, as it creates a sense of ownership and commitment.) 

In the next few months we will need to raise around $15,000 for this event, to cover venue rental, the fee for bringing in a musician, and food costs. The minimal registration fee will go towards these costs as well, as we anticipate more than $15,000 in expenses.  If you wish to contribute, please visit our website by clicking HERE

I have one wish for my 50th year… that victims will be heard like never before, their suffering be acknowledged, and that they will become survivors, and then move from being survivors to being warriors for truth and justice, willing to lay down their lives for the next generation. This is my birthday prayer this week,  and my prayer for the event next November.

That is how I want to celebrate 50 years on this planet, (if God grants me one more year), by gathering with hundreds who, like me, thought they are/were the only ones molested and abused. And for every celebration between now and then — birthday, Christmas, anniversary and my 50th next November — the only gift I long for is making this event possible for survivors of sexual violence. 

Love, 

~ T ~ 

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Forced bestiality, beatings, and other sadistic abuses in religious communities

When I think I’ve heard it all, and am beyond shock, every now and then something strikes such a shocking blow that I am left reeling. This week was once such week. Frankly, I’m glad I wasn’t sitting face to face with some of the people whose stories were told to me this week. I have a ‘thou shalt not gasp’ policy, meaning no matter what I hear, I remain even-keel, calm and reassuring. What I felt as I read stories this week was not even-keel. In truth, I felt anger. And, at moments I slipped towards hopelessness that we will ever make any real headway, with all that lies hidden, and carefully swept under the proverbial church mat. But then the realization, We are making headway! This stuff was hidden yesterday! Today it is not. This conversation was silent not so long ago, now it is not.

And that is true whether we are talking about sexual abuse, bestiality – forced or other – and beatings often justified as spankings. We have made unbelievable progress, as far as I and the victims/survivors/overcomers of abuse are concerned. Of course that means for those who wish to hide it, the job of sweeping has suddenly become the job of shovelling waste, as the carpets are ripped away. But that’s another problem entirely. And that one isn’t mine.

What I mostly want to address in this blog is two things: forced bestiality and beatings justifies as spankings. Predominantly the former.

First the beatings as spankings… My Facebook friends and I have had some rather engaging conversations this past week. I could try to capture the conversations here but will leave you with the links, if you are interested in reading the many thoughts shared. (Visit links to read/engage discussions: spanking wives/adults and Christian ‘counsellors’ saying that is what abuse victims need if they just don’t get over it , also,  on bowing to religion – the not-God-kind of religion, that is.) My request is this, if you engage, choose to also listen to opposing views. Some strong feelings were expressed on both sides of the spanking debate, but from what I saw, it mostly stayed respectful. That is my expectation.

The ‘birthing’ of these conversations all began a few months ago when — not for the first time and not the first person — someone wrote and asked if I would address the topic of spankings and the religious justification for it. But, most specifically, this individual asked if I would address the topic of sexual arousal in the child being spanked. I’ve heard of this over the years when working with survivors of abuse and trauma, but what was unique in this case was that the individual was raised in a loving home, protected from abuse – sexual and otherwise. Even in that environment this individual struggled with sexual arousal during spankings, which developed into a spanking fetish later in life. (Read the conversations on spanking & fetishes here: First conversation and Second conversation.)

(To better understand this,  I have read claims that the increased blood flow to the genital area can, in some individuals, cause erections in males and engorgement of genitals in females. I will not link the articles as there was other information that I am not comfortable linking in my blog, given my audience. I offer the disclaimer that I cannot endorse or disprove these claims, but it would make some sense of the phenomenon.)

The result of this sexual arousal during a spanking can lead to spanking fetishes, as was explained by the individual asking me to address it, and it can also lead to fascination with BDSM. (I have supported and engaged multiple clients/individuals, internationally, who have experienced this, and most, if not all, developed the struggle through spanking  and/or sexual abuse. Not all were sexually abused, but all were spanked. So I am personally familiar with this, though my experience is limited.)

My motive for opening the conversation, especially when my knowledge and understanding of it in our settings is so limited, is quite uncomplicated. To give voice to those who are isolated and ashamed, with no one who understands them. There was a day when we, as survivors of sexual abuse, thought we were the only one, that no one would understand us, and if we spoke out we would be judged, condemned and shamed. Well, part of that proved to be true. Most of it, in fact, except the being all alone part. And the judged, condemned and shamed parts were already our reality, so nothing was lost. But we gained a community of supports, a place to be understood, to stand together in our brokenness and try to heal. And, just as importantly, to try to influence change for the next generation, to make sure they do not suffer what we suffered. Or, at the very least, that some who would have suffered if we had not spoken out, do not because we spoke out. For survivors, that is often more important than our own healing and justice. So I give voice to this today, for those who have suffered, so they can rise to the Light and find freedom and support. (Yes, you will be judged, condemned and shamed, I can’t make that go away; it is the painful reality of religious responses to suffering and speaking out. But I can promise you that there is also a community of supports who will rise up, cautiously at first, but then grow stronger, and hopefully save the next generation of children this horror.)

Before I address forced bestiality, I want to address the many who have engaged in bestiality out of ignorance and a lack of teaching surrounding sexuality. People freak out when you talk about bestiality. Yes, it’s tragic. It is horrifying. It is dehumanizing. But lay aside the disdain and the judgment for a moment and hear me on this. It is not as cut and dried as many people make it, of a perverted teen deciding one day to have at it with an animal. It mostly doesn’t work like that. The reality is, it often starts young, and often because of abuse and/or exposure to things no fault of the child/youth. That doesn’t make it ‘okay’, but for heaven’s sake, consider the context. Their recovery/healing and redemption depend on it.

The number of people who engaged in forms of bestiality as relatively young children – I believe the youngest I am aware of is around age 4 – and into teens is shockingly high in our farmer-family conservative Anabaptist Christian groups. (This is not to say it isn’t a problem in other cultures, but I cannot speak for non-Anabaptists because I have no such stories to draw from.) Some engage in bestiality because they were abused (forced to perform sexual favours such as fellatio/cunnilingus) and this sparks the idea of engaging with an animal. Others see older siblings, hired hands, or fathers engage in bestiality and experiment. Some experience sexual feelings and watch the animals and decide to experiment. Whatever the driving force behind it, almost without fail there is no teaching on sexuality, and no awareness of what it means, or the consequences. I do not wish to shame you, judge you, or further impose that darkness on you. I have worked with many clients who were involved in various forms of bestiality and I have a lot of compassion for you. It is heart-breaking, the lack of teaching and whatever you suffered that influenced the choices that flowed out of that. There is healing and freedom for you; you do not need to carry that shame.

The real issue I want to address on this topic is the use of bestiality as a weapon of abuse. I will not expound at length on it, nor will I be graphic in it. My intent is to create awareness and hopefully give voice to those who are and/or have suffered this violation. Furthermore, I want to make leaders, family, friends and fellow believers aware of it, so they can respond and be available to help these victims heal. Our minds cannot fathom the horror if we have not been there. And we have no right to silence them, or to rush them to healing. (Which, in religious communities often equates to pretending things while the mind slowly deteriorates into insanity. Not healthy at all!)

It was early in ministry when bestiality crossed my radar the first time. I had heard of it, a little, but was relatively naive. And certainly naive to the prevalence. In 2012 a counsellor from Guelph – a city not far from us – asked to meet. Their team had heard that I was doing conferences and wondered if I would be willing to share how I do what I do, what my training was, and other various questions. I agreed to meet and candidly responded to anything they asked. When the counsellor asked, bluntly, if I was encountering many stories of bestiality I was stunned. Yes, I said, more than I expected, including young women. This was their experience as well.

Over the next few years, from near and far, the stories trickled in. Were there hundreds? Probably not. Though I never kept track. But there were men. Men and women, alike, told me their stories – or wives told me their husband’s stories, and men their father’s or brothers’ stories – and the shame, the guilt, the brokenness that ensued. Fathers teaching their sons. Sons seeing their fathers. Brothers shamelessly engaging together. Young women. Sisters….

Several years had passed, with story after story trickling in. Wives resenting and despising their husbands, wanting nothing to do with them after they found out. And then the first story of forced bestiality appeared. Nothing can prepare the mind for such a thing. Daughters told of their fathers forcing them into it. Sons told of their fathers ‘teaching’ them. And wives… wives forced to engage in it at the commands of their husbands.

I have not been able to write about this before. And even now, as I do, my heart is sick. I really do not care what people think. That’s not what troubles me. It’s the horror… the opening up of something so deeply buried inside our walls and our churches. A cancer eating at the souls of our people … A poison draining the life from souls. And, like everyone else, I’ve just not had the stomach to open it up.

But the time of silence is over. As I said on Facebook, I have no one left for whom to perform, and the weight of that burden lifted is a gift. It frees me to speak all the things that need to be spoken, with no fear of consequences. Oh, there will be consequences, but they really can’t take anything from me. I have nothing left to lose in the religious world. (Thank you Jesus!) Nothing and no one left for whom to perform. And even my personal life, upon my death – should someone see it necessary to eliminate me, I expect a series of disclosures to be set in motion that will rock the world. I do not plan to die with secrets left to kill another generations. So I really don’t have anything to lose.

What I stand to gain is the freedom of those crying from the shadows. And that, to me, is everything. What I stand to gain is the hope that maybe someone in the next generation will not suffer because some adult found healing before they hurt that child. That, to me, is everything. What I stand to gain is that one person, currently in bondage, will hear the voice of Jesus saying, “I have not forgotten you. I have not ignored your suffering.” And that, to me, is everything.

If these are your experiences – whether the person who willingly engaged in bestiality, through ignorance and confusion, or the person who was forced into it, or the child (maybe now adult) who struggles with fetishes or BDSM – you are not alone. There are godly and good men and women who will walk with you, love you, support you. As many of you know, my world is quite busy/full right now with university, but I am not too busy to do my best to link you to support in your community. If you need someone to talk to, private message me, (EMAIL FOR SUPPORT) and I will do everything in my power to find someone safe for you to connect with.

Don’t suffer alone. Don’t suffer in silence.

And if you are guilty of committing the atrocity of forced bestiality, whipping, beating or spanking adults without consent/participation, or abusing children, youth or adults, reach out. I will help you face the truth. It won’t be easy. But you will find freedom. You will have to face the consequences, but it will be worth it to break the chains for yourself, your victim(s) and the next generation. There is no price too high for freedom.

With compassion… sadness and deep love for the broken… As always…

Love,
~ T ~

Disclaimer: I am not endorsing consensual spanking and/or BDSM as a healthy practice, I’m merely saying it isn’t my business and it isn’t illegal or criminal. My calling is for the victimized and to help offenders face consequences.

Kavanaugh & Blasey-Ford: Just another political/religious feud? Who is fibbing? And is anger a sign of guilt?

In spite of my busy schedule, I’ve followed this case as closely as time allowed. My interest in the case is not even a smidge political, other than how this will impact the future of victims who have legitimate allegations, and who will undoubtedly be questioned because of the political nature of this case. There is no doubt that it became a political weapon in the hands of Democrats. As a survivor of horrific things – along with many other survivors, including some who would otherwise praise the Democrats for taking a bold stand – this is violating and counter-productive. I am concerned it will do great damage to society acknowledging the trauma of victims and giving them a voice.

This week staying somewhat up to date with the case meant squeezing in time for Ford’s testimony and abandoning the last segment (because missing class and sacrificing marks seemed excessive). By the time I returned home, people had sent links to the the testimony and I watched the rest. I read some reasonable pieces about the case, and some with glaring biases. I tried to pick out the ‘information bits’ in them. In the process I’ve formed some strong opinions, most of which I will lay aside because opinion or assumption is all they are.

Speaking of assumptions and speculation… Any argument based on that for which there is neither evidence nor witness, does not sway me. And I’m amazed by how many people put full stock in speculation to the point that it becomes their truth. (Keep in mind that a victim’s trauma and experience are evidence, albeit less and less verifiable with the passing of time.) That in mind there are a few things that I really don’t put much weight on until evidence surfaces:

1. The two phantom men who allegedly came forward claiming to have been the ones to assault Dr. Ford. While a possibility, I have zero reason to believe such men actually did come forward.  The media producing such a story, with no names and nothing to show that such men exist, looks glaringly like the clean up crew getting called in. At first, I admit, it made sense of the story for me, based on things I had already observed, but when no names or identities were forthcoming, that all flushed down the pipe real fast. I’ll believe it when these alleged men have the cajones to make themselves known publicly, and their stories check out under intense investigation. Until then, they are a phantom in my mind. (If you were to ask me whether it is possible that two men, not including Judge Kavanaugh are guilty of the assault, the answer would be a resounding, Yes. It’s very possible. In fact, given other observations, that makes the most sense to me. But that teeters on the edge of speculation, so I leave it only as a possibility, nothing more.)

2. The claims that Dr. Ford was paid by the Democratfor launching allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. I would expect politicians to be far more self-serving than to leave an obvious trail, though it is again one of the possibilities, and if it surfaces, I won’t be shocked. I do know there’s a ton of fundraising happening – though I didn’t know that until recently – but I’ve seen nothing to corroborate claims of any association with the Democrats and money.  I would welcome such evidence being produced. (Again, knowing how crooked political games are, do I think it’s possible? Yes. Absolutely. But, at this point it is pure speculation based on what I have seen or heard. Stating as fact what has no evidence is not only troublesome, but it amounts to saying “We can make unfounded allegations, but you can’t.”

I don’t like them in any case, and when I recently used unverifiable information – which I discovered to be unverifiable after the party denied it, an outcome I did not anticipate – I took ownership. After the party declared his innocence, combined with realizing that the person who told me in good faith could not produce evidence, I publicly apologized. I hold the same position in this case. If it cannot be proven, don’t hold to it as truth. If you present it as fact and there is no evidence, apologize.

3. People are saying if you’re innocent of charges, you don’t respond in anger, thereby assigning guilt to Judge Kavanaugh. That is bogus. And that is one of the things I will reference a bit later, based on my experience with confronting alleged abusers. Especially religious ones. (Keep in mind, this is based on my experience; it is not scientific evidence. It has not been proven or stated by anyone else, that I am aware of.)

The part I am interested in commenting on, is based on observation in this particular case (drawn completely from watching the testimonies and producing my own screenshots) as well as what I have observed in eight years of working with victims and offenders.

Was Dr. Ford assaulted?
Watching Dr. Ford’s testimony, I have no doubt that the woman experienced the traumatic event she describes. I believe she was assaulted, at least close to the manner in which she describes. And I say ‘close’, not to minimize her experience, but to account for things that may have altered her memory. So I believe she was sexually assaulted, but am not sold on the facts she presents, but I do believe she genuinely believes them to be fact. Furthermore, she spoke with various people over a period of years as she processed that trauma, indicating that trauma was not conjured out of thin air for political agenda… which is not to say such agenda was absent in her timing. It’s glaringly obvious, in fact, that it was present. (Keep in mind that no names were ever formally documented, so there is no evidence that she previously named Kavanaugh. Also no evidence that she didn’t.)

What about the booze?
Dr. Ford says she had one beer. Maybe that is true. Maybe it is not. I promise you, when I partied in my teens, if there was booze available, I did not stop at one and I couldn’t tell you after the fact how many I had. If she had more, then her memory would be altered based on that. And, without searching, I expect there’s scientific evidence saying that booze alters mind function and memory recall. But with or without scientific study, just hang out at such a party and watch them walk and talk, or talk to the victim of drunk driving and we will all agree that booze alters memory and reality. However, it does not eliminate the ability to recall some information with shocking detail.

I was drunk out of my mind in this excerpt from my memoir, yet I recall vividly the kindness of the taxi driver and the grace he spoke into my life that night. Ironically, I do not recall the actual scenes to which I awakened, other than being completely horrified.

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Time will tell… But will it tell the truth?
We have to account for the passing of time. I am a trauma survivor, and I have one heck of a longterm memory. I’ve had people from Mexico corroborate things that I wrote in my memoir; things that even some family members questioned. I was writing from a place of memory that, at times, felt too surreal to be real. But it was real. When I visited Mexico in 2017, I returned to a childhood home where several traumatic events took place. I was five when we left. Yet, forty-three years later, I was able to tell my driver which direction to turn out our lane to drive past Hildebrandt’s home, to the first road left, and to a field on the left, just a short distance down that road, past a creek. My driver called his father to confirm that it was, indeed, my father’s field. It was.

Memories with significance, for me, are deeply rooted. I know them to be true, even while they have that sense of surreal-ness about them. Even so, I know my memories are not perfect. I approached a woman who, as a girl, I recall molesting me. She was shocked when I described an event that happened to her too! She named the girl – some years older than her – who molested her. And from that moment on my certainty about which of the two molested me was forever questioned. I do not, to this day, propose to recall the accurate identity. They had similar features, were both older than me and had access, and at about five there is no way to be 100% certain which of them molested me. But, regardless of any uncertainty, I do know without question that I was molested that day.

If we, who work closely with sexual violence, cannot acknowledge this reality, we will contribute to grave injustices to both the victims and the falsely accused. Because false allegations – whether intentionally or through faulty memory – do happen.

EDIT: A reader brought to my attention a failure to acknowledge what I already acknowledged numerous times on social media, and what I intended to address here but overlooked:

Just as it is possible that Dr. Ford’s memory is not perfect, it is also possible – always possible – that Judge Kavanaugh does not remember that night even if he was there. If he was there, and if he was inebriated, then we must also conclude that what applies to Dr. Ford in the way of faulty memory, also applies to Judge Kavanaugh.

What about Judge Kavanaugh’s anger; does it suggest guilt?
Soon after Judge Kavanaugh gave his testimony, I started to see comments like, “If he was innocent he wouldn’t be so angry”. Wherever that evolves from, it makes no sense. I have confronted many religious sex abusers who were either proven to be guilty, or who at some point admitted guilt. The one response I have never seen from a guilty party is anger. Never. It has always been some form of quiet and calculated defence, some form of deflection, some form of religious justification or denial, or – if absolutely, inescapably caught – then a rush to repent and make things right. (The latter, while maybe not always the case, is a strong clue that there are other victims they don’t want to come forward or be discovered by the allegations going public, therefore the rush). And it has always involved some form of manipulation. At times they start preaching to the victim; “where would you have spent eternity if you had died, knowing all these years I had sinned and you did nothing to help me?” (At which point I interrupt and stop the abuse.) Or, “How can I make this right?”… “I had no idea that is how it felt to them… I thought it was mutual consent…” (Ummm… no… 8-year-olds can’t consent to 4o-year-olds wanting to have sex.) Or, regardless of age, “I didn’t abuse them; they wanted me to do it”… 

The list of deceptions, manipulations is endless. But anger is the one thing that has never manifested in my experience. (And a short study into the workings of a sex offender would quickly explain why that is, but I won’t get into that here.)

I would argue that many of the expressions displayed by Judge Kavanaugh are not only anger, if anger at all. Studying them, there are a few that appear to be anger and an array of conflicted emotions besides, but many show incredible grief. Not the kind of grief that Larry Nassar showed, or that I have seen repeatedly when speaking with both men and women guilty of abusing. There is deep, genuine pain in both of these individuals. What lacks in Judge Kavanaugh’s eyes that is very present in Dr. Ford, is terror. Her eyes seem constantly to dance between terror and numbness or disassociation from reality. Neither hold contempt in the above, though there are several that suggest contempt in Judge Kavanaugh’s expression. (However, as you will see in my further comparison, this is not reliable). Both seem to be pleading for truth to be acknowledge; for their story to be understood.

(Note: Photos such as this are being circulated as evidence that Kavanaugh is angry. So I watched the testimony again, looking for similar expressions, since the likelihood of finding the exact ones is quite unlikely. The next three photos are screenshots I took at between 9.58 minutes and about 10:40 minutes into this Youtube of his testimony: Click here)

(In this photo Judge Kavanaugh is in the middle of saying “Allegations of sexual assault must always be taken seriously. Always”. Yet he looks ‘angry’. Or does he?)
Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 7.58.46 PM.png
(In this photo Kavanaugh has just made the statement, at almost exactly 9.59 minutes into the clip, that victims and the accused should both be heard.)
Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 8.10.58 PM(Here Judge Kavanaugh has just said, of his parents, “they’re here today”. He looks yet angrier.)
Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 8.12.55 PM(Here Judge Kavanaugh has just said how hard his mom worked when he was 10).
Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 8.13.35 PM(And here he is addressing the sexual harassment his mom had to overcome and “that so many women faced in the time, and still face today.”)
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Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 8.19.05 PM.png(Here Judge Kavanaugh has just said “not even a hint” and just before “a wiff, of an allegation like this” at 11.40 minutes).
Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 8.18.37 PM(And this final screenshot is at the moment immediately following his statement that there has not even been “whiff, of an allegation like this” at 11.46-47 minutes).

So, I would propose that reading expression without context is not particularly effective. Where he should be angry, he shows less emotion. Where he looks angry in the pictures I screenshots of, he was speaking with emotion and passion that held no anger or reason for anger. There is certainly much emotion, but that should be understandable. And fighting to gain or hold composure has seldom made anyone particularly photogenic and chipper-looking. Let alone emotions under these circumstances, assuming he is innocent.

As for the notion that Judge Kavanaugh is guilty because he got angry, or seemed angry? Utter nonsense. Nothing of that speaks to his guilt. While I would not go so far as to say it speaks to his absolute innocence, I would argue quite emphatically that it certainly does not speak to his guilt. If it speaks to one or the other, I know which I would vote for, but that would be as inappropriate as being certain that Dr. Ford is intentionally deceiving the nation. I may not trust her motives for choosing this moment in time, but would put a generous burden of responsibility for how this played out on whoever leaked the story, if she genuinely played no role in that and had no knowledge of it. On that front, and with the assumption of that being true, and assuming Judge Kavanaugh is indeed innocent, she and Judge Kavanaugh were both victims and both wronged.

Again, assuming her trauma is as real as I believe it is and she sincerely believes the Judge is the offender, and also assuming his innocence (for the sake of argument), that political move did more damage to victims of sexual abuse being heard – especially in historical cases – than any other impact. Judge Kavanaugh, if innocent, will thrive. This will empower the Republicans and all who support them. Dr. Ford, even if telling the truth about the trauma, as I believe she is, will bear the consequences quite personally if at some point it is proven she had the wrong man, or men. In this, assuming the previous sentence is reality, the Democrats deeply wronged both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. Dr. Ford’s vulnerability was exploited for political gains, and Judge Kavanaugh falsely accused. While lawsuits are not my recommended usual ‘go to’, assuming this paragraph is accurate, I hope both sue the pants off of whoever got this ball rolling in the way that it rolled.

Those who care for victims will also be cautious about not launching unfounded allegations, or even questionable allegations, for selfish gain. All allegations brought forward in good faith, or believed to be presented in good faith, should be taken seriously, And they should be investigated. If there is failure on the part of those who should investigate to do so, in my opinion (and I recognize it is not a broadly held view), there is a time to expose and go public. In this case there was no attempt at such an investigation, and that is one of the biggest strikes against the credibility of this whole case against Judge Kavanaugh. Any attempt to have it investigated or addressed before going public would have given it much more credibility.

Closing thoughts
I cannot and am not interested in determining innocence or guilt, but those observations are some of the things I cannot ignore. There is strong indication that Dr. Ford was assaulted, and strong indication that Judge Kavanaugh is not the person responsible for that assault. Surmising all manner of things on the sidelines by either side – (ie; the claim that Dr. Ford was paid off, or that Judge Kavanaugh is guilty… well, just because he is and he didn’t even bother to get a lawyer) – those things weaken the arguments of their respective sides and distract from the real issues.

My status on Facebook, after people asked what I think or if I’m following the case, is where I still stand:

If Kavanaugh did what he is accused of – or anything close to it, I think he should own up and apologize to Dr. Ford. If Dr. Ford made up the accusations for political gain/agenda, she should apologize to Kavanaugh and the rest of the world, especially victims of abuse. If the allegations are true and she is using them for political gain, she should apologize to every victim who will not be heard because of this. Because this case will, without question, impact the credibility of the voices of victims, no matter what the outcome.

The problem is, none of us can prove what actually went down, or didn’t – as the case may be, and none of us can prove the heart intent of Dr. Ford.

For those who have asked what I think, that’s what I think.

I see no need to pretend we know as fact the parts that cannot be proven as fact. I see both sides – the conservatives and liberals – making claims that make, while logical, are not grounded in anything provable… at least not yet. I was not there, and you were not there (unless you are one of the few who were), and we are not God. Therefore we do not know with 100% certainty what actually happened.

I shudder to see an innocent man (or woman) accused of sexual assault. And I cringe at a victim not being believed. Both things are wrong. I pray that truth will be revealed. I pray that the corruption behind what is playing out – including any money trails, and political manipulations – will be exposed. I pray that Dr. Ford finds healing; there is no doubt she suffered trauma. And I pray that Judge Kavanaugh, if innocent as he appears, is exonerated from all allegations and goes on to serve well.

My personal position is with truth. That’s all.

Love,
~ T ~

 

 

 

Is church safe for the abused?

Is church a safe place for victim of sexual violence? (Or domestic violence, for that matter. While not my areas of expertise to the extent that sexual violence is, the more I hear, the more I realize the glaring similarities.) I have asked this question for a great long while, and have been asked by survivors. I wish to offer a resounding ‘yes, it’s the safest place on earth for you’. But, I cannot. Sadly. I fear the institutional church is one of the most unsafe places for them. It would not need to be that way. If I am perfectly honest, my advice to those who have suffered sexual abuse would be to never open that door in church. Find a safe place outside those walls, unless your leaders have made it very clear and proactively let you know that they care and will hear you. (There are safe places/pastors, and I could list some, but will refrain. And if you are one such church or leader, thank you. Please don’t take this personal, but recognize you are not the majority, regardless of denomination.)

While (most times) church is not safe for the abused, it is one of the safest places on earth for offenders. So to offenders looking for community and a space to find belonging and acceptance, I recommend church. Almost any church, really, but with some being especially accepting. By virtue of this reality, it cannot be equally safe for survivors. In fact, it cannot be safe for victims at all, as long as preferential treatment exists for offenders. It simply is not possible.

The idealism some churches hold of wanting to be a safe space for both abuse survivor and offender is often an illusion. Most end up advocating for one or the other which is different than ‘being there’ for people. Inevitably, and of necessity, to advocate for one is to disadvantage the other, and church has a way of advocating for offenders. “They are sorry, and can’t undo what they did. They repented, therefore you should forgive. They were tempted by the way you dressed. You threw yourself at him. You flirted with him. It if un-Christ-like to not forgive”.

Blatant advocating for offenders inevitably and effectively silences victims; it is 100% impossible to advocate for both. You can advocate for one and try to point the other for help elsewhere but you cannot advocate for one and offer both help. If they are searching for community, so long as they remain silent about abuse, church is a great place for victims to find community, but it does require excluding that very significant experience. Therefore is not safe.

When  someone does bring allegations forward and victim or offender needs to leave a congregation, almost without fail it is the (alleged) victim who leaves. And often they simply give up on church, but more importantly, many give up on their faith journey. Yet, ironically, many still long for that safe place within church, and a safe place to grow in faith, but it simply is not there for them.

So what is the answer?

Advocating for truth would be a brilliant start. Just truth. Just brilliant. Truth in every circumstance.  But we don’t know what truth is, or what really happened – we were not there, we are not God, so we cannot judge the offender. Just truth, without rationalizing. Without saying, if it was my son I’d want to believe he was innocent, and I’d want everyone to believe he is innocent. It fascinates me how many are comfortable with asking that question – what if it was my son – but how few are comfortable asking, “what if it was my granddaughter… my daughter who was raped/groped/molested?” I would dare to say if we are going to ask the first, we better ask the second too, and really pause to consider what that would mean… especially if you happened to walk in as it was happening.

If you choose the path of believing the offender, by virtue of that stance, you immediately say, “the victim is guilty of lying, misconstruing facts” or some such thing.

What if, instead, we sat ‘near’ and listened with the heart… very near; near enough to feel the pain? What if we honoured the suffering and cared for them without determining whether she/he is lying or not? What if we simply acknowledged pain?  And, for the offender, what if we ‘entered in’ and gave them a place to come clean and confess? And what if we walked with them simultaneously toward grace and consequences, if they confess, thus offering true freedom?

By releasing the accused immediately from guilt and judgement, we automatically sentence the victim to guilt and judgement. And if the accused are indeed guilty, we have sentenced both to bondage a life of struggle and injustice. We’ve also done two things God hates: acquitted the guilty, and condemned the innocent (Proverbs 17:15). He hates both. So we are right to pause when we hear an allegation, but we are not right to make a judgement call either for innocence or guilt. It is our duty to get our hands bloody and feet dirty, so to speak, and ‘enter in’ with both.

The church community has not done well with this on either front. We have made quick judgements – usually against the victims – and in this we have sinned against God.  I have spent 8 years standing in the gap, working with both victims and offenders, making myself available 6 or 7 days many weeks. It has been lonely, in many ways, but it has been more fulfilling than lonely. And it has been sheer joy watching the downtrodden rise up and find their identity, their voice, their Hope. It has been church, for me, more than any gathering I’ve attended anywhere. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Hopefully with less mistakes. But I’d do it either way.

I say that to say, I acknowledge it is hard to care well for victims. I know it is easier to look the other way than to get into that messy real of pain and suffering, and the brutal injustice. But it is possible, and we (church) could do better. We must do better, if we want to name the name of Jesus.

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We have a conference  in Lewisburg, PA), in a few weeks, where the abused gather, and feel understood. When it’s over, people often linger a great long while after. Sometimes just ‘resting’. Sometimes sitting and chatting with one another. Sometimes weeping. Sometimes praying together.

We don’t decide if alleged abusers are guilty. We don’t accuse anyone of lying or making up stories. We simply offer compassion and love.

That’s safety. That’s what it means to be understood.

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2018_Oct_PA_Brochure_Inside

The Oct4 Training Day is for those wishing to support victims
Itinerary :

SESSION ONE: The role of Restorative Justice in Addressing Crime (Mike Yoder)
SESSION TWO: Understanding Victims’ Needs (Trudy Metzger)
SESSION THREE: Protecting Against Secondary Trauma (Trudy Metzger)
SESSION FOUR: Setting Healthy Boundaries When Working with Victims (Trudy Metzger)

To register, visit: http://www.generationsunleashed.com/events

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Wishing you blessings this week, praying for peace and hope on your journey, and the courage to trust God on your healing journey. You are not alone. You are not forgotten. Together, we are ‘church’, and together we will create a safe place for the abused to struggle, to worship, to heal.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018