Transitions and change to my work as a trauma survivor advocate

In the past few years, the focus of my work with Generations Unleashed has shifted quite dramatically, though it is still very survivor-support oriented. It began with the car crash in 2019 limiting my ability to carry on with seminars as I had been, and then Covid hit. Since that time, I have continued to support survivors online, as well as supporting others — pastors, friends etc — as they walk with survivors. But another shift began soon after the crash. I had long told Tim that one of my goals (on top of returning to doing training seminars) is to be available for victims pressing charges, and for law enforcement, lawyers, DA’s and the victim’s legal teams. I didn’t make this known publicly. By 2020-2021 the requests came in, asking if I would consider being an expert witness in several sexual assault cases, should they choose to call me.

To date, any role as witness has been with evidence to offer. While I offer expert testimony based on my experience and education, I have not negotiated a role as a paid expert witness for a variety of reasons. Since early 2020, all my work has been pro bono, and I completely stopped drawing a wage from Generations Unleashed. I do not wish it ever to be said that we do what we do for the money. It never has been the case. It never will be the case.

I have been considered an advocate in the world of survivors – a title I did not choose but have done my best to fulfill — and continue to do what I can to support survivors. Advocacy, as it is commonly held, is not an identity I choose or carry, but I will continue to support survivors of trauma in any way possible. My heart is to make a positive impact in all areas of supporting survivors and, as always, I am focused on truth, justice and the wellbeing of those who have been seriously harmed.

My work continues to be empowered by my faith in God, even while much of the practical work on this front is not ‘religious’. I believe, without question, that God has called me to continue to expose the injustices and spiritual wickedness in high places, in church. (I recognize it exists in non-religious affiliations and organizations too. That is not my calling). Part of my calling is supporting some of the court cases taking place. I was free to decline the invitation and be subpoenaed in one of two of the cases. I chose willingly to enter the fray, knowing it will cost me significantly to do so. I am encouraged to see cases that were ‘dismissed’ (as a result of LE trying to appease ‘church’ and/or b/c ‘good men’ came forward on behalf of offenders) being revived and unrepentant offenders tried for their crimes. Offenders who lie and cover up are, among all offenders, most dangerous. I unapologetically support the prosecution process and offer my service.

This work is much less public than the past, as I am often not free to speak about details. Rumours trickle out. People reach out and ask questions. But often there is little I am free to say. This is not due to lack of transparency, but rather to give cases their due process.

As I continue to do what God has called me to do, I ask for your ongoing prayers and support through this season. I wish to honour God with my life. I pray for a thick skin and a tender heart in the face of criticism, and the humility to own my failures when I make mistakes. I welcome you to reach out with thoughts, questions or concerns.

My goal is to be transparent, always, with those who walk beside me. I know for some the fact that I am giving myself and my time to legal processes may be a stumbling block. You may no longer be willing to partner in prayer and encouragement. I accept that as the cost for what I must do, though I do regret any confusion or hurt it may cause. Especially to survivors of trauma.

The nature of this present work is also such that most months we receive less than $20 in donations. As a result, Tim and I have largely been funding the costs of carrying Generations Unleashed out of pocket, the past few years. I understand that some will not be comfortable donating, knowing funds will go toward my work supporting survivors in legal proceedings. I am choosing to be transparent so that you are free to make that choice, with no manipulation or without feeling in hindsight that your giving was not used where your heart and faith are invested.

If you are willing to support this work with a one time donation, or with a monthly donation, knowing what I have shared, we would appreciate your support. Donations can be made at: http://www.generationsunleashed.com/donate on the donations page.

Your prayers are always appreciated. I will be called to testify (as a witness, not as a paid expert witness) several times across the USA in the next few weeks, if all goes as scheduled. I would especially appreciate your prayers in this. It is emotionally exhausting work, and hours of testimony remains exhausting with ongoing post-concussion-syndrome as the result of my 2019 accident. I still very much limit the amount of work I do as a result of this, but feel compelled to give what I am able on this front. I trust God to meet my needs on every front.

Thank you for walking with me… with us.

As always…

Love,

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2022

Letter to Bruxy Cavey

Bruxy,

My first contact with you was when I reached out to see if you would be available to speak to a group of (roughly 250) women at a conference for survivors of sexual assault and molestation. I wrote the following to you:

I am inviting 4 individuals to make confessions to the women on behalf of men in general, fathers, mothers and pastors. My husband has lived with integrity and honour in my life and will address sexual abuse on behalf of all men. Our lead pastor died of cancer in May and he also lived with the same honour [in my life] on a spiritual level. I come from a deeply religious culture (Conservative–white bonnet–Mennonite) where our family suffered deep abuse so I cannot go back to those leaders. The other pastor I had is not available that night […] So, here I am, asking you if you would consider driving to our church […] to make a confession to a group of women at a conference. It’s not glamorous but it is a great honour. I recognize that I’m asking you to speak in a church when your calling is to minister to those who are sick of organized religion and its politics but so many of us have been ‘spiritually mutilated’–as one young lady said recently–and need someone to stand in the gap. I know you ‘walk the talk’ because three of our neighbours go to The Meeting House (Cambridge) as do some friends who left our church and my former doctor and his family and they all speak with respect and honour of you” (Messenger, August 30, 2010).

Your schedule was full. You did not fill the role. Within approximately two years of that, you violated a young woman’s trust and sexuality.

****

When it became publicly known that there are allegations against you, the shock left me reeling. I had not fully recovered from the allegations against Ravi Zacharias….

I met you and Ravi Zacharias in the hall when we took our youth to Fluid Gathering the first year it was held. There was no one else present; you and he were in conversation.

It was brief, our meeting; nothing memorable …. to you, I imagine. It was but a passing greeting. You seemed to not be the most social person I had met and looked relieved when you could offer a quick ‘hi’ and escape. That did not offend me. I had listened to your teachings which made it memorable for me. I had also heard quite a number of friends speak highly of your teaching style and personality. So I was not surprised when you seemed reserved; I already knew this about you.

Ravi was charming and clasped my hand in both of his. He leaned in and kissed me on both cheeks as he spoke ever so graciously; for one moment I was the only person in his world. I bought many of his books, either hard copy or ebook, and listened/read with fascination.

Starting in 2012 we attended The Meeting House (TMH) when I wasn’t traveling internationally, in ministry to survivors of sexual assault within religious communities. TMH was our place to land while I did my degrees at UWaterloo (overlapping with ministry); a place to sit and absorb teaching with no ministry duties, to avoid burnout.

In 2015 I wrote a second time: “[I]t is ministry that inspires me to write today… Until recently I had a ‘personal pastor’ in [USA], who was my ‘go to’ in the ministry[…]. That pastor is going through a very dark time […] and has retreated completely, not even responding to my encouraging notes. […] I do ministry to sexual abuse victims[…] and find it necessary to have a personal pastor1 with whom to connect, from time to time, with whom I can be honest and raw.” (Messenger, May 21, 2015).

That request led to semi-regular meetings with our site lead who was, from what I could tell, one of the most transparent pastors I had ever encountered. This was a huge support during a time when I had very few support systems in place while doing the hard work of listening to survivors, almost daily. I am so grateful for time he invested in me.

I recall well some of your messages. I can’t say that for a host of pastors, though there are others. But the one thing that stands out most is a statement about interacting with the opposite gender. You talked about acknowledging beauty, and honouring the person as God’s creation, never objectifying or using and dishonouring them. (I don’t remember your words. I only recall what they communicated). You were speaking my language. (My Blog Post on the topic: Every Erection Is Not Lust).

Over the years since you taught that, I brought it up to my husband from time to time, and shared it here and there. Finally a pastor who addresses the subject and honours women….

When allegations against you of sexual impropriety were made public, I felt numb. My heart sank. I held out ‘hope against hope’ that they were not true. If true, I held out hope that you would humbly acknowledge, resign and step down.

You were the third in a series of leaders I had (to varying degrees) respected, who had allegations brought against them. The first was a bishop, Howard Bean, in my former Mennonite affiliation. He had sexually assaulted a young woman when he taught school. I befriended her when I was 17 and she told me the tragic story, but withheld his name. When the story came to light in recent years, I was shocked to learn he had been a church leader in my denomination for years. Ravi Zacharias was second. Both cut to the core, leaving me shaken.

But when I heard the allegations against you, as someone who had attended TMH and sat under your teachings, and someone who works with survivors of sexual abuse… it about knocked the wind out of me. I still have no words for the shock. And how sick I felt telling my husband. The sadness. The sense of betrayal and loss.

When the allegations were confirmed as valid, I read your blog (My Confession). I saw the title and felt a wave of relief: you were owning the wrong committed and harm done. But as I read what you wrote, the sadness and betrayal moved to anger and trembling with grief.

I have worked for over 12 years with sexual abuse victims, and I have also sat with many who have sexually offended. I have heard true ownership. And I have heard self-preservation and blame-shifting or justification. I felt sick to my stomach — and do still as I recall — as you referred to the sexual impropriety as ‘an affair’.

(The following details, to the best of my knowledge, are fully accurate. I wish to be corrected if I have erred in anything). You were 46. She was 23. You a pastor in a large and growing church. She barely past her youth, looking up to a man in a position that (sadly) is often equated as representing God more than any other human; a pastor does lead the bride of Jesus, after all. You, experienced and exhibiting both knowledge and wisdom. She a young mind finding her path, embracing her beliefs, discovering who God is… who you portray him to be.

And you write that it was an affair.

The incredible power imbalance makes your claim so utterly shocking — from a man who has taught against abuse of power against cultures of less power; a man who has taught humble servanthood; a man who has taught sacrificing self for others…. The list could go on and on.

Yes, when I saw you were admitting that allegations of sexual impropriety were true, and especially when I heard of the age and power differentials, I expected you to humbly confess your wrong, own the harm, and free the victim from any responsibility.

Instead, you placed squarely on her shoulders the shame and the blame. You are a man revered to a fault; to some you cannot be guilty no matter what you did. Some defend you still. You have power on your side. You state you had confessed it to God, as though there was no need for any further action to free her from the power of the secret you carried… the weapon you became in her world. And the deception many of us feel, still. You had confessed. You were free. She carried the secret affair, as you called it, with a revered pastor.

The moment you freed yourself further from responsibility with a public ‘confession’ — that sounded like most offenders I’ve worked with, who self-justify and transfer blame — you also sentenced her to more shame, more blame, and more disillusionment with God. At 23 that’s a pretty heavy burden to carry, with life-long consequences. I don’t know her, or where she is in her faith today, but I do know many like her. And I have heard the struggle. If it isn’t impacting her that way, it is impacting others. I know because victims who admired you have contacted me.

My math tells me this took place soon after my request to represent pastors in the acknowledgement of sexual harm against women. You asked me to check with your secretary to see if your schedule is free. Surely you must have known the harm this would do…

If you had taken full ownership in “My Confession”, and stated you abused the trust of someone young enough to be your daughter, and called it pastoral abuse of power and sexual misconduct or sexual assault, it would have freed the young woman and set a noble example for others to also own their wrongs. Is Jesus not enough for that? What would He have called it?

Many of us counted on you to do this… to fully take ownership for taking advantage of youthful naivety. The added betrayal when you called it an affair, after all I heard you teach, shredded any trust that might have been rebuilt.

I have served as an investigator in a case not unlike this, as part of a team along with trained law enforcement and a pastor. I know what is involved and how exhausting it is to be thorough and call it what it is. What I can’t grasp is in what world a pastor at 46 and a youth at 23 have an affair.

If this was your daughter, at 23, with a well-known pastor with your level of power and influence (keeping in mind that influence is power) at 46, would you still call it an affair?

If this was an injustice involving the Indigenous and other Canadians, what would you teach God’s people to do? How would you address the power imbalance? How have you addressed these injustices in your peace teachings?

You have spent years teaching against violence. This is the most insidious of violent acts in the church, to prey on the vulnerable and young, and place the burden of that blame on their back.

Do not think that God will overlook when we, as leaders in His kingdom, take advantage of the powerless. Nor He will take His eyes off of those harmed. Spiritual Abuse and sexual violence to among the greatest harm in religious community. Especially when so intricately intertwined.

Amos 5

Praying, with hope, that you will rename your wrongs, call your actions by the power imbalance that this was (therefore, pastoral sexual abuse/assault), and publicly free her of blame.

There is grace. There is forgiveness. With truth.

Sincerely,
Trudy

© Trudy Metzger 2022

1. This is leftover teaching that I’ve long since abandoned, that each person in ministry must have a pastor under whose ‘umbrella’ they function. While I see the value of having someone with whom we share, who challenges, offers wisdom and simply listens, I no longer believe it needs to be a pastor. Nor do I believe it needs to be a male. In fact, as one pastor after the next after the next is exposed for sexual misconduct, or other betrayal, I find myself wondering how such power was ever given in the first place to such a position. Yes, there are noble and sincere pastors. But it certainly isn’t important to have a pastor over us in ministry. It is important to have strong relationships with fellow believers who can walk with us. I have Tim, for whom I am grateful, but he is also my lover and may just be a little bit biased. Sometimes we need not only our spouse, but a spouse and other mentor or friend who sees our blindspots. In any case, I am not interested in inadvertently promoting beliefs that I once held and now see to be destructive.

SGT. Wilson’s Statement Outlining the Day of 4-yr-old Missouri Child’s Beating Death

Trigger Warning:

Sergeant Wilson’s account of the events that occurred at the Mast residence December 19-20, 2020, and the weeks leading up to that day when little Jessica Mast was murdered at the hands of Ethan Mast, Kourtney Aumen, James Mast and Mary S. Mast, is brutal to read. As a child raised observing vile beatings, it has been a gut-wrenching story to follow, and has impacted me in ways that I cannot put into words, but are observable to my husband. (Our abusive home-life is well documented in my book, Between 2 God: A memoir of Abuse in the Mennonite Community). I caution anyone who has been through severe trauma including, family violence (including harsh beatings, often referred to as ‘spanking’, religious abuse and extremism (including the teaching to ‘spank until limp’, and the like. Be aware that the Probable Cause statements which describe the scene of the crime may be triggering, and it may be wise to have a friend, your support person or someone with you when reading, or available to debrief after.

Besides the terror that sweet child felt, and the unthinkable neglect as she ran for her parents and they fled, what is so utterly horrifying to me is that she and her little brother were to hold still while they were beaten; they were to surrender. A two year old and a four year old, to surrender to a beating and hold still for it.

This is the same mentality that I was raised with. We were forced to hold still and comply with violent whippings. The more we moved, the more we were whipped. On at least one occasion, my father intervened when my mother whipped a sibling. Had he not done so, she would likely have beat my sibling to a bloody pulp. Other siblings bear the scars to this day, of the violence they endured at the hands of my parents.

It is the same mentality that is taught when I child is to be “paddled until they go limp” as a sign of surrender; a teaching at least one of the accused killer’s churches taught.

I understand that my call, in my previous blog, to the Charity church that taught this to acknowledge the wrongness of that teaching, and repent (recant) of it, is offensive to some. Those offended by a call to repentance are the people who are the least safe. When was a call to take ownership of a faulty teaching and a call to repent of it ever a bad idea? To see something as horrific as what happened in Missouri, by someone raised with that mindset, and to see in this report how shockingly it mimics the teachings, should bring all to a place of brokenness who teach such things.

It is not my place to say all spanking is wrong. That was and is not my point. The law leaves room for it, with restraint. The Bible has been terribly misinterpreted as allowing for beatings that go far beyond loving discipline. That simply is not the way of Jesus, and it is not the way of love. Spankings, with restraint, I leave between an individual and God. Sadly, those of us who were raised with harsh spankings (aka beatings), or the mindset of ‘spank until they go limp’ or surrender, are conditioned for ‘discipline’ that is very unhealthy, and is, in fact, abuse.

An Anabaptist gentleman I met on Facebook, who is 16 years my senior — therefore 16 years wiser, though he stated he wasn’t sure about that — and who started gently calling me out on things that he finds questionable in my writings — wrote me after I posted my last blog. I appreciate him and consider him a friend, though we’ve never met. The following is our exchange, shared with his permission:

Hi Trudy, just some thoughts…what happened in Mo., simply awful. I would like to point out another side, tho. I attend a church, (not Charity style) that has LOTS of small/young children. These children are bright-eyed, open faced, happy, contented (tho not perfect)…they love their parents, and they know their parents love them. These are parents that believe in spanking (properly done, NOT in an abusive way). They love their children in every way, and these are some of the happiest, obedient, full-of-life kids I’ve ever seen. Proper use of spanking (which is only part of the big picture), produces great children. These parents and their children have some of the greatest relationships I have seen, ever, anywhere. What happened at Charity was often wrong, but at the time they probably thought it was the right thing. So sad.

I responded with the following:

If I could go back, I would not spank our children. I was too broken. Too lost. Too unaware of God’s grace and the kind Abba Father He is. And that is the story of many of us. As I say in the one FB conversation [referenced in previous blog] — and I don’t even know if it’s one of the ones I used [in my blog] — I don’t judge every parent who spanks as [being] abusive. I thought I was doing what was supposed to be [right]. And it was wrong. It wasn’t relational. God is a relational God. I didn’t know that. So I won’t judge the parents who reserve spanking for the rare situation (although I [also] did not spank often) and who are gentle. But I wouldn’t do it again.

Having worked with victims of sexual and domestic violence for eleven years now, I know that the number of homes that beat children ‘nigh unto death’, or where children are actually threatened with death, is shockingly high. By that I don’t mean “90% or even 50%”. I mean, it is shockingly high for what we would expect in a nonresistant people claiming to know Jesus.

Anyone who feels compelled to defend that mindset and teaching, or respond with knee jerk reaction to my call to repentance, by taking what I said out of context and making it about ‘hating Anabaptists’ or blaming them, has an agenda that is not inspired by Christ. It’s that simple.

So I say again, without apology, that I pray those who have taught these things will repent and recant of those teachings. They are abusive and damaging teachings. It isn’t their ‘fault’, what happened in Missouri. I am not blaming the Charity church for this. That was not my message last blog, and it is not my message today. But to recant those teachings is drawing a clear line between what is right and Christlike, and what is wrong and abusive.

I am told by someone with whom Mose Stoltzfus (preacher of Ephrata Christian Fellowship who passed away December 6, 2020) spoke firsthand, as well as having it confirmed from someone who was from Charity, that Mose was extremely concerned about the situation with Kourtney Aumen living with the James Mast family. He was concerned about how it came to be that Kourtney lived with them, and tried to influence against it, but he was not heard. He was especially concerned that James Mast — a male in his twenties — had been asked to drive Kourtney — a troubled girl in her late teens — some 15 hours by himself. He saw the dangers, but others involved in that decision disregarded him. So it was not that the leaders did care. Thus, my message is not one of harsh criticism or blame.

My message is that some of the teachings in Charity and Charity-type churches, regarding spanking until limp — including infants — were abusive. I believe there would be value in recanting them. Out loud. For those they influenced to hear. I believe there would be healing that comes to the many who were negatively impacted — whether those who practiced this, or victims of that practice. I believe it would be a good and God-honouring thing for the church to do. And the Bible states that when we know of good that we could do, and we don’t do it, it becomes sin. (James 4:17)

That was my message two years ago, and it is my message today. I pray that we will live to say the day this is done. If we are the body of Christ, and if we are to reflect Him well, then we must be humble enough to learn a better more loving way. (And I do consider Charity-type Christians as my spiritual family. Some of my most loved and respected family and friends are Charity-type. They are gentle. Kind. Christlike. Spirit-led). I pray that God will bring redemption out of this tragedy, and a new and more Christ-reflective way will be birthed out of this, so there is a much clearer line between abuse/violence and loving guidance.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020