Car crash, close calls & the fragility of life

This year, like few others, have reminded me how fragile life is… how each day is a gift. How each moment is but one breath away from our last. That sounds morbid, in a way, but it is not morbid to me. It is grace.

February 3 I landed in emerge a second time in 2019 with heart issues. February 19 an echo-stress test revealed nothing. March 10 I was hospitalized. March 12 an angioplasty revealed a minor heart attack and Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD), believed to be caused by medication. April 13 I was in a minor car crash. April 22 my doctor’s office called to say they saw a spot on my pancreas when they did a CT of my chest to check my heart. June 12 an MRI showed the spot was gone.

And then…

On August 1 I set out for Ohio to attend a conference the next day. My GPS said I would arrive in Millersburg around 9:45pm. About 20 minutes from the border, traffic came to an abrupt halt. I hit my brakes and came to a stop. I leaned my head back, and let out a big sigh. 

Seconds later, the sound of metal crunching, followed by an explosion of airbags in my car – all but the passenger dash airbag… and then more metal. It all happened in split seconds. I don’t know if I passed out, or if it was shock that shut down my mind, but a moment later I saw ‘smoke’ and smelled this awful stench. I reached for the door handle, which I could not see under the airbag, and crawled out under it onto a busy four-lane highway. Barefoot. I reached back under the airbag and felt for my trust Birkenstocks. I realized then that I had lost my glasses in the crash. I felt around the floor, and found what was left of the frame. They had shattered. My left arm stung.

A police officer was nor far behind us, and was already on scene by the time I approached the vehicle that hit me. He stopped traffic and sent us to the shoulder.

I called Tim. That’s the hardest part, I think, calling him AGAIN to say some horrible thing has happened. He has seen me through several near-death encounters, and while this one didn’t injure me severely, to tell him the driver hit me (according to him) doing 100km’s an hour and the car is totalled, is not fun. I keenly felt the fact my life was in danger. Tim said he would come immediately to pick me up.

Not moments later three tow trucks arrived and removed our vehicles. The police report was done, and the tow truck driver dropped me off at Walmart. I stuffed my suitcase and belongings in a grocery cart – feeling like a true Walmart shopper – and started looking at glasses frames to pass the time.

Tim arrived and offered to take me back to the car to get the rest of our personal belongings and plates, since the write-off is inevitable, and the items have to be removed. I declined, even though it was the most practical thing to do. I wasn’t ready to see the inside of that car again.

We returned the following evening.

There is something overwhelming about seeing the inside of a vehicle, ripped apart in a split second. Bags, deployed everywhere. Debris strewn inside. Threads. Torn seats. Shattered sunglasses. Sunglasses that were on my face when the crash happened.

For a moment that mess and those airbags looked like the enemy. I felt all manner of emotions. They destroyed my car. The best car I ever had… Well, technically it was Generations Unleashed’s car, but the one I drove most.

I thought about it then… Maybe that’s not so unlike how people feel about me exposing sexual abuse. The airbags destroyed the inside of my vehicle but, in reality, they may well have saved my life, or at the very least saved me from severe injury. Given that I was jarred back when I was rear-ended, then hurled forward when my car rammed the car in front of me, I should be in rough shape. Yet, I have relatively minor pain and stiffness in various joints, neck and shoulders, only a few bruises and an 1/8th inch scrape. Not painless, but unbelievably good.

Exposing sexual abuse is like the airbags. The purpose of exposing is to save lives. But the process of exposing is messy and feels like destruction and looks much like ‘the enemy’.

Hopefully it will save many children the horror of being sexually assaulted, and save many families the trauma of broken relationships, and spare spouses the secondary trauma of watching their partner suffer.

For today, with the freshness of the shock of the recent exposure, many are not ready to give thanks for the exposure of sexual abuse. For today, criticizing the telling of these truths is not surprising. But hopefully one day people will look back at this exposure and thank God for the airbags that have saved lives and changed the course of history, for at least a few children. I pray so.

***

I’m nearing 50. This is the big year. And I sure know how to celebrate big milestones, having had one of the most eventful years of my life. I have lived passionately, and continue to.

It’s been over 21 years since my first near-death encounter, and almost 13 years since the first heart attack that almost took my life. I made a commitment after that heart attack that I would do what God calls me to do. And do so ‘fearlessly’ – which does not mean without fear, but rather facing fears head on and doing what is right, no matter the cost. I do not regret that commitment.

This weekend, in the aftermath of the accident… with mild headaches on Saturday and mild stiffness… and processing the numerous crises these past few months, I commit, again to do what God calls me to do, going forward. As fearlessly as before.

And… then there’s the practical every day stuff. Like shopping for vehicles ‘before their time’. The premature end of a vehicle is inconvenient. And shopping for a replacement is a small thing, in the grand scheme of things. But a necessary one….

In the inconvenience I continue to believe that God works all things out for good. That includes heart attacks, health crises, and car crashes. Everything. And exposure of sex crimes, especially.

Nothing but death can kill me. While I am alive, I will live. And live as though each day is my last with concern only for what God requires.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate. In light of Generations Unleashed’s vehicle being totalled in a crash on August 1, 2019, and insurance not covering the full replacement, your contributions are especially needed and appreciated.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

THE GATHERING
(for survivors of Sexual Abuse in Anabaptist communities)
NOVEMBER 2, 2019
LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:

  1. Registration for THE GATHERING will close October 1, 2019 or when sold out.
    To register: THE GATHERING: Registration
    For information:  THE GATHERING Information.
    To register for concert only: JASON GRAY CONCERT NOVEMBER 2, 2019 LBC 7:00pm

NOTE: After August 1 concert is only included dependant on availability.

I know what it’s like… (A sex abuse survivor’s wife speaks)

The following post is the voice of a survivor’s wife. She is a brave, loving and compassionate soul. For all who have lived the trauma with a spouse, this post will resonate deeply. To all who have not, I urge you to lean in and really listen. Broken hearts lie scattered on church floors, overlooked, unheard, unknown, unhealed. Unhealed in a place where Jesus is said to dwell.

I urge you to notice one such heart and breath the life and hope of Jesus into just one. Speak life. When you speak. But mostly, listen. Listen, and really hear the heartbeat, no matter how weak, how erratic and how uncomfortable.

Always remember that Jesus chose the broken places. He dwells there. Not in high and together places, but in the lowliest of places, there He enters and makes His home and declares, “If was for the lost children, that I came”.

***

I know what it is like to live with abuse second hand. I know what sexual and religious abuse looks like up close and personal.  I haven’t experienced sexual abuse but I’ve lived with the affects for all my married years. We’re working our way out of extreme spiritual abuse.  I’ve lived the trauma for many years.  If I could sum it up in one word it would be TEARS. Endless rivers of tears.

I know what it’s like to raise a family, praying over them, pleading for God to cover them with His protection and for the trauma of the abuse to not be passed on to them, while their father goes through periods of being completely zoned out. I know what its like to have to know when to follow my husband’s lead and when to realize he’s flipped and irrational and then to step up and fill in the breach. I know what its like to sit in the grocery store parking lot counting the little cash I have to see what I can buy that week for my family because my husband is in a black hole. And I have to try and figure out how long we can survive till he comes out again. I know the heart break of walking alongside him when he realizes all the things that have slipped away while he was “not there,” picking up again, then going through all of it all over again. Because with the triggers and the ongoing mental trauma there’s no continuity.

I know what its like to be married to a man who is a survivor in so many ways, has qualities and gifts that contribute to mankind in many beautiful ways, but to sit with that same man as he curls up on the couch in such emotional pain that words are useless. To watch him reach out to others and have compassion for the hurting but feeling complete worthlessness in himself. To live alongside and watch while normal life is so exhausting that finally he wonders if its even worth it.  The intense struggle of wanting to believe in God but wanting to have nothing to do with the god he was shown, yet unable to grasp the difference. All this while appearing to be a normal family and functioning the best we can because it feels like no one understands.

canstockphoto23608061_ text

The damage abuse does is deep and devastating.  It ripples out and affects so many people.  Its crippling beyond belief. It’s mind altering. It completely strips away identity.  It puts them on a path to prove their worth for many years, and then when their efforts are finally exhausted they give up.  When it’s a man it affects the family financially because when he’s the main provider and fear and flashbacks are a constant reality, there’s not much energy left for making good decisions. So there is added financial trauma.  It affects the whole family.

In fact, years of trauma and dysfunction can happen before one even realizes the brokenness and what is actually happening.

Then there are others.  I know what it’s like to walk with abuse victims who dissociate. To hang on to a victim in a flashback until you can arrive at a safe place for them to throw themselves out of your vehicle once it’s stopped, to cry it out in a roadside ditch. To listen to the pain of their heart’s cry that doesn’t even make sense to themselves. But what do I do when they continue to believe the lies in their heads?  When they would rather believe the lies and that they’re worthless than to even accept the love that they’re given because love doesn’t feel “safe.”

Yes, God is the answer, He’s the healer.  But what if the mere mention of God fills the victim with such anxiety and anger that they shut down because the abuse was so wrapped up in their “godly religious” experience?

There is so much more that could be said.  I just want to bless you and encourage you to keep going.  I believe that once the victims find their voices and speak the reality of what they live with, the reality that so many wish to not hear, that is when people will wake up.  It’s critical that the victims be given their voice.

I’ve prayed many prayers, I will continue. I applaud as I read the (victim’s blog) posts.  I praise God and cry hallelujah when yet another victim has the courage to step up and speak, when yet another leader speaks out in truth, exposing yet more of the abuse.

And then I face the next battle on the home front and I hope and pray that fighting the battle well here will somehow contribute to the war against abuse at large.

~ Anonymous ~

***

The spouse who sits compassionately with the survivor of horror, as he or she grieves the trauma, or lives through the hell of its aftermath is a true hero. This wife is a true hero. I have such a hero in my life.  To this author… to my husband…. to every other spouse who sees and knows what it’s like… Thank you!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:

  1. Registration for THE GATHERING will close October 1, 2019 or when sold out.
    To register: THE GATHERING: Registration
    For information:  THE GATHERING Information.
    To register for concert only: JASON GRAY CONCERT NOVEMBER 2, 2019 LBC 7:00pm

NOTE: After August 1 concert is only included dependant on availability.

One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

 

Sexual Assault, Death Threats & Terror: One Young Woman’s Redemption Story

INTRODUCTION
Tonight’s blog is the story of a teenager caught in a nightmare of sexual assault, death threats and terror in the Anabaptist community. It is also a story of hope, redemption and healing. I do not know this young women well. We’ve only met on Facebook. (I hope that changes one day). But I did engage at length with her and am blessed by her courage, compassion, transparency and resilience.

She made it very clear that her story is her own; it is not a pattern for everyone. God redeemed in ways that are not always possible because it is so rare for offenders to be allowed to get to the end of themselves. Too often people – church, family, friends – stand in the way of offenders coming to that end, and facing honestly their own crimes and evil.

I love a good redemption story. To see healing, that is what our hearts long for, above all. Sadly, in sexual abuse cases, the redemption stories are often used to beat other survivors over the head, or guilt-trip them for not choosing a similar path. This should not be. We need to give space for redemption to play out differently in different stories. We are not all the same, and God has not given us a ‘one-size-fits-all’ formula. He leads us gently, and remembers that we are human, and has compassion on us.

I am working on writing the redemption story of my life. How I went from being a teenager who prayed my father would get killed (because murder wasn’t an option), to sitting by his bed in the hospital, holding his hand as we talked, and giving him hugs. It is a story that needs to be told, when the time is right. As do many redemption stories. But with those stories there must always, always be space for other survivors to choose walk their own redemption story without any guilt or shame imposed on them if they cannot cope with relationship. There is only One Way to redemption, but the practical ways in which we walk that path varies.

Remember that as you read this story, and any other story.

***

SURVIVOR REDEMPTION STORY
My story has much in common with many of victims: Grooming, abuse, death threats, depression and PTSD, forgiveness (eventually!), and a remaining deep concern for other sex abuse victims.

Prose leaves more questions than straight-up story-telling. Nonetheless, I felt too ashamed and horrified to document in journal form the abuses and death threats as a teen; I wrote it in prose instead, after I had recovered enough to see it for the evil it was.

That prose was destroyed by an adult who knew and had allowed my abuser more opportunities. “I thought it would be too traumatic for you in the future.” Too traumatic for me to read my own writing?! I rewrote, saving the key phrases that most clearly stuck in memory, and adding pieces to reflect the story of reconciliation.

I do not believe that reconciliation should be the first goal in an abuse story. Nor do I believe that every story should end in reconciliation. Most will not. And that is OK! Reconciliation [in those situations where it is part of the story] hinges, not on the victim’s forgiveness (although that’s a piece of it) but on the abuser’s change of heart; this should be common sense!

My story ends well enough: I am at peace even in the presence of the abuser. But that is NOT due to HOW the reconciliation took place! Instead, it is due to the fact that he came to the end of his rope, and got desperate enough to go to extreme measures to address key factors that drove him towards abuse. I’ve watched him in a crowd since we reconciled; his eyes do not follow beautiful women. His speech is not fueled with hatred. His demeanor, once powerful and aggressive, has mellowed. It is on THIS change of character that reconciliation can be considered—and such a change is rare. Even then, it must be the victim’s choice.

How did the reconciling take place?

When I was an ordinary church member, I had a sad story and I needed to learn how to cope well and move forward. That was all. But when a desirable church position opened up, I was strongly urged to pursue reconciliation.

If reconciliation is not important enough to help an everyday member pursue, it is not important enough to help a candidate for a Sunday School class, youth ministry, regular ministry, or single mom’s ministry, or ANY other position, to pursue. This idea that ministry somehow makes a person eligible for the pursuit of God’s goodnesses such as reconciliation, is nothing more than arrogance; the most ordinary, every-day, unseen person should be the focus of equal care. Yes, ministry requires knowledge of reconciliation and conflict resolution. So does marriage, so does holding a job. People in ministry aren’t special.

I am keeping this anonymous, as the people behind this reconciliation are people I care for, people I have learned from, and, most importantly, people who get most of the things right when dealing with sex abuse. I have no desire to ‘call out’ anyone who is on the side of victims, and can extend grace to cover blunders. These are people who believe in being honest and cooperative with the courts; if they were humble enough to sit down and listen to my hindsight view of what happened, I would welcome that, because I think they would sincerely use it to do what’s right by the victim next time.

I was very uneasy about meeting the abuser due to previous death threats; these fears kept me up at night prior to the meeting.

My concerns were downplayed.

Just because he was penitent, and it did work out in my case, doesn’t make it healthy.

If “Avoid the presence of someone who threatened my life” is a boundary the victim wants, by all means, honor it. Find some way to pursue reconciliation without breaking that boundary. Helpers of victims—be it family, friends, a counselor, or a pastor—need to realize that while some threats are bluffs, some are real, and it adds to a victim’s sense of powerlessness to override those threat concerns. And even where the threats are a bluff, because the victim has already been assaulted sexually, they will be real to them.

My story is one of God providing tremendous grace in the face of great hardship; tremendous kindness towards a prodigal; wisdom for the helpers; grace to cover the helpers’ blunders; and the daily graces to walk well with others as I pursue ongoing healing.

While I believe that I have largely healed from the sexual abuse, due to an accurate understanding of sexuality and an ability to participate in healthy relationships, I have NOT yet healed from the verbal abuse. If I am given a rebuke in a manner that seems powerful and condescending, it stirs up the darkest memories (kind rebukes don’t do this) and I will cut the powerful and condescending person out of my life in an attempt to maintain sanity. In addition, I still find myself irrationally paranoid of guns. So, like many of you, my story is an ongoing story of “Wow, look how far I’ve healed!” and “Wow, so much more to go!”

Without further ado, the prose—the only written remnant I have for the singular most life-changing story I’ve experienced to date.

The dungeon was musty, damp

With straw and rats

One small window in the wall opposite the door

Too small, and out of my reach,

No hope of escape

A passerby’s foot could shut out near all light–

And there were passersby,

Just none that ever saw the window

Or even seemed aware that they walked so near a prison

despite the immensity of the building itself.

They had potatoes to chop

I dreamed of being seen by one—just one—passerby

Someone who would go speak to someone

who would let me out

before hunger and loneliness and insanity and torture began.

I was too young.

I heard human footsteps.

Not from the ground above where the passersby hurried to and from market

Potatoes to chop, parsley to sell;

But from within the prison itself

Past the other dungeons,

 slowing down,

 and,

 could it be,

stopping at mine.

Keys jingled, hushed

I could not clearly see who this was

or why the form seemed to wish itself disguised,

as though we were not already in a dungeon

musty and damp,

precious little light,

with straw and rats.

But the voice was human!

I relaxed.

Perhaps I would not be tortured

But yet, I might.

A hand reached out, friendly

Wary, I shrunk further

Even the rats seemed unsure

Then I saw his eyes

Seeing me, not as a fully clothed girl,

 Just the body beneath.

The hand twisted

And I saw at the last moment, this was no human hand!!

Fingers fashioned as if, no, these are,

The hot red prongs of the Devil’s pitchfork.

Eyes now saw

Not my clothes

Not my body

My very soul.

His intentions were for the very core of my being.

With a gentle swipe,

The Devil Prong Fingers ripped me open and I

Fell off my bench

Into the pile of

Straw and rats.

The ripping continued.

I would not survive this.

The Monster left.

I lay dying in my own blood

Gargling screams for help.

I could not arise.

Time passed and barely conscious,

I became aware of light

Not from the window.

But how?

The purest, the kindest light

I had ever imagined.

Angels.

My very own angels

To take me out.

As if nobody had ever locked my dungeon

As if nobody guarded the prison

With hushed voices and gentle touch,

These angels caused me to stand and I saw

Jesus.

Not distant

Not angry

His presence invited truth, so

I asked Him where He was when

Devil Prongs touched my body,

Ripped my soul

He cried.

He’d been crying the whole time

When all I was aware of was my dungeon

Musty, damp,

With straw and rats,

And my near-lifeless form flooding blood.

He held me, and cried, and promised to be a

Counselor to me.

I healed.

I, too, became a passerby of the prison

The Devil runs.

I had potatoes to chop when

I was sent back in

But Jesus went with me.

There was a prisoner I must speak to—

The Monster Human with Devil Pronged Fingers

I shrank back

He told me to forgive and

In a moment borne of soul honesty,

Not rebellion,

I told Jesus I don’t forgive monsters.

“He saw you not as human, but as an object of his darkness;

You see him not as human but as an object to be despised.

I died for no mere object, but for humanity.

When you see him as human, you will find it in your heart to forgive.”

See him, no longer a monster?

Jesus, You’ll have to help me with that.

The earth shook

My heart’s guards fell over as

Morning broke

And the tremendous stone

Got pushed aside.

From deep inside, Jesus Himself rose up,

Extended forgiveness

And peace fell.

But I have not forgotten

The Devil’s Prong-Fingers

Jesus,

Compassionate when I wondered where He’d been

The passersby

Too high, too distant

Blocking the light

What with those potatoes to chop

The blood gargling from my throat as I screamed

A muffled,

Dying

Scream

 for help.

The prison still stands.

The Devil still runs it.

The young are still tortured.

~ anonymous ~

***

 

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

 

NOTE OF UPDATE RE: RAPE VICTIM
The survivor of rape at the hands of three men is now focusing on counseling. I will meet with her before long for the first time, God willing, and look at what are the right ‘next steps’. Based on preliminary conversations, is likely that she will need a lawyer to help navigate the process. When and if that time comes, will do an update and give you opportunity to contribute to those costs. For now we have funds to pay for about 20 sessions of counseling. If more funds are needed on this front, I will post a request. Until then, thank you all! God bless you for entering into her story of healing!

***

ONLY 1 MORE DAY TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERINGRegistration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

EARLY CONCERT REGISTRATION FOR ALL SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE:
If you are a sex abuse survivor – Anabaptist or not – and are not a sex offender, who wishes to attend the ‘concert only’ portion of The Gathering, we will allow for early registration before tickets are released to the public, August 1, 2019. For link to register for the concert only, email AslanHasHeard@gmail.com. Subject line: “Concert link for survivors”.

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

A Survivor’s View on Trauma Triggers

This blog is the voice of a survivor sharing what triggers are like, based on her experience, and how the public can show sensitivity. It is my hope that this will help those who really care for victims but have no understanding on how to be sensitive to the things that trigger them when they are learning to speak out.

***

FROM THE AUTHOR:
My prayer is that (this blog post) will help bring light to the often volatile conversations, where people cannot seem to fathom why they get such strong responses to certain seemingly innocent questions.

I left the way I had been raised in the Old Order Amish church, at 21 years old. I am a survivor of physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse. God has faithfully taken me on a 13 year long journey of healing through counseling, inner healing ministry, & personal revelation. It will be a lifelong, ongoing process, but I rejoice in it and in the overwhelming goodness of God to me through it all.

I am at the point in my journey where I am becoming more and more aware of what my triggers are and how to process them in a powerful way. So from that personal experience I want to try to address and possibly bring clarity to the readers, whether they are survivors or not.

Trudy’s platform has thousands of abuse survivors from Anabaptist communities. From what I understand that is who her platform is for. Among the abuse survivors are others: some have not experienced abuse, but they are here with true empathy and support, some are here out of curiosity, (who is this “Jezebel!? Ha!) some are here to challenge what she’s doing, (honest hecklers!) some are here to troll, and some are here who haven’t yet come to grips that they were abused and possibly don’t want to come to grips with it. And some are abusers.

It’s the non-survivor group that I want to address first. If you are just learning what abuse is, there’s a good chance that you are not familiar with all the terms that you see being mentioned. Gas lighting, triangulation, triggers, just to name a few. I’m going to do my best to explain triggers to you.

I’m going to use a hypothetical situation to illustrate. Let’s say that you had the traumatic experience of being held hostage at gunpoint. Possibly you were even shot, but by a miracle of God you escaped with your life. Now your physical scars are mostly healed, but you are left having flashbacks, nightmares, ptsd… You are trying to pick up the pieces, heal and put your life back together.

One day you stop by to visit a friend who by mere coincidence is cleaning his gun while you’re there. You tense up, anxiety rises, but you battle it back. You remind yourself that the gun is not loaded and this is your friend who would never hurt you. You maintain composure but you are on edge. Suddenly he picks up the unloaded gun, points it straight at you and says he wants to test the sights.

Now even though you know in your head that the gun is not loaded and that your friend means no harm, you react as if you were fighting for your life. Raw terror. Because in that moment, the traumatic memory took over and you were right back in that moment when you were shot. You can’t help it, you are triggered. He is shocked by your reaction at his innocent (although very stupid in real life!) gesture. Why would you react this way when you know he would never shoot you?

This is what happens with abuse survivors. I see the scenario played out in the comments on Trudy’s posts. I will use a quick real life example from the other day on a post about the horrendous abuse that has been done in the name of spanking. A gentleman dropped the misinterpreted and abused Proverbs 23 verse in the comments and responses exploded. He could not understand why he got the angry responses he got.

For survivors who were abused by people who used this verse to justify it, (spiritual abuse) this verse is a gun being pointed at them and they will respond accordingly. Especially for those who have just become brave enough to use their voices for the first time. Immediately they go back to being a powerless, helpless, little child who had no voice. Now they have a voice, so don’t be surprised when it screams back at you in pain and furious rebuttal! You have unwittingly stepped into the role of their abuser.

If you are among the ones who can’t understand why you get the responses that you do at times, here’s a few suggestions: On social media, it’s crucial to remember what kind of platform you are on. (Yes, it’s a free world. It seems it’s a free for all melee, because everyone thinks it’s THEIR free world.) For instance, Trudy’s platform is for giving Anabaptist abuse survivors a voice. So her first priority is to keep that a safe place for those voices. So when you are on her platform, respond with that in mind. If you do respond, please be as articulate and concise as possible. Don’t be in hurry to respond to hot topics. A well thought out response goes so much further than a hurried, heated reply.

Remember that you are on a platform where people have suffered horrific abuse from perpetrators using scripture to justify the abuse. So using scripture to prove a point might not go over well. In my own personal journey, there was a time when I simply could not read certain scriptures without being triggered. I have loved Jesus and followed him all these years. It took years of healing before I was able to read certain scriptures for what they really are, rather than reading them in the way that was used to oppress me. When scripture has been used as a whip instead of as keys to freedom, you will flinch automatically when the “whip” is raised.

When you use scripture are you using it to bring about healing and encouragement or are you using it to manipulate and coerce? Those are questions everyone should ask themselves before commenting.

All survivors are on varying degrees of healing in their journeys. There are varying levels of abuse for each one. What will trigger one, won’t trigger another one. Some will trigger harder and more quickly than others. Some will trigger even when you have “done everything right” and you had zero intent to harm. Communication on social media is a challenge in the best of scenarios and when you have a lot of hurting people crying out in pain, it will be even more challenging if not impossible at times. Everyone’s pain is too loud to be able to hear what others are saying even when they are saying the exact same thing. Keep this in mind when you engage on social media and refuse to take offense when you are taken the wrong way.

I pray this helps to increase your understanding a little bit as to what triggers are and how they work. Thank you for reading to this point.

Now, to address my fellow survivors. First off, I commend you. I cannot put into words how much in awe I am of the strength and resilience I see in all of you. You have begun an incredible journey of healing. I know it took GUTS and GRIT to open your mouth and say: Me too, that happened to me too and it was not ok.

Your voice matters. Because every time someone gets brave enough to speak up, it encourages someone else to do the same. Keep speaking up. It’s been a most powerful thing to me to realize how much I am NOT ALONE! Yet heart breaking as well, because there are SO MANY of us. Lord, my heart breaks at the thousands upon thousands of stories coming out of our culture that are like mine and even many times more horrific.

But I want you to know something: when works of darkness are being exposed, it’s because God’s light is shining brighter. Make no mistake, He is uprooting the evil and making way for great healing, redemption, and restoration! It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the darkness, keep your eyes on the Light, dear brave ones, watch what He’s doing and join in with that. He is our pillar of fire by night and great cloud by day. We will follow Him to the Promised Land. What is The Promised Land for us? Freedom from slavery for us and for our future generations!

The desert to cross to get there will not be easy. It will be messy, challenging, overwhelming. But so worth it! You will see God part the seas, rain life giving manna from heaven, and shatter your Jerichos. Never give up on pursuing healing and freedom!

With so much love,

Ann Lehman

***

For my trauma course in fall 2016, I had to do a short PSA on some aspect of Trauma… something we want the world to understand. I discovered quickly that when it came to ‘explaining’ the impact of trauma – the nightmares, flashbacks and fears – there were no eloquent sentences available. I had only: Words, Thoughts, Feelings, Scenes, Sensations.

The following is the presentation I shared with my class.

Together, I pray, we can continue (or begin) to move toward a better understanding of what trauma survivors contend with. Sometimes daily. Sometimes rarely. We are all different. All on a journey. And all at different stages in the journey. Sometimes we loop back and have to regain ground.

For non-survivors to seek to understand is helpful. And the ‘more healed’ survivors to remember when they were in that place of trauma and triggers is crucial. Recently a survivor said to me, “The healed survivors can be the most cruel”. At first I agreed, and I still get the point that was being made. But in hindsight I had to ask, “‘then are they truly as healed as they say they are?” ….or are they possibly avoiding rather than healing.

In any case, we need a better understanding of trauma, collectively, if we are going to be effective at all in helping survivors and stopping the epidemic.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

***  See below: early ‘concert only’ registration for abuse survivors Nov. 2, 2019. ***

NOTE OF THANKS FROM RAPE VICTIM:
After discovering that there are enough funds to cover approximately 17 sessions of counselling, the young woman who was assaulted at age 7 wrote amid tears of appreciation

When I gave you permission to share my journal entries, I never ever expected such kindness, understanding, and love from complete strangers. And certainly not monetary help for counseling. A simple “Thank you” doesn’t cut it. I believe it is, in part, an answer to my desperate prayer to be whole. I wish I could thank each person who contributed in person, but since I can’t, I will do what I can: I promise to pass it along to some other survivor some day.”

It has been encouraging to see ‘the church’ enter into her story and care for her well-being in word, prayer, and helping with costs. Thank you for contributing. Every bit helps, as this is will require ongoing support. If you wish to contribute, you may do so through the following link: Support for Rape Survivor.

Thank you! God bless you all!

***

ONLY 1 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERINGRegistration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

EARLY CONCERT REGISTRATION FOR ALL SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE:
If you are a sex abuse survivor – Anabaptist or not – and are not a sex offender, who wishes to attend the ‘concert only’ portion of The Gathering, we will allow for early registration before tickets are released to the public, August 1, 2019. For link to register for the concert only, email AslanHasHeard@gmail.com. Subject line: “Concert link for survivors”.

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

Teachers, Preachers & Other Abusers: Grooming and Sexual Assault (Anabaptist Survivor Story)

TRIGGER WARNING: content may be triggering to survivors of abuse. The author speaks forthrightly about the assaults committed against her by a man who would later become her teacher and youth leader (overlapping with the assaults), and yet later became a preacher. Both individuals were conservative Anabaptists at the time the sexual assaults were committed against the author.

***

The following story is difficult to read, but another necessary ‘telling’ of the things that are done in the name of God. It was sent to me, in the author’s own words. I offer this disclaimer as there have been questions surrounding stories shared here recently, asking whether I wrote them. The answer is, No; I did not write any of the other recent stories. Frankly, as much as I love writing, do write another person’s story is difficult and time-consuming. I do not have such time on my hands right now.

The following is a story of raw suffering, and a story of healing and redemption. The author has chosen to tell it for the sake of other victims, to give them the courage to speak.

From my perspective, as someone who has worked with sexual violence for years, this story displays classic grooming. The tactics used on a child to first draw her (or him) in, followed by letting or making them feel somehow they are partially responsible. No child, ever, anywhere, is responsible for the behaviours of an abuser. There are laws of the land and region that govern these things.

****

It all started with, strange as it may sound, getting saved, accepting Jesus into my heart.

I was a 12-year-old and was invited to attend a revival service in Seymour, MO at a Mennonite church about a two and a half or three-hour drive from where we lived. That evening, Mr. D. Hostetler was taking a load of people from Linn, and I was invited to go along.

Abner Kauffman preached a powerful and convicting sermon that evening.

We returned home late that night, and one by one people were dropped off at their homes. Strangely, Mr. Hostetler took his own family home before he took me home. We were neighbors living only about a mile apart.

About halfway to my home he stopped the van and began to talk to me about my life. He was very convincing and soon I was praying and asking God to save me, confessing my sins and accepting Jesus as my personal Savior.

Mr. Hostetler hugged and congratulated me, and then took me on home. I got up the next morning, overjoyed with the new peace I had. I noticed the sunshine seemed more brilliant and all the colors in my world were much brighter, and everything just seemed so much more beautiful. I was a transformed person, born of God, the Holy Spirit. I loved all of it and felt passionate about living for God. I began to read the Bible with a new zeal and desire to serve God.

Slowly, as time went on, this fresh new feeling began to wear off as human voices were used to bring discouragement and sorrows to a young believer in Christ.

On one particular day I became very angry at Mr. Hostetler. He worked in a shop on our property. I was so embarrassed but I went to him with head hanging low to apologize to him. I had a dreadful anger problem. As soon as I apologized, he put his arms around me and hugged me close. It felt so good to be hugged. It wasn’t something practiced in our home during our childhood. I went back to the house rejoicing that day.

This was the beginning of a relationship that led to much sorrow for me. One day Mr. Hostetler  spoke to me about a verse in the Bible, where Paul speaks about how a man shouldn’t touch a woman. He explained that this wasn’t what he meant, that hugs and such really are good from brotherly love. There was more said that I cannot remember about that verse, but I believed him and regarded him as a very excellent and honorable man. I highly respected him.

As time passed, hugs and touches became more frequent. He began to take me on outings with him, holding my hand for hours, such as lovers do; stroking my hand. Then it went to taking drives in his car; he began to hold me on his lap, stroking and caressing my body.

Next, he began to invite me to meet him after dark, 11:00, 12:00 at night under a large tree where he would do more of the same.

Although I willingly received these attentions, I do not recall ever pursuing him or suggesting any of these meetings. I wasn’t smart enough, or brave enough to think that I could even do that. I respected him too much. You must understand he was the most respected man in my life at that time.

(NOTE: This was all prior to and up to age 14).

At the age of 14, he became my school teacher. One day while getting a drink at the water fountain he came up behind me and ran his hands over my body, telling me how beautiful my developing body was. This felt good to me, an insecure 14-year-old. I was flattered.

Things escalated through the years of 12-17. The older I got, the bolder he became. There were long sessions of kissing, French kissing, his tongue in my mouth, and his hands touching me, along with pressing my body tightly against the front of him. Lying on the couch, his body draped over mine, kissing me, doing all the normal foreplay things. He never actually penetrated me sexually, or touched my vaginal area, though his hands were all over my hips and legs. This took place in Mr. Hostetler’s own house and on his couch. I cannot recall why I was there, or where Mrs. Hostetler and the boys were, but they weren’t at home.

I had absolutely no clue as to what was going on.

All this while he spoke of his brotherly love for me. He would talk of my beauty. He’d also share with me how beautiful [another girl in our community] was. Later I found out that he was even more heavily involved with [this girl] and others at the same time he was doing these things to me.

Mr. Hostetler’s would also talk about God and all the things that were important to him, just as lovers would do.

At the age of 16, I began to be very restless; crying at night for hours, not understanding at all what was happening. I felt dirty and depressed. Church life became unbearable as I was targeted again and again for overstepping church rules. I was hurting; I wondered why no one cared about my heart. Why were silly rules of such importance? Why were too many ruffles, too small a covering so important when my heart was falling apart?

I came to the point where I disliked the kissing episodes and felt condemned by them.

One day I mustered up the courage to talk to him about how I was feeling. I found him out in his shop, working. I began to express my regret over these actions and ended up saying, “I’m sorry for my part in these actions. I feel dirty and sinful, and I don’t want to do this anymore.”

I expected to hear the same from him, but he didn’t say anything along those lines. Instead, he told me how he had never thought any impure thoughts about me. He told me he forgave me and was glad I made things right.

For four years I walked in shame, feeling like it was all my fault, and even though I couldn’t fully understand that, I accepted it.

When I was around the age of 15, Pastor Hershberger lived in Linn; I felt so attracted to the spirit he carried with him, his kindness, compassion, and his faith that seemed so real. I scheduled a meeting with him one evening and was going to tell him everything. I tried so hard, but I just couldn’t. I just sat and cried, and cried, and he ended up just praying for me that evening. I never did tell him what I was struggling with.

I got married to a wonderful man when I was 21 years old. In the first years of our marriage, I told him the whole story. He was shocked. For the first time, someone explained to me that it wasn’t entirely my fault. I began to see that it wasn’t, so I decided I would once again apologize to him and get things taken care of on both sides. He responded by sending back a letter, but it didn’t sound apologetic or repentant at all.

29 years later I received a very repentant text from Mr. Hostetler. This was a wonderful and meaningful surprise to me. Although I had already fully forgiven him and felt completely restored in my soul before he ever apologized, this message brought me great joy and delight. There is so much power and redemption when those who have caused harm humbly express deep remorse and sorrow for the pain and loss caused in someone’s life.

Signed,
~ The author

***

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

Dear Reader,

It is my express wish to inform you of what grooming looks like and the responsibility you have as parents, leaders, teachers, friends, and co-laborers in the kingdom of God to watch out for your little brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Know where they are and be attentive to what they say. Many things could have been avoided had the adults been diligent to know what the children were doing and where they were and with whom.

It isn’t wise to let our children be alone with another adult, even if you trust them. And it is of utmost importance that you speak as parents to your children and inform them of these kinds of traps. Have a healthy, open communication about sexual things with your children even at a young age. Answer their questions before they have a chance to hear it from their friends. Let them know you are a safe place for them to speak about such things. And tell them it’s never okay to discuss these things with anyone else. Teach them to stay away from those who lead them into things that make them uncomfortable in any way. Teach, teach, teach! We must stop our silence towards such things in a world that shouts corrupt sexuality from the rooftops. It is up to us as parents to teach them that God’s way is best.

Signed,
~ The author of the above story ~

***

CLOSING THOUGHTS:
Having interacted with the author, my heart is encouraged. She is gracious and forgiving. There is no hatred, no animosity. No desire for revenge. In contrast, there is grace intertwined with a solemn resolve to do the right thing and not be silent. She remembers the other girls who were victimized.

In spite of the apology via text, which she accepted as sincere, she has concerns over Mr. Hostetler’s moral fidelity in his marriage. Mr. Hostetler’s name is not new to me. Others have reached out with concerns over his interactions with young women in the past few years in the form of emotional affairs, with the most recent (inappropriate texting) being *after* his apology to the author. Mr. Hostetler was in church leadership for a time, during which time he communicated in ways with women (not his wife) that are not becoming a believer or leader (in this context).

EDIT, August 7, 2019: The following communication was posted publicly this morning. Someone sent me a screenshot and I also read it personally. It is this kind of protection that enables ongoing abuse.

img_0609

EDIT: The following are screenshots of the texts sent by Mr. Hostetler, as the pastor of the young woman he is texting. The texts that the author of the above comments states he sees no lustful thoughts in. That may be up for debate. It should be noted that I do not say there are lustful thoughts. I refer to emotional affairs and communicating in a way that is not becoming a believer or a leader in such a relationship.

EDIT (Other comments): In the event that Mr. Shirk referred to my referencing Mr. Hostetler as a leader – since I’ve heard that is all lies too – I will address on what grounds I call him that. For one, that’s how people still see him so he’s doing something that makes them believe he is a leader/preacher. As evidence, his brother Daryl and his wife had a 25 year anniversary in June of this year and had their vow renewals with a Sunday afternoon service and Danny preached. That tends to lead people to believe he is a pastor or some spiritual leader. Besides that recent event, I am told he still preached back when he sent these texts. If you preach, you better consider yourself a leader. If you don’t, that’s already a problem. Preachers have incredible influence. .

In this survivor’s story, she was clearly a child when the sexual assaults started, and a youth when they ended. She was not the only victim. The more recent case of which I am aware (and was sent evidence of his communication), was not with a minor. From what we know, he seems to have learned to pick them past the statutory rape and childhood sexual assault stages.

Mr. Hostetler was a minister for a time, including over the time the texts were sent to someone not his wife, and currently leads a small church-type-group, as of the most recent information sent to me.

These patterns by men (or women) in religious (or other) power, who apologize and then continue to abuse their power, whether molesting minors as he did initially, or emotional and/or sexual affairs, dreadfully misrepresent God. It is time the church of Jesus Christ rises up and takes a firm and bold stand against such corruption. The Corinthian church bragged that they had so much grace that mothers could have sex with their own sons. Paul condemned this.

Well… I dare say we’re back to the same thing, where we have so much grace that it’s more less a ‘sex with kids and minors’ free for all. All that is required is an apology, and a pat on the shoulder as you walk out to start over, it seems. Especially leaders. We should not be proud of this ‘grace’. There’s a reason Paul took issue with that kind of grace. And I’m with him.

Yes, God forgives. That’s not a matter of question. But placing them back in that role of leadership over the vulnerable is foolishness.

And lest there is a rush to use King David as an example, I will offer this: King David announced to the whole country what he had done and had the truth of his story written in a book. He did not blame the woman he used. He did not tell everyone to shut up and forgive. He humbled himself, as king, and sat in sackcloth and ashes.

Start there.

And then, after appropriate time sitting in sackcloth and ashes with the world knowing what crimes were committed… then let’s talk about appropriate next steps and appropriate career and ministry paths.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

 

***  See below: early ‘concert only’ registration for abuse survivors Nov. 2, 2019. ***

The young woman who was assaulted at age 7… Five donations have come in so far with enough funds to cover . (We are still waiting to confirm the fee, so not sure just how many). Thank you for contributing. Every bit helps, as this is will require ongoing support. If you wish to contribute, you may do so through the following link: Support for Rape Survivor.

The victim expresses appreciation to all who have contributed. We have raised enough for approximately 17 sessions of counseling.

It has been encouraging to see ‘the church’ enter into her story and care for her well-being in word, prayer, and helping with her counseling costs. Thank you! God bless you all!

***

ONLY 1 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERINGRegistration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

EARLY CONCERT REGISTRATION FOR ALL SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE:
If you are a sex abuse survivor – Anabaptist or not – and are not a sex offender, who wishes to attend the ‘concert only’ portion of The Gathering, we will allow for early registration before tickets are released to the public, August 1, 2019. For link to register for the concert only, email AslanHasHeard@gmail.com. Subject line: “Concert link for survivors”.

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

JD Shrock: In Fear & Trembling An Advocate is Born

A few weeks ago, a gentleman I had never heard of before, called. He had some questions, and wondered if I would take a few minutes to respond. He had heard of me through the CAM scandal, and out of curiosity purchased my memoir “Between 2 Gods; A Memoir of Abuse in Mennonite Communities”.

In its pages, he was quite certain he had found “the moment”…

Not only was I shocked speechless to have a stranger see so deeply into my story – because I knew what moment he spoke of, before ever he mentioned what he had found; I was moved to tears. When he paused for me to respond. I could not speak. It was all I could do to hold myself together.

He paused momentarily, and then continued…

In his blog he posts an excerpt from my book, and I will post an ‘excerpt of the excerpt:

I found myself standing there alone, at age thirteen, wanting to pick a fight with dad, just to distract him. I never fought with dad, at least not willingly. This was different. It was my baby brother who had meant no harm. I would take a stand against dad’s violence.

I began clearing the table – not a task I typically help with. My chores were in the barn, working with animals and all the fun stuff that goes with that. It was one of my favourite places in the world. When it came time for dishes, I scattered and preferred not to return until it was all done. The house, and keeping it, was my least favourite thing in the world. Cleaning stalls in the barn, and shoveling manure, was far more fun. But not that night. That night the kitchen was my priority.

I made a silent vow that if dad beat Abe, I would pick up the phone and report him, or take matters in my own hands. I had held his rifles when he wasn’t around, just to see if I had it in me, should the need arise. One way or another, it would be his last act of violence in our home, if I could help it.

I stopped clearing the table long enough to look him in the eye. The warning look that says, “If you do, there will be a price”. It’s a look most parents use – especially mom’s – though without the threat, when a child is crossing a line. A look I should not have had to use on my dad.

He looked at me. “Well, what are you staring at?” he asked.

He had taken the bait. Fear surged through my body, deeper and harder than I anticipated. I pushed it down and said nothing. Picked up a few more plates. Stopped, now and then, and looked at him. But I never spoke a word to him in confrontation.

To read the rest of the excerpt, go to “In Fear and Trembling an Advocate is Born.” To read the rest of the memoir, go to: Amazon Canada or Amazon USA.

***

Later today, or tomorrow, depending on the timing of things, I plan to release a blog written by Bill Miller. He is a conservative Anabaptist who appreciates his culture, and whose heart is devastated by the ongoing poor handling of sexual abuse cases within that culture.

***

***  See below: early ‘concert only’ registration for abuse survivors Nov. 2, 2019. ***

The young woman who was assaulted at age 7… Five donations have come in so far with enough funds to cover . (We are still waiting to confirm the fee, so not sure just how many). Thank you for contributing. Every bit helps, as this is will require ongoing support. If you wish to contribute, you may do so through the following link: Support for Rape Survivor.

She continues to be amazed by the support that she has felt and seen, and extends her thanks and appreciation. It has been encouraging for me to see ‘the church’ enter into her story and care for her well-being in word, prayer, and helping with her counseling costs.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

***

ONLY 2 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERING Registration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

EARLY CONCERT REGISTRATION FOR ALL SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE:
If you are a sex abuse survivor – Anabaptist or not – and are not a sex offender, who wishes to attend the ‘concert only’ portion of The Gathering, we will allow for early registration before tickets are released to the public, August 1, 2019. For link to register for the concert only, email AslanHasHeard@gmail.com. Subject line: “Concert link for survivors”.

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

 

 

HAITI: 2nd Court Hearing Jeriah Mast & CAM (July 18, 2019)

On July 18, 2019, the second court hearing was held in Petit Goave, on behalf of some of the victims of Jeriah Mast. One of the individuals who sent me updates, was a gentleman from USA who has guardianship over a young man in Haiti, who sent short updates during the procedure, and more after the hearing was over. I also received photos of the hearing.

The following is a statement from one of the lawyers for the young men represented in this case:

Mr. Emmanuel Louicéus:
A warrant was issued by the public prosecutor’s office against Pastor Erisse Labady who did not appear at the hearing although he was expected for this purpose.

We, the attorneys for the victims of Jeriah Mast, requested that the prosecutor defer the lawsuit to the office of investigation for an investigation to be conducted on this subject. We also asked for the arrest of the CAM representative, which was not done by the chief prosecutor.

We continue our battle in favor for the victims so that justice will be rendered to them.

***

The hearing was intense according to those who have sent updates. Two CAM representatives showed up; Dan Hooley and James Mullet. Mr. Hooley is relatively new to CAM in Haiti as Field Director in Titanyen, and Mr. Mullet was placed in Eli Weaver’s position when Mr. Weaver was put on administrative leave, I am told. (If nothing has changed, James Mullet will be working with Eli Weaver’s support during the transition. Though further details have not been made public).

When questioned on the stand, CAM’s Mr. Mullet denied CAM board having any knowledge of the abuses in the past. Simeon Shankster was in the audience and knew this information was not accurate. He approached the stand (I was not told if summoned or voluntarily) and informed the courts that Eli Weaver and Paul Weaver both knew.

Jeriah’s victims were supported by other missionaries present at the hearing.

In an exchange after setting the record straight, Mr. Mullet stated that he misunderstood what they were saying. The following was one of the updates sent to me from Haiti:

The magistrate asked James Mullet, “Was any members of the board aware that Jeriah was doing these actions in Haiti?” And James said, “No, none of the board members was aware.” […]  After Simeon sat down, [he asked] James “Do you know what I was talking about?” And James said, “No I don’t.” […] James was answering for, “Did any of the board members know about these specific four victims.” So he felt like he was answering honestly. 

One informant wrote that it did not look good for CAM to have a representative on the stand who was not informed. Mr. Mullet had to keep telling the commissioner over and over that CAM did nothing for the victims and sent no one to find them or check on them.

Whether blatant lies, strategy or ignorance, it showed disrespect for the Haitian authorities.

Throughout the proceedings the magistrate stressed repeatedly that this thing is NOT a joke. It will NOT fall through the cracks. The ball will NOT be dropped.

When it was over, one informant wrote that the hearing was shut down for the day because the head Haitian Pastor (Erisse Labady) for CAM was ordered to be present, but never showed up. “Purposely is the charge.”

***

On the heels of that, someone sent me a statement from CAM leaders… (or is it former leaders if on administrative leave, but allegedly still helping behind the scenes?) Paul Weaver and Eli Weaver:

img_0408-1

***

On another front, the gentleman from USA was in Haiti to support victims in another area of Haiti, near where his son – the young man of whom he was granted guardianship – and advocate for them.

A gentleman in the community there told of the portable tent Jeriah Mast carried with him; a tent he allegedly used to lure young boys. His supplies of food drew them. Allegedly, if they refused his advances (at least in some instances), Mr. Mast refused to give them food.

He also had a tent he set up on the roof of a house, where he would molest young boys, within sight of a beautiful new church. And I find myself wondering…

How many victims look out their ‘window’ and see a ‘beautiful church’… just beyond the reach of their need for safety and protection?

***

***  See below: early ‘concert only’ registration for abuse survivors Nov. 2, 2019. ***

The young woman who was assaulted at age 7… Today was ‘search for a counselor day’. two donations have come in so far with enough funds to cover the first few sessions. (We are still waiting to confirm the fee, so not sure just how many). Thank you for contributing. This is will require ongoing support. If you wish to contribute, you may do so via PayPal through the following link: Support for Rape Survivor.

She extends her thanks and appreciation. One day, when this all comes to light, I pray that she will be able to tell her story in full, and you will continue to hold her in prayer and support. And I pray that you will see the powerful redemption God brings to the most horrific of places and stories.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

***

ONLY 2 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERING Registration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

EARLY CONCERT REGISTRATION FOR ALL SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE:
If you are a sex abuse survivor – Anabaptist or not – but are not a sex offender, and wish to attend the concert only portion of The Gathering, we will allow for early registration before tickets are released to the public. For link to register for the concert only, email AslanHasHeard@gmail.com. Subject line: “Concert link for survivors”.

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Podcast: Conversation on Sexual Abuse with Asher Witmer & Answering Questions

Last week I had the honour of chatting with Asher Witmer about sexual abuse in conservative Anabaptist settings. It was a delight to engage in such a meaningful and respectful manner. He has posted the link on his podcast:

Unfeigned Christianity: Episode 2

***

Today I will take a few moments to answer a few questions I’ve been asked many times, and especially recently in light of the shocking news of Jeriah Mast’s crimes in Haiti, and CAM leaders’ knowledge and failure to act responsibly:

  1. What are rates of victimization in Anabaptist communities?

    We know rates of victimization are high. Is it 10%, is it 90% or somewhere in between? We don’t know.

    In two schools I am aware of (each during a very particular timespan) the rates of students were over 50%. This was circumstantial in one of those settings, where the teacher molested many of the students. The other case was a mix of various abusers; a mix of adult abusers and teenagers. In a third setting several minors (all under 14) abused many children.

    In contrast, I’ve been in communities that remain relatively free of abuse, by all appearances. People seem to speak freely enough about it, and there is a ‘sense’ that they really do have a protected community.

  2. Do I believe all conservative Anabaptists are sex offenders? (especially males?

    Not at all. I don’t know the rates. Statistically the number lands at 117 per offender, based on self-reporting by sex offenders in prison. In our Anabaptist communities, I do not see the rates that high very often, but I do see between a dozen and twenty victims far too frequently. More than that, I see ‘trails’. Uncle ‘so and so’ molests his niece. The niece later molests a male child she is babysitting, and so on. Multiply that by 5 victims per offender and you have an epidemic, if those patterns are replicated. I could draw many ‘maps’ of abuse that span 4 generations, simply because victims have come to me spanning across the years.

    Also, there are missionaries (not referring to Jeriah Mast), who are said to have many victims in several countries, as well as at home. But, again, the number of victims is unknown. And confirming that the details takes deep, deep investigation. (What made Haiti unique is that a few came forward, and several missionaries believed them, and soon realized it was a massive crime case.In other cases, while I do report to law enforcement as soon as I have reportable information (which has to be more than a rumour without names or location of offender), I often cannot report. There’s simply not enough information. All of the leads I have with even a hint of a trail that can be followed have been reported in 2019. Approximately half before the Jeriah Mast became public.

    As more and more cases come forward and are exposed, I think we will get a clearer picture of how widespread this is. And if we can respectfully also name those who have taken ownership, we might be able to get ahead of this thing.

  3. What about those who have apologized for past offences, and are now church leaders who never turned themselves in to the law? 

    My role is to work with what is known, and to take my queues from victims.

  4. Is there no place for redemption in the life of someone who has offended?

    Absolutely! I hold the grace of God in high regard. In light of the spiritual and eternal, the moment they genuinely repent they are free before God.

    The grace of God, however, does not let me avoid the consequences of stealing a million dollars without repaying or doing prison time. Who of you, if someone took all that you had, would begin an outcry for everyone to forgive?

    Are we really willing to say that a child’s life holds less value than money?

    When a child (or adult) is sexually assaulted, the core of all of who they are is impacted; emotionally, spiritually, psychologically. Many, many victims struggle deeply with faith in God. Many walk away from their faith.

    Are we really willing to say that a child’s soul is worth less than money?

***

These are a few of the questions I’ve been confronted with in recent days. There are more. Many more. And I am working towards either addressing them, or having someone address them.

Some take considerable work and research, which I don’t currently have time for.  I have asked Hope Anne Dueck of A Better Way to pull together a post to address what signs to watch for that might indicate a child or teen has suffered abuse. She kindly agreed to work on organizing this.

If you have questions you would like addressed, please send them to info@generationsunleashed.com with the subject line “Blog: Question”. If I am not able to answer, or the time factor is more than I can commit, I will do my best to find someone willing to write an article.

If you are in ministry for the victimized and would like to submit an article appropriate to the topics addressed here, please send your idea to info@generationsunleashed.com with the subject line “Blog Article Idea”.

If you have resources to recommend for churches or for victims, please send them to info@generationsunleashed.com with the subject line “Victim Resources.” (NOTE: these will be screened. Content must be sensitive to the suffering of victim. Furthermore, resources cannot be the product of organizations or leaders and authors who *are known* to be abusers or to enable offenders, cover for them in any way, or neglect to address abuse appropriately in their own sphere of influence.

***

By way of update on the young woman who was assaulted at age 7… Today was ‘search for a counselor day’. Two donations have come in so far with enough funds to cover the first few sessions. (We are still waiting to confirm the fee, so not sure just how many). Thank you for contributing. This is will require ongoing support. If you wish to contribute, you may do so via PayPal through: aslanhasheard@gmail.com.

She extends her thanks and appreciation. One day, when this all comes to light, I pray that you will continue to hold her in prayer and support. And I pray that you will see the powerful redemption God brings to the most horrific of places and stories.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

***

ONLY 2 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERING Registration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

On being banned from MennoNET, and Does non-criminal sexual deviance ‘among us’ pave the way to group rape?

Before I get into the ‘bulk’ of this blog… I learned that my blog content has been banned from MennoNET due to the blatantly graphic content. I respect that. Not everyone can stomach the harsh, graphic, blatant reality of what is happening in church. I have boundaries on my FB page too.

Like yesterday, instead of showing any concern or compassion for a woman who shared how she received 104 ‘straps’ at a Charity school, a new follower told her she was looking for attention. I told him if he is going to speak that way to survivors of horror, he is not welcome in my space. He made a few more rude comments, told me I am abusing him, and then unfriended me.

To me that is sheer ignorance. No compassion for a woman who received 104 straps in a religious setting and then cries ‘abuse’ at someone setting boundaries? Ummm… No. So I blocked him to make sure he could not follow the conversation, lest he would decide to bully them privately. (I still need to go back and read the remainder of the comments. Admittedly I wasn’t expecting almost 400 comments on a post about spanking. Seems I opened another fresh can of worms! And I have marking to do for University! But that can of worms is for another post, on another day, when we will talk about the horror stories surfacing out of the Charity churches).

So I understand boundaries, and bless MennoNET for making the call they feel is right for them and their people. I wouldn’t have known about it, had no one told me, as that is one site I do not visit. Not even tempted.

***

EXTREME GRAPHIC CONTENT TRIGGER WARNING:
I’ve heard all manor of stories for years, so no longer deal with that shock factor. All situations are not the same. The case of 3 adults raping a child is shocking, as it should be. There is no consent.

Other scenarios, that are not criminal, I seldom delve into, simply because my work is with victims, not because I don’t find it tragic. There is only so much a person can do. Even so, there is a time to address it so in this blog I tell snippets of such stories, most briefly, because people seem to have trouble grasping how a group would collude together to commit such an act. And that question is an important one to ask. The answer I think lies in some of the non-criminal activities that are brought to my attention by those who participated in them, or family members and friends who know and cannot contain it.

A group of young men, all minors, stand in a circle, each masturbating the one in front of them. This is North-Eastern Ohio. Some are from the conservative Anabaptist community (not Amish), others are not identified by the person sharing, nor their church setting.

Some of my readers, I expect, will recognize this scenario, or another like unto it… maybe down by the river… maybe changing your clothes on Sunday afternoon, or some other ‘scene’ entirely. If you do, and wish to get it off your chest, I know honourable men of God near you who I am confident would mentor you. … even now, after all these years.

Another day, another situation…

I am a young married woman, sitting with someone ‘a long journey away’ from where we live. We are not in ministry. I don’t yet work with abuse victims. But, like everywhere else we go, people just share…

Amid tears the man (whose wife is also present) tells of the ‘group orgies’ that were prevalent in his youth among the young men in church.

Yet another situation…

A group of young men gather around a cell phone and watch porn together….

A young man recruits a young teenager to rape a preschooler, while he watches and laughs… The teen is a victim of the older recruiter. The preschooler is a victim of both.

HOW DO A GROUP OF MEN COLLUDE TOGETHER TO ASSAULT A CHILD?
Moving back to the victimization of a child by a group.. Let’s start with those orgies… If a group of young men get together for those orgies (and I know of plenty more in other communities), why not to molest children and rape them?

A young woman in US tells me of her experience being assaulted, in a barn, as a group of teenage boys take turns “playing bull and cow”, using her, on her hands and knees, to rub themselves against her. She is clothed. She doesn’t understand. She is younger, they are older. Later she remembers… and suddenly the weight of what that group did to her, even with her clothes on, leaves her traumatized.

She is one of many who have told me this story. Some were not so fortunate to keep their clothes on.

Is it really such a far leap, to imagine that those boys, having sex with each other or group-assaulting a little girl, reaching adulthood and finding more perverse ways of assaulting children?

With the amount of this that goes on, I’m astounded at how many can’t fathom the sexual assaults.

Shaming those who tell the graphic, blatant truth demonizes truth-tellers and thus enables darkness. That’s another reason it is not so hard to imagine how darkness stoops to this level.

HOW DO WE STOP THIS MESS?
We start talking honestly, if we haven’t. And we keep talking honestly if we already are. Keeping silent is a curse. And it is the devil’s idea, not God’s. Certainly we won’t stop it by silencing people.

Stop calling ‘talking about it” pornographic & stop the production of this porn:
My blogs, I am told, are banned from MennoNet. I have long been banned by some of the conservative Mennonite private ‘internet’ providers. While this is terribly unhandy for people who have had to get my blogs printed off by friends or go to  ‘visit’ to read them, it does give me free advertising. So I appreciate that part.

REALITY CHECK:
If a baby, child or youth isn’t protected from a full grown man’s penis, or the molesting fingers and objects by men, women and teens, or is forced to perform oral sex (which is strictly forbidden by some when they give advice to young couples getting married) then shame on us for saying it can’t be talked about. How can we justify letting it go on in silence and condemning the truth-tellers?!

And if you wouldn’t be comfortable having it done to your child or grandchild in the front of church service, while the preacher is teaching, then stand against it. And if you’ve done things like that, I will say to you like Joshua said to Achan, “honour God this day and tell this thing that you have done” (based on Joshua 7:19).

If it’s too explicit to tell, surely it’s too horrific to have hidden in church. No? What am I missing here?

So, for the sake of the children who still find no voice, I will keep telling their horrors, and some will keep reading, and stand up to fight for these neglected ones.

And if they don’t, I’ll keep telling anyway.

Because the raped and molested children deserve to be acknowledged. And every single day I receive messages of thanks. All from conservative Mennonites. Ranging from teenagers to aging grandparents.

And they keep saying, “Don’t let them stop you, no matter what!”

Yes, they keep pleading with me to stay strong against the accusations, the name-calling and all that goes with exposing corruption.

But more than that, when I stand before God and account for my life, I want to have done what He called me to do.  First in showing His love to the victims, and secondly in exposing the evil to prevent more victims in the future.

And I am not alone. Thousands, and thousands are rising to take a stand for Jesus and against the abuse and corruption. Daily emails and messages are pouring in, from conservative Anabaptists across the world, and especially from USA. While it is thrilling to see, I don’t know how I will ever get caught up!

Praise God that finally, finally, finally there is a massive move across the Anabaptist community to speak out against abuse.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

***

ONLY 2 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERING Registration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

© Trudy Metzger 2019