Dirty Laundry that Stinks to High Heaven: Sexual Abuse in Christian Cultures (Part 1 of 2)

What inspired me to share the information in yesterday’s blog, Age of Consent & Sexual Assault, and the links I will provide over the next several posts, is several sexual abuse cases that took place in my cultural background.

Two in particular have my attention. One is more recent, the other a bit longer ago, but less than fifteen years ago. They appear to be linked through generational chains. I have not pursued information on this case (yet), nor have I spoken to any of the victims directly… what I know has recently come to me.

It is very likely that some of my readers will recognize the story, and if you find yourself feeling responsible to report the case, because you know too much…. Well, follow your conscience…

The case most influencing me is that of a 14-year-old having sexual relations with an adult Mennonite teacher, who also molested other children. (Of this type of scenario, I have been made aware of several separate cases, in Ontario, and in USA. I will write here only based on Canadian laws, as I am not familiar with USA laws, or state laws.)

The problem here was that, since the relationship with the teen was consensual, so the church treated it as fornication and a mutual consent affair. This allowed them, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to quickly treat it as sin for both parties, and apply church laws to ‘take care of it’. (To my knowledge the teacher who abused the children and engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with the student has not been reported or brought to legal justice That is a matter I still need to confirm. Those who have spoken with me about it, did not know for certain. But that is not really the point I am trying to make, it is about putting responsibility on the student, when the teacher has the power.)

Under no circumstances is it appropriate to put this on a 14-yr-old child, nor would it stand up in court. It would not stand in defense of the teacher, who is in a position of authority and would be held accountable even if it was an older student, because it is an abuse of power. Nor would the law accept that church leaders and others in positions of authority, who were aware of the inappropriate sexual relations, are innocent.

I am still in the process of determining my own moral/legal obligations, having recently been made aware of these details. When I know what I am required to do, I will do it. And in the event that it has already been reported and dealt with, my understanding is that I am not required to do anything further. However, because of the situation with the teen, there may still be a legal obligation on my part, and, again, I will do it if that is the case.

It is a tragedy that numerous similar scenarios are coming to light, and, even with multiple victims, it appears as though it has been quietly swept under the carpet of the church. It is important, and it cannot be stressed enough, that a perpetrator of sexual abuse be reported. To apply church discipline is a matter completely separate from the law, and in no way overrides the laws of our land, especially when it comes to protecting innocent children.

There are questions surrounding consequences for children who abuse children. According to the information I posted yesterday, children, ages 13 and under, are not charged unless they are in a position of authority and trust. My understanding is that if they are 12 or 13, they still need to be reported, so that they can get appropriate help, and it is just common sense to find help for all children who display obsession with sexualized behaviour.

In the case of 14 to 17 yr olds, they are typically charged as juveniles, and those 18 and over are charged and tried as adults.

Religious leaders, principals, school teachers, Sunday school teachers, and all those in a position of authority and trust, can be held to account for not reporting. However, all adults are required to report.

In a recent case (USA) a spouse who knew of abuse was also arrested, and in another case a priest was charged for knowingly covering abuse. More and more, I anticipate seeing this type of consequence for silence and turning a blind eye.

In Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard had recommended a Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse in all institutions, to determine how much cover up is happening. This includes, but is not limited to churches. If this were to happen in Canada, I am confident that what would come to light in the church would shock the world, and our communities, and it would cost the church. (Though it might also do some unexpected house cleaning.) I am saddened that this is the case.

I pray that we do some serious house cleaning before it comes to this. It would result in serious, and justified, attacks on Christianity.  And, undoubtedly, we would cry ‘Persecution’, but it would not be that at all.

Persecution is when we suffer for the sake of Christ, not for the sake of evil, corruption and iniquity hidden in the walls of the church, while declaring our own righteousness. That kind of attack is the result of our own godlessness.

1 Peter 3:13-18

New King James Version (NKJV)

Suffering for Right and Wrong

13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”[a] 15 But sanctify the Lord God[b] in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Christ’s Suffering and Ours

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us[c] to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

God forbid that we would continue to hide our sin and crimes, while judging the world for their ungodliness, and then pretending to suffer for the name of Christ when they judge our lies and abominations. That is blasphemous, at best.

If we continue to do this, we will stand in judgement for such pretences, I believe, far more than the ungodly who have never known Christ. We have known Him, and willingly defiled His name and His church–the body of Christ–to protect our pride.

And to those leaders who declare, “I didn’t know”, my question is, “Why? Why did you not know? What door are you afraid to open, for fear of the consequences?”

Ask God to show you the true state of things, and then be prepared to act on that, both biblically, and according to the laws of our land. God isn’t much for turning a blind eye, so He will show you if you are willing to know.

I could name numerous leaders who have been approached by victims, who have been told how bad it is, but have not gotten their hands bloody to ‘know’ the truth. They have chosen not to believe, and each time they hear it again, they do the same thing.

But God is calling some, including some who have done this in the past, to rise up, hear hearts, face the truth and be the channels for God’s grace and forgiveness to flow out to His people. It is a call to all Christian leaders who will hear and respond, not only those in my cultural background, but every denomination.

God is not pleased with what has been done. He is giving us this opportunity, as believers, to deal with our sins appropriately and according  to the Bible and the laws of the land. (None of the laws of the land, regarding Child Sexual Abuse, violate our biblical call to repentance and God’s justice, therefore we are bound biblically, to live in submission to those laws.)

If we do not obey those laws and repent, God will expose our sins and the cost will be far greater than anything we can imagine.

We can pretend that we are ever so holy, that we have it together and our life is a picture of true holiness, but as long as we hide sin in our churches, and refuse to protect our children, we are nothing more than a spiritual slum…

(c) Can Stock Photo

…To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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Musings of a Weary Warrior

In a recent post, wherein I revealed what dreadful secrets lie buried in my cultural background, I made the comment that sometime soon I would need to think about posting a blog about all the things I love about my Mennonite heritage. And a host of things floated through my mind, of what I might, and ought to share.

Since then I have heard quiet murmurings, here and there, some spoken, some written, that my blog seems to exist mostly to express my hate for my cultural heritage. (Thank God I prayed for a thick skin and a tender heart, else I might well be standing beside Pontius Pilate washing my hands of the truth I know, hoping that some other fair judge will fight for it.)

So the sweetness of that intended blog, and the romantic musings of one enthralled by an idyllic setting, known to the more fortunate in that culture, and shared with me through stories and observation, will be less so than originally intended.

Not because I don’t believe it exists. I do. And I have been so fortunate as to have experienced it, and known it through visiting some of my dear friends, like the Weavers, whom I have written about in the past. And others.

But, unfortunately the romance is tainted by fatigue, and simply not having any desire to convince anyone of anything right now. Not the beauty and serenity that I saw in a few homes–including my time with Peter and Rita Steckle, at Lakeview–nor the evil that lurks in many other homes, hidden behind the pretences of ‘all is well’.

No. I don’t wish to defend either truth in my writing. Because it occurred to me, as I contemplated the accusations against me–of being hateful towards Mennonites–that neither truth needs a defense. Each truth stands unwavering, with or without my support, my applause, or my proclamation. And each truth is very well known by those who live in it. And those who most furiously rise to defend the ‘good’, and declare me the enemy, are most likely to know better of the hidden things than any one else. Because if there is one thing I cannot be fairly accused of, it is hate.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not upset by it. Discouraged? Barely. Exhausted? For a time, yes. Because I feel as though I shovel constantly, and still the heap never grows smaller. I recall, as a young girl, who was more a tomboy than a lady, how I loved to spend time in the barn with the animals. Their warmth in the winter was kinder than the smells they produced, and I endured one, for the other. I loved the animals. But the manure pile seemed never to shrink, no matter how much we shovelled.

That, quite frankly, is how I feel in all of this. I love my cultural background. I love the people there. And I love how some are sold out for Jesus. But, more and more, I feel as though the manure pile grows faster than I can shovel it. And it’s not the abuse I’m speaking of. I have yet to find one victim, who is in the Mennonite culture and interacting with me, who does not serve as my cheerleader. I get many messages from those dear, wounded souls, who have not been heard. Those who have been silenced by leaders for wanting to be free. Those who have tried to establish some help for their own, only to discover they will be shut down by those same leaders. Those who have been told, “We don’t want them (the abuse victims) here’, and ‘it’s not our problem. Those who have been told not to speak of it outside of their families. And those who have cried out and been told, “you don’t need help”, and then are counselled to read their Bibles and pray more.

It has never been my wish or desire to fight against a culture. My heart, my goal, my passion and my desire have been to help people within their culture. Not to remove them and ‘fix them’, but to walk them through to healing within that culture. But the resistance is strong from some. And when all else fails, and the truth gets too dangerously close, we human beings have a habit of resorting to judging motive, regardless what lies we must conjure up to do so.

So my words are less sweet than intended, because I am not one to slather on pretences or niceties to tickle the ears and polish image–neither mine nor yours. I am forthright, yet try always to be gentle. I love deeply and compassionately. But flattery I try to avoid.

But I will say this. There are some, even in leadership, who represent God well, and reflect Him well, with a heart that is true. My prayer is that they will see…. truly see… the plight of the countless victims. My prayer is that they will open doors for true healing, without judgement and the hypocrisy of ‘secrets’ that force the victims of abuse to carry shame.

Other leaders have buried themselves in their own sin and shame so long, that their only agenda is to keep the hidden thing down, at any cost, and always with a religious guise. To you I say, May God have mercy on your souls and devilish conniving.

And to every victim of abuse, who has never had a safe place to go, I simply say, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you have suffered. I’m sorry you have not been heard. I’m sorry you are forced to carry in secret, your burden of pain and shame. I’m sorry that you have been made to feel guilty for disclosing what your fathers, brothers, uncles, friends and even leaders have done. I’m sorry that you have not been believed. And I pray that someone, somewhere will offer you a heart that is true. A heart that will listen, acknowledge your grief, and not judge you for the crimes committed against you. I pray that someone will exemplify Jesus in your life, and thereby lead you to Him for that ultimate healing.

One day, maybe soon, I intend to write that post that tells of all the wonderful things I know and love about my Mennonite heritage…. but for today, suffice it to say that I wouldn’t get my hands this ‘bloody’ for anything but love. If I wanted revenge, there are countless damaging ways to get it, and they would include  court cases, lawsuits and vile public exposure, not ministry, and certainly not the painful truth intertwined with forgiveness, whether publicly or privately.

The Apostle Paul exposed sexual immorality–incest being one of them–in the Corinthian church. He did so publicly, having published the letter in a book more read than any other. He was forthright. I presume he, too, was accused of many things. And a few nights ago I spent some time reading the writings of Menno Simons. It stood out to me how much of his writing was responses to attacks. One might expect these things, I suppose, and if they can publicly respond to those accusations, I will do likewise.

…these are the musings of a weary warrior. But to my adversaries, don’t get your hopes up… I’m not going to lay down and die, or abandon my passion.

© Trudy Metzger

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Breaking Silence: Hope for Victims of Abuse, Violence & Corruption

Disclaimer: I have received permission to write about the details shared in this post.

***

One evening this week I witnessed one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in my life. To protect the individuals, I will be skimpy on details….

It all started several weeks ago, when I met a young woman through a mutual friend, whom I vaguely remember ‘meeting’ many years ago. Because of our age difference, she was ‘but a child’ and I was an adult, so there was no interaction, that I recall.

We met at a restaurant for dinner, as perfect strangers, and spent almost six hours talking, listening, and exploring her story. As she shared, raw pain spilled out, and, with it, the guilt over having suffered less than others in her life, and yet suffering deep trauma. She felt lost and alone.  Abandoned and rejected. Always had.

The three most traumatic and painful memories that she can recall, are the result of incidents in her church and private school. In the first incident she recalls hearing that someone very close to her  was repeatedly whipped for writing explicit notes in school. Knowing (now) that the student who received the whippings was writing about ways they were being victimized sexually by several youth, and knowing that not one adult had the presence of mind to pursue the child’s heart, is almost too much for her. Understandably.

In the second event she was held, in her early teen years, in a locked church for hours, ending after 2:00am, as the church leaders tried to coerce her into accepting them as her only authority, even asking that she renounce her parents’ authority in her life. To share the details, however crucial they are, would be to make her vulnerable, therefore I can only leave it at that. Anyone reading this, who recognizes her, was either present that day, or is close enough to her now to know the story.

The third event was when she and her boyfriend ‘went too far’ before marriage. She was forced, by church leaders, to make life-altering decisions about their plans, without speaking to her fiancée, and was threatened with excommunication should she choose to defy them, and reject the alternative option they offered. The end result has been ‘hell’ in marriage. God, only now, many, many years later, is beginning to restore. (This is the fourth such story that I have heard, in a short time, either from the individuals involved or someone near them. Only one was handled well, when a CMCO church leader decided it is not critical for the world to know, or to postpone the wedding, since that would only serve to increase the struggle. Wise man.)

After meeting with this woman, and hearing her story–with the above being only a glimpse of the pain she shared during that 6 hour stretch–she asked if I would be willing to meet with other victims she knows, whose lives intersected at some point, and whose stories will open doors for freedom. I agreed.

The meeting, held this week, was the largest group I have mediated to date. It was a group of diverse Christians, including a Conservative Mennonite minister, as well as a variety of other evangelical Christians, some who had Conservative background and experience, and some who did not.

One by one they shared their stories of trauma, victimization and pain. Ranging from repeat rapes, to molestation, to being forced or coerced into performing sexual favours, these individuals shared their journeys forthrightly, and vulnerably.

Stories spilled out. Tears followed suit.

But what is most outstanding is the compassion, the heart and the ‘reaching out’ that took place. Nothing is more thrilling than to see Christians gather around one another, in spite of difference, and lift the hurting heart to the Heavenly Father for healing and hope.

The most important thing, next to the presence of God, was for the victims to feel heard, and for their pain to be acknowledged and not silenced. Pain always sounds negative, in its rawest form, and until that has been acknowledged, healing cannot come. The moment a victim is silenced, oppressed or shut down, the enemy gets a foothold.

At one point in the evening, one victim felt the trauma of this rejection and judgement, though not imposed intentionally. What we witnessed is the most shocking physical manifestation of rejection and silence, as the victim’s body began to tremble and heave, hyperventilating in agony. Three times I felt the victim’s body go limp in my arms.

I had never experienced anything like it, and could only trust God to tell me, one second at a time, what to do to keep things grounded. I tried to get the victim to breathe with me, the same way I had been taught to breathe during child delivery, but vacant eyes told me that the victim was not ‘present’, not absorbing.

I sensed God asking me to place my hands on the victims face, and command regular breathing, all the while reassuring the victim that He has not forgotten, that He has not overlooked, that He understands the trauma of that story. It matters to Him. And that every individual in that room loves and cares deeply. Then, whisper the name of Jesus, and His love.

As I did this, the victim responded and returned with relative calmness, and was able to finish the story. At the end the others in the room gathered around in prayer, love and support, bringing a new level of hope and peace into a broken heart.

God will break down walls. He will tear down strongholds. He will set His people free. If we let Him. We don’t call him Redeemer and Saviour for nothing.

Healing comes when The Hurt & The Healer collide…. When we, as the Healer’s representatives, dare to step into the ‘hell’ of another’s pain without judgement. When we arrange a head-on collision between love and grace, and pain and trauma of another’s story, acknowledging the destruction.

Redemption comes as we release our pain, our past, our story and let God use it. It is in saying, “‘You Are ‘I Am’, the all-knowing God who has my best interest at heart, and in spite of what was and is in my life, I will worship You. In spite of what I feel, I choose to trust you. Even if all I have to offer you is my tears and my pain, I will give these in worship.”

© Trudy Metzger

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To anyone who grew up *in Canada* in a ‘closed culture’ religious setting, including but not exclusive to ‘White Bonnet’ Mennonite–any ‘brand’, Russian Mennonite, Old Colony Mennonite, Amish, Beachy, and any similar culture. If you were abused, either by the church or a private school, **prior to age 18**, (even if that was many, many years ago) and are willing to share you story privately and confidentially with me, I welcome an email at trudy@faithgirlsunleashed.com. The abuse can include, but is not limited to:
1.) sexual abuse from an older student, teacher or individual at your church.
2.) emotional and psychological abuse: being held in meetings at school, at church or by the board, teachers, principals, ministers or other staff, for extended periods of time, exceeding what is appropriate for a child, particularly under 16 but up to age 18, or that otherwise traumatized you through coercion and manipulation. (If it left you traumatized, it counts. If you still struggle to forgive, and must choose to do so daily, it counts.)
3.) physical abuse: beatings, whippings, ‘ruler strikes’, in school, regardless of the cause, whether you disobeyed or were misunderstood and especially if it was the result of you misbehaving due to you being victimized by someone in the church or school

Your story will not be made public, however, it will help me immensely in a program we are developing in our ministry that is about to be launched. Through this ministry we will be reaching out to vulnerable people groups and closed culture settings, in an effort to assist victims and influence change.

I will respond personally to every message received, barring some unforeseen tragedy, and will begin to do so following our return from a conference in Ohio, October 15. Email: trudy@faithgirlsunleashed.com

Thank you for your help!

The Amish Beard-cutting Fiasco: A Time to be Silent & A Time to Speak

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7b-8a

A Time for Everything

   There is a time …  and a season for every activity under the heavens:
   … a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate

The time for silence is past, and the time to speak has arrived. I’ve done well, these past nine months, or so, since the Amish beard-cutting scandal hit the news, and I heard of it. In spite of the fact that it reeked of all kinds of corruption, and in a plain culture, from which I come, I didn’t write a word about it, and barely said a peep to anyone. Until tonight.

Photo Credits

And I wasn’t silent because I don’t have thoughts or opinions on the matter. I have thoughts and opinions on just about everything that I am at all educated on, and I had followed this story closely, reading everything I saw on it.

I kept silent because the story is negative in every way, and I don’t like to feed negative energy. And I didn’t want to give the story any more power or attention than it’s already getting. If the man (Samuel Mullet Sr) was already on a power trip, and as corrupt as they come, before he made the news, I don’t see bad publicity being any good for him. He’s probably tallying up brownie points somewhere for having so effectively, and publicly, shamed a community. But that’s not really what made me decide to write now, and it’s not what I will focus on.

Tonight, when my friend and fellow blogger, Katie Troyer posted a link to a news article on the story on Facebook, I read again about all the people Mullet victimized, and I was angry. For the first time I felt compelled to speak. The beard cutting is bad enough, but it’s the sexual victimization, coercion, manipulation, seduction and fear-mongering that enrages me as much as anything.

I know well, from my own past, the power of religious leaders and the spiritual abuse and control they can impose on people. I know how the truth can be twisted into a lie, and a lie into the truth, through brainwashing, by power-hungry, evil men. (Which they are not all, though there are more than enough.) I’ve walked that road. But Mullet took that corruption to a whole new level of evil, compared to anything I experienced, or saw previously.

When I read the stories of the women he victimized, I was repulsed and angry. Repulsed that any man claiming to represent God would violate the vulnerable so completely, and angry that religion is used to accomplish such evil ends.

To be honest, I was cranky before I ever read the article, and my mood didn’t help. Lately it seems the devil is having way to much fun, wrecking lives. It seems that, where God is doing good, the devil is working overtime at a discounted rate, to undo any good that’s been done.

Last night that got the better of me. It made me angry. Not the ‘external, yell at people, and do some damage’ kind of anger, but that inner anger at watching lives disrupted, relationships damaged and hearts crushed or broken. Especially when there are religious entanglements, and inappropriate religious controls–often based on a stand-alone Bible verse or two, pulled randomly out of context. That kind of thing sets people up to struggle in their faith and become completely disillusioned.

For example, preaching ‘children obey your parents’ and ‘honour your father and mother’ to an adult in their twenties, or thirties-old or older, for choices that don’t comply with a parent’s wishes, while disregarding, ‘Fathers provoke not your children to wrath’, brings incredible imbalance to interpretation of scripture. It makes a mockery out of God’s word and His intended message, when people use random verses to support personal agenda. Granted, often with a good heart, but wrong none-the-less.

Having witnessed the damage of that type of thing yesterday, and then reading this article today, I realized just how far wrong religious control can go, if left unchecked.

It is as a good friend said today, “It seems, sometimes, that the ‘whiter the robe’ (religious pretentiousness) the darker the sin.”

And that is just what I thought when I looked at the picture of Samuel Mullet Sr. and saw that boldly religious exterior, while reading somewhat of a horror story of who the man was, or is, and the crimes he committed against the women in his church, never mind his own daughters-in-law.

Photo Credits (Samuel Mullet Sr)

Surely he must have read the verses in Leviticus that say a man is not to be sexually involved with his daughter-in-law…  And if not that, at least the ten commandments instructing us not to commit adultery. He must have known better. And then there’s always that simple bit about common sense and moral standards that would tell a leader that engaging in sexual interaction, on any level, with those under leadership is grossly inappropriate.

Oddly, while neglecting these most basic common-sense Christian principles, he has the audacity to enforce a host of man-made rules, that have nothing whatsoever to do with faith, salvation, or Christianity in general. They do, however, fully support his agenda, control and oppression. And falling back on fear-mongering and religious abuse to manipulate young women into submitting to sexual abuse that they would otherwise never give in to, is the ultimate violation of God’s heart, and their trust.

I find this story appalling, and given the opportunity I would go out of my way to help these victims recover, though that’s not too likely. (Unless of course, if by divine providence they show up at the Faith Girls Unleashed Conference in Canton Ohio, God willing, October 12 & 13. Though, what are the odds?… still, it can’t hurt to dream of helping.)

The one bit of good news in the entire article was found in the final paragraph, immediately following a rather pathetic statement:

“The defendants say the government shouldn’t intrude on what they call internal church disciplinary matters not involving anti-Amish bias. They’ve denied the charges and rejected plea bargain offers carrying sentences of two to three years in prison instead of possible sentences of 20 years or more.”

For any religious, or other, group to insist they are above the law, especially on issues that are clearly evil, isn’t terribly noble. It’s arrogant as it gets. And, besides, everyone seems to think that Amish are ‘cute’ and ‘quaint’ and peaceful. And most of the Amish I have met have been very kind and wonderful people, who, I am certain, are terribly embarrassed by Samuel Mullet’s behaviour. I don’t see a lot of anti-Amish bias going on, though there’s definitely anti-abuse and violence going on.

When it’s all said and done, it is good news that they are not falling for the plea-bargain offers. I feel much better knowing there’s a chance they will be locked up for twenty years. Two or three years, in my opinion, does not cut it–no pun intended–for the ongoing, deliberate, unrepentant abuse.

A dose of reality, including a twenty year prison sentence seems appropriate. And maybe, while there, they will be introduced to the true gospel of Jesus Christ and have a genuine encounter with Him. That would be, in my mind, the best case scenario.

Pure religion, on God’s terms, is a beautiful thing. But religion that is used for any other thing than to lift Jesus high, and draw humanity to Him, has a level of corruption and evil one cannot even put to words. It is the natural progression of things when religion and religious controls become our focus, rather than faith in Jesus Christ. It can’t produce any good. And where that line is crossed, who can know for sure?

© Trudy Metzger

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Allegory of the Silent Woods

I find myself now, in a dark woods. Having wandered deep enough to be caught at nightfall, unable to see the path clearly. The stillness more frightening than the foreboding growls and the threat of creatures unknown to me. The creatures warn me, the stillness does not.

I want to turn, to run back from where I have come and never look into the woods again. Never to see again, or even remember what I have seen here. If only I could tell you, you wouldn’t believe it. The stories, whispered here, by the dying, the wounded, the lost. But I cannot tell, for they are not my stories to share, save a few who have asked me to speak on their behalf. But I cannot tell them now, it is not yet time.

It was beautiful when I set out into the woods, the flowers at the edge of the woods. The path clear and predictable. Birds chirping cheerfully, as if to encourage me. Furry little creatures, darting about, as if daring me to follow. How naively I wandered deeper.

I cannot say that I was truly naive. For I had heard of the tragedy that had befallen many in the woods. I, myself, had lived there, years ago, one of the fallen. Dying. But I had not seen the others then. Not most of them. Because I was so wounded.I could not comprehend the pain around me, or discern their cries. I could not see, so wounded that my sight was dim.

And then they rescued me. The strangers who heard of my fate and wandered into the woods, offering to carry me out, to dress my wounds, to feed me. Slowly my health was restored.

Then the memory of the cries around me, deep in the woods, returned to haunt me, begging me to return into the woods. A dream was born. I made a vow. I would return. Like those brave enough to rescue me, I would go back into the woods….

I imagined how brave I would be. How many wounded I would find in the woods, and how I would carry them out, one by one, fighting off demons, and monsters, and dragons. Fearlessly. At least so I would tell myself. Inside, where no one could see but me and God, the fear would be there. But that fear would be my driving force, to keep me going, fighting, bringing salvation to the wounded. On the surface I would be brave, and strong…. That is what others would see….

As the night gets darker, the fear is no longer in my heart, hidden. Now it is bold. I feel it, choking me. Threatening to make me freeze. Stealing my strength, causing me to drop the wounded, without even the strength to stand.

It is not the demons and monsters that frighten me so, that make me want to run. No, it is the familiar faces. It is those I see, and recognize, in the woods who stand there, beside the wounded, covering their eyes, as they pray. As they pray for themselves and their own ambitions. Closing their eyes so they cannot see those wounded, and bleeding out on the ground. The blood so near them, it is on their feet, their hands. Praying so loud that they cannot hear the weeping, the cries, the final gasps as the wounded draw their last breath. The blood drips from their hands as they cover their eyes. Still they pray.

The demons and the monsters and the dragons, these I was prepared for. I was ready to slay them, to command them to leave, to chase them. To do whatever I had to do. But now I am in shock. Not shocked that these familiar faces exist. I expected a few. I planned to work around them, to even win them over and encourage them to help.

But nothing could have prepared me for the vast numbers of them, except for experience. And experience is a cruel teacher. A heartless lecturer, forcing one to sit and listen, to contemplate things one might never have known, without experience.

No, I did not come prepared to have them stand there, watching me drag body, after body–if they dared to stop their praying and open their eyes long enough to see–while they stood there silently, or worse, stepped into my path.

This is what is most frightening in the dark. Because I do not know if they caused the wounds, if they would hesitate to slay me. Or if they too, like me, merely wandered into the woods with good intentions, and were seized by fear that consumed their will to fight.

But I have taken a vow, and I cannot break it. I will keep my sword at my left side, carry the wounded on my left shoulder. My right hand is free, always, to reach out to God. It is free to lend a hand to those I meet. It is free to rest on my heart and remember to Whom I have vowed my allegiance. It is free to take hold of that sword, when I need it, and fight for freedom.

I have taken a vow, and I will keep it.

My sword is the truth. My vow is to stand by it, and be faithful to it. For Truth cannot fall. It prevails. Always. And with that vow comes strength, courage and hope.

The woods are darker now. And lonely.

It is a long dark night ahead. But morning will come again, and with it, victory.

© Trudy Metzger

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Blowing the Whistle on Prairie Bible Institute…

Sadly, the story reblogged here is not the first victim’s story I’ve heard coming from Prairie Bible Institute… Silence and cover up are not the answer. If we stand silently by, while this abuse is covered up, then God help us all, if we dare to raise our voice against homosexuality, same-sex marriage and any sexual activity involving consenting adults. We have lost our right to speak, if we fail to act on victimization in our Christian cultures.

If we are going to stand for truth and purity, we have to start in our homes, our churches and our Christian educational facilities.

Forget shaking your heads and clucking your tongues. It’s closer to home than you think. It’s in your church, in your school and, God forbid, even in some of your homes. Our silence has been the breeding ground for the multiplication of evil.

I dare you to first fall on your face before God and repent if you have not already done so, and then rise to your feet, find your voice, and stand up and shout, “Enough is enough! As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord! We will expose the lies!”

2 Chronicles 7:14

New International Version (NIV)

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Blowing the Whistle on Prairie Bible Institute

Reblogged from: http://pbisurvivors.com/)

After many months of feeling conflicted and agonizing over the ramifications of my decision, I am blowing the whistle on an egregious case of cover-up and collusion on the part of the administration of Prairie Bible Institute in regards to the physical and sexual abuse of a child.

Last fall I was contacted by former Prairie staff and informed about a young woman who had experienced years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her mother, father and brother.  The story was particularly disturbing given the fact that all three of these individuals were employed by Prairie: two of them as contract workers in recent facility work and one of them as a current full-time employee in a prominent position with the school….

(Continue reading here: and be sure to visit other pages on their site.)

Be a Voice for Those Who Have Been Silenced

Other Articles:
On Covering the Dead Elephant in the Busiest Intersection in Town
RCMP & PBI Acknowledge Abuses, Police Not Laying Charges

And the flip side:
PBI Responds: Unconventional Leadership in the Midst of Abuse Allegations

© Trudy Metzger

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Read Spiritual Abuse Series

Mommy, What Would You Do, If I Told You, I’m Pregnant?

My then-fifteen-yr-old daughter asked this question, rather casually, sitting on the floor beside me, leaning against the fireplace.”I would be very happy for me, because I would get to be a Grandma–(or Nana, as I hope to be called one day)–and I would be sad for you.”

Had I been at all concerned that this was her way of making an announcement, I’m sure my heart would have skipped a beat. My reply might have been worded a bit differently, I’m sure, but hopefully the message would have been the same.

Alicia went on to ask a few more questions, like what I would do if she couldn’t take care of the baby. I assured her that her baby would be our baby and we would never abandon her, or any of our children if they had a child out-of-wedlock. We talked about what it would mean for her, as a teen, to be a mom. What it would cost her on so many levels.

This conversation was Alicia’s way of processing the fact that many of her friends were sexually active and the reality they could potentially be facing, should birth control fail them. The conversation was not our first, and definitely not our last.

It is important for parents to make it safe for children to talk to us about anything, and that doesn’t happen over night. The younger they are when we open that door, the better off they will be, and the more likely that they will ask the hard questions later. This is not a guarantee–there are many factors that play in, including personality and temperament–but it does increase the odds.

There are seasons when some teenagers resort to grunts, and rolling of the eyes frequently, as their method of communication. They won’t want to talk about anything personal, let alone this kind of thing. It’s important to be sensitive to this need for personal space, but it’s not reason to give up on these talks. When they are bombarded with false information on every hand, we can gently let them know we are here. We can ask how they’re doing, without pressuring them to ‘tell all’, and offering a safe place if they need to talk.

Hopefully, if they are faced with the really tough stuff, like premarital sex or even pregnancy, they will trust us enough to open up. I have listened to numerous stories, of young women who became pregnant in their teens, and because they couldn’t face their Christian parents with the shame, they chose to hide it by having an abortion instead. Numerous women have sat across the table from me, in tears, spilling their pain, and their shame, grieving the loss of the child they aborted.

The first time a young woman shared her story with me, about ten years ago, I made a vow that my children would be loved, accepted and safe, should they ever have an unplanned pregnancy. I teach them abstinence, but their place in my heart, and my love for them is not dependent on that.

Pride, ‘image’, and the way some might gossip is secondary. What matters is that every child knows he or she is loved, that mom and dad are here to support them regardless what happens, so that their shame does not push them into deeper darkness.

That trust and communication does not begin when teenagers start dating. It all begins in the diaper phase….

© Trudy Metzger

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Sexual Abuse & Violence: Opening Pandora’s Box

Though the Sandusky sex scandal, at Penn State, has drawn plenty of attention, I have not followed it closely. Bad news is just that: bad news. We become what we feed on, so I try not to fill my mind too much with it. Yes, I try to stay informed and educated but to dwell and obsess is depressing.

In my reading on Friday, I came across some interesting parallels between the silence that has allowed abuse to be covered in the church, just as it was at Penn State. Every situation is unique, and the motivation of all leaders will not be the same. Some will more innocently keep the lid on abuse than others, but in many cases it will be driven by the same ‘bottom line’ as the Sandusky case. I am quoting a few lines, and highlight a few key comments. (To read the entire article, visit the link here.)

Abuse Scandal Inquiry Damns Paterno and Penn State

[…]
Louis J. Freeh, the former federal judge and director of the F.B.I. who spent the last seven months examining the Sandusky scandal at Penn State, issued a damning conclusion Thursday:

The most senior officials at Penn State had shown a “total and consistent disregard” for the welfare of children, had worked together to actively conceal Mr. Sandusky’s assaults, and had done so for one central reason: fear of bad publicity. That publicity, Mr. Freeh said Thursday, would have hurt the nationally ranked football program, Mr. Paterno’s reputation as a coach of high principles, the Penn State “brand” and the university’s ability to raise money as one of the most respected public institutions in the country.

[….] Mr. Freeh, in a formal report to the university’s board of trustees that ran more than 250 pages, offered graphic evidence of the implications of what he termed “a pervasive fear” of bad publicity[…]

Tim Rohan, from State College, Pa.; Zach Berman, from Philadelphia; and Richard Pérez-Peña contributed reporting.

Even I can identify with that, as I appear to boldly march, in Joan-of-Arc-style, into territory where angels fear to tread. I’m afraid…

What if I’m judged harshly? What if I’m misunderstood? Hated? Rejected?

Of course I’m afraid. I want to be loved. I love people. I want to be accepted. I accept people. Even those whose choices & lifestyles I speak out against. It’s not personal, not a fight or an attack against people. It’s a fight against injustice, against things that hurt people, things that destroy lives, relationships and healthy identity. Regardless of how things appear, my desire is to impact the world for the better.

So, in spite of ‘pervasive fear of bad publicity, I write from my heart. I say what some don’t want to hear. I speak the truth of my heart in love, and with compassion.

Sometimes I get rejected. Other times I get new friends, like yesterday. After I wrote about homosexuality I got a message from someone, saying, ‘….I am a homosexual heathen…’ and my blog was the connecting point. Long story short, I’m having coffee with my new friend tomorrow night.

On the same day several friends decided they had enough of me. That’s the price you pay. You get judged after being labelled judgemental. I expect the same will happen with addressing childhood sexual abuse more directly… I’m willing to pay the price, and pray many will join me. Especially the church, and fight for the next generation by fighting for innocent children. No more fearing bad publicity, no more idolizing reputation at the expense of the most innocent, most vulnerable.

If we do not change, if we do not open that box, we give it power. Where the Light shines, the darkness loses its power. We don’t need to live with the shame of having been partner to violence, as is now tragically Joe Paterno’s legacy. We must take a stand.

John 1

New International Version (NIV)

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

That is my purpose, my reason for writing.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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Wrapping Up & Looking Ahead

It is bittersweet to wrap up the series on Spiritual Abuse. My original intent was not to continue into my story of the aftermath, but as I neared the end, I felt compelled to keep writing. It has been vulnerable, even unnerving, being so open, but I have no regrets.

The process has been therapeutic, making me realize how fortunate, and how blessed I am to have that freedom, and taking me to deeper freedom.

A highlight has been the messages I received from you, my friends and readers, thanking me for giving a voice to your pain, and your stories. My experience with Spiritual Abuse is not uncommon. Many of your lives have run parallel in many ways, causing you to feel and experience your pain. I pray that you will sense Jesus as your Comforter, through the Holy Spirit, and that believers will come along side you, and support you. We were not created to walk through these things along.

This blog series has opened doors to friendship and communication that are encouraging to me and make me realize that I am not alone in my experiences. It is exciting to see God move and to hear testimonies of what He is doing in your lives. Thank you for sharing your hearts with me. You gave me courage to keep writing, when the raw vulnerability made me want to start deleting blogs, rather than posting them.

Like many of you, who have carried your pain and your story in silence, I struggle with the same thoughts and fears you have. Yes, I share openly and write it for the whole world to read, but that doesn’t silence the fears and the doubts.

…Will I be judged by Christians for my story?  …Was there something wrong with me that I brought these things on myself? …Did I deserve the abuse? …Will people believe the truth? …Why stir the pot and bring the pain of other victims to the forefront? …Does the church have the right to do these things—is it biblical?

As I shared my story I muddled through these feelings. Some days were harder than others. But the most difficult question of all is …Can the reader handle the truth or is my story too overwhelming?

No one wants to be too much, too overwhelming. So we choose silence because we fear the isolation that comes with the awareness that no one can handle our story. We fear the rejection. And judgement.

Some of you shared these struggles—the fear that you would not be understood, the fear of opening up the raw pain inside of you. Some of you shared and then sent apology notes for having ‘dumped’ on me. I consider it an honour that you trusted me with your stories. And I know that God holds your story dear to His heart. (Psalm 139:14-16)

I have concluded that, whether the world and the church can handle our stories or not, isn’t of greatest consequence. Clearly, keeping the truth hidden has caused great destruction and continues to leave the body of Christ wounded, broken and unable to live to our full potential. It has left us trying to ‘fight the good fight’ and ‘run the race’ with gaping wounds, and broken limbs that need healing. God offers us so much more!

The better question is; Will things ever change for the better if we remain silent because of fear? Vulnerable or not, the truth has potential to bring freedom.

In John 8:32 & 36 Jesus says, “And you will know the truth and the truth will make you free….Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!” In every situation, in every dark story, in every circumstance, Jesus is the truth that remains constant, steadfast, and freeing.

Hurting people don’t need another sermon preached, another rule outlined, another Bible verse quoted out of context. They need the raw truth of our stories, and a ‘Jesus in action’ in the pain and hell of our experience. Seeing His work in our stories will make Him real to people around us, and help them understand that He is for them and their broken stories.

The Bible says that we ‘…overcame (the enemy) by the blood of the Lamb and the word of (our) testimony.’ Today, I am delighted to say that Jesus has been more than enough for me, in my journey back to wholeness, hope and into dynamic faith. He is the reason I share my story. It is His story, written in the pages of my life, and I am blessed and honoured to know Him!

I will be moving into a Series on Sex & the Abuse of It, because it does need to be talked about openly, especially in Christian cultures and closed cultures, where perpetrators use religion to hide. However, since it is also a heavy topic, I am going to take a breather and focus on writing spiritually encouraging posts for a little while, before tackling another painful topic.

Thank you for joining me in this series! I look forward to interacting with you–whether on the blog or privately–and encouraging each other on the journey!

 

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/