David S. Smucker of PA, sentenced to prison (not Whispering Hope) for vile crimes against 4 minors

This morning David S. Smucker, 75, of East Earl PA, was sentenced to 38 years for sexually assaulting 4 preteen girls, starting when they were only around 4-5 years old. Reportedly, he showed no remorse or emotion and declined to comment, when asked by Judge Reinaker if he wanted to say anything. He offered no apology to his victims. Judge Reinaker had a few words to say, and was quite stern about it, as well he should have been. The lawyer allegedly requested house arrest, which the judge did not grant, thank God. That would have put Smucker right back in the community where he committed the crimes in the first place. Fortunately he also did not get sent back to Whispering Hope, the Anabaptist facility where he had stayed up to this time since his release from prison in 2018.

Just over a year ago, in December 2018, it came to light that David S. Smucker allegedly sexually violated 4 preteen girls. The Amish church did the right thing. They reported Smucker, and formulated a support committee for the victims and their families, to help in offering practical support. In this, the Amish community of Lancaster PA has done fabulously. To have a small team of people who are there for the victims and their families is an outstanding commitment, and I highly commend them for this. A case such as this brings incredible destruction to the children, but it also disrupts the community in unimaginable ways, as their commitment to forgiveness and the reality of severe ongoing damage and suffering meet in profound struggle. For a people who value forgiveness so highly, to admit the struggle to offer it is intense, you know the impact is brutal.

In conversation with a gentleman involved in the case,  back in Summer 2019, he expressed how forgiveness has not been an easy thing for the community. What impressed me in this case was the commitment to supporting victims, honest and raw struggle with forgiveness (and still choosing forgiveness… because Mr. Smucker disrupted an entire community, not only a few victims), but also working with the law to ensure safety for the children and to have an appropriate sentence for Smucker.

Even so, it is no secret that some were working to have Mr. Smucker exonerated for his sex crimes. (I have names and evidence to support that claim). Thankfully, that did not work.

Today a handful of advocates showed up in court, in a show solidarity with victims and their parents. I had hoped to be present, however my university schedule made that difficult, so I relied on friends to update me. (One had a notebook to jot down notes but was asked to put it away).

Audrey Kauffman, who attended the sentencing, wrote on Facebook: “While no sentence can ever redeem what these girls have lost, we witnessed justice today. I am grateful for a judge who acknowledged the lifetime consequences the victims will carry and gave no consideration for health or age to the perpetrator. He held the perpetrator fully responsible and publicly absolved the victims.

“I think he’s a coward. I don’t think he has a shred of remorse,” ADA Haverstick said in court. “He used (the girls) as sex toys. They existed for his sexual gratification.”

“You are the first who has refused” to take responsibility, Judge Reinaker said. An admission or showing of remorse, Judge Reinaker said, can assist victims in the healing process. “Your refusal… has deprived them of even that small measure of healing,” the judge said.

You may read various reports of the hearing at the following links:
Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office
Pittsburg Post-Gazette (Peter Smith)
Lancaster Online

I would call it a victory — and some will, which I understand — but there is no ‘victory’ or ‘winning’ in a case like this. Not through a court sentence, no matter how right that sentence is, and necessary. I support it 100%. Anything less would put children at risk. There’s no need for that.

However, when you know the backstory and the fine, nitty-gritty details of how those children have suffered and continue to suffer and struggle, it about rips your heart it. They haven’t won. They can’t. They’ve been robbed blind and as a result of Smucker’s vile and selfish acts, this is a lifetime of battle laid before them. That’s not winning, no matter how much the public is protected from further risk of harm.

That is what breaks my heart. Every time. The children. Some never recover. Some go on to commit crimes of their own, of various sorts.. Some go mental. Thank God that many heal. And that is my prayer for these little ones. I pray the heinous crimes committed against them will not rob them of their future on top of all they have already lost. They have lost all that was normal, all that was safe — not only that which should have been safe but also that which was safe — as their family life was disrupted, and remains disrupted. They have paid a higher price in their young years than about anything I have ever seen.

Pray for theses children, their parents and family members as they continue to seek healing.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

A reader’s response: “One young boy’s hell”, And Paul Yoder’s “The Silent Curtain”

TRIGGER WARNING:
The following is difficult to read. But this is the other side of the story. The forbidden words of the ones who suffered at the hands of perpetrators. It is harsh. It is somewhat graphic.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, if we as adults cannot handle knowing this horrific truth, we shouldn’t expect children to walk through this hell in silence. We should be doing everything in our power to stop these atrocities, and not trying to silence those who cry out. And never, never should we be caught looking the other way, casually doing life, while this goes on.

The gentleman who wrote the following is also conservative Anabaptist, with a veiled wife…. for those to whom that makes a difference. He understands both the culture and the horror of victims.

***

ONE YOUNG BOY’S HELL

Trudy, I penned the following response to “Haiti: A concerned Anabaptist’s letter & my response“, but soon realized that I had better run it by you before posting… if you think there is any value in sharing a testimonial like this, please feel free to do so. If so, would you please share anonymously? If this is too rough to share, I respect that.

“…the biggest loser of all is the person that you are negative about the most, Jeriah Mast…

This statement is disgusting and shocking, causing in me at first sheer disbelief that the person is serious, followed by deep anger. Yes, I want to be ‘respectful’ to the person that penned this, but have to admit that when angry I wish for a split second that people like this could just have a taste of the devastation that being raped causes… to see how absolutely asinine and ignorant their words are. While all rape is bad, there are dynamics that come into play when a boy is raped by a man that are tragic in a very unique way.

I remember a 12 year old child being told when performing oral to “try not to spill a drop” then looking at the gun sitting on the dashboard of the pickup. At 12 years old, learning the best positions to take that make the pain of anal penetration most bearable, finding ways to sit in class later without sitting funny so that peers didn’t suspect you were being raped anally.

I remember that same boy hitting puberty, and the confusion he has when he realizes that he is an expert at gay sex, but has not so much as held hands with a girl. As he thinks this through, his very confused and trauma-foggy mind concludes he must therefore be gay, leading to an adolescence filled with seeking to answer the question as to whether he is gay.

Imagine the self-worth of this young boy as his parents take him to a counsellor to “fix him”, but don’t continue because “it is too expensive, insurance wont cover it”.

By 14, with this sexual violence having continued for a year and a half, and all of these issues raging in the adolescent’s mind, he turns to alcohol, drugs and illicit sex to try and ease the mental anguish, to drown the raging hate that has filled his heart against the perpetrator and against those who should have protected him.

Imagine this adolescent at 16 with a driver’s license and a car, drinking himself to blackout 200 nights per year, yet still driving home.

Imagine this teen, in his sober moments, fixating on finding the evil man and killing him, but only after torturing him. And consider that this idea isn’t a fantasy, but is something that would have happened had the teen run across the man again.

Imagine this young man, who had straight A’s in school up until the ongoing rapes, all of a sudden failing every subject in every grade – completely failing grade 7, grade 8, grade 9, and grade 10. Finally the guidance counsellor tells the young man as he enrolls into grade 11, “you’re nothing but trouble, you’re a waste of our time. You don’t belong here. Why don’t you just drop out of school? You’re old enough to drop out if you want.”

Imagine how the youth now feels, with the school giving up on him, and in fact now all of society looks at him as a worthless, dangerous young man who seems destined to spend his life behind bars. The same way the young man now also feels about himself.

Imagine this young man, after dropping out of school, drinking 20 to 30 beer a night to drown the pain. When drunk he acts like he has a death wish, becoming aggressive, getting into fights that he cannot win, fighting huge men, fighting 5 to 10 men at once. He does anything to try and escape the mental pain, unable to process the past, and painfully aware that he has lost his childhood, adolescence, and has zero hope for the future. At 21, this young man is keenly aware that he will not be alive for long, given the fights, the black-out drinking, the reckless devil-be-damned life.

This is only a small sliver of my personal experience.

As a teen, I was driven with the overwhelming desire to catch this man and get even with him, make him pay. And believe me, had I found this man in my late teens or early 20’s, I would have taken my revenge, even if it meant spending the rest of life in prison.

So when I read Mr. Yoder’s sentence that says, “…the biggest loser of all is the person that you are negative about the most, Jeriah Mast”,

I feel that anger again. I remember the pain, loss, desperation, confusion. I remember like it was yesterday how the man used my mouth, used my anus. How he scared me into not telling anyone. And I just cannot accept that a man can be so unaware of the cost to the victim… so wrong, so ignorant, so unaware of the lifelong cost that the victim of rape pays.

Even as born a again Christian father, the experience worked its way into my life, and for years I consciously dealt with it, over and over, and over again.

(Name Withheld)

***

A year ago this month I first met the gentleman who wrote this. He reached out to offer support and encouragement in what was then a rather hellish experience for me. His kindness and wisdom was one of the ‘kindnesses of God’ in my life at that time, and my respect for him has deepened as time went on.

With time he shared that he had been abused. But this is the first I heard his story and the extent of his suffering. I had slipped out to run some errands yesterday and checked my messages in the parking lot.

I began to weep. This is the story of many a little boy, many a little girl. Most never tell it so graphically, nor is that always necessary. But every now and then this harsh truth must be told.

God forbid that anyone would judge this young man harshly. And God forbid that we would be so deceived as to believe it is the offender who suffers most, or loses most… At least in the way that is often presented to guilt trip someone into silence.

Maybe the offenders do lose most, in the end, because they lose themselves somewhere in that process. But it certainly is not the doing of those speaking out, that such loss happens. It is the direct result of unspeakable crimes committed, often in the name of God or the guise of relationship with him.

God forbid that we would silence this cry, or shy away from the horrible and uncomfortable truth. And, worse yet, somehow make the offender the victim when silence no longer works.

***

This blog was ready for posting when a friend sent me a link to a post by Paul Yoder regarding the case of Jeriah Mast and Christian Aid Ministries (CAM). I do not know Mr. Yoder’s connection with the Anabaptist community, or whether he is still part of it, but his words (I am hearing) are bringing hope and healing to victims within.

He ends the post with the following very blunt thoughts:
You must recognize that these are not only sins but crimes, heinous crimes, crimes on the level of murder. For a preacher, pastor, or counselor to decide that the criminal shows enough regret that they won’t be reported to law enforcement simply makes no sense. They have absolutely no authority to make that decision. No good can come from harboring these people and protecting them and their secrets.

Will it change? I pray that it will. When I look at my young children, I can’t help thinking of the horrors that many children their age suffer with no way out. The young victims’ innocence, emotional health, and even physical health are all destroyed by evil people who are protected by a religious system. I feel indignation, disgust, and anger that institutions, doctrines, and a way of life are more important than the individuals within those systems.

If the Amish and Mennonite communities are not willing to protect their weakest and most vulnerable members, then they deserve to be dismantled and become a thing of the past. If, on the other hand, they use this opportunity to evaluate themselves and their beliefs and practices, then this can be a golden opportunity to make things better than they have ever been.”

Here is a link to his blog: The Silent Curtain.

***

November 2, 2019, we have a day set aside to acknowledge the crimes of sexual violence in our Anabaptist culture at THE GATHERING.  It is exclusively for survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons. 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 by victims. (More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERING Registration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

 

PS. Plans are coming together for the next two trips, to take place shortly. Thank you to all who have donated.

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work, you may send funds (via PayPal or e-transfer) to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Pt 1: Are religious leaders (who offend sexually) untouchable?

One of my favourite things about university has been the freedom to guide my own path in the area of research. Returning to studying after years of experience it was critical that it fit with my work with sexual violence in religious communities. For most projects and all research I chose to look at various aspects of religion and crime – mostly sexual abuse – in a variety of contexts, including Latter Day Saints, Orthodox Judaism, and conservative Anabaptists. I grew up in a series of conservative Mennonite churches – thanks to parents who never found peace in any of the ones we tried – so I am not unfamiliar with the terrain of religion. But I was shocked by the similarities in function between other fundamental religious groups and my background. We are not the only ones structured to protect top leaders.

At first I questioned if it was actually structured that way (on purpose) or if it was merely the inadvertent and inevitable outcome of ultimate power given to bishops and leaders. But after a bit of digging and searching for answers, I concluded some are intentionally structured to make leaders untouchable. Why? I am not certain, beyond the need to make the religious culture look perfect and maintain image. (To see how this plays out in the Orthodox Jews, read Michael Lesher’s: Shonda and Concealment). And then there is this notion that those called to ministry are just a bit more sacred and holy than the rest. Here I would propose that the calling itself may be entirely holy, but the human executing that calling is entirely flawed, completely human and particularly vulnerable to corruption when placed at such a level.

Someone said, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, or something close to that. I would echo that. Power that is accountable to no one is absolute power, and it absolutely is corrupt. No human gets to play God, be untouchable by those they lead, and still stay human and flawed in their own mind. That kind of power leads to grandiose thinking, narcissism and idolatry. When people who follow such a leaders start believing they have a special kind of ‘in’ with God, and maybe it’s okay for them to do things others can’t, rather than exposing leaders’ crimes, we have a real problem. And these were the testimonies of some of the women in the studies I read; rather than exposing crime they saw leaders are having ‘special permission’ from God. This matches what I’ve heard from victims I’ve worked with.

Every spiritual leader and person in ministry I’ve known is prone to failure and sin, myself included. We all have to repent. Every last one of us. Knowing many others, and knowing myself, I have concluded we are all the same. All human, just like you. All sinners saved by grace. We, like the Apostle Paul, do the things we don’t want to do and don’t get done what we want to do. But true leaders do not justify sin and crime in their own lives.

Do away with the pedestals. They are not stable and only stay up as long as people are willing to hold them up. On a pedestal repentance is difficult, as is facing consequences for sin and crime. There’s the fear that if people discover how broken and human we are they will be destroyed by our imperfection and lose their faith in God. Even in this we raise ourselves to a God-like-status. But it’s not truth. They’ll be fine, believe it or not, if they see our humanity. And if they aren’t, the perception of perfection is better crushed. It’s their one hope of replacing leaders with God, and giving God His rightful place.

So how do leaders rise to that place in the minds of (their) people? Because, let’s face it, none are ‘all that and a bag of chips’ once you get to know them. They may be wonderful and nice, and all, but they are human. And I’ve not met one that isn’t somehow selfish, no matter who they desire to be. Me included. We are all human; you and I, and on the same level.

I can’t speak to the ‘how’ of every religious community, but it struck me in my readings for the research I did, that it is a taught and controlled path to the top. A path carefully laid out in the constitutions and rule books, including Anabaptists and Orthodox Jews among others. Of course my ‘knowing’ from experience and observation also gave me insights other ‘outsiders’ wouldn’t see. (Regrettably, I cannot use the material from that research publicly at this time, t is also part of my PhD application package.)

Some church constitutions state that charges or allegations can only be brought against a church leader if there are several witnesses. If there is one thing sex offenders and child molesters know, it is to never leave room for witnesses. The lengths to which they go in planning and scheming, or their skill at taking advantage of the vulnerable person at hand, would leave room for little chance of ever having even one witness, let alone two. They are opportunistic, and have an uncanny ability to sniff out the vulnerable ones who have no voice.

Now take those skills, give them to a revered church leader who knows who is who, and what church families struggles with, and who is vulnerable, insecure, abused (by parents, spouse or teacher etc), and you have a perfect storm. When sex offenders and molesters become preachers and bishops, or ministry leaders, and especially if they have that lovable personality, they have access to victims with a reputation that is well fortressed. Offenders in church leadership are often very charismatic leaders who ‘love’ people, and are loved and worshiped by their followers. They have no need to defend themselves, because they have built their empire so that no one will believe the allegations, and the people will rise to their defence so they need only to sit back and watch as their voiceless victims scramble for someone, anyone to hear them.

These offenders will likely have made certain to have enough trusted relationships with the demographic of their victims who can vouch for them as respectful and safe, to ensure that allegations sound foolish and far-fetched. (For example, students are often shocked when the teacher is caught molesting because the teacher was respectful to most students. The ministry leader or minister who violates the vulnerable wives of the abusive men they help may have the respect of many of the wives of these men, having never made moves or crossed lines, thus making the rest sound ridiculous when they bring forward their allegations. And the leader who molests girls may leave his own daughters untouched, so that the whole family can vouch for him. You get the picture.)

These are skilled criminals, not people who ‘fall’ into affairs in leadership. These are not pastors, bishops and ministry leaders; they are wolves. They are predators. They are power-mongers with lust issues; lust for power and lust for sex. They excommunicate and ostracize those who fail to live up to the constitution, and excuse their own sin. They  have no regard for the sacredness of sex and God’s laws, not to mention the laws of the land. They rape, overpower, molest and lust… and excommunicate victims for not being silent. (In any case, if a leader molests or abuses someone, he/she should be removed and dealt with, even if only a one time offence. They are not safe in positions of power.)

The more these allegations against church and ministry leaders come to light, in various communities and churches, the more certain I am that one of the key sources of the larger problem is the result of corrupt leadership. Be that 20% of the leaders, or 50%, or 5%, it’s too many. And, unfortunately, those leaders who are pure of heart genuinely struggle to grasp that a fellow-leader would/could do such a thing, and they too write things off as false allegations made by a troubled church member. This needs to change.

And that leads me to the the next thing in the constitution… The word of a member in good standing, according to some constitutions, is to be taken over that of those who are not in good standing. It takes little imagination to see that sex abuse victims are often very troubled and don’t do ‘constitution following’ very well, making their testimony easy to write off. And those victims who are faithful constitution followers are silent, because that’s what the constitution sets up. Some state that members are to first attempt resolving issues directly with those who wronged them, before going to leaders, meaning victims must first face their offender before seeking help. They further state that once communion has been observed and peace is expressed, a matter is to be considered forgiven and done.

The way these things are structures make church leaders – especially bishops, but also prominent ministry leaders and lay members of good rapport – almost untouchable. And that perpetuates the crimes both at a leadership level and among the people. Almost untouchable…

But God…

But God is not done. He will expose. He will bring to light. And He will give voice to victims so that these wolves will be stripped of their facades, and they will stand naked in their sins. And more than giving them a voice He will be their voice and He will speak boldly. And then there will be no constitution to manage damage control. There will be no hiding. The truth will be revealed.

What excites me is that God is raising up leaders ‘among them‘ who will not be silent.  Leaders who will not look the other way, and who will hold them accountable and turn them over to the law. These leaders and their wives have reached out to me, internationally, and encouraged me to never quit, never give up… And God is also raising up a network of law enforcement workers across USA who are listening. They are seeing the patterns, the cover-ups and the crime in the name of God.

Reckoning day is coming…

And that doesn’t even begin to account for standing before God with these sins exposed, their covers blown.

Victims have long been brutalized by organized religion, and have been silenced. But God…

(To be continued…)

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018