Not hours after sharing Randal Martin’s facebook post, someone alerted me to a statement on the Anabaptist Sexual Abuse Symposium (ASAA) website. In their statement they include an article written by Hans Mast, for The Sword & Trumpet, in which he speaks forthrightly into the poor handling of a Jeriah Mast by CAM.
I engaged with Hans several times over the ordeal, and found him to be balanced, thorough and honourable. His pursuit of truth is commendable! Beyond this interaction, I do not know him personally.
It is a lengthy article, but worth the read. I am encouraged to see godly men continue to rise up against the epidemic of sexual abuse among our Anabaptist communities.
I’ll leave that right there and let you all peruse it. Frankly, I’m surprised ASAA posted it.
Around 8 years ago a woman contacted me. Her child made disturbing statements indicating the father had sexually assaulted the child. I urged her to go to the doctor, and report to CPS and the police. She did.
Given the graphic nature of the child’s allegations, I expected everyone to trip over themselves to help. Not so. The woman was accused of being a vindictive ex who planted ideas in the children’s minds. She was sternly warned if she did it again, she would risk losing her children. She was an angry ex; she made no secret of that; he was a man-whore who had done dreadful damage. But she swore up and down she would never plant ideas.
I believed her. Furthermore, I had met with the children and, while I didn’t ask any questions specific to the allegations, we did talk about feelings and struggles. All the signs were there.
Even so, the mom wasn’t about to risk losing her children. She went silent.
I spoke to her a few months ago for the first time in years.
The ex-husband, she told me, had moved from woman to woman. Recently they learned that in every family, he molested or raped every child. Every. Single. One. Her own children had all come forward over the years, one by one. Now in their youth, they have had more than their fair share of struggles. Many of which could have been prevented if someone had believed their story and nor forced them to return to their father for years so he could assault them.
This is a true story, playing out as we speak. Frankly, I hope the mom wins the legal battle and lands the perpetrator in prison. And every person who told her she was a bitter ex — which, as I stated, she admitted she was — and used that to silence her children’s cries, has blood on their hands.
Let the cases play out. And if the only ‘proof’ you have that the children are making false allegation is the bitter mom, do the world a favour and keep it to yourself. Especially when there are children involved. They deserve better.
Worst case scenario, if they did make false allegations as a result of a bitter ex’s influence, they are victims. So, either way, they are victims, either of sexual abuse, or of maternal manipulation. And either way they need compassion and understanding and the space to come forward with the truth.
God forbid that God-professing adults make judgement calls without knowledge.
When I met face-to-face with Randal Martin, founder of ASAA, and his wife at a Panera Bread in Lebanon PA, he said he hopes victims will sue the conservative Anabaptist church to force them to take sexual abuse seriously. His message was that if they have to pass the offering plate to collect money to pay for those lawsuits, they will be forced to take abuse seriously. Until it hits the pocketbook, he said, he is concerned that the issue will not be given serious attention. I agreed. Said that I fear, too, that victims will never be truly heard until this happens.
I had no notion on doing such a thing then (and still don’t), but I told him I know of someone who mentioned launching a class action against the Eastern Mennonite church. Randal gave me the name of the lawyer who handled the Haldeman church lawsuit, to pass on.
It seems that this wish for a lawsuit – or was it a prophecy? – is coming to pass in the current CAM case. Ironically it is in the very case in which ASAA is being asked to help the victims in Haiti. God has an uncomfortable sense of humour, in the timing of things.
It is my hope that ASAA will support the victims in Haiti who wish to pursue litigation, even if it is against Christian Aid Ministries rather than the Eastern Mennonite Church. It is the only non-hypocritical thing to do in light of Mr. Martin’s comments.
The following article on reporting sexual abuse is well written. Excellent, really. I’ve heard criticisms of details like, Is reporting really only important because it is a legal duty.. like, what about moral obligation? I’ll speak for myself and say this. Dealing with sex crimes is always a moral duty. Always. But howwe deal with them is influenced by the laws of our land. Knowing Mr. Hoover a bit better than I did a few months ago, I know he also feels a sense of moral duty to get involved and does so. He and I do not agree on some of the ‘how’ of what he does, and he knows I have some grave concerns, but he does feel a sense of moral duty. Also, in fairness, he has disagreements with me as well. I am comfortable with that, and far as I can tell, he is too.
Some time ago I asked Mr. Hoover for permission to share it on my blog; permission he granted. He is on the Advisory Board for the Anabaptist Sexual abuse Awareness (ASAA). I have interacted with him a fair bit in recent months, and have been forthright with him about my concerns, both in ASAA handling of events last year — details he still knew nothing about — as well as ongoing concern over how offenders are being prioritized to the neglect of victims. (For example, victims’ voices are not yet being invited into the legal processes, nor are they being represented with skilled and informed support persons who know the legal processes. This support is still being given to offenders). In my honesty about my concerns, I have felt he tried to hear me in spite of disagreement. He has been honest with me too, from what I can tell, and I have tried to hear him.
Where truth is spoken, I appreciate it. The following article is truth.
How can Conservative Anabaptists reconcile the command of Matthew 18, “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone,” with the reporting requirements in Pennsylvania?
The entire issue hinges on the words, “If thy brother shall trespass against thee”. What sins would this include, this “trespass against thee?”
Perhaps he trespassed by having moved the line-fence and thereby taking some of his neighbor’s land, or borrowing something and returning it broken, or slandering a brother’s name by repeating unkind gossip. There are many ways that a brother may trespass against a brother personally, and we then need to go to him alone to see if we can come to an understanding.
But what about serious sins that are much more than a personal trespass against an individual? Did Jesus also imply that if my brother murdered his neighbor or raped my wife that I would need to go to him between me and him alone, and if he hears me I have gained my brother?
God forbid! Such a sin needs to be reported immediately to the proper civil authorities, who do not carry the sword in vain (Romans 13:1-6, 2 Peter 2:13-17), then to the church.
Yes, we believe that if a brother has trespassed against us, we should first approach him alone. But if we discover that he has seduced a neighbor’s 13-year-old child and ended up violating her (either emotionally or physically), we do not believe that Jesus would direct us by this command to keep it “between thee and him alone.” Such a brother has not only trespassed against his neighbor, but he has broken the laws of God himself as well as the laws of the land. This is not only a trespass against an individual, but a heinous crime. We are duty bound, both for our brother’s sake and for our daughter’s sake (as well as possible future victims), to report him.
Today we know of the terrible hold of sexual addictions. We have seen perpetrators who have been found out, and who “repented” and made their sins right with the church, and life supposedly went on as usual. But, life did not go on as usual. The sexual addiction had not been dealt with, and later there were relapses, with more cover-ups, more victims, and more children whose lives were forever changed, because we did not deal with the sin in an appropriate and timely manner.
We need to acknowledge and recognize the difference between a trespass against a brother that can be taken care of “between thee and him alone,” and serious sins that are much more than just a trespass against a brother. This is why we believe that it is good, proper, and indeed necessary to obey state laws on mandated reporting.
The offender can only be brought to redemption if he or she takes full ownership of his or her iniquity, transgressions and civil responsibilities. Using civil authority is a part of that not a power play. We are loving the offender when the sin is exposed to authorities because he/she is in bondage to their sin and full of deception – and an emotional response to exposure and a few words of apology are no sign of repentance. The offender is self-injuring, not just injuring others. No habituated sin is easily stopped. If we are honest, we all know this on a personal level.
~ Allen Hoover, Advisory Board for ASAA ~
I was surprised that ASAA advisory board wasn’t even made aware of the details surrounding last year’s fiasco, in which a man admitted to their vice-chair having assaulted a young woman and the young woman was not offered care while the offender continued in close relationship with the board member. And I am just as surprised that the Advisory board didn’t think it was important to know details or get involved, being too busy with other things.
As I said to Mr. Hoover, it is this sort of lack of engagement that created the dreadful abuse situation we have in Haiti, and I struggle to grasp how a group can help others overseas if they don’t first deal with their own situations appropriately at home. When victims are blatantly neglected in cases at home, how are they equipped to go to Haiti and help there. I would hope they can and will do better. Especially since Mr. Hoover’s statement so clearly states that “an emotional response and a few words of apology are no sign of repentance” as was proven true in last year’s fiasco. The offender at the centre of that case has continued with inappropriate connections with women. This summer I heard from three more women regarding the same offender, proving Mr. Hoover’s words to be accurate.
In light of this, while I support what is written by Mr. Hoover and promoted by ASAA, and I am posting it as I had told him I would after he granted permission, I appeal to them to live up to their own words and teachings. I appeal to ASAA to first deal with their own issues honourably at home, before going overseas. Don’t just teach better ways of responding; live it. When that happens, I will be happy to support ASAA efforts.
Disclaimer: When I asked permission to post the above, I did not yet know that the ASAA founder and the board of directors had not informed their other committees thoroughly of my concerns. This only came up in communication with Mr. Hoover on August 5, 2019.
ASAA also posted the following video on their Facebook page. (It was from their site that I took my featured image, to give credit of sources). It is a powerful video addressing pornography. If you are into porn, you are part of the sex trafficking industry. You are funding it. Advertisers rely on your addiction to evil, to fund this industry.
If you have the stomach for it, the following news report is a powerful, powerful news report on sex trafficking. I submit that political agenda is intertwined, quite obviously. Tune out the jargon and listen to the problem of sex trafficking. It is real, and it is closer to home than you would imagine. I know of conservative Anabaptist youth being used as prostitutes, where one ‘user’ (Anabaptist adult male, in one case) will alert others to the girl being vulnerable. I know of them being offered money for sex. I know of one case where money was exchanged. This is not so far out there.
The video clip is hard to watch, admittedly. But this is based on the true story of a young woman who was trafficked.
Her brother speaks after the video clip. He shares a lot of wisdom on the problem of sex trafficking, and how it works. He isn’t about fear-mongering. He gives solid information. He addresses the fallen morality of the nation of USA. He talks numbers of what pimps make.
And he makes this gut-churning statement, “You can almost order a child like you order pizza.” And later he says, “This shouldn’t be a conservative issue or a liberal issue […] children should not be for sale.”
He also states, “It starts with a pornographic culture. Soft porn. It’s the objectifying of women. Which, we as a country have done a great job at completely objectifying women into sex objects and emasculating men.”‘
These statements should startle us. According to several studies, a high rate of men in church admit to porn use
There is no child immune. No culture protected. This wickedness is something we need expose. And we, as the people of God, ought to be leading the way. But I challenge you to consider that sex trafficking in a different form is happening among us. Just as in the country structure, in religious structure the top most powerful are protected. There is grace for these offenders, and protection, while those ‘sold out’ are mistreated to keep them in line. The similarities are startling.
Like our sexualized culture, we are desensitizing church culture to child sexual assault, but we are doing it through treating victims shamefully and protecting offenders. The culture is such that abuse thrives, the oppressed have no voice, and sexual violence against children is viewed as ‘moral failing’ and ‘a mistake’.
Children are being trafficked among us, and it starts with the cavalier attitude toward child exploitation that allows adult men and women to call it ‘moral failing’, or ‘a mistake’. It starts by dehumanizing the victims in the eyes of the congregation or community. It starts be silencing victims. And it starts by leaders hearing things and shrugging them off rather than digging deeper and doing their due diligence in cases such as Jeriah Mast. (Using one that is public of the hundreds or thousands I could choose from). Because when abuse is handled this way in church, it is the exact same thing as sex trafficking, with different players and a far more deceptive mask.
All of these things teach the ‘pimps’ and abusers that it isn’t really that big a deal to use and abuse the vulnerable. They do not take it seriously. I had one man say, after molesting his daughters, “I only did it for 60 seconds.” His church gave him a short proving period and then life went on as before. He had a history of sexually assaulting starting in his teens, right up to his late 40’s when I confronted him. The church blinked. Didn’t report. Bishop from PA intervened in TX to help navigate it. And life went on as before. (I tried to report. The social work I was communicating with who was passionate about the case, when I called back a few weeks later, was told, “She is no longer with us”. The church leaders talked with the Sergeant, and he stopped responding. I will never know why. I have solid evidence and an open confession in my possession, legally obtained. And the law does nothing. The church does nothing more than they have to.
That, my friends, is how sex trafficking continues in church.
These things have desensitized many in the church culture, and silenced others for many years.
And while all of that is going on, and children are being stripped, destroyed, raped and programmed… on the streets and in church… We can’t get our act together to stand firm against this wickedness….
ANONYMOUS SEXUAL ABUSE SURVEY BY ANABAPTIST MEDICAL DOCTOR
Some time ago, a friend told me of a medical doctor (Anabaptist) who is doing research into sexual abuse in Anabaptist communities. To take his survey visit: Anabaptist Medical Matters
JASON GRAY CONCERT:
NOVEMBER 2, 2019
Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster PA
CONCERT TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC: Here
NOTE: Due to the concert being the celebration for survivors of abuse,
we ask that any who have sexually abused as adults not attend out of respect
November 2, 2019: THE GATHERING, held at Lancaster Bible College, is a place where survivors of sexual assault, together with our support person(s), collectively invite God into our grief. It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse and trusted support persons to gather for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering and sexual violence among us. We will cry out to God, together. Come as you are in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. We welcome you! The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to grieve and 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.
NOTE: After August 1 concert is included dependant on availability. Once concert tickets are sold out, registrations will continue until October 1 and include lunch only.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.
There I was, praying for our family. I had just started a prayer for our unborn grand-baby, when God interrupted. And He seemed quite off-topic, at that. I mean, I’m praying blessing over the next generation, and asking Him to keep His hand on this child, and all kinds of good things, and He says, “You keep taking your eyes off of Jesus”.
It took me off guard. “You keep taking your eyes off of Jesus,” He said again.
Let me tell you, when God interrupts a prayer for a grand baby, you listen. Because it must be important. After all, He knows all about how we grandparents get on about grandchildren, from the day you find out about the first one being on the way, until the great-grand-babies and great-great-grand-babies show up. He wired us that way. (And you never interrupt a first-time grandparent prattling on about the baby, and how the mama is doing, and “he’s going to be such a good daddy”…. You just don’t. You let them chatter and you celebrate with them.
God knows this. And He still interrupted me. Funny thing, I didn’t have to shift from grand-baby chatter to ask, “What are you talking about?” I knew. But to make sense of it, let me tell the backstory…
It all began few months ago, toward the end of ‘the crazy’ of things with the ASAA, and the other two guys, whom I shall not name. (And if you don’t know the story, just settle for knowing there was some conflict surrounding a young woman who was molested, which intertwined with a lot of other insane stuff, and I was involved. I had hard evidence — and still do — of things that needed addressing. And still do. But, alas, male power and religious dominance shall prevent such things. As for the law, some of the details could go either way at this point, form my understanding).
But it began there, when I realized the darkness of the way things were handled was getting to me, and I decided “I’m out”. I intended never to address it again, publicly, and respond in private to people by offering evidence and letting them deal with that, rather than taking my word for it. And that is what I did. Until this week. Over the weeks and months emails, phone calls and facebook messages trickled in. One of the two ‘other guys’ involved was saying “…..” and is it true? Or “From what (the one guy said), you [….]”
Other messages were kind-hearted souls wanting us to ‘kiss and make up’ and play nice in the church sandbox again. The pain of us leaders not being in relationship was/is almost too much. And some shared what they had been told were the issues. Peripheral things… I was just trying to destroy the one guy. I was jealous of his ministry, some said. Whatever trickled in, trickled out my left ear about as pick as it slipped in the right. When tempted to tackle it, I reminded myself, “I’m out”. Until this week.
I’ll confess up front that when I first heard it, I laughed. It was, in my mind, the most absurd accusation to date. I don’t recall when someone first said it, but it was some weeks ago, and I ignored it. Until I learned more details (which would require half a dozen blogs to explain, and it isn’t relevant, so I’ll not bother about that), and the story behind it. I forgot completely that “I’m out”, and I addressed it.
The story was pulled out of thin air that I wanted to be on the ASAA board, and being offended, I started spreading lies about the aforementioned group and people. In January I was asked by the then-vice-chair of the ASAA board if I had any advice for them. Not other than one thing, I said, and that was to vet their board, interview each one personally and make sure there is no history of abuse or molestation that is not taken care of. With so many ministries associated through board members (Life Ministries, Strait Paths, Kenny K. – as a pastor and counsellor, the Reed brothers, and others) I urged them to be thorough so it would not damage those ministries. He let me know that the board was fully in place and nothing could be done about it, and if that were to take place, he would also be disqualified. I said that since it has nothing to do with me (by extension not Generations Unleashed), it was merely advice and up to them. However, Tim and I talked and decided that if they did not vet their board members thoroughly, we would not have anything to do with any formal or informal involvement, beyond attending.
Based on that interaction, he decided I wanted to be on the board, or so he said when I confronted him about spreading the lie that I wanted to be on the board. That’s how he took our interaction, he said, and he was sorry *if* he had misunderstood. There was exactly three days between that conversation and our falling out, which happened about the time I asked him to explain what he meant when he said he would be disqualified from ASAA leadership if they vetted those with unresolved abuse/molestation history. ( I won’t get into those details.) From that point forward, things in our relationship deteriorated, with some attempts to work through things.
That’s the backstory, but the reason I laughed when I heard it was two-fold. First, I tried to picture me working with a team of conservative Mennonite men that closely. Somehow, as much as I’ve learned to respect many of them in healthy relationship, including leaders, the picture makes me giggle. Knowing me and my story… Nope… I just can’t see any formal ties like that working well for either side. And I’ve never had any such ambitions. I’m happy to help them in any way possible, and support them, but a partnership?
While I wasn’t so much ‘put off’ as humoured, it was that tie to the organization (ASAA) that bothered me.
In fairness, I had taken information that was brought to me and I believed to be true, and shared it publicly (regarding the break and enter). Immediately upon discovering it could not be proven with evidence, I apologized both publicly and privately to him.
I was content to leave it at that, assuming he really had nothing to do with it, and feeling badly for ever having brought it up with no evidence.
And all I was hoping for from him when I approached him about the unfounded rumours of me wanting to be on the board, was to own up that pulling such an assumption out of the context of our January conversation — when our conversation was really only focused on addressing vetting board members and his comment — was neither right nor justifiable. No such apology was forthcoming.
Truth is, I’ve hardly thought about any of this since starting school apart from tending to the messages and questions that come in, as I was able. Somehow PhD work is not easier than the Masters was, and leaves little time for worrying about past kerfluffles. But, having confronted the source of the rumours/lies, and receiving no acknowledgement, it is hard not to shift at the waves.
So here I am, now, having spent several days looking back at the mess of this past year once again. Nothing resolved or appropriately addressed. The man who was sending inappropriate texts over the past few years and who molested one young woman, as recently as October still offered massages to someone via text and voice mail. (To his church’s credit, they have finally acted on the allegations and put him out of membership). The leader with whom I had a falling out … well, that remains as it was. And ASAA… besides my alleged disappointment at being excluded, it all sits as it was, and so shall it remain by all appearances.
And that is where that interruption came in… Having spent a day with our daughter, shopping all things young mama for her birthday, seeing her round tummy, hearing her tell about the kicking and the changes, and loving life. And suddenly finding myself back in the muddle of things gone by that stand no chance of resolution, no hope of relational redemption… And the only good having come so far being that, while fluffy popularity dropped this past year (thank you Jesus! I don’t do fluff and bandwagon), the truth is we have become surrounded by countless warriors and hundreds of new people we never knew before have stepped up to support us in so many ways. I’ve never had such a thing before. Total strangers, over and over and over again, writing to say they are praying. Some also contributing to the costs of all the travel this past year, and all saying we are in this together. (Thirteen out of country trips in a year add up… So, again, thank you to those who contributed).
Those are beautiful and meaningful things, for which I am so grateful! And I value each new friend and partner in this war against sexual violence with deep appreciation. But none of those things replace loss of trust and loss of relationships that have fallen by the wayside as a result of this past year. They do not replace the loss that comes when things are not handled in an open and forthright manner; when politics and polite society is more important than truth. These things are huge losses I grieve from this past year, and the zero-hope-of any future redemption, saddens me. But I embrace the redemptions that have come out of it, and accept that those may well have been some of the purpose in the first place.
But the losses… They are the things that, when the waves start to rise — sometimes because someone dropped a giant boulder in the water, sometimes for other reasons — and the waters get unsteady, those things distract me. And I struggle to see Jesus in the chaos. The waves of discouragement at how things unfolded. The waves of lost trust. The waves of my own failures and mistakes in it — especially getting it wrong and speaking out about the break-in with no evidence, and the harm and injustice toward so many of the wounded out there..
These waves rise and fall….
And through the waves, in the middle of that prayer for our grand-baby, where the heart is quiet and tender and undistracted by the ills and evils of life and the world….
There God whispered. And I am now deliberately, determinedly, yet humbly turning my eyes away from the waves, once again, to the Master of the waves; the Creator of the Universe, the One who made the heaven and the earth….
And our sweet grand-baby.
Because I want my heart to be quiet and tender, undistracted by the ills and evils of this world. And God and grand-babies, even unborn ones, they offer that.
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
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