Last week I had the honour of chatting with Asher Witmer about sexual abuse in conservative Anabaptist settings. It was a delight to engage in such a meaningful and respectful manner. He has posted the link on his podcast:
Today I will take a few moments to answer a few questions I’ve been asked many times, and especially recently in light of the shocking news of Jeriah Mast’s crimes in Haiti, and CAM leaders’ knowledge and failure to act responsibly:
- What are rates of victimization in Anabaptist communities?
We know rates of victimization are high. Is it 10%, is it 90% or somewhere in between? We don’t know.
In two schools I am aware of (each during a very particular timespan) the rates of students were over 50%. This was circumstantial in one of those settings, where the teacher molested many of the students. The other case was a mix of various abusers; a mix of adult abusers and teenagers. In a third setting several minors (all under 14) abused many children.
In contrast, I’ve been in communities that remain relatively free of abuse, by all appearances. People seem to speak freely enough about it, and there is a ‘sense’ that they really do have a protected community.
- Do I believe all conservative Anabaptists are sex offenders? (especially males?
Not at all. I don’t know the rates. Statistically the number lands at 117 per offender, based on self-reporting by sex offenders in prison. In our Anabaptist communities, I do not see the rates that high very often, but I do see between a dozen and twenty victims far too frequently. More than that, I see ‘trails’. Uncle ‘so and so’ molests his niece. The niece later molests a male child she is babysitting, and so on. Multiply that by 5 victims per offender and you have an epidemic, if those patterns are replicated. I could draw many ‘maps’ of abuse that span 4 generations, simply because victims have come to me spanning across the years.
Also, there are missionaries (not referring to Jeriah Mast), who are said to have many victims in several countries, as well as at home. But, again, the number of victims is unknown. And confirming that the details takes deep, deep investigation. (What made Haiti unique is that a few came forward, and several missionaries believed them, and soon realized it was a massive crime case.In other cases, while I do report to law enforcement as soon as I have reportable information (which has to be more than a rumour without names or location of offender), I often cannot report. There’s simply not enough information. All of the leads I have with even a hint of a trail that can be followed have been reported in 2019. Approximately half before the Jeriah Mast became public.
As more and more cases come forward and are exposed, I think we will get a clearer picture of how widespread this is. And if we can respectfully also name those who have taken ownership, we might be able to get ahead of this thing.
- What about those who have apologized for past offences, and are now church leaders who never turned themselves in to the law?
My role is to work with what is known, and to take my queues from victims.
- Is there no place for redemption in the life of someone who has offended?
Absolutely! I hold the grace of God in high regard. In light of the spiritual and eternal, the moment they genuinely repent they are free before God.
The grace of God, however, does not let me avoid the consequences of stealing a million dollars without repaying or doing prison time. Who of you, if someone took all that you had, would begin an outcry for everyone to forgive?
Are we really willing to say that a child’s life holds less value than money?
When a child (or adult) is sexually assaulted, the core of all of who they are is impacted; emotionally, spiritually, psychologically. Many, many victims struggle deeply with faith in God. Many walk away from their faith.
Are we really willing to say that a child’s soul is worth less than money?
These are a few of the questions I’ve been confronted with in recent days. There are more. Many more. And I am working towards either addressing them, or having someone address them.
Some take considerable work and research, which I don’t currently have time for. I have asked Hope Anne Dueck of A Better Way to pull together a post to address what signs to watch for that might indicate a child or teen has suffered abuse. She kindly agreed to work on organizing this.
If you have questions you would like addressed, please send them to email@example.com with the subject line “Blog: Question”. If I am not able to answer, or the time factor is more than I can commit, I will do my best to find someone willing to write an article.
If you are in ministry for the victimized and would like to submit an article appropriate to the topics addressed here, please send your idea to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Blog Article Idea”.
If you have resources to recommend for churches or for victims, please send them to email@example.com with the subject line “Victim Resources.” (NOTE: these will be screened. Content must be sensitive to the suffering of victim. Furthermore, resources cannot be the product of organizations or leaders and authors who *are known* to be abusers or to enable offenders, cover for them in any way, or neglect to address abuse appropriately in their own sphere of influence.
By way of update on the young woman who was assaulted at age 7… Today was ‘search for a counselor day’. Two donations have come in so far with enough funds to cover the first few sessions. (We are still waiting to confirm the fee, so not sure just how many). Thank you for contributing. This is will require ongoing support. If you wish to contribute, you may do so via PayPal through: firstname.lastname@example.org.
She extends her thanks and appreciation. One day, when this all comes to light, I pray that you will continue to hold her in prayer and support. And I pray that you will see the powerful redemption God brings to the most horrific of places and stories.
~ T ~
ONLY 2 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief. It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.
NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.
Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.
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 email@example.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.