Pedophilia; a sexual orientation? And if churches protect molesters, should society overlook pedophilia?

Next Thursday I will lead a discussion in my Sociology of Deviance class. Our prof has given us an extensive list of readings from which to choose, as discussion leaders, out of which we choose two for our class to read and discuss. One of the two I chose addresses whether pedophilia is a sexual orientation, versus a crime. My interest in the topic is self-explanatory. My father was a pedophile. But my interest in this slant to the subject is not so straight forward.

I’ve long taken issue with church protecting pedophiles in the name of forgiveness, and then fretting over how they can protect their children from predators ‘out there’. The same holds true with the prevalence of homosexuality and lesbianism in our Anabaptist culture, and then being all horrified at the ‘sexual perversion’ that exists ‘out there’. Or, as one elderly conservative Anabaptist woman told me a few months ago, they knew ‘back in the day’ that if you missed your period and were not ready for another baby, that you just purchased naturopathic products to cause a miscarriage. But abortion is met with extreme judgement against those ‘out there’. (I understand that some readers will find this shocking and hard to believe, as I did also, at first. Now I have enough stories documented from eight years of working mostly with ‘my people’, and by that I mean conservative Mennonite, not the people of my birth culture – that the shock factor is lost on me.)

Of all of these, pedophilia is the only one that is blatantly and openly ‘protected’ in our culture, by many at the leadership level, as well as lay members. And, I shudder to say this out loud, but in my experience women more actively cover for men than men cover for themselves, many times. Homosexuality/lesbianism, premarital sex and abortion are present aplenty – albeit, with much denial all around – but harshly condemned, whereas pedophilia is openly and actively protected. Yet, not one person in my experience has ever expressed that pedophilia ‘out there’ should be overlooked. In fact, when such news comes to light ‘out there’ all the appropriate gasps escape lips in church.

This double standard ‘because we are sorry, so we must be forgiven and not face consequences’ boggles my mind. I would think that if we are so sorry, truly, deeply sorry, then we would face the consequences with humility. (I also know if I was a sex offender looking to hide, I’d put on some cultural attire and adhere to the strictest rules possible, and look as holy as possible.) It has been my observation that many times when society pushes for a particular agenda – ie; same-sex rights and marriage – that church has already long lived that very thing in some form and hidden it. Same holds true for abortion. It was in church, secretly, long before it was legal at a political level. So who are we to judge?

Pedophilia is no exception. It has not only been present in church for ages, but there’s the blatant protection of those who engage in child molestation. It is only reasonable to expect (and dare I say support) society to legalize it as a sexual orientation, and decriminalize it, if we are already there in how we handle these crimes. So, when this happens, church, spare us all the gasps. At least until first there has been a great repentance across the many denominations in Christendom because we have blood on our hands, and pointing bloody fingers at others is especially shameful. And when that repentance has come, the gasping will cease – because gasping at ‘their sin’ is the work of arrogance, self-righteousness and denial, not the work of love, grace and the Gospel of Jesus, and especially when we begin to acknowledge we have the same sins among us.

So, on Thursday, when I engage a handful of young scholars, I anticipate there will be a stronger stand against pedophilia than what I am accustomed to in my work, as relates to engaging leaders of pedophiles, or their spouses, parents or families. On Thursday I anticipate the class will say even if it is determined to be an orientation, that the person should have to face consequences, and it should still be a crime.

Ironically, in this secular space there seems a much clearer view of the horror and damage done by molestation than I am used to hearing in church …. unless, of course, if we are talking about the man ‘out there’ who, God help him, ‘used’ his children. Or the school teacher ‘out there’ who touched a student. Or the neighbour man/boy from ‘out there’ who so much as makes a flirtatious pass at one of ‘ours’. Or the ungodly man who stalks, kidnaps and rapes one of ours. When it is one of ‘them’ we gasp and weep and ask why. We cannot grasp what wickedness would drive such a person. We acknowledge the horror and the trauma. Our worlds are rocked when ‘one of them’ invade our space and do the very thing that is already happening among us. But when it is one of ours, we don’t believe the victim.

I was around fourteen years old when a young aboriginal boy attempted to rape a girl at knife-point in our community. We were all shaken. He was one of my best friends and had never so much as looked at me in a way that felt inappropriate. In a matter of days he was shipped back to where he came from, leaving our community reeling. I felt both loss of innocence (mostly because of the knife, and thus the violent nature of the crime) and loss of my friend. But no one shipped away the leader’s son who, minus the knife, sexually assaulted some of us to varying degrees. He was successful. It wasn’t an attempt. But he claimed at least one as mutual consent, and took ownership of what he did to me, and life went on as always. It is the most profound example of my youth, of that ‘us and them’ difference, and how in church it just goes away.

There comes a steep price tag with that kind of thing. God says “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). I am convinced that most of what we gasp at ‘out there’, is directly linked to what we hide and overlook among us as God’s people. I am convinced that our repentance and the ‘turning from wickedness’ that moves the hand of God to heal our land is not because we repent for them ‘out there’. He heals our land because we repent for having first wandered away from Him.

Our land needs healing. God’s people need to stop pointing out there and living a double standard, and start repenting in here. If ‘ours’ don’t deserve punishment for molesting children, then I vote that the law criminalizing such behaviour be done away with. The day our expectations of society are higher than that of God’s people, we have absolutely nothing left to offer. And shame on us if that is how we live while proclaiming the name of Jesus.

It’s time to choose which it will be.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Is There Life After #Denial About #Sexual Abuse?

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Denial. That ability to survive in a state of extreme trauma, by living as though that reality does not exist. It is a gift in childhood, when our young minds have no understanding of that trauma, and cannot formulate words to express it. A natural response, it sustains life for a time.

But there comes a time, as we grow older, when living out of a place that is not reality robs us of experiencing life to the fullest. The energy we invest in survival, and keeping the truth of trauma buried, leaves us with little to offer in the way of life and hope to others. Spouses live with walls in between, children with a disconnected parent.

And if that denial is the offender’s manipulation–his or her way of avoiding responsibility–it pierces the heart of the victim. Twice victimized, is how it feels when offenders play that game.

Denial forces victims to retreat in lifeless existence, dieing in the shadows of buried trauma and painful memories. But truth is life and freedom. Truth breathes life into the soul. Because all truth is God’s truth, and all truth makes people free. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

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And when Truth breathes, it coaxes life from death itself, offering hope in the shadows of nothingness that are left in the wake of molestation and abuse. And all that denial and lies tried to suffocate, breathes with new purpose. And in a sudden and ironic twist, life suffocates death, as the thing designed to bring death is redeemed and brings life to others trapped in denial.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Duggar Sister’s (Part 2): Long-term Impact of Juvenile Molestation on Marriage & Trampled Young Hearts

Juvenile Offenders & Potential Impact of Their Crimes, Later in Life & Marriage:
One reality about Josh–and we can hate this reality or not, it is true and necessary to consider–is that he was a juvenile offender whose crimes should not have been made public, if I understand accurately. That said, though, there again are various opinions, even from lawyers. (According to information I found online outlining these laws, my understanding is it should have been protected….but God only knows, at a quick glance, if this info is up to date. And maybe the lawmakers know too.) Here in Ontario this is certainly the case with victims, as I was reminded when I recently provided support for several underage victims and the detectives reminded them that there would be  publication ban, and the information would not be made public. One can always hope that will be the case. And it is also the case with offenders as I discovered when I learned that a former deacon’s son molested a boy under age 18 and was protected. Those are the laws. And on that front the Duggar family has had their privacy severely violated.

While most fourteen-year-olds do not fully understand the consequences of their behaviour, it is no less a crime and should be called just that. It is also sin, in our ‘Christianese speak’ and according to God’s Book–and a crime for which a teen would have been stoned in ‘the olden days’–so we Christians should call it a sin and a crime, not a ‘a bad thing’ or ‘a mistake’. That is not appropriate terminology for molestation, when we call homosexuality–a consenting sexual interaction between ‘adults’–a sin, which it is in the Bible I read and believe. Regardless how biblically wrong and sinful, it is not a crime against the innocent and vulnerable. So let’s call molestation a sin and a crime, not ‘a bad thing’.

Reinforcing the severity of that crime, and the sinfulness of it, will help the victims realistically understand and deal with what happened to their spirits in the process. Because the truth is that the offender being juvenile does not lessen the impact of the violation on victims, as it relates to the heart and spirit of a child. Many victims–both male and female–pay a high price in marriage for that violation. A relatively high percent of victims I work with were violated by offenders under eighteen, and even under fourteen, but the PTSD and other ‘aftermath’ they suffer is all the evidence I need that age does not negate damage, in many situations.

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A woman may find it difficult or impossible to enjoy sexual intimacy, or go into panic after or during intercourse as a result, depending on the extent and nature of the violation. Or she may push her husband away if he wants to touch her breasts, and not immediately associate the repulsion or resistance to past violation. A man may find it difficult to allow his wife to touch his genitals, or feel inadequate and struggle to enter into intimacy, or retreat sexually in some other way. This is a big deal. When it becomes a marriage struggle, which in more cases than enough leads to infidelity or struggles with sexual addictions, even having been groped and grabbed become a ‘big deal’ that cannot be ignored.

Unfortunately many couples don’t understand their feelings or associate them with past victimization, and therefore don’t get the help they need.  And spouses often take that rejection personal, escalating the dysfunction and increasing the risk of the marriage failing. The good news, for those who do get help and piece these things together, is that many can and do overcome these barriers. Once that understanding is there, the individuals can move past blaming themselves,  or feeling helplessly and hopelessly inadequate. Then restoration can begin. (I’ve helped more than one couple work through this and restore healthy sexual intimacy. However, I am in no way trained or licensed and it can be quite emotionally draining, so I’m not signing up to be the next Dr. Ruth…)

These consequences will potentially come into play in marriage even when things have been ‘dealt with’ and victims have ‘moved on’, borrowing the words of Jessa. For these and many other reasons, it is important to recognize that victims need space and the ‘right’ or ‘permission’ to go through the rise and fall of  the aftermath. There will come a time when Josh’s victims may need that permission, and hopefully that will be respected. On the other hand, some victims, particularly those who were not violated to the point of rape, attempted rape, or other more invasive abuse, may be able to move on and face few ongoing consequences. Every victim is unique, with needs as unique as their ‘person’, and those needs should be honoured.

Juvenile Victims & The Careless Trampling of Hearts:
Certainly, Josh’s victims were very violated as the media trampled through their private lives. I don’t care what TV show they were on, the victims should have had their privacy respected. And while names were not given, it didn’t take a particularly brilliant mind to do the math and piece it together. In this the girls are right to feel violated. I am not ready to jump on the ‘they are being persecuted’ wagon, but at the same time I feel badly for them to have had their stories thrown in public that way, at a time not of their choosing.

On the flip side, one clue that maybe the healing isn’t as deep and permanent as they would hope and wish–speaking of the girls’ and their parents’ presentation of healing–is the reaction to this whole thing becoming public. Once that healing is complete, and every aspect has been dealt with and truly moved on, then there is no fear or anxiety in the public knowing, if there’s nothing to hide. But that exposure must be subject to the victim’s timetable, not the public’s. I write from experience here.

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Two years ago, when I was writing my memoir in which I disclose numerous incidents of having to perform oral sex (mostly on females) in early childhood, I had mild panic attacks at the prospect of people knowing even superficial details. It felt horribly vulnerable, offensive and somewhat violating, just to think about the public knowing. By the time my original manuscript was complete, I had come to relative peace with it, and suffered only occasional moments of mild anxiety. But the day my editor wrote and said I would need to be more direct, in summer of 2014, only about seven months from my release date, and told me I need to actually ‘name’ the abuse–that abuse being oral sex–I freaked out. I burst into tears, and my fist landed hard on the countertop as I declared to my husband, “They can’t make me do this! They can’t make me do this!” And then, having composed myself somewhat, I said, “I don’t think I can go through with publishing my story. I think I have to get out of the contract.”

Having vented, wept, grieved, and cried before God… and begged Him to help me say it in a way that would not be destructive, but would still tell the truth, I set to work one more time. And that time the words came. I ran parts past several friends, Monica Orr and Tina Miller, who did not know me in person, but with whom I had developed a trust relationship, and batted the manuscript back and forth, back and forth, until I felt it was balanced. When that process was finished, my heart had healed at a whole new level. At age 45, actively in ministry for almost 5 years, and with 24 years of healing behind me, I finally felt released fully, for the first time in my life.

So I understand the panic the Duggar girls felt at the story leaking, and I also believe they could still have a bit of a healing journey ahead of them. My prayer is that they find the support and encouragement they need, and that they are given permission by the gentlemen in their lives, and even their parents, to walk that road, as needed. My prayer is that they (and their parents eventually as well) will have a solid grasp on the consequences and severity of sexual abuse, even in juvenile cases, as that is an important part of breaking the chains and generational cycles that begin… or carry on, as the case may be. It is a sad thing when reality hits with the next generation. At that point some snap, and others simply talk it down again…

While it is very possible, maybe even likely, that there was a strong PR influence in the interview, my instincts tell me the girls were being honest about ‘what they know and believe’ including how healed they are and feel, based on where they are at in life, right now. Just what that will mean with time, is a story yet to unfold, and a journey only they can walk. And one the public would do well to stay the heck out of.

To be Continued…

Love,
~ T ~

TO REGISTER for Lancaster Pennsylvania Conference,  July 10-11, 2015 visit: GenerationsUnleashed.com
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© Trudy Metzger