Mennonite men break-in (update) & a fine poop sandwich

The plot thickens, more like cream gone sour, surprising the coffee drinker with curdles, than like clotted cream, the essential companion to British scones. The latter is delightful and delicious, especially when topped with jelly. The former is unpleasant and disappointing…. the coffee you don’t bother finishing.

To think, when we learned that others knew about the break-in and did the blog on it, that I thought I was ‘closing the door’ on an impossible situation, having given up on any element of acknowledgement or apology for the real victims. I wanted to return to university without this hanging over my head. Now, here we are, with not a shred more hope of that apology, and new information coming forward.

It is unfortunate, the way this most recent story has shaken out… Several people have continued insisting they knew of the break-in, and one spoke out prior to me writing about it, yet no one owns up to having told it. Mystery among mysteries, I say. So that’s the way that part of the story ends. At least for now,. Or maybe for always.

Rather anti-climactic, in my opinion, and left with too many questions, with no hope for a sequel to provide answers. I’m letting that part go, completely, as there is absolutely nothing I can do, or feel I should do.

***

On September 6, I was asked by Steve Stutzman to remove the blog addressing this whole mess about the break-in, because “it in fact contains quite a bit of error, even outside of me”. Tim asked if that means it is true there was an actual break-in, and Steve said it appears there was. My response was that I don’t see how removing the conversation will help, when there is a buried crime (or crimes) here. Breaking into a business is a crime, and even the law has a ‘right way and a wrong way’ to obtain evidence, so asking for a bit of accountability seems justified. And not reporting so that the lawbreakers are dealt with – if the law sees fit – is also a crime. And producing child porn and sex trafficking – if those allegations hold any water –  are both crimes. (Of course one is bad crime, and the other ‘good’ crime, as measured by some.)

So I responded to Steve with some of my questions and said I need some answers about what really happened. I need something to explain this crazy story I was told by the ASAA member… Because it was told to me by a leader who told me to never to speak of it, and now I am left to hold the poop bag, not knowing for sure if it is dinosaur poop or dog pop, or 100% pure angus bull. I think the least that is owed to those of us who were told some version of this scenario is some kind of explanation – reasonable or not – that tells the truth. That’s what I said – in different words, because I know there was more than a little smoke, and convincing me there is/was no fire isn’t going to happen.

To his credit, Steve responded to my questions by sharing what he knows, or thinks he knows. So I decided to do a blog to tell the ‘rest of the story’ that we know to date, as told to us by Steve, and this time we have screenshots of the conversation. (Since we are not able to communicate with the ASAA member, we cannot verify it with him.) Steve was respectful, and responded candidly… And if it turns out these bits are wrong, well… Try to think of it a bit like a ‘play by play’, because, honestly, the silence of the ages has become deafening, and the lumps under the carpet from past incidents that have allowed time to lapse until everyone gives up… those lumps stink to high heaven.

So, in good faith that what Steve shared is true, I am offering this update.

But first some wonderments…

Thinking back to May 27, 2018, what was the point of the ASAA member telling me the story of the break-in in the first place, but not with enough detail for me to report or do anything? No business name. No exact location. Just a story of a small handful of Mennonite men taking the law into their own hands. The story details all enthusiastically told, but being careful not to say who the players were, or where. The men in that car…  the men who went in… full gear and all carefully orchestrated. The alarm, and the crunch time for escaping, so as not to get caught.

It was what he didn’t say, though – especially avoiding names – that left the immediate impression he was involved at the time of the break in, rather than after the fact as it turns out. (It is easy to get lost in a story with multiple characters and no names.)  That missing identifying information in such an intense story, I reckon played a role in convincing me that he was actually involved at the time of the initial crime. That impression was so strong, in fact, that I called my husband after that conversation and told him this guy is no ordinary Mennonite… he was part of a break-in, and said how these guys wanted to retrieve evidence that the business owner was producing child porn and/or involved in sex-trafficking. One of the things that made me realize the role this lack of information would have played, was trying to tell the details to a gentleman in PA this week, who is a truth warrior. I went over all the information I have, walked through it, and for the pieces where I was not allowed to use names, or did not have names, it became very hard to track. So I leave room for that having played a role, and that he did not intentionally lead me to believe he was part of the actual break-in… (However, he did become involved after the fact, according to Steve, and I will get to that).

And then, having heard the story from the ASAA member and shared it with Tim on the phone, I forgot about it… The story didn’t resurface in my memory until August 2018.

(Being completely candid, if I could please, and jumping on a bunny trail to keep a promise… It resurfaced after I read the letter from ASAA, August 22, 2018. Processing the content, my first thought probably was something like, “Nice poop sandwich”, the way they had written nice things and thank you, then went on to make it very clear that I had done things wrong that collided with their good way of doing things. For example, I am too public, but they failed to acknowledge that their board member told a reporter to contact me. So one of my next thoughts was, “You hypocrites!! Judge me for speaking publicly, but one of you directed a reporter to me!

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A woman I met in 2012 said a poop sandwich is when someone starts a letter and ends a letter by saying something nice, and squishes ‘poop’ in between.

Later I thought, “You judge me for doing the right thing the wrong way, but you are involved and covering for a break-in!” And that’s what I’ve thought ever since. I still do. Yes, believe me, when I read that letter, every inconsistent bit floated to the surface. I’ll spare the analogy that comes to mind, but somewhere in there I lost all hope of truth and justice having any place in this story. It doesn’t take four months to get to a place of saying, “BTW, there is no investigation and the ‘outside person’ is not here for that.” And all the while, I genuinely believed it was happening, and defended them out of pure trust. And all the while people warned me, and I encouraged them to have a little faith. To some of you I promised I would admit if I was wrong, and I would do so publicly. I was wrong. The letter did not come through with the assurance that they would do the right thing with the information. In fact, that part wasn’t even addressed in the closing communication. It never has been, other than leading me to believe they were doing something with it. It has taken me weeks since the letter to process that shock, but what many of you predicated would happen, indeed has. I’m sorry I tried talking many of you into trusting the process. I was wrong when I assured you that, based on what they told me, they would respond thoroughly and quickly. And, on that note, the ASAA member told me not to let him/them take over the situation unless I want action, “because I am an action man”. That was May 27. It is September 8 today. Still nothing.)

But back on track…

One big unanswered question, for me, has been, “Just what was the ASAA member’s role in all of this schmozzle?” In part, that question was answered by Steve, who told us what he had learned about the ASAA member’s role.

According to Steve, the ASAA member was brought in after the fact for a purpose that was not disclosed; a purpose Steve said he did not know. Nor was it disclosed by whom that person was brought into the story, or how soon after the incident. However noble the intent may or may not have been, the law was still broken, and crimes still went unreported. The break and enter was not reported. And the suspected trafficking and child porn production was not reported. So God only knows what children have been put at risk since then, all because of illegally obtained photo-shots of the alleged crime scene, and an alleged download of a hard drive were not turned over to the law.

Assuming Steve’s intel is accurate, then there was, in fact, a break-in. And what could he possibly gain from giving me faulty intel in writing so that we have proof he said it? He knows now I will make public whatever needs to be made public to end this abuse of power, and abuse of women and children. It would be particularly foolish in such a high profile mess to speak what is not truth in such a format that it can be produced as hard evidence of its source. That said, I can’t rule it out, but I lean towards believing these details.

The comfort is that no one conjured the information about the break-in out of thin air. (And, believe me, after the gaslighting earlier on, and the cut communication, and some of the other stuff that happened, it can mess with the mind and leave you wondering if the whole thing is just a nasty nightmare.)

Based on what I was personally told, May 27, the break-in did involve at least some Mennonite/Anabaptist men. What business it was has never been disclosed to me, but according to the ASAA member’s account of it on May 27, the business owner accused of having incriminating evidence in his office was also some sort of Mennonite/Anabaptist.

The reason the alleged evidence of the suspected sex trafficking and suspected child porn production was left unreported was because these men went in illegally to get that evidence.

That answers a few questions. And it creates an awful lot of new ones, but I am leaving those for the law to look into. There may, or may not be any more updates as it’s hard to say if ever I will get any more information, or how reliable such information will be, unless the law finds something and acts on it.

It’s a bummer, the way this all came flying down the pipe, and not being able to communicate with ASAA, creating that tough spot of needing to make a call; to be silent or speak out when there is no other way to communicate but publicly, and then find out that a) the story indeed proves to be accurate – or – b) the smoke leads to a fire, and it is accurate info – or – c) the smoke did indeed lead to a fire, but not the fire you thought you had on your hands. It turned out to be the latter. There was a fire, and while it’s similar to the one we thought, there are some aspects that are different, and some that absolutely cannot be proven one way or the other.

In a nutshell, allegedly the ASAA member (according to Steve Stutzman) was asked to get involved, and had knowledge of the break-in after the fact, for an unknown purpose. (We do not know if more than one member of ASAA knew of this incident.) This involvement may have been to ‘help’, but it did not include reporting the break-in or the alleged sex-trafficking/child porn production to the law. (I reiterate, the ‘not reporting’ is according to the ASAA member’s conversation with me, May 27, when I asked if it was reported). There is a legal term for having knowledge of a crime and not reporting it. But in church we call it coverup. In this case I’d be particularly interested in knowing how it was justified, if not to protect those who committed the crime, because the involved leader represents an organization that public states the importance of reporting.

But, frankly, with that said, I am far more concerned about the fact the business owner was not reported, and the proof/evidence – whatever word you want (namely, incriminating photos taken at the scene. If someone has the – whatever it takes – to break into a business to retrieve evidence of a crime, and wants that crime dealt with, then said person better have the integrity and honour to face the consequences for the crime they committed in obtaining that evidence. And if I stand for reporting child abuse, then I better also report suspected sex trafficking and child porn production. Especially if I’m going to judge someone else as “doing the right thing the wrong way”. I am weary of the hypocrisy. And I hope these men will be forthcoming with the law and tell the whole story, the whole truth. There might be consequences, but it would restore a bit of faith in humanity for many of us.

Because if we can’t work with truth, to the best of our knowledge and ability, and be consistent with reporting, rather than selective, and if we don’t have the character to say, “I really blew it and I’m sorry” – and then face the consequences – then what have we got? We have a god-complex deciding who is guilty and who is not, and we certainly don’t believe in reporting.

And that is a good segue to my next thought…

Publicly and privately I have been challenged as to why I would apologize to someone so powerful as Steve Stutzman. The answer is quite simple. Because I was wrong. I don’t need to ponder, debate, negotiate or wonder if that is the right thing. When I am wrong, I own it. If I did not own it, I would be a hypocrite among hypocrites, because from the start the thing I have asked for is that the men involved in this ‘story’ own their wrongs/crime, apologize to the public, and face whatever the consequences might be. I have no right to ask such a thing if I do not first exemplify it. That’s why I apologized. I was wrong, and I try to be consistent and lead by example.

The hardest part in it all was not the oversized serving of humble pie. It was watching as the victims of sexual assault, lewd phone calls, name-calling, gaslighting (not referring to myself), and more  — who, to date, have not been appropriately acknowledged by any of the men involved in this tragic event – suffer through the neglect to address the concerns. Their trauma has not been appropriately acknowledged by the perpetrator of the sexual assault and lewd phone calls, it has not been appropriately acknowledged by Steve, and the further wounding that they went through (in some of the responses) has not been appropriately acknowledged either. Not by any of these men.

The true victims have received no sincere apology for what they have been through, and have suffered anxiety, nightmares, suicidal ideations, and more. They watched as I apologized publicly for passing on information I had in a “they said he said” situation, when they got no apology. There is no justice in that. They watched as leaders became the victims in the story, while they were judged for their anger, and uncomfortable cry for justice.

That, for me is the hardest part. To watch as the real victims in the scenario are, once again — and as tends almost always to happen — overlooked and disregarded. I have read and studied and worked with too many cases to miss the consistent pattern going on here. It makes me ill.

Until that changes, and leaders rise up and apologize to the victims — and dare I add, in a timely manner — and do so on their own behalf for not doing more to protect, and on behalf of the offenders, until then we can kiss change goodbye. Until then we can definitely count on a new and more whitewashed manner of doing the same old thing.

In this holding pattern we continue to idolize leaders without question, build them pedestals and cushion them, while allowing victims to be oppressed, disregarded and judged. Offenders continue to avoid consequences – at least those offenders whom leaders protect. And that is true of those offenders in any criminal activity. And we continue to live as though we are above the law.

I , for one, want no part of it. I will continue to own my wrongs, but I sure as blazes won’t apologize because I make people uncomfortable. We are way past needing comfort. We need raw repentance from the top down. And I’m talking ‘in action’, not lip service. Any one of us can do the latter.

Living it out consistently is a very different thing. And that I have yet to see happen by the truly powerful religious leaders with image to protect.  Just have not yet seen it. And I regret that. In fact, I would dare say it isn’t possible as long as image and power are involved.

On that note,

And as always…

As I close this chapter of life… or maybe the end of ‘this book’… You are in my heart and my prayers…. I care especially about the unacknowledged and true victims in this story, who remain badly neglected. For this, I am very sorry, and I carry that grief with me.

God will bring justice.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

At the End of the Road (Suicides, Crime & Fallout from Ashley Madison Leak)

The house is empty now… devoid of laughter and voices; perfectly still. The family dog no longer runs playfully after the pitter-patter of little feet. Mostly she just lays there, on the mat by the door, disinterested and depressed.  The teddy bear, still curled up on the floor where it was dropped that day, remains untouched. I wonder, does she cry for it, or has a new one taken it’s place? Covers unmade, hanging off the bed… A dress never worn again, on the arm of the corner chair. Everything else, perfectly in place, and clean, except for the collecting dust. It builds up so fast.

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Has it really been only two weeks? Two long, hopelessly silent weeks? It seems like forever. The sun stopped shining, as if drawing a curtain on the world, with no promise of tomorrow. It has rained for two weeks now, and the forecast shows no sign of change. How did the elements know that on that day, my world would lose it’s light? I didn’t even appreciate the light when I had it…

I should have seen it coming, I suppose. And in a way I did. But I kept saying it would change. I would change. I kept promising to get help; to do better, that I would stop, and they would be safe. I kept telling myself that I meant it. And I thought I did. But always, always, I was too weak and gave into my addictions. And always I abused them one more time until there was nothing left of the light that once sparkled in their eyes. The joy that once danced there, gone.

I wonder, was their world this dark, all those years? Had the sun set on them long ago? Did I just pretend there was laughter… that the dog wagged and chased and played? Did I lie to myself about that too, just so I could live with myself? Telling myself it wasn’t so bad, that they’d be okay?

Are they okay now? Now that I’m not with them, does their sun shine again? Do they laugh, and play and sing? I can’t bear to think of it, of them…

The house is empty now… devoid of laughter and voices; perfectly still. The family dog no longer runs playfully after the pitter-patter of little feet. Mostly she just lays there, disinterested and depressed.  The stuffing spills carelessly onto the floor, from the teddy bear still curled up on the floor, where it was dropped that day. The dog walks over, picks it up and carries it to her bed…  It’s all that’s left of the scent of her…

…that teddy bear, and the haunting memories and nightmares that visit me in my sleep…

This is the end of the road, for me, for us. The end result of the choices I made, this lonely hellish silence. I study the photos in my hand… My face has been ripped from some of them… I try not to think about it, but truth is I wonder which one hated me that much… or did they all? I run my finger along the outlines of their faces… I imagine standing in front of them and, if I had one more chance to talk to them, what would I say?

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“It’s not your fault.” I think that’s what I would want to say, to release them.

But it’s too late now…. now that I finally see it. Oh, I used to blame them, and say if they did better, I wouldn’t be like I am…. I wouldn’t make these ‘mistakes’. I did that to make me feel better too. But it wasn’t their fault, the way I was, and they were not ‘mistakes’, the things that I did… They were crimes,  and they were sins… And I did it to them. I chose to hurt them… I betrayed them. It was my lust, my lack of self control, my self interest, my sin… All of it is mine to own. Here. Alone.

“God, forgive me…. I don’t deserve Your grace. I don’t deserve them.”

****

As crimes and suicides are reported as possibly, even probably, being linked to the Ashley Madison leak, this ‘image’ of lonely people in vacant relationships played out in my mind… I pray that people will come face to face with truth in a way that is redemptive, not destructive, and that no more lives will be lost. The choices we make, relationally, always come with a price tag, a reward, or both. And the choice is always our own, and therefore the end result is the thing we each must face. And at the end of the road, when we stand in front of the mirror and see ourselves as we really are, we are confronted, again, with a choice. Do we accept responsibility or do we blame others and demand they overlook, ‘forgive on our terms’, or find some way or another to try to get off the hook?

There is always hope for a new life, and that is true whether you are a pastor, a police officer, a politician, a doctor, or a “Josh Duggar’–someone who has presented idealistic Christianity while sinning blatantly in the same arena–or any other human. No matter who you are, or what you have done, there is always an opportunity for new beginnings. But sometimes that ‘new’ begins by sitting alone in an empty house, because everyone who tired of the betrayal has packed and left. No matter who you are or what you have done, the ‘way out’ is to face it, own it, and ask for forgiveness without agenda; forgiveness that releases the people we wounded, allowing them to grieve and heal their way, and even to walk away.

My prayer is that many of the 40,000 people on the Ashley Madison list will own their sins, repent and find hope, freedom, forgiveness and new life.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger