Sexual Abuse: To Confront… or Not to Confront the Abuser?

Trudy Metzger
For the Independent

This less than popular topic is worthy of space in the black and white world of the printed word, even if it is less than popular in the real world. In working with people, I never push it. It’s not my call to make. About 10% of clients, or less, opt for talking to the perpetrator. Most are too afraid.

When victims choose to confront, they sometimes ask me to be present as a mediator or witness, or make initial contact with the alleged perpetrator. Only once did I make the mistake of going alone. For too many reasons to list, not the least of which is the lies and rumours that resulted, I won’t make that mistake twice.

In most cases, when victims approach perpetrators, the person confronted is quick to confess and ask for forgiveness. In one recent case, the victim did not feel stable enough to go, so her husband, my husband, and I went on her behalf. Immediately he said he knows why we have come. Now a middle-aged man, he broke down sobbing, took ownership, and apologized for what he did as a young man. This is the best case scenario, that they remember and own it.

When the memory doesn’t return quickly, with the victim’s permission, I establish the event and the environment in which it happened. And in every case but one, the memory has returned very quickly… before I get to the part describing graphically what the perpetrator did. Most don’t seem to want me to say that part out loud.

It’s not hard to read people. Are they sincere? Are they squirming and shifty, like they know what you’re talking about but don’t want to acknowledge? Are they pale… in shock… with signs that there are memories playing at the fringes of their memories, but they are too terrified of consequences? Or are they confident that they cannot recall the event, but want the alleged victim to find peace?

When I confronted someone who molested me in his mid-teens, he looked horrified. I gave him the day of the week, the time of day it happened, the location, the vehicle. Nothing connected. (Continue reading column here, at the Elmira Independent)

© Trudy Metzger

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What to Do When Leaders Forbid Sexual Abuse Seminars?

On Sunday October 27 a local conservative Mennonite church made an announcement telling the congregation they should not attend our conference, specifically naming ‘Shattering the Silence’. This inspired me to write a blog, appropriately titled, ‘Local Preachers Forbid Attending Sexual Abuse Conference‘.

Even though I knew the day would come, it still punched me in the gut when it happened because of which congregation it was. I had already helped numerous of their congregants work through abuse, and had done so respectfully, with their leaders’ knowledge. As quickly as the punch came, I ruminated on what good it could possibly inspire.

I am a firm believer that out of everything intended for harm, God already has a plan for good in place if we will but ask Him and reach for that good. Sometimes it comes almost immediately, sometimes it takes years, and sometimes it takes weeks. This time it was barely days.

The thought that went through my mind that night, as I contemplated their announcement, was, “If we can’t get the people to the message, how do we get the message to the people?”

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I already write a blog, but many of the people I want to reach, locally, don’t have computers. I could write a book–which I have, and am working on a second one–but that takes a long time. After writing it, I have to publish it. If I self-publish, I have to raise the money first, and if I don’t self-publish, I have to find a publisher. That takes a very long time. And, furthermore, I believe the message God has given me is needed now. As in yesterday. Sure, the book will be good, when it’s ready, and it will be helpful. But in the meantime how do I get the message out there?

And then it occurred to me…

I sat down at my computer and I composed a message to a local paper…

“Does the Elmira Independent ever look for guest columns to be written? If so, I would be interested in doing this, from time to time, or regularly. [insert explanation about abuse and what I do]… I cannot sit back … without at least attempting to get a message of hope (to abuse victims), so I will nudge every door I can think of, to see which ones will open. And I will become bolder and bolder until those who desperately want help find it. If (writing a column) is not an option or an avenue of speaking into the issues of healthy family life, abuse etc, that’s okay. I am not afraid of closed doors. But they definitely won’t open if I don’t knock.”
I hit ‘send’ and waited. A day later I received an email asking me to write a sample column to see what I have in mind. Immediately I sat down at my computer and tapped the keys for an hour or so, before sending my sample column to the editor. And then I waited.
Several days passed. An email arrived. It was an apology. The editor was sorry she had not been able to find time to read the sample column, as she was sick. She would get to it as soon as possible and let me know.  Again I waited.
A week and several days passed, still I waited, until moments ago when an email arrived saying she had finally had time to read the article and, yes, it is definitely something their paper could use! Would I consider letting them use a headshot photo with it? And what about contact information and a little blurb about what I do, would I be okay with that? And could I have the columns to them a week in advance? And the first one will be printed the first week of December. As for restrictions on what I may say, or write about, how about ‘none’ to start?
Wow! How amazing is that?! I’ve dreamed for years of writing a column but never had the courage to put myself out there! One negative experience, forcing me to ask the question, “How do I get the message to the people?” took me to a place of pursuing another dream.
Over and over I am amazed by God. When I speak locally at conferences, I speak to an audience of under 200 several times a year. Now I will write monthly, for an audience of over 4000. And who knows what doors that will open?
More and more I am learning to trust God when it feels like those who oppose our work have an upper hand. It is impossible to get the upper hand on God, and it is impossible to stop His truth from spreading. When things seem to go against us, and that thing He has called us to do seems impossible, He will make a way if we are willing to listen, and step outside our comfort zone.
And so begins another great adventure with God, as a columnist for a local paper, taking the message of hope out to the community…
Maybe that ‘Christian radio program’, or that ‘Christian TV program’ dream lies just around the corner… Who knows? And it doesn’t really matter. For now I am going to embrace this phase with all that I am.

© Trudy Metzger

Return to First Blog: September 2010, “Running on Empty”

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