Teachers, Preachers & Other Abusers: Grooming and Sexual Assault (Anabaptist Survivor Story)

TRIGGER WARNING: content may be triggering to survivors of abuse. The author speaks forthrightly about the assaults committed against her by a man who would later become her teacher and youth leader (overlapping with the assaults), and yet later became a preacher. Both individuals were conservative Anabaptists at the time the sexual assaults were committed against the author.

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The following story is difficult to read, but another necessary ‘telling’ of the things that are done in the name of God. It was sent to me, in the author’s own words. I offer this disclaimer as there have been questions surrounding stories shared here recently, asking whether I wrote them. The answer is, No; I did not write any of the other recent stories. Frankly, as much as I love writing, do write another person’s story is difficult and time-consuming. I do not have such time on my hands right now.

The following is a story of raw suffering, and a story of healing and redemption. The author has chosen to tell it for the sake of other victims, to give them the courage to speak.

From my perspective, as someone who has worked with sexual violence for years, this story displays classic grooming. The tactics used on a child to first draw her (or him) in, followed by letting or making them feel somehow they are partially responsible. No child, ever, anywhere, is responsible for the behaviours of an abuser. There are laws of the land and region that govern these things.

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It all started with, strange as it may sound, getting saved, accepting Jesus into my heart.

I was a 12-year-old and was invited to attend a revival service in Seymour, MO at a Mennonite church about a two and a half or three-hour drive from where we lived. That evening, Mr. D. Hostetler was taking a load of people from Linn, and I was invited to go along.

Abner Kauffman preached a powerful and convicting sermon that evening.

We returned home late that night, and one by one people were dropped off at their homes. Strangely, Mr. Hostetler took his own family home before he took me home. We were neighbors living only about a mile apart.

About halfway to my home he stopped the van and began to talk to me about my life. He was very convincing and soon I was praying and asking God to save me, confessing my sins and accepting Jesus as my personal Savior.

Mr. Hostetler hugged and congratulated me, and then took me on home. I got up the next morning, overjoyed with the new peace I had. I noticed the sunshine seemed more brilliant and all the colors in my world were much brighter, and everything just seemed so much more beautiful. I was a transformed person, born of God, the Holy Spirit. I loved all of it and felt passionate about living for God. I began to read the Bible with a new zeal and desire to serve God.

Slowly, as time went on, this fresh new feeling began to wear off as human voices were used to bring discouragement and sorrows to a young believer in Christ.

On one particular day I became very angry at Mr. Hostetler. He worked in a shop on our property. I was so embarrassed but I went to him with head hanging low to apologize to him. I had a dreadful anger problem. As soon as I apologized, he put his arms around me and hugged me close. It felt so good to be hugged. It wasn’t something practiced in our home during our childhood. I went back to the house rejoicing that day.

This was the beginning of a relationship that led to much sorrow for me. One day Mr. Hostetler  spoke to me about a verse in the Bible, where Paul speaks about how a man shouldn’t touch a woman. He explained that this wasn’t what he meant, that hugs and such really are good from brotherly love. There was more said that I cannot remember about that verse, but I believed him and regarded him as a very excellent and honorable man. I highly respected him.

As time passed, hugs and touches became more frequent. He began to take me on outings with him, holding my hand for hours, such as lovers do; stroking my hand. Then it went to taking drives in his car; he began to hold me on his lap, stroking and caressing my body.

Next, he began to invite me to meet him after dark, 11:00, 12:00 at night under a large tree where he would do more of the same.

Although I willingly received these attentions, I do not recall ever pursuing him or suggesting any of these meetings. I wasn’t smart enough, or brave enough to think that I could even do that. I respected him too much. You must understand he was the most respected man in my life at that time.

(NOTE: This was all prior to and up to age 14).

At the age of 14, he became my school teacher. One day while getting a drink at the water fountain he came up behind me and ran his hands over my body, telling me how beautiful my developing body was. This felt good to me, an insecure 14-year-old. I was flattered.

Things escalated through the years of 12-17. The older I got, the bolder he became. There were long sessions of kissing, French kissing, his tongue in my mouth, and his hands touching me, along with pressing my body tightly against the front of him. Lying on the couch, his body draped over mine, kissing me, doing all the normal foreplay things. He never actually penetrated me sexually, or touched my vaginal area, though his hands were all over my hips and legs. This took place in Mr. Hostetler’s own house and on his couch. I cannot recall why I was there, or where Mrs. Hostetler and the boys were, but they weren’t at home.

I had absolutely no clue as to what was going on.

All this while he spoke of his brotherly love for me. He would talk of my beauty. He’d also share with me how beautiful [another girl in our community] was. Later I found out that he was even more heavily involved with [this girl] and others at the same time he was doing these things to me.

Mr. Hostetler’s would also talk about God and all the things that were important to him, just as lovers would do.

At the age of 16, I began to be very restless; crying at night for hours, not understanding at all what was happening. I felt dirty and depressed. Church life became unbearable as I was targeted again and again for overstepping church rules. I was hurting; I wondered why no one cared about my heart. Why were silly rules of such importance? Why were too many ruffles, too small a covering so important when my heart was falling apart?

I came to the point where I disliked the kissing episodes and felt condemned by them.

One day I mustered up the courage to talk to him about how I was feeling. I found him out in his shop, working. I began to express my regret over these actions and ended up saying, “I’m sorry for my part in these actions. I feel dirty and sinful, and I don’t want to do this anymore.”

I expected to hear the same from him, but he didn’t say anything along those lines. Instead, he told me how he had never thought any impure thoughts about me. He told me he forgave me and was glad I made things right.

For four years I walked in shame, feeling like it was all my fault, and even though I couldn’t fully understand that, I accepted it.

When I was around the age of 15, Pastor Hershberger lived in Linn; I felt so attracted to the spirit he carried with him, his kindness, compassion, and his faith that seemed so real. I scheduled a meeting with him one evening and was going to tell him everything. I tried so hard, but I just couldn’t. I just sat and cried, and cried, and he ended up just praying for me that evening. I never did tell him what I was struggling with.

I got married to a wonderful man when I was 21 years old. In the first years of our marriage, I told him the whole story. He was shocked. For the first time, someone explained to me that it wasn’t entirely my fault. I began to see that it wasn’t, so I decided I would once again apologize to him and get things taken care of on both sides. He responded by sending back a letter, but it didn’t sound apologetic or repentant at all.

29 years later I received a very repentant text from Mr. Hostetler. This was a wonderful and meaningful surprise to me. Although I had already fully forgiven him and felt completely restored in my soul before he ever apologized, this message brought me great joy and delight. There is so much power and redemption when those who have caused harm humbly express deep remorse and sorrow for the pain and loss caused in someone’s life.

Signed,
~ The author

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

Dear Reader,

It is my express wish to inform you of what grooming looks like and the responsibility you have as parents, leaders, teachers, friends, and co-laborers in the kingdom of God to watch out for your little brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Know where they are and be attentive to what they say. Many things could have been avoided had the adults been diligent to know what the children were doing and where they were and with whom.

It isn’t wise to let our children be alone with another adult, even if you trust them. And it is of utmost importance that you speak as parents to your children and inform them of these kinds of traps. Have a healthy, open communication about sexual things with your children even at a young age. Answer their questions before they have a chance to hear it from their friends. Let them know you are a safe place for them to speak about such things. And tell them it’s never okay to discuss these things with anyone else. Teach them to stay away from those who lead them into things that make them uncomfortable in any way. Teach, teach, teach! We must stop our silence towards such things in a world that shouts corrupt sexuality from the rooftops. It is up to us as parents to teach them that God’s way is best.

Signed,
~ The author of the above story ~

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CLOSING THOUGHTS:
Having interacted with the author, my heart is encouraged. She is gracious and forgiving. There is no hatred, no animosity. No desire for revenge. In contrast, there is grace intertwined with a solemn resolve to do the right thing and not be silent. She remembers the other girls who were victimized.

In spite of the apology via text, which she accepted as sincere, she has concerns over Mr. Hostetler’s moral fidelity in his marriage. Mr. Hostetler’s name is not new to me. Others have reached out with concerns over his interactions with young women in the past few years in the form of emotional affairs, with the most recent (inappropriate texting) being *after* his apology to the author. Mr. Hostetler was in church leadership for a time, during which time he communicated in ways with women (not his wife) that are not becoming a believer or leader (in this context).

EDIT, August 7, 2019: The following communication was posted publicly this morning. Someone sent me a screenshot and I also read it personally. It is this kind of protection that enables ongoing abuse.

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EDIT: The following are screenshots of the texts sent by Mr. Hostetler, as the pastor of the young woman he is texting. The texts that the author of the above comments states he sees no lustful thoughts in. That may be up for debate. It should be noted that I do not say there are lustful thoughts. I refer to emotional affairs and communicating in a way that is not becoming a believer or a leader in such a relationship.

EDIT (Other comments): In the event that Mr. Shirk referred to my referencing Mr. Hostetler as a leader – since I’ve heard that is all lies too – I will address on what grounds I call him that. For one, that’s how people still see him so he’s doing something that makes them believe he is a leader/preacher. As evidence, his brother Daryl and his wife had a 25 year anniversary in June of this year and had their vow renewals with a Sunday afternoon service and Danny preached. That tends to lead people to believe he is a pastor or some spiritual leader. Besides that recent event, I am told he still preached back when he sent these texts. If you preach, you better consider yourself a leader. If you don’t, that’s already a problem. Preachers have incredible influence. .

In this survivor’s story, she was clearly a child when the sexual assaults started, and a youth when they ended. She was not the only victim. The more recent case of which I am aware (and was sent evidence of his communication), was not with a minor. From what we know, he seems to have learned to pick them past the statutory rape and childhood sexual assault stages.

Mr. Hostetler was a minister for a time, including over the time the texts were sent to someone not his wife, and currently leads a small church-type-group, as of the most recent information sent to me.

These patterns by men (or women) in religious (or other) power, who apologize and then continue to abuse their power, whether molesting minors as he did initially, or emotional and/or sexual affairs, dreadfully misrepresent God. It is time the church of Jesus Christ rises up and takes a firm and bold stand against such corruption. The Corinthian church bragged that they had so much grace that mothers could have sex with their own sons. Paul condemned this.

Well… I dare say we’re back to the same thing, where we have so much grace that it’s more less a ‘sex with kids and minors’ free for all. All that is required is an apology, and a pat on the shoulder as you walk out to start over, it seems. Especially leaders. We should not be proud of this ‘grace’. There’s a reason Paul took issue with that kind of grace. And I’m with him.

Yes, God forgives. That’s not a matter of question. But placing them back in that role of leadership over the vulnerable is foolishness.

And lest there is a rush to use King David as an example, I will offer this: King David announced to the whole country what he had done and had the truth of his story written in a book. He did not blame the woman he used. He did not tell everyone to shut up and forgive. He humbled himself, as king, and sat in sackcloth and ashes.

Start there.

And then, after appropriate time sitting in sackcloth and ashes with the world knowing what crimes were committed… then let’s talk about appropriate next steps and appropriate career and ministry paths.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

 

***  See below: early ‘concert only’ registration for abuse survivors Nov. 2, 2019. ***

The young woman who was assaulted at age 7… Five donations have come in so far with enough funds to cover . (We are still waiting to confirm the fee, so not sure just how many). Thank you for contributing. Every bit helps, as this is will require ongoing support. If you wish to contribute, you may do so through the following link: Support for Rape Survivor.

The victim expresses appreciation to all who have contributed. We have raised enough for approximately 17 sessions of counseling.

It has been encouraging to see ‘the church’ enter into her story and care for her well-being in word, prayer, and helping with her counseling costs. Thank you! God bless you all!

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ONLY 1 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.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERINGRegistration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

EARLY CONCERT REGISTRATION FOR ALL SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE:
If you are a sex abuse survivor – Anabaptist or not – and are not a sex offender, who wishes to attend the ‘concert only’ portion of The Gathering, we will allow for early registration before tickets are released to the public, August 1, 2019. For link to register for the concert only, email AslanHasHeard@gmail.com. Subject line: “Concert link for survivors”.

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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 info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

© Trudy Metzger 2019