(PART 1 of 5): Should abuse victims sue? And what about healing & forgiveness?

SHOULD VICTIMS SUE?
My previous blog “Why Anabaptist Sexual Abuse Awareness (ASAA) Founder Hopes Conservative Anabaptist Church Gets Sued…” left some questions unanswered, I’ve learned. In it I addressed a conversation with ASAA founder, Randal Martin, and his wife, and him saying he hopes the conservative Anabaptist church gets sued, as he believes it is the only way they will take the ongoing problem of sexual abuse seriously. What was unclear in my blog, and left people with questions is my position. Where do I stand on victims suing abusers?

I’ve worked with survivors for nearly a decade. None have ever, to my memory, expressed interest in launching a lawsuit. And I have never suggested such a thing. But I do tend to agree with Randal’s statement, and am concerned the issue will never be taken seriously by some churches and communities until such a thing happens. Will it then? Possibly. Or will they revert to the cry of, “We’re being persecuted for righteousness sake.” The latter is more likely, but, Sunday after Sunday they will think about victims when they pass the offering plate to cover the lawsuits, I imagine. They won’t think kindly of them, or compassionately… but they will part with their hard earned dollar and remember…

I’m also fairly certain if the problem of sexual abuse hits the wallets they will have a vested interest in functioning differently, going forward. So, while the heart wouldn’t necessarily change, the methods might, and children be more protected. I mean, how often can you afford a massive lawsuit? A recent case against the Jesuits, whose missionary Mr. Perlitz abused around 150 victims in Haiti, cost them a whopping $60 million. The similarities to the current Jeriah Mast case are uncanny. I’m suspicious the Jesuits will be screening their missionaries better, going forward. And that, I would expect, will happen with our culture too, when a massive lawsuit hits. It seems that might be a positive outcome, regardless of anyone’s personal opinions about suing.

While suing has never come up with my clients, if one were to express interest in launching a lawsuit, I would definitely not interfere or try to talk them out of it. And I would continue to support them as I did before. They’ve been robbed of their voice and thrust into deep struggle against their will. Finding their way back out is messy.  And whether they sue or not in that process is none of my business. I trust God will allow what needs to be done to bring accountability to the church, and bring the people of God to their knees in true repentance. And that may well include this kind of thing, given other cries have been long disregarded by religious communities.

That said, what I would tell any client is that the lawsuit will not bring you peace. It can’t. It might provide the funds to afford the help you need, but it won’t heal you. It might make it possible for you to relocate to a new start. But it won’t remove the hell you must walk through. That hell will follow you. It may distract for a while, but sooner or later you will have to face the truth and walk through the healing process. Much like grief, it comes in stages and phases.

There will be anger, for most. There will be tears and sorrow over the loss. There is, most often, phases of denial. There is despair. There’s the overwhelming sense of lost identity.

Money doesn’t address any one of those things. It can’t. But that doesn’t mean God won’t allow – even orchestrate – a series of events to shake up His people through lawsuits. He’s been known to do things like that and use uncomfortable means and methods to call His children back to truth and what really matters. And right now money and power matter too much. Don’t be surprised if God strips those idols.

So I let those things play out as they do, knowing God has a higher purpose, and in all things He pursues all hearts. That is who He is, it is what He does..

HOW THEN DO WE HEAL?
Every victim has his/her own journey to walk toward healing. I’ve not met two people whose stories were identical. None that could be turned into a calculated formula to apply to every individual. There are steps and layers. And how they bringing healing, or what order, is dependent on so many things, such as temperament, the nature of the crimes committed against the victim, and by whom.

Sometimes it is non-victims who offer more compassion and understanding than other victims. It is easy for victims to get down on each other for how the other is not healing their way. I see comments and statements by victims directed at other victims that are not helpful. And when I ask the nature of their stories, the one may have been a rape victim at the hands of a father, pastor or brother, the other had someone pull down their panties and looked at them.. sometimes touched. Or, they may not have suffered sexual abuse at all, but suffered emotional abuse, and somehow feel all healing should follow the path that worked for them. And, sometimes, once victims are healed, they forget their own struggle and have no grace for others to walk the journey they themselves walked.

It isn’t realistic to expect victims to arrive overnight where we took 20 years. Not even if we impart our wisdom. Is it possible they can avoid 20 years of agonizing struggle with healthy support and guidance? Yes, by all means! This doesn’t mean they will never struggle or have tough moments even after healing, but there is a far cry between living in that dark pit and slipping over the edge at moments, or being triggered. But, no matter what, they still deserve space to walk the messy process of healing.

While there is not a formula, there are certain steps that must be part of that process, for deep healing to be achieved. …

Continued… (PART 2)

 

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

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ANONYMOUS SEXUAL ABUSE SURVEY BY ANABAPTIST MEDICAL DOCTOR

Some time ago, a friend told me of a medical doctor (Anabaptist) who is doing research into sexual abuse in Anabaptist communities. To take his survey visit:
Anabaptist Medical Matters

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JASON GRAY CONCERT:
NOVEMBER 2, 2019
Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster PA
7:00pm
CONCERT TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC: Here

NOTE: Due to the concert being the celebration for survivors of abuse,
we ask that any who have sexually abused as adults not attend out of respect

November 2, 2019:  THE GATHERING, held at Lancaster Bible College, is a place where survivors of sexual assault, together with our support person(s), collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse and trusted support persons to gather for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering and sexual violence among us. We will cry out to God, together. Come as you are in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. We welcome you! The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to grieve and 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.

NOTE: After August 1 concert is included dependant on availability. Once concert tickets are sold out, registrations will continue until October 1 and include lunch only.

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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.

 

An Empty Tomb: A promise broken or kept?

For a university assignment I looked at the empty tomb in a way I never had before. For me, it has never been anything but Good News. From earliest memories hearing the story, my heart thrills! My Jesus is alive!

But, for Mary, what did it feel like to find the tomb empty, and be robbed of ritual and grief in a moment of deepest loss? Her friend, her rabbi, her Lord had been ruthlessly slaughtered…

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Wishing you all the blessing of an Empty Tomb and a Gardener who speaks your name, that you may know Him!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Raw Mother’s Day Thoughts

It’s Mother’s Day. And the emotions across the nations, wherever this is celebrated, range from peaceful, to defeated, to devastated, to lonely and confused, to hate and grif and everything beyond and in between. These emotions belong to the mothers. To the daughters and sons. And to the husbands. And we could add many more emotions… many unnamed emotions, both positive and negative.

Today is one of the best days. It is one of the most painful. It is forgotten. It is monopolized and commercialized, each market pretending to cater to the love of mothers, and helping those closest to her express that love well. When in reality it is about competing for sales and pressuring the husband, son or daughter to look the best they can, all so the particular industry – whether flowers, chocolate or binoculars (this was my delightful gift today, for bird watching) – can get their ‘cut’ on this emotional experience. And the mothers, most of us (I think… I hope…) really care little about that commercial expression. Or maybe it’s just a few of us, but mostly I doubt that. (Though, I dare say, Tim impressed me beyond words with the binoculars. I love birds! They bring me so much joy!) Even so, life is far to beautiful, too ‘real’, and too raw – both good and painful – for such a thing to begin to touch on the reality of motherhood.

The forgotten mother spends this day in absolute grief and defeat, having failed to win the hearts of her children. She compares with other mothers. The ones whose children all come home, offering hugs and love and affection – accompanied by gifts of flowers and breakfast in bed. She compares with the mother of the pastor who preaches a sermon honouring her, and his wife, because she’s just amazing and has it together – she observes her at church and see her children all behave ‘just so’; each playing some significant role in the function of the church. And she wonders how she went so wrong.

She recalls her failures. She remembers raising her own children, and the love she felt. She remembers the fear she wouldn’t do it right. She remembers yelling at her children and falling on her knees, begging God to fix her, to help her be a good mom. To “please, please, please help” her be the mom her children need to do well in life. And failing. Again. And again. And again. She remembers feeling forgotten by God… If He loves her so much, and wants the best for her, why won’t He fix whatever is broken inside and heal her, for their sake. Forgotten, abandoned by God.

She remembers her own mother, distant and disconnected. And wonders again, how the lot fell on her to never know the love of a mother, and fail at showing love to her children in a way they needed it, or winning the love of her children. She compares, and grows continually more defeated. The mother who was a drunk and on drugs… she knows that mom. Her children are home. The mother who left for years and came back. her children surround her.

On this Mother’s Day, she chooses to stay home. Alone. Her husband left her long ago. If not in body, then in soul and heart. The pain of facing all those ‘together’ people at church is just too much.

But she doesn’t know that the pews are filled with other mothers who feel just like her. The pastor’s wife listens to him preach and forces herself to stay composed. Last week he berated her, told her he wished he’d never met her, that she’s an unfit mother. Any godly pastor’s wife would support her husband, and be understanding of his porn addiction. Ministry is hard.

She doesn’t know that the woman whose children all come home with gifts and breakfast in bed, and hugs and kisses, do so out of tradition and obligation. They fear being cut out of The Will if they don’t cater to her. They’ve had this threat before. And on Monday they have their appointments with counsellors to work through the aftermath of a day filled with the same dysfunction.

She doesn’t know that even the mother who did it well, whose children are genuinely close to her, even she questions herself at times and compares. Because no mother is anything more than human and flawed. There is no perfect mother. There is no perfect child. There is no perfect husband. There is no perfect relationship. Each one carries scars – acknowledged or not acknowledged.

I usually write a Mother’s Day blog, but truth is, I don’t like writing them. I think of all of these things every mother’s day. Year after year. Every Mother’s Day I feel a range of emotions. I think of my ‘childless mother’ friends; those whose hearts are so motherly and the desire to be a mother so strong, yet never being blessed with children. I think of their grief. I think of the mothers whose babies died, either in miscarriage or through stillbirth or later in life, and who are left with empty arms. I think of their grief. I think of mothers who have abandoned their children, or been abandoned by them. I think of their grief. I think of my own mother. I think of my closest friends. I am keenly aware of my own story. And I think of the many reasons why Mother’s Day is one of the hardest days of the year for a large percentage of our population, while some live in the thrill of the day. And I don’t know what to write, what to say, that both honours mothers and acknowledges this reality.

As I contemplated all of this earlier this morning, I thought of Mary the mother of Jesus. And I wondered, Mary, did you ever feel like a complete failure? Did you ever wonder why God allowed you to be the mother of Jesus? And I wished I could pour her a cup of coffee and talk with her. Maybe if God’s mother told me she felt defeated, maybe I’d have something to write about that might speak to us all. Maybe if she said she felt like a failure the day her 12-year-old disappeared and they had to scramble to find him. Like, seriously! What mother loses her child in a crowd like that? Never mind… Jesus’ mother. And it happened to us too, at a store. Twice. Where one of our kids took off and scared the life out of us. And what mother speaks with pride of her homeless son who doesn’t even have a pillow to call his own? Right… that was Jesus’ mother again. He had no place to call His own, no place to lay His head. Jesus was a wanderer. He was despised by many. Rejected by the masses. He was eccentric. He disrupted the world, the religious community and broke the rules.

No pastor, if that was his son and he felt the mother was the influence, would stand up and preach how proud he is of how his wife encouraged her son in this path. No mother would feel deserving of honour, if image and church standards were the measuring stick. And without an awareness of His higher purpose, not one of us would compare ourselves with her and her Son and say, “I wish my son had turned out like that! I wish I had been His mother.”

A mother recently recounted her experience of praying for her child who seemed to be struggling deeply but not open to communicating. Over the years she had told God, probably a thousand time and more, how sorry she was for letting her daughter down, for failing to understand her, for being so messed up and broken that she was oblivious to what was happening to her daughter, right in front of her. And she had begged Him to pursue her daughter’s heart. Whatever it takes for her to heal, do it. Anything at all. And then the most excruciatingly painful thing happened. (The details of which I will not share).  And this mother went to God, angry and feeling deeply betrayed by Him. “How could You do this! How could you let this happen?” Over and over she prayed, screaming at Him in her heart, wishing she could get up on His chest and beat God up…. literally, physically beat Him up. He deserved it, as far as she was concerned. After months and months and months of praying for her daughter and begging for some restoration, it seemed all hell had broken loose, and rather than get better, things got much worse. For several days she ‘beat up’ on God, offering the same broken prayer of anger and blame, until one day when she ended that prayer with “I asked you to heal her and pursue her heart… not THIS!” And in a moment of grief, she paused in stillness, and listened through tears as He spoke, “What do you think I am doing? I am pursing her heart. … And I am pursuing your heart too.” The I Am had spoken.

So, mothers, today don’t compare yourself with others. Trust the I Am to heal… to pursue and to restore. That mother’s story hasn’t changed, and the circumstances remain as they were. But God is pursuing her heart, and her daughter’s heart. Healing may not come in this life in the way a mother longs for and prays for, or in the way a child wishes. But God will pursue hearts. It’s Who He is and what He does. And remember that the ‘evidence’ you see – the smiles, the flowers, the many symbols of celebration – don’t tell the story of the tears, the fights, the prayers, the anger, the lostness. Nor do they tell the story of the I Am who is the Restorer. Cling most tightly to the latter. You are worthy. You are imperfect, yet Perfectly Loved. You fail, but are not a failure. You are forgotten today, but not abandoned.

Today you are honoured by your Heavenly Father who blesses motherhood, who forgives failure, who redeems broken stories and restores losses. He delights in you, and rejoices over you with singing (Zeph. 3:17). He called you for a purpose before time began, and that purpose cannot be silenced by your failures or any other thing; the I Am has spoken (Jer. 1:5). And His word, from the beginning of time, have never been empty and always bring Life. Invite Him into your joy today, and invite Him into your tears and grief. He loves you. He receives you. He blesses you.

To be blessed is to by filled with joy. This Mother’s Day, be blessed, no matter what your story.

Happy Mother’s Day!

mother's day

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018