My previous blog was not posted lightly. It has been the contemplation of many months, many conversations, and the most careful consideration given to the alleged victim(s)’ needs. I took direction from the alleged victim whose letter was shared in the previous blog, in particular, as well as several informants. All wanted to disclose publicly to prevent risk of further harm and prevent more victim at the hands of ‘Grandpa’, who is ‘Grandpa Harold’ to some, or Harold Herr. However, for all who speak out there is a cost, and I do not get to choose when to impose that on them.
Since releasing the initial blog yesterday, the individual with the timeline [referenced in yesterday’s blog: Conservative Mennonite missionary “Grandpa” accused of molesting minors: 4 decades, 2 countries] felt peace about releasing it. There has been much conversation as to the best way to move ahead. When names are released, there is serious backlash. When they are not released, there is serious backlash. Our decision is not based on that. Our decision is very specifically made based on what will accomplish the best outcome with the least damage.
Do we always get it right? I certainly don’t. But sitting on my hands debating what to do isn’t an option.
As with other details related to going public, each party has put effort into offering understanding to the others. (ie; if one was not ready to go public, none would. And if one was not ready to make the name public, none would).
In their communication with me, and any communication forwarded, they have been kind and respectful, with no intent to harm ‘Grandpa’. They made the decision out of a deep passion and conviction to prevent further victims and give Grandpa Harold opportunity to seek real help and take responsibility. This has not been easy for them. They have my deepest respect. I honour their voices and speak no more than they are ready for. So, if you send me messages asking for more detail, I won’t respond. It is not mine to give.
To those who would like a criminal investigation done before going public:
- The statute of limitations is past for these crimes. So that’s not going to happen. (Though, leaders who knew and did nothing could still be charged if it was pursued, I believe. I am not 100%).
- The alleged case(s) in Haiti are incredibly difficult to prosecute due to alleged victim(s) having no permanent address that can be passed on to law enforcement. We’re still working on all of this, but at best it is challenging.
The following timeline was written by someone I do not know and have never met. (I hope one day that changes). The introduction is completely their words:
“The informants disclose the perpetrator’s identity only after weighing the situation with great sensitivity, compassion, and dedication to integrity vs. malice, vindication, or retaliation. They realize that he can only receive help for his self-destructive addiction to pedophilia, perpetuated by religion, through the tough love of accountability. Potential victims can only be protected from the danger he currently poses to society by honorably identifying him as a source of harm. Covering would be complicit participation in devastation both for the perpetrator and his victims.”
The following timeline was sent to me months ago, and the redacted version was submitted to me today, to be posted:
What makes the information submitted so compelling, is that sources were not connected to each other, and none, when they contacted me, knew others were communicating with me. Each carried his/her own piece of a tragic puzzle.
Even so, it is not my goal to make judgements or determinations on the details. It is my goal to:
- Give the church, organizations and individuals involved opportunity to repent.
- Once again give opportunity for the accused to come forward with truth, without manipulation, lies or other self-preservation.
- Give opportunity for others who have offended and/or covered up to come forward and come clean. (This is by far not the last case that landed on my desk over the Jeriah Mast case. There are other alleged abusers who were known, or in some cases allegedly known, by some of the same people, churches, and/or organizations.
Contrary to popular belief, among some, I do not find any joy in discovering more and more cases. While I am not surprised, it continues to shatter me. I read stories and testimonies, and weep. No child should suffer sexual abuse, or any other abuse. No adult should have to live with those memories, having been overlooked, neglected and silenced. Some go on to thrive and do well. Some remain locked in a state of trauma and pay with their health and their life.
To anyone involved in abuse and coverup… I am not asking you to like how I expose abuse. I’m not asking you to agree with me in practice or doctrine. But I am inviting you to reach out if you are ready to come clean and work toward acknowledging and healing for victims, and taking full ownership. You don’t have to like me for me to help you.
I won’t cover up. But I will gladly work cooperatively to bring truth to light in other ways. There is always grace, always forgiveness for the truly repentant. But cover up can not ever be part of that equation. That’s not grace of forgiveness; it’s self preservation at the expense of truth. I don’t partner with that. It is my prayer that all guilty parties here will repent. Truly repent.
I am committed to seeing this epidemic of sexual abuse in our Anabaptist culture through to greater exposure and greater healing. Even in exposing, it is my hope that somehow it will begin to heal the victims and the church. And, frankly, I hope it brings the church to her knees in repentance.
When the same organizations and individuals are involved in repeated cases of sexual crimes, at home and abroad, we have to start asking some pretty hard questions.
How did we get here?
And how do we move to a better place?
The problem is multifaceted. The solution, while complex, must begin with a repentant individual or group, no longer willing to cover up. That’s step one… and only the beginning.
NOTE: As stated yesterday, Grandpa Harold is to return to Haiti in the near future to do some training for the same organization where Jeriah Mast worked one day a week. We have not heard if this trip has been cancelled.
I am not out to destroy mission organizations. I am determined to hold accountable those who have and are looking the other way when they know there are allegations. It is inexcusable that the leader at CAM, who was interviewed by the reporter (yesterday’s blog), stated ‘good behaviour’ (in a nutshell…and assuming in public, given the crimes allegedly going on behind the scenes) is enough to declare innocence.
~ T ~