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)
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger 2019
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
JASON GRAY CONCERT:
NOVEMBER 2, 2019
Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster PA
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.