Why Anabaptist Sexual Abuse Awareness (ASAA) Founder Hopes Conservative Anabaptist Church Gets Sued, Mr. Hoover on Mandatory Reporting, & the Porn and Sex Trafficking Problem

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When I met face-to-face with Randal Martin, founder of ASAA, and his wife at a Panera Bread in Lebanon PA, he said he hopes victims will sue the conservative Anabaptist church to force them to take sexual abuse seriously. His message was that if they have to pass the offering plate to collect money to pay for those lawsuits, they will be forced to take abuse seriously. Until it hits the pocketbook, he said, he is concerned that the issue will not be given serious attention. I agreed. Said that I fear, too, that victims will never be truly heard until this happens.

I had no notion on doing such a thing then (and still don’t), but I told him I know of someone who mentioned launching a class action against the Eastern Mennonite church. Randal gave me the name of the lawyer who  handled the Haldeman church lawsuit, to pass on.

It seems that this wish for a lawsuit – or was it a prophecy? – is coming to pass in the current CAM case. Ironically it is in the very case in which ASAA is being asked to help the victims in Haiti. God has an uncomfortable sense of humour, in the timing of things.

It is my hope that ASAA will support the victims in Haiti who wish to pursue litigation, even if it is against Christian Aid Ministries rather than the Eastern Mennonite Church. It is the only non-hypocritical thing to do in light of Mr. Martin’s comments.

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The following article on reporting sexual abuse is well written. Excellent, really. I’ve heard criticisms of details like, Is reporting really only important because it is a legal duty.. like, what about moral obligation? I’ll speak for myself and say this. Dealing with sex crimes is always a moral duty. Always. But how we deal with them is influenced by the laws of our land. Knowing Mr. Hoover a bit better than I did a few months ago, I know he also feels a sense of moral duty to get involved and does so. He and I do not agree on some of the ‘how’ of what he does, and he knows I have some grave concerns, but he does feel a sense of moral duty. Also, in fairness, he has disagreements with me as well. I am comfortable with that, and far as I can tell, he is too.

Some time ago I asked Mr. Hoover for permission to share it on my blog; permission he granted. He is on the Advisory Board for the Anabaptist Sexual abuse Awareness (ASAA). I have interacted with him a fair bit in recent months, and have been forthright with him about my concerns, both in ASAA handling of events last year — details he still knew nothing about — as well as ongoing concern over how offenders are being prioritized to the neglect of victims. (For example, victims’ voices are not yet being invited into the legal processes, nor are they being represented with skilled and informed support persons who know the legal processes. This support is still being given to offenders). In my honesty about my concerns, I have felt he tried to hear me in spite of disagreement. He has been honest with me too, from what I can tell, and I have tried to hear him.

Where truth is spoken, I appreciate it. The following article is truth.

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How can Conservative Anabaptists reconcile the command of Matthew 18, “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone,” with the reporting requirements in Pennsylvania?

The entire issue hinges on the words, “If thy brother shall trespass against thee”. What sins would this include, this “trespass against thee?”

Perhaps he trespassed by having moved the line-fence and thereby taking some of his neighbor’s land, or borrowing something and returning it broken, or slandering a brother’s name by repeating unkind gossip. There are many ways that a brother may trespass against a brother personally, and we then need to go to him alone to see if we can come to an understanding.

But what about serious sins that are much more than a personal trespass against an individual? Did Jesus also imply that if my brother murdered his neighbor or raped my wife that I would need to go to him between me and him alone, and if he hears me I have gained my brother?

God forbid! Such a sin needs to be reported immediately to the proper civil authorities, who do not carry the sword in vain (Romans 13:1-6, 2 Peter 2:13-17), then to the church.

Yes, we believe that if a brother has trespassed against us, we should first approach him alone. But if we discover that he has seduced a neighbor’s 13-year-old child and ended up violating her (either emotionally or physically), we do not believe that Jesus would direct us by this command to keep it “between thee and him alone.” Such a brother has not only trespassed against his neighbor, but he has broken the laws of God himself as well as the laws of the land. This is not only a trespass against an individual, but a heinous crime. We are duty bound, both for our brother’s sake and for our daughter’s sake (as well as possible future victims), to report him.

Today we know of the terrible hold of sexual addictions. We have seen perpetrators who have been found out, and who “repented” and made their sins right with the church, and life supposedly went on as usual. But, life did not go on as usual. The sexual addiction had not been dealt with, and later there were relapses, with more cover-ups, more victims, and more children whose lives were forever changed, because we did not deal with the sin in an appropriate and timely manner. 

We need to acknowledge and recognize the difference between a trespass against a brother that can be taken care of “between thee and him alone,” and serious sins that are much more than just a trespass against a brother. This is why we believe that it is good, proper, and indeed necessary to obey state laws on mandated reporting.

The offender can only be brought to redemption if he or she takes full ownership of his or her iniquity, transgressions and civil responsibilities. Using civil authority is a part of that not a power play. We are loving the offender when the sin is exposed to authorities because he/she is in bondage to their sin and full of deception – and an emotional response to exposure and a few words of apology are no sign of repentance. The offender is self-injuring, not just injuring others. No habituated sin is easily stopped. If we are honest, we all know this on a personal level.

~ Allen Hoover, Advisory Board for ASAA ~ 

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I was surprised that ASAA advisory board wasn’t even made aware of the details surrounding last year’s fiasco, in which a man admitted to their vice-chair having assaulted a young woman and the young woman was not offered care while the offender continued in close relationship with the board member. And I am just as surprised that the Advisory board didn’t think it was important to know details or get involved, being too busy with other things.

As I said to Mr. Hoover, it is this sort of lack of engagement that created the dreadful abuse situation we have in Haiti, and I struggle to grasp how a group can help others overseas if they don’t first deal with their own situations appropriately at home. When victims are blatantly neglected in cases at home, how are they equipped to go to Haiti and help there. I would hope they can and will do better. Especially since Mr. Hoover’s statement so clearly states that “an emotional response and a few words of apology are no sign of repentance” as was proven true in last year’s fiasco. The offender at the centre of that case has continued with inappropriate connections with women. This summer I heard from three more women regarding the same offender, proving Mr. Hoover’s words to be accurate.

In light of this, while I support what is written by Mr. Hoover and promoted by ASAA, and I am posting it as I had told him I would after he granted permission, I appeal to them to live up to their own words and teachings. I appeal to ASAA to first deal with their own issues honourably at home, before going overseas. Don’t just teach better ways of responding; live it. When that happens, I will be happy to support ASAA efforts.

Disclaimer: When I asked permission to post the above, I did not yet know that the ASAA founder and the board of directors had not informed their other committees thoroughly of my concerns. This only came up in communication with Mr. Hoover on August 5, 2019.

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ASAA also posted the following video on their Facebook page. (It was from their site that I took my featured image, to give credit of sources). It is a powerful video addressing pornography. If you are into porn, you are part of the sex trafficking industry. You are funding it. Advertisers rely on your addiction to evil, to fund this industry. 

 

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If you have the stomach for it, the following news report is a powerful, powerful news report on sex trafficking. I submit that political agenda is intertwined, quite obviously. Tune out the jargon and listen to the problem of sex trafficking. It is real, and it is closer to home than you would imagine. I know of conservative Anabaptist youth being used as prostitutes, where one ‘user’ (Anabaptist adult male, in one case) will alert others to the girl being vulnerable. I know of them being offered money for sex. I know of one case where money was exchanged. This is not so far out there.

The video clip is hard to watch, admittedly. But this is based on the true story of a young woman who was trafficked.

Her brother speaks after the video clip. He shares a lot of wisdom on the problem of sex trafficking, and how it works. He isn’t about fear-mongering. He gives solid information. He addresses the fallen morality of the nation of USA. He talks numbers of what pimps make.

And he makes this gut-churning statement, “You can almost order a child like you order pizza.” And later he says, “This shouldn’t be a conservative issue or a liberal issue […] children should not be for sale.”

He also states, “It starts with a pornographic culture. Soft porn. It’s the objectifying of women. Which, we as a country have done a great job at completely objectifying women into sex objects and emasculating men.”‘

These statements should startle us. According to several studies, a high rate of men in church admit to porn use

There is no child immune. No culture protected. This wickedness is something we need expose. And we, as the people of God, ought to be leading the way. But I challenge you to consider that sex trafficking in a different form is happening among us. Just as in the country structure, in religious structure the top most powerful are protected. There is grace for these offenders, and protection, while those ‘sold out’ are mistreated to keep them in line. The similarities are startling.

Like our sexualized culture, we are desensitizing church culture to child sexual assault, but we are doing it through treating victims shamefully and protecting offenders. The culture is such that abuse thrives, the oppressed have no voice, and sexual violence against children is viewed as ‘moral failing’ and ‘a mistake’.

Children are being trafficked among us, and it starts with the cavalier attitude toward child exploitation that allows adult men and women to call it ‘moral failing’, or ‘a mistake’. It starts by dehumanizing the victims in the eyes of the congregation or community. It starts be silencing victims. And it starts by leaders hearing things and shrugging them off rather than digging deeper and doing their due diligence in cases such as Jeriah Mast. (Using one that is public of the hundreds or thousands I could choose from). Because when abuse is handled this way in church, it is the exact same thing as sex trafficking, with different players and a far more deceptive mask.

All of these things teach the ‘pimps’ and abusers that it isn’t really that big a deal to use and abuse the vulnerable. They do not take it seriously. I had one man say, after molesting his daughters, “I only did it for 60 seconds.” His church gave him a short proving period and then life went on as before. He had a history of sexually assaulting starting in his teens, right up to his late 40’s when I confronted him. The church blinked. Didn’t report. Bishop from PA intervened in TX to help navigate it. And life went on as before. (I tried to report. The social work I was communicating with who was passionate about the case, when I called back a few weeks later, was told, “She is no longer with us”. The church leaders talked with the Sergeant, and he stopped responding. I will never know why. I have solid evidence and an open confession in my possession, legally obtained. And the law does nothing. The church does nothing more than they have to.

That, my friends, is how sex trafficking continues in church.

These things have desensitized many in the church culture, and silenced others for many years.

And while all of that is going on, and children are being stripped, destroyed, raped and programmed… on the streets and in church… We can’t get our act together to stand firm against this wickedness….

God help us…

God help the children… And He will.

Someday, He will come and set the children free…

He will come…

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.

Why don’t I report the 3 rapists? And a word from an Old Order Mennonite Grandpa about touch

WHY DIDN’T I REPORT 3 RAPISTS:
On July 12, 2019 I posted a blog called ““Help me Jesus! Help me!”… a child’s cry as she is raped by full grown ‘Christian’ men“, in which three men are mentioned who raped a child of age 7. (This is written by the survivor). I had not explicitly said they are/were conservative Anabaptists, which led to questions on Facebook (and other social media, I am told) as to whether they may have been ‘outsiders’. For this reason I edited that part of my blog to create a clear image of how things were and are. I knew before posting it that two of the men are conservative Anabaptist leaders, and the other in leadership of another sort in a conservative Anabaptist setting. They were all conservative Anabaptists at the time of the group rape.

The second debate, or more like criticism, came from people asking if we know the names of these offenders. I said to my knowledge there are no leaders who have been informed, and I don’t believe the church is aware. And I also said that I know the names of all three offenders.

This led to email and private messages (via FB), of people asking why I don’t report them. Others a bit insistent that I should. And even asking how I can justify reporting Jeriah so swiftly and then do nothing here. The following will hopefully help you understand:

Jeriah Mast case:
• the victims had already come forward and spoken out before I said anything
• I asked 9 of the victims and a lawyer if I may share and was given permission
• I had court documents
• I was told that in Haiti there are victims who are currently minors
• I had been told that Jeriah turned himself in for Ohio crimes. Note that I didn’t focus on Ohio victims in my blog, citing the investigation. (I also had no court documents).
• I found out about Jeriah around May 10, but was not given a name, city, state or even what country he was in, or what organization. In short, I didn’t have enough info to report.

Case of 3 rapists:
• The victim, to our knowledge, is the only victim and not a minor
• The victim has said she is not ready to have me share or act
• There are no court documents
• We know of no minor victims, or other victims at all . (If anyone else was group raped, we welcome you sending in the names of the rapists and your story.)
• I don’t have a clue where these men live, or what churches they pastor or are in other leadership. In short, I wouldn’t know where to report and until the victim gives me that information, or the town, region or other identifying information, I can do nothing even if I am mandated to report. (You can appreciate that in a culture where the search for Robert Weaver in Ohio produces 184 records and David Stoltzfus produces 236 in PA. Please note, these are not the offenders’ names. I merely chose common Mennonite names).

No one asked to be assaulted in Haiti. The 7-year-old did not asked to be raped. The least we can do for them now that they are adults, is ask what their wishes are. There are victims in Haiti who have made it clear they do not want to be identified or part of court proceedings because of what that would cost them in shame and rejection. So, if they wish to speak, let them speak. If speaking out is too hard for them, then respect that, unless you are mandated to report when victims are adults. (ie: A pastor in PA told me they are mandated to report adults).

The reason for *not* reporting adult victims’ abusers, unless mandated, is because the law can’t (or won’t) do anything anyway. (I would say can’t, because they need a witness and don’t go digging for victims unless they have one, in most places that I am aware of).  So any reporting in such a case serves to  create further trauma to the victim, with no hope of it being dealt with, and leaves the victim feeling raped again.

In the case of the 7-year-old victim, several individuals have written to say they would be willing to help fund legal processes, if that would help to get these rapists behind bars. I have passed those messages on, and am leaving the ball in her court. She knows now that I, and a fine honourable army of you, are here to ‘have her back’ if ever she so chooses. That, alone, has been very empowering for her.

However, an organization like CAM would have an obligation in reporting the sexual abuse of vulnerable. Being aid providers to an impoverished people makes them vulnerable and gives us awful power! And we see this play out by Jeriah Mast allegedly withholding food from those who did not comply with his sexual demands. In that case the organization is morally and legally responsible to act.

The third concern came regarding questions surrounding re-traumatizing victims by posting and sharing the case publicly. These concerns came from several people, including one friend who forwarded screenshots. The answer to whether sharing is re-traumatizing is not easy to answer. I can speak only to the victims with whom I have been in contact, and from whom I received permission to share.

There was information that went public with the first blog that identified victims. I had attempted to ‘white out’ their names (even though I was told it was public record and didn’t need to be protected), but had not saved it right and missed that when posting. Another revealing snippet was there, and the victim contacted me within hours. I immediately offered to remove it, but was told to leave it, so I did.

My aim is always to do my best to protect victims’ identities if they wish to have them protected and respect their wishes. There are going to be ‘accidents’, unfortunately. The key is to immediately correct it, own up, apologize, and take direction from the victims.

The tragedy is that exposing sexual abuse is fraught with risks. Not exposing is fraught with greater risks. In both situations the most critical part is humility, sensitivity, honouring the victims and taking ownership of failure.

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Ponderings of an Old Order Mennonite Grandpa:
Last week I received an email from a ‘Grandpa’ who recently suffered the loss of a granddaughter, causing his world to forever change, in more ways than one. I don’t know if he is Old Order Markham Mennonite, or horse-and-buggy Old Order Mennonite. The following are his words, which I asked if I may share with you. Note: I have made minor wording adjustments for clarity.

In our Old Order churches we are very stoic – we had a teacher from the local Bible Chapel for many years [who attended] […] an ordination in our church […] She was most surprised to see the amount of emotion exhibited by speakers and the audience. 

Some years ago, a Mid West Mennonite cousin lost his wife. I was practically disgusted by the amount of hugging that took place at the funeral – not just men with men but mixed. Our church really discourages hugging. Fast forward 15 years and I have a 14 year old granddaughter that has been diagnosed with a fatal heart disease. I can’t help myself – the first time I met her and her 12 year old sister after the diagnosis, I hugged them both. I don’t care what I thought before and I don’t care who sees me; I will hug my granddaughters (and grandsons although that is much harder – they resist). At my granddaughter’s funeral I hugged my own daughter, as well as my sister. In our culture, this is completely improper! And of course I was hugged by a number of other women as well.

Until we overcome this fear or reluctance to show emotion; until we can freely and openly speak, we will not be in any position to successfully relate to or with the wounded. We have to overcome the urge to stifle our thoughts or words when the going gets tough (although there are times when no words are necessary) and learn to speak words of love and care. We have to overcome the older way of thinking; that there must have been a reason this happened. I would certainly like to see some good discussion on this topic.

~ Osiah Horst ~ 

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Healthy touch should be part of life. The over-sexualization of touch along with the complete dearth of contact, creates a hyper-sexualized response to touch. When healthy affection is a normal part of life starting in childhood, it helps prevent sexual abuse in that all touch isn’t experienced as sexual.

When there has been no touch growing up, and no hugs or affection, and you get one hug (even without consent), there is something in it that shocks you, and something that draws you. I will never forget it…

We didn’t grow up with hugs and affection in our home. When we were little children, as siblings or friends we sometimes held hands walking and playing. There was plenty of abusive touch, beatings, and sexual touch, but not healthy affection. Therefore, when it came to abusive touch, it was familiar, though not talked about, and left me with not knowing how to stand against it.

As a teen girl a young man almost two years older than me caught me in his arms and kissed my cheek at school. I was shocked, fascinated and scared. I squirmed free, and he let me go. The second time he french kissed me, which I had never seen or heard of, and was totally grossed out and scared. The third time he groped my breasts, and tried to get me to reach in his pants, but I refused. Each time he took me by surprise, with the third time being most extreme, and less surprising, but more manipulative, in that he set us up to be alone by sending my brother away. He, my brother and I were together, and nothing could happen… until my brother left. Thank God my brother was suspicious of his intentions, and shortly after he was sent away, my brother returned to catch him in the act. (I write about it in my book, Between 2 Gods: A memoir of Abuse in the Mennonite Community)

I had no healthy frame of reference for what touch should be. And I had no voice to say ‘no’, until that moment when he crossed the line in ways that I understood as violating, when he groped my breasts and tried to make me touch his penis. That wasn’t happening. My ‘no’ was an ashamed, silent, down-cast eyes, shaking of the head and nothing more than a frightened whisper.

When healthy touch is taught and experienced, we are not on ’empty’ looking for affection. I wanted the attention of that young man, but I didn’t want the sexual touch. Until he hugged me, such a ‘craving’ didn’t exist in me. But, once awakened, it made me vulnerable going forward.

Years later, in marriage, I would learn that my main love language is physical touch. Between that and a serious deficit of affection, falling for every man willing to hold me wasn’t that surprising. (Add to that being a people pleaser, and I was toast. But that’s for another time).

This vulnerability to touch, especially in a culture where touch is not ‘the norm’ is one reason that counselors, pastors and person in trust should not be ‘holding’ their clients or parishioners.  To offer a brief hug as a greeting is appropriate if the client initiates and is comfortable, but ‘holding’ is a different thing. Leaders and those in a position of trust can quickly make clients and parishioners feel powerless to say no. Again, especially when there has not been healthy touch.

Touch, therefore, is a healthy part of life. We read in the Bible often about embracing, kissing necks etc. That we’ve arrived at so little healthy touch and so much sexual perversion is a tragedy.

Bringing back healthy touch with boundaries and respect, and doing away with teachings that overly sexualize touch and the body will go a long way in breaking this messy cycle.

Note: This is a bird’s eye view of a much bigger topic. If you have thoughts you wish to share on this matter, I welcome responses. 
Please be aware that if you send emails without your name attached, I will no longer be reading them. (One arrived yesterday soon after posting. I have not read it and don’t intend to). My life is far too full to invest in anonymous advice. I engage with people, not opinions.  I do post anonymous messages here sometimes, though rarely. 

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

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ONLY 2 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 GATHERING Registration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

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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