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.

***

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 ~ 

***

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 ~

***

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.)

***

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

 

(Follow up) Groffdale OOM Conference: A New Thief in Church?

Last evening I was contacted by a Mennonite couple with the follow up letters to the previous blog regarding the Groffdale Conference computer scandal. Concerns have been raised surrounding certain leaders and businessmen (named in the letter) within the Groffdale conference involving ethical and legal matters in the creation of a 501(c)(3) to sell approved computers to church members, among other concerns. As last time, I will leave the letters to speak for themselves:

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I share this on behalf of friends in the setting who are weary of the handling of this situation. I’ve been asked what this all has to do with sexual abuse, and to my knowledge there is no direct link. There is, however, a link between the abuse of power in both cases, and how that abuse is allowed to continue, from my understanding of what is going on. However, more than that, I share for the sake of friends within these settings who have no way of speaking, being restricted in their use of technology. It encourages them to know that awareness is growing and they are being heard by fellow Anabaptists, in particular. I care about them deeply, so if the issue is important to them, and I have reasonable grounds to believe it is truth – and in this case I certainly do – then it is important to me and I will be here for them.

Truth and justice always matter, and we should never turn our eyes away from it to look the other way.

 

Love,
~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

Groffdale (Old Order Mennonite) Conference: A New Thief in Church?

While traveling in USA recently I met with friends in the Old Order church (Groffdale conference) and shared some of their current concerns and frustrations with me. They also gave me liberty to share with the public these concerns.

Two years ago the leaders told the churches they are giving them two years’ warning that they need to change computer systems to one approved by the leaders. (My friends referred to this as a castrated computer.) The Bishop, who I’m told is family  to the man who allegedly stands to gain several million out of this deal, signed for a 501-C3 charity organization so the money will not be taxed. (Edit: I was told brother-in-law by one person, and first cousin by another, but family member in any case.)

Rather than explain or discuss the situation, I am posting the letters my friends shared with me and encouraged/blessed me to share with others. This was investigated by Dave Crill of Archangel Investigators:

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What is my interest in this case? While not sexual abuse, and the uncovering and healing of it, to which I have dedicated my life, I have long believed and believe still that there is plenty of other corruption behind the abuse. Jesus says the love of money is at the root of all evil. When I see abuse covered up, when leaders look the other way, almost without fail there is incredible power linked to money involved. Not always, at least not blatantly so, but often. The lack of transparency here is spilling into other areas of the lives of those at the core of the corruption and it all needs to be unravelled so that healing can begin. True healing.

As long as there is corruption protected at a leadership level, there will be abuse of every kind of power. I don’t think we’ve begun to chip at the tip of an iceberg, and before this is over much more corruption will be exposed. I pray for it. So that God can once again be given His rightful place. Only then will Jesus be truly welcomed among us.

 

Multi-cultural, Inter-denominational Ministry… The Way it Should Be

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Speaker team for Healing for the Brokenhearted Conference October 23-24, 2015 (Diane & Jim Burkholder; Faith & Dale Ingraham; Trudy & Tim Metzger)

Since mid-July, or somewhere thereabouts, the planning started. We had almost 2 years of no conferences in Ontario, and only a few in other places, and felt uncertain about tackling it again, so close to home. The work, the planning and the backlash had become a challenge two years ago that had left me weary, and wondering what God really wanted from Generations Unleashed, in that department.

I did more one-off speaking engagements during that 2 year stretch and discovered–not to my surprise, how much easier they are. While the topic of sexual abuse and violence is never a light or casual topic, there is a ‘weightiness’ to a full weekend of ministry, that is not as present in a stand alone engagement. The temptation has been strong to shift to ‘the easy way’…  Admittedly, my humanity comes into play in cringing at the challenges, in particular criticism of our ministry or personal attacks, and reaches for that ‘easier’ way.

And, yet, each time we did a conference during that time, regardless of the challenges, we saw God move so powerfully, so unmistakably, that it seemed right to continue to do them. Even so, the timing was a matter of question until mid-summer when the stirring bubbled over, and I approached Pastor Brent at Maple View Mennonite church. And the rest is history. But not without a story…

In Pennsylvania, back in July, I stayed a week after the conference to spend time with individuals looking for support in their healing journey, or just to connect with people. It wasn’t part of the plan, but when I ran it by Tim, he felt it would be a good thing for me to stay… and that’s how it came about that I stayed. Right there, at the conference, we made the decision that if there were requests, I would do it. Little did I know that God was orchestrating something much bigger, something so powerful it would supersede any dreams that had long stirred in my heart. A dream to work, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder as ‘one in Christ’ with my Mennonite friends.

It began there, in PA, when a Mennonite pastor did the ‘Pastor’s Confession’ that Friday evening, acknowledging the pain caused by leaders ignoring, neglecting or intentionally covering up for perpetrators. He share the heart of God with tenderness and compassion for victims. He offered unapologetic ‘Amens’ from time to time, throughout the evening, and offered strong support for the wounded. But, however touching for myself and others, that was only the beginning…

Later that week I sat in the home of an Old Order Mennonite couple, visiting. Their joy bubbled over. The name of Jesus was held high. Their culture was respected, and appreciated. And in the middle of all of that, they spoke with bold truth about their own stories, which included molestation and sexual immorality. The shared openly what Jesus has done for them, while acknowledging the damage and deep wounds.

I listened with fascination and that’s when I asked, not expecting it to ever happen, let alone them saying yes, “Would you consider sharing your story at a conference? People need to hear this!” I felt it powerfully. They have a story, a voice within the culture. I am marked because I left. I’m on the outside. I had asked others, over the years, and always it was a ‘no’, even if initially they thought maybe they would, or said they could. Sooner or later the weight of that exposure took over, and they changed their minds. I expected a similar outcome. Oh me of little faith…

No more had I posed the question, and both husband and wife agreed, enthusiastically, they would like to do it. Taken off guard, and having fully expected them needing a few weeks to contemplate, I didn’t know quite how to respond. I don’t even remember what I said next, but I do remember what they said. “God has already told us we will be sharing our testimony.”

I was appropriately ‘wowed’ and asked if they’d come to Ontario and share at our October 23-24 conference. Having misunderstood, and thinking it was in September, they declined with regret. They would be gone over that time.

A few weeks after I returned to Ontario, they called for some other purpose, and in conversation our conference came up. “Were you serious about us coming?” she asked. I told her I was, but reminded her they would be away over that time. And that is when she explained they had the wrong month, but if we could work out all the details, they would be delighted to join us.

We spent many hours in the following weeks, talking on the phone, going over their story, and piecing together what would eventually be a 2-session interview, for our Saturday morning sessions at the conference.

The weekend arrived, last Friday October 23, bringing with it a sense of deep anticipation for me. Somehow I knew that to hear their story would bring healing to many, and especially those still in our Mennonite culture who really need to hear it from within, and those who were in and left and need to hear it acknowledged.

Saturday morning exceeded my expectations, as I watched God move and speak through Jim and Diane’s story. Diane is a particularly gifted speaker, with the ability to put things into words in a way that connects quickly. Jim shared throughout, bringing deep meaning through scripture, and calling for an end to silence and acknowledging the deep damage done by molestation and by silence. This resulted in many tears from some present, as the Holy Spirit began healing at a new level, some wounded hearts.

Saturday afternoon Pastor Dale Ingraham, who had come from New York with his wife Faith, shared on ‘Blameless in His Sight’, freeing victims from the guilt and shame they carry, that is not theirs at all. He drew from Matthew 18, the chapter in which Jesus honours children and gives strong warning for those who offend a little one. Every victim of abuse needs to hear him preach that message, and it sure wouldn’t hurt for every offender to hear it as well, and grasp the magnitude of it all, and repent.

I had shared on Friday evening, about being ‘Shaped by Experience, Defined by Love’, drawing from the story of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15, whom Jesus appears to call a dog, but in reality He confronts her negative beliefs, and then proceeds to pronounce His blessing on her, giving her highest honour for her faith. On Saturday we opened a short Q&A in our last session, before moving into a short talk on being Remembered By God, drawing from the story of Hagar, and the angel visiting her in the desert.

The weekend of connecting with friends and fellow believers was encouraging and filled with hope. And throughout the entire event, the one thing that blessed my heart, over and over, was our unity in spite of differences. An Old Oder Mennonite couple, a Baptist pastor couple, and whatever Tim and I are in our non-denominational ‘present’ with United church and Mennonite background, all backed up with a beautifully mixed audience in attendance. Together we worshiped God and lifted Jesus high. And the awareness was strong in me, “this is church… this is the Body of Christ in unity, the way it should be”.

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And that partnering together is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced in my life.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

So I Skipped Church… Part 2

I had not more than taken that glimpse into young love, when a family happened by. Two energetic teenagers soon climbed up the railway track–or whatever you call the structure holding it up–as mom stood by reminding them to be safe.

I smiled. Boys will be boys. And sometimes girls will be ‘boys’ too… ‘tomboys’… I would have been the first in line to try the shenanigans one day. Too old now, but not too old to remember catapulting from on top of the stable in the barn, as a pre-teen and young teen.

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Mom said something about wishing she had brought a camera just as I offered to take some pictures and we stood there, with our cell phones, exchanging emails to make sure we could connect and get the pictures to them. I took a few of them as a couple, and heard a little tidbit of their story. They told me the pictures would make it all the way to Australia, where he was from, as he would definitely want to share them with his family.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI continued on then, to my car, where I sat a while just watching the creatures and the people. An elderly couple, whom I had met on my walk, sat under a tree, resting. (People with their backs turned don’t really count, when it comes to rules about taking pictures…) Though older, he reminded me much of Steve Masterson, and I found myself missing Steve and Jackie who, like Howard and Alice, had a powerful impact on my life, and on Tim’s. They were most delightful conversationalists, and I thought how bitter-sweet it is, to meet people only once and never to really know them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI snapped a shot of the view we shared, then packed up my camera and headed back to Elmira…

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Tim–who went to church with our boys–texted and asked if I would pick up a coffee at Tim Hortons. A double-double. As I pulled in, an Old Order gentleman walked out, carrying his tray of coffees. Across the parking lot, two friends waited–one on a buggy, one on a bike. I make exceptions about taking pictures of people where there are horses and/or buggies involved. Or bikes. (Okay… I just made that up, but hey, it works.)

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After picking up Tim’s coffee, I did the final jaunt home. Nicole had baked the ‘Potato Flake Sourdough Bread’ that I had put in pans the night before. (An outstanding ‘friendship bread’ type recipe that I was given starter for this week, and we all love. I wish I didn’t… I’d rather stay away from bread.)

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My heart was full. I met God in ways and places that are as beautiful as worshipping Him in a traditional church service. I value and believe in the importance of believers gathering together to worship God, as a God-family, but maybe salvation and ‘measuring up’ are not so closely linked to the ‘where and the how’ as we might imagine.

I’m not like the pastor who proudly announced that he never missed church a day in his adult life–not even when his wife had given birth the day before. I’ve missed church when nobody in my life gave birth and nobody was sick… I just played hookie. And not only once. I’ve done it  a few times for no reason at all. Quite a few. And I’ve done it because church was too difficult when hard times caused me to struggle and I didn’t feel safe with people….

And that thought takes me back to the beginning of my little escapade…

Just off of our street, shortly after Barnswallow Street turns to Whipperwill, is the most gorgeous apple tree. I had stopped there on my way out, to capture the apple blossoms. As I contemplated how life, with all of its bumps and scrapes, seems at times to contradict the promises of God, I thought of one of those photos, and that is the extent of my ‘morning sermon’ that I would like to leave with you, in the form of this picture.

God's PromisesGod does not lie. His promises are forever. And, as some of my dreams are coming true, I remember the many times I doubted and struggled. Times I was sure God used me as a pawn in a giant chess game. But always He has carried me through–sometimes kicking and screaming–but always with purpose and destiny.

Wherever you find yourself in your journey with God, and no matter how difficult it is to keep believing in Him and His purposes, hold on to the truth of His promises.

© Trudy Metzger

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