A wheelbarrow and a shovel… “Where to from here?”

A wheelbarrow and a shovel… “Where to from here?”

It’s the same manure that stinks to high heaven,
and frustrates the life of the housewife who hangs wash on the line,
… Or her husband, if he did it for her, God bless his heart…
that causes flowers to bloom and gardens to thrive.
~ Yours Truly….
….from in the middle of the stink ~ 

***

I wrote “Part 1 and Part 2” of this blog and then, as I wrapped it up, I looked at it. And I realized “Part 1” was for my personal processing, and Part 2 is for posting. So that is what I am doing. Because Part 1 does nothing more than present evidence. For now I am sharing only this portion because I’m not sure any good can come from the other part at this time, and I am just not at peace with it.

***

Going public, while not fun, was the right thing to do. I have zero doubt about that. It was necessary. (It has, however, been my most successful weight loss ‘program’, with a record over 8 pounds shed in four days. But it is not a ‘program’ I recommend). And it has brought forward countless stories, each naming D by his full name, and giving those individuals a place to speak. It also brought some new allegations to light in other scenarios. The level of shame some of these individuals have carried is staggering.

So where to from here…

S and I have both acknowledged that trust is broken between us. Our positions are completely polarized. I do think if S and I could meet and share all the ‘evidence’ and ‘story’ we each have, we might have a starting point to work from. I am almost certain that if he saw and heard all the messages in my inbox, and if he would compare D’s word to me – which I would have him hear and see – with D’s word to him, and see if it matches what D told him, we stand a chance at progress.

I would like S to take breast-groping and butt-grabbing more seriously as a sexual assault than he has indicated in some of our communications, and as relates to the case with D’s victim. (Even if that was all he did – which isn’t accurate because I have a confession by him to doing more than that – it should be taken seriously and the damage to the victim acknowledged.) I would like him to meet with me and see and hear the evidence, and let it speak for itself. (Something I have struggled to even contemplate trusting him with since he went back to D with everything I already shared.) Yes, there is more to the story than the evidence tells, but the evidence is very incriminating. Under no circumstances will I send any of it to him because he broke my trust before I had opportunity to show him the evidence. I would hope that, if he saw the evidence, he would see the urgency that I see. And if he saw that urgency, I would hope he would publicly admit that he knew since September, and that his decision to be silent left many people vulnerable.

I acknowledge that he also does not trust me – more specifically he has said he does not trust the conclusions I come to, because he believes I see abuse scenarios through the lens of my experience. This is fair. I freely acknowledge that I do, and that every human does. S does too. I do my best to be consistent in how I respond from case to case. It means that clients whom I love and care about know that I will report them if they abuse someone. That’s the lens through which I function, and it seems to not be an adjustable lens. I would appreciate if S contemplated the reality of his own lens.

So, while I am willing to meet with S, I am only willing to do so with my pastor present – Pastor Dale Ingraham and ideally also someone like Dan Beachy of Life Ministries (whom I have never met and do not know other than the testimonies I have heard), and he could have whomever he chooses present for support. S and I are far too polarized to make headway without that.

We have had a pastor ‘in the middle’ for the duration of this conflict, and I appreciate him very much. (An interesting ‘aside’, his initials, like S and D are also a double of one letter. I am choosing not to disclose his initials because he’s been dragged into enough already.) Our temperaments and spiritual giftings are actually quite fascinating.  The pastor has an incredibly tender heart and would define his ‘calling’ to be to bring unity to the body of Christ. S has a very tender heart as well, but I have not heard him define his calling, so I will not attempt to guess. I do know he is firmly committed to what he believes. I am also tenderhearted, and tenaciously committed to my calling: To bring healing to victims, to expose the darkness of sexual abuse in religious communities, and to help offenders. Each of our gifts are valuable.

***

My first commitment is to support the victim(s) – whether the victim of the sexual assault, or the victims of D’s phone calls and the shame these individuals carry, not to mention the psychological aftermath. Numerous victims have suffered physical/psychological consequences such as panic attacks, nightmare or terrors, fear and trauma at the thought of ever seeing him again, and nausea at the memory of what he did. In whatever way I am able, I offer to help these victims find support. That is my first priority.

***

I sat for almost 2 hours yesterday with a man who molested a young woman years ago. I told him the same thing I just wrote… I will report all abuse, no matter who. No matter what. We worked through some ongoing identity issues. We dug deep. In the end he looked at me and, tears in his eyes, thanked me.

Maybe those who have offended, or are at risk of offending, actually crave someone to take them to hard places… Maybe we owe it to the victims first, but maybe we owe it to the offenders too.

This is my prayer for D, that he will take full ownership without *any* blame toward victims. That he will stop lying about “all the hurting who come to him… for support… for money… for ‘whatever” when the evidence trails proves he is writing people and offering them money and many are declining. It is my prayer that he will be surrounded by men who will walk with him

When I met D, I saw a tormented man. A man apparently helpless in the clutches of his own sins and crimes. Begging for forgiveness, drawing temporary relief from ‘forgiveness’, but never having had someone who would dare to also hold him accountable to face the legal consequences of his crimes.

I have had the opportunity to walk with tormented offenders as they turned themselves in to the law knowing they could be sentenced to prison. I have heard them express after that they ‘finally have peace’ even before the knew the outcome. And I have heard them say they are no longer tempted, having laid aside any perceived ‘right’ to protect themselves from those consequences. I would be willing to go with D to support him if he decides to turn himself in to the law for the sexual assault that he has admitted to (in writing and verbally to S in September 2017 and to me in March 2018), any other and other crimes he may have committed, or allegedly committed. I would be willing to arrange for him to have a support system should he be sentenced to prison, and to ensure he has support when he is released so that he is less likely to reoffend.

***

At the very root of the issue of sexual abuse and why it continues thriving in the church – not only hiding, but truly thriving, for a lack of better word – is a list of ways we mishandle abuse cases when the cost of dealing with it looks greater than the cost of blinking an eye. We would never say we are inconsistent, or show favouritism. Yet, when it’s someone close to us, or someone we trust – because they’ve never done that to us or to ours, therefore they would never do such a thing – we trust our feelings about them rather than entertain the possibility that they are predators, in some cases, or have molested.

I made a promise in about 2012 that I would not ask how wealthy an alleged offender is, how prestigious,  or how closely related to me or those I love. That may have been stupid. But I did it. No matter the story, I would do what I have always done as long as the victim asks me to confront it, or gives permission to report in cases where the victim is an adult. This means I’ve stepped on some toes that were gold-plated. I’ve confronted leaders. And I’ve confronted someone in a family one of my siblings married into. What I do is not popular when the offender is an elite, or close to an elite. When there is no ‘higher’ association, I do my work unhindered and undisturbed. And then there are times that there is an impenetrable power covering the offender. I still do what I am called to do. (It’s why I have a wheelbarrow and a shovel, not a bandwagon. The advantage is when it’s time to shovel…)

This is my  appeal to all leaders. Help the victim in seeking support. Expose the abuse and the abuser. Don’t do it to destroy them, do it to protect the people from danger and to make sure they cannot further harm others or themselves. (The hell they live with, knowing the damage they have done – for those who are not so narcissistic that they don’t care – is awful.) It is your God-given responsibility, to the best of your ability, to protect all the vulnerable, the women and the children. Don’t show favouritism. Don’t compare banning a sex offender from events or church with banning people who have other addictions, or who are divorced and remarried, or some other thing. These are not comparable, because the others do not pose a threat to the safety of vulnerable people.

Sex offenders need help and support, but don’t be afraid to tell them to seek help elsewhere if their victim is in your church, or if the environment of your event is one where many vulnerable people are present. If offenders are so arrogant that they demand seeking help in an environment where they make others unsafe, they are not repentant. Repentant sinners are humble. And repentant sex offenders humbly accept that they need to stay away from certain places and activities for the protection of others, and to ensure they do not commit those crimes. I have been thanked for helping them set boundaries to ensure that safety. This is our duty as leaders.

***

Proverbs 31:8  
“Open your mouth for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all who are destitute.”

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

At the End of the Road (Suicides, Crime & Fallout from Ashley Madison Leak)

The house is empty now… devoid of laughter and voices; perfectly still. The family dog no longer runs playfully after the pitter-patter of little feet. Mostly she just lays there, on the mat by the door, disinterested and depressed.  The teddy bear, still curled up on the floor where it was dropped that day, remains untouched. I wonder, does she cry for it, or has a new one taken it’s place? Covers unmade, hanging off the bed… A dress never worn again, on the arm of the corner chair. Everything else, perfectly in place, and clean, except for the collecting dust. It builds up so fast.

canstockphoto28140620

Has it really been only two weeks? Two long, hopelessly silent weeks? It seems like forever. The sun stopped shining, as if drawing a curtain on the world, with no promise of tomorrow. It has rained for two weeks now, and the forecast shows no sign of change. How did the elements know that on that day, my world would lose it’s light? I didn’t even appreciate the light when I had it…

I should have seen it coming, I suppose. And in a way I did. But I kept saying it would change. I would change. I kept promising to get help; to do better, that I would stop, and they would be safe. I kept telling myself that I meant it. And I thought I did. But always, always, I was too weak and gave into my addictions. And always I abused them one more time until there was nothing left of the light that once sparkled in their eyes. The joy that once danced there, gone.

I wonder, was their world this dark, all those years? Had the sun set on them long ago? Did I just pretend there was laughter… that the dog wagged and chased and played? Did I lie to myself about that too, just so I could live with myself? Telling myself it wasn’t so bad, that they’d be okay?

Are they okay now? Now that I’m not with them, does their sun shine again? Do they laugh, and play and sing? I can’t bear to think of it, of them…

The house is empty now… devoid of laughter and voices; perfectly still. The family dog no longer runs playfully after the pitter-patter of little feet. Mostly she just lays there, disinterested and depressed.  The stuffing spills carelessly onto the floor, from the teddy bear still curled up on the floor, where it was dropped that day. The dog walks over, picks it up and carries it to her bed…  It’s all that’s left of the scent of her…

…that teddy bear, and the haunting memories and nightmares that visit me in my sleep…

This is the end of the road, for me, for us. The end result of the choices I made, this lonely hellish silence. I study the photos in my hand… My face has been ripped from some of them… I try not to think about it, but truth is I wonder which one hated me that much… or did they all? I run my finger along the outlines of their faces… I imagine standing in front of them and, if I had one more chance to talk to them, what would I say?

canstockphoto27096336

“It’s not your fault.” I think that’s what I would want to say, to release them.

But it’s too late now…. now that I finally see it. Oh, I used to blame them, and say if they did better, I wouldn’t be like I am…. I wouldn’t make these ‘mistakes’. I did that to make me feel better too. But it wasn’t their fault, the way I was, and they were not ‘mistakes’, the things that I did… They were crimes,  and they were sins… And I did it to them. I chose to hurt them… I betrayed them. It was my lust, my lack of self control, my self interest, my sin… All of it is mine to own. Here. Alone.

“God, forgive me…. I don’t deserve Your grace. I don’t deserve them.”

****

As crimes and suicides are reported as possibly, even probably, being linked to the Ashley Madison leak, this ‘image’ of lonely people in vacant relationships played out in my mind… I pray that people will come face to face with truth in a way that is redemptive, not destructive, and that no more lives will be lost. The choices we make, relationally, always come with a price tag, a reward, or both. And the choice is always our own, and therefore the end result is the thing we each must face. And at the end of the road, when we stand in front of the mirror and see ourselves as we really are, we are confronted, again, with a choice. Do we accept responsibility or do we blame others and demand they overlook, ‘forgive on our terms’, or find some way or another to try to get off the hook?

There is always hope for a new life, and that is true whether you are a pastor, a police officer, a politician, a doctor, or a “Josh Duggar’–someone who has presented idealistic Christianity while sinning blatantly in the same arena–or any other human. No matter who you are, or what you have done, there is always an opportunity for new beginnings. But sometimes that ‘new’ begins by sitting alone in an empty house, because everyone who tired of the betrayal has packed and left. No matter who you are or what you have done, the ‘way out’ is to face it, own it, and ask for forgiveness without agenda; forgiveness that releases the people we wounded, allowing them to grieve and heal their way, and even to walk away.

My prayer is that many of the 40,000 people on the Ashley Madison list will own their sins, repent and find hope, freedom, forgiveness and new life.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Dirty Laundry that Stinks to High Heaven: Sexual Abuse in Christian Cultures (Part 1 of 2)

What inspired me to share the information in yesterday’s blog, Age of Consent & Sexual Assault, and the links I will provide over the next several posts, is several sexual abuse cases that took place in my cultural background.

Two in particular have my attention. One is more recent, the other a bit longer ago, but less than fifteen years ago. They appear to be linked through generational chains. I have not pursued information on this case (yet), nor have I spoken to any of the victims directly… what I know has recently come to me.

It is very likely that some of my readers will recognize the story, and if you find yourself feeling responsible to report the case, because you know too much…. Well, follow your conscience…

The case most influencing me is that of a 14-year-old having sexual relations with an adult Mennonite teacher, who also molested other children. (Of this type of scenario, I have been made aware of several separate cases, in Ontario, and in USA. I will write here only based on Canadian laws, as I am not familiar with USA laws, or state laws.)

The problem here was that, since the relationship with the teen was consensual, so the church treated it as fornication and a mutual consent affair. This allowed them, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to quickly treat it as sin for both parties, and apply church laws to ‘take care of it’. (To my knowledge the teacher who abused the children and engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with the student has not been reported or brought to legal justice That is a matter I still need to confirm. Those who have spoken with me about it, did not know for certain. But that is not really the point I am trying to make, it is about putting responsibility on the student, when the teacher has the power.)

Under no circumstances is it appropriate to put this on a 14-yr-old child, nor would it stand up in court. It would not stand in defense of the teacher, who is in a position of authority and would be held accountable even if it was an older student, because it is an abuse of power. Nor would the law accept that church leaders and others in positions of authority, who were aware of the inappropriate sexual relations, are innocent.

I am still in the process of determining my own moral/legal obligations, having recently been made aware of these details. When I know what I am required to do, I will do it. And in the event that it has already been reported and dealt with, my understanding is that I am not required to do anything further. However, because of the situation with the teen, there may still be a legal obligation on my part, and, again, I will do it if that is the case.

It is a tragedy that numerous similar scenarios are coming to light, and, even with multiple victims, it appears as though it has been quietly swept under the carpet of the church. It is important, and it cannot be stressed enough, that a perpetrator of sexual abuse be reported. To apply church discipline is a matter completely separate from the law, and in no way overrides the laws of our land, especially when it comes to protecting innocent children.

There are questions surrounding consequences for children who abuse children. According to the information I posted yesterday, children, ages 13 and under, are not charged unless they are in a position of authority and trust. My understanding is that if they are 12 or 13, they still need to be reported, so that they can get appropriate help, and it is just common sense to find help for all children who display obsession with sexualized behaviour.

In the case of 14 to 17 yr olds, they are typically charged as juveniles, and those 18 and over are charged and tried as adults.

Religious leaders, principals, school teachers, Sunday school teachers, and all those in a position of authority and trust, can be held to account for not reporting. However, all adults are required to report.

In a recent case (USA) a spouse who knew of abuse was also arrested, and in another case a priest was charged for knowingly covering abuse. More and more, I anticipate seeing this type of consequence for silence and turning a blind eye.

In Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard had recommended a Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse in all institutions, to determine how much cover up is happening. This includes, but is not limited to churches. If this were to happen in Canada, I am confident that what would come to light in the church would shock the world, and our communities, and it would cost the church. (Though it might also do some unexpected house cleaning.) I am saddened that this is the case.

I pray that we do some serious house cleaning before it comes to this. It would result in serious, and justified, attacks on Christianity.  And, undoubtedly, we would cry ‘Persecution’, but it would not be that at all.

Persecution is when we suffer for the sake of Christ, not for the sake of evil, corruption and iniquity hidden in the walls of the church, while declaring our own righteousness. That kind of attack is the result of our own godlessness.

1 Peter 3:13-18

New King James Version (NKJV)

Suffering for Right and Wrong

13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”[a] 15 But sanctify the Lord God[b] in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Christ’s Suffering and Ours

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us[c] to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

God forbid that we would continue to hide our sin and crimes, while judging the world for their ungodliness, and then pretending to suffer for the name of Christ when they judge our lies and abominations. That is blasphemous, at best.

If we continue to do this, we will stand in judgement for such pretences, I believe, far more than the ungodly who have never known Christ. We have known Him, and willingly defiled His name and His church–the body of Christ–to protect our pride.

And to those leaders who declare, “I didn’t know”, my question is, “Why? Why did you not know? What door are you afraid to open, for fear of the consequences?”

Ask God to show you the true state of things, and then be prepared to act on that, both biblically, and according to the laws of our land. God isn’t much for turning a blind eye, so He will show you if you are willing to know.

I could name numerous leaders who have been approached by victims, who have been told how bad it is, but have not gotten their hands bloody to ‘know’ the truth. They have chosen not to believe, and each time they hear it again, they do the same thing.

But God is calling some, including some who have done this in the past, to rise up, hear hearts, face the truth and be the channels for God’s grace and forgiveness to flow out to His people. It is a call to all Christian leaders who will hear and respond, not only those in my cultural background, but every denomination.

God is not pleased with what has been done. He is giving us this opportunity, as believers, to deal with our sins appropriately and according  to the Bible and the laws of the land. (None of the laws of the land, regarding Child Sexual Abuse, violate our biblical call to repentance and God’s justice, therefore we are bound biblically, to live in submission to those laws.)

If we do not obey those laws and repent, God will expose our sins and the cost will be far greater than anything we can imagine.

We can pretend that we are ever so holy, that we have it together and our life is a picture of true holiness, but as long as we hide sin in our churches, and refuse to protect our children, we are nothing more than a spiritual slum…

(c) Can Stock Photo

…To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series