His smile sickened me. Disgusted me.
He attempted to reassure me. “I know the Lord and my life is changed.”
BACKGROUND TO SHARING THIS STORY
A friend asked if we could share the following story on my blog. The woman in the story felt compelled to speak out about her horrific experiences with Luke H Martin, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, (EDIT: born in 1955 to Jonas M and Elizabeth Martin) recently after he approached his victim at an event. He showed no concern for her wellbeing, nor awareness of her lack of safety near him. Many years earlier, when confronted, he acknowledged his abuse of her, but failed to acknowledge the harm done to his victim(s). This confrontation took place after she was an adult.
This story begins with chaos and family dysfunction. There were many adults in this home. Yet, none seemed to notice when a little girl began experiencing the horror that her next 3 years would become. At the dinner table during prayer, in the barn before chores, after chores, and even during chores. In her bed at night, the bed she shared with her sister.
From age 8 to 11, this little girl experienced hell at the hands of a hired man who was old enough to know better. He simply did not care about anyone or anything, but himself and his vile desires.
A WORD OF INTRODUCTION FROM THE AUTHOR
I never thought I would have the opportunity to share my story, my experience, and the nightmare this man inflicted on me. It was after our last ‘accidental’ meeting that I resolved, after some thought, that it was time to share my story publicly. I tell my story so others will know what he is capable of. So others harmed by him will know they are not alone in being abused and deeply hurt by this man. In hopes that others will feel less alone and find the courage to tell their stories. Especially other victims of the man who abused me.
A HORROR FROM DAYS GONE BY
Luke Martin was 19 or 20 when he was hired to help on our farm. We shared a house with my grandparents, and two young women between 20 and 30 years old, as I recall. In total, with Luke, there were 7 adults in my home. Not one ever noticed what was happening under their roof, at their dinner table, in their barn. Being the oldest child, I was often tasked with helping Luke with his various duties. It was not unusual to be in the stripping room, stripping tobacco, just me and him.
Daily life, after Luke entered our home, changed dramatically as he took every opportunity to molest me. Our home wasn’t perfect, but my parents loved me, and they loved each other. With them, I was safe. Luke robbed me of safety in my home. He disrupted my development. He stole my confidence.
The worst was time spent alone in the barn with him. Luke created a fort in the haymow, as children do, which kept others from seeing what was happening behind those hay bales. He created this sick ritual where he acknowledged that what he was going to do to me was wrong in God’s eyes, because I was an innocent child. He justified his crimes by telling me I must ask him to do whatever evil thing he desired that day. He would then respond with, “Let’s pray.” This was followed by a short time of silence during which time he expected me to pray and ask God to forgive him for the sins he was about to commit. Since I was an innocent child, God would surely hear my prayer.
After prayer, there in the haymow, he not only raped and molested me, but he also had a dog do it to me as well. He also forced me to watch him commit these acts on our female dog. In the barn, it was just him and me, while all the other adults were doing other things, which gave him opportunity to repeat these horrific assaults whenever he pleased.
A year after the abuse started, I got my first period. Despite not having an education about periods and pregnancy, I would spend time looking in the mirror, fearing that I was potentially pregnant. Each month I was relieved when my period came. The anxiety and worry about giving birth to a half-human, half-dog being was all-consuming. How would I explain that at 9 years old? What would people think?
Luke took pleasure in taking me to watch animals have sex. “This is how people do it!” he assured me. He would take me to watch pigs, dogs, cats, and whatever animal he came upon mating. “This is how your parents do it,” he told me time after time. I remember feeling disgusted and ashamed at seeing animals do this and being told my parents did these same acts.
The fear and the shame built up and I acted out at school. I cheated. I lied. I was disruptive and thought of myself as being the class clown. At home, I was angry and disrespectful. I was very frustrated that no one seemed to notice or care about the pain I suffered, the humiliation I endured, and the shame I constantly felt alongside the crippling fear.
I first attempted to die by suicide at age 9. I took a handful of Aspirin and went to bed, desperately hoping to not wake up the next morning. I awoke the next morning, stretched my arms and moved my fingers, and realized that I was still alive. I was disappointed to have to face not just that day but all the feelings that went alongside being a victim of Luke’s abuse. I tried two more times to end my life, each time taking even more aspirin. And each time I felt the same disappointment.
Luke also had a temper. On his final day at our home, he became enraged because Dad hadn’t gotten a chance to buy him the muffler for the tractor that Luke wanted, so he packed his bags and walked off. Watching Luke walk away brought me a sense of peace. I can easily define that moment as being the best feeling that Luke had ever evoked in me. I can still see his buggy drive down the road. With each clip-clop, knowing he was farther and farther away, I was finally safe from his vile and calculated abuse.
I was finally safe from his sexualizing everything from me to the animals. That day changed my life for the better.
A RECENT ENCOUNTER
The night I bumped into Luke, some months ago – and he smiled ‘that’ smile – was another game changer. He seemed aware of my life and all that had happened in the last 37 years, as though he had been stalking me all those years, dating back to when he was approached by his bishop regarding abusing me.
Luke smiled at me and said, “I cried many a’night when I found out how your life turned out.” His demeanor can only be described as “giddy.” His actions and words far from appropriate. Imagine spending three years of your adult life making a young child suffer for sexual gratification, and then having the audacity to approach her decades later and tell her how changed you are.
As I share my story, I look back and realize how many other times he inserted himself in my life since I am an adult. There was one time, in particular, I thought I saw him at an event that I attended. I just couldn’t be sure that it was him. But then I smelled him. His distinct body odor confirmed for me that it was him; he smelled just as he did when he abused me. The trigger of his scent alone caused me to spend many ensuing nights reliving childhood trauma through nightmares and flashbacks. Details and events that I have never before shared publicly.
When he stood before me, smiling and giddy, a few months ago, I asked him the following question: “Do you realize what you took from me, from other young girls, and [specific identity redacted]?”
Luke’s smile never changed. If anything, the twinkle in his eye seemed to shine brighter. He did not deny what I said. I was confident I was not the only victim of his depravity, though I did not know if he had ever acknowledged other victims. The skill with which he manipulated our home from the start, to harm me as he did, indicated he was already an experienced and highly skilled abuser.
Luke repeated that the Lord had changed him and he was not the same man. He leaned close to me, seeming not to recognize how significant his actions were, and his response to my question. He seemed to have no perception of what he had truly done. We were not talking about something trivial. And, yet, his body language suggested that this was a conversation about him; something that seemed to boost his ego.
Standing there close to me, a victim of his horrific sexual violence, he insisted over and over how the Lord had changed him. He was unphased. Unphased by me boldly asking him if he knew the significance of what he had done. Unphased by the people walking around. Oblivious to the witnesses his body language was drawing. He did not grasp the pain he had caused me, other victims, and his wife and family by his actions.
I reminded him during our conversation, “This isn’t about you.”
After he walked away, another lady asked me if I was okay. I wasn’t. I admitted that and explained who he was and what he had done. She looked around. Families with children were nearby, and all around. Young people were walking in groups, some were alone. She was especially concerned about the vulnerability of young girls walking around without adults.
She looked at me, “How is it, that a man like that, can be here in a place where there are other young children?” Her eyes were kind toward me, and yet at that moment, she realized that in a place where there are many Mennonite and Amish families, a predator was free to roam about. Her feelings of safety and security were suddenly destroyed, knowing that Luke was there and so bold in his approach and actions toward me.
She told me that she had observed our interaction. I asked if it was because I had seemed angry. She shook her head no. “It was him. He just was acting odd.”
After this event I reached out to a friend and asked if they know of any avenues to sharing my story. They told me of this blog, and reached out on my behalf.
The night I bumped into Luke, a few months ago, my boldness overshadowed my fear and my nerves. I finally confronted him. There wasn’t a shadow of a doubt or a nudge of fear on his face; it was then I decided I want to share my story publicly. I want others to know who he is and what he has done, to ensure he never does this again. The Lord is capable of big things, including changing him, if he becomes truly repentant. Even so, those who have been victimized and harmed by him, should be acknowledged and given opportunity to heal, without him approaching them and terrorizing them through nightmares and flashbacks.
Over 30 years ago, Luke acknowledged his sex crimes when the bishop confronted him for what he had done to me as a child. To our church’s credit, he was excommunicated. Immediately, he began attending a church back in his hometown, near our family.
I have seen Luke several times in the last number of years, where he had ample opportunity to acknowledge the sexual assault and harm. But he never had the courage to own his sins with me, his victim. Yet, somehow, he had the nerve to repeatedly tell me that he was a changed man. It was, once again, all about him and what he wanted or needed. It was, again, about him trying to take power over me.
My life and the things that I have overcome and accomplished are not because of him. They are because of God’s goodness; He has given me the strength to overcome much trauma. I know that my story isn’t typical. When my family stopped farming and my father chose another occupation, it was a wonderful time for our family. There was no more anxiety about who the next hired man might be. No more fear of what he may try to do in the night, or even at the dinner table. Never again did I worry about being in a haymow, and I never did have to go back into a barn or a stripping room.
I never thought I would have the opportunity to share my story publicly for others who need to know that Luke Martin is a sexual predator who harms little children. I write this story because I want other victims to know, “You are not alone.” I want them to know they are supported if they choose to come forward and report him.
~ One little girl… now grown up and healed enough to speak ~
We tell the hard stories because they speak truth. We tell the hard stories to give others courage to speak. We tell them for the sake of accountability for the offender, and for the sake of justice and mercy. There is no greater mercy than to value the life of a child enough to create awareness. Above all, we tell them because to speak is part of the healing process, and it is critical for protecting children and the vulnerable.
Therefore, we will continue to speak. Continue to invite God into the chaos, the trauma and the horror of sins and crimes committed in His name, against His little ones.
~ T ~
© Trudy Metzger 2022