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.
~ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.
© Trudy Metzger 2019