Jeremy’s Journey: From Abuse & Addiction, to Freedom & Hope

The formal office setting could have been a bit intimidating, at least a little, if had come to be assessed by the young medical professional, and if he had not been so warm and welcoming. It isn’t every day I sit in the office of professionals, interviewing them and hearing stories of childhood abuse, sexual addictions and struggle.

It’s happened before, with a lawyer, my age, who simply needed to share his journey, and weep, and several other medical professionals, but still, it is rare. Whether that is because they have done so well, that pulling a painful story to the forefront is too overwhelming, or the fear of what clients, patients or customers might think, if they were to discover it.

Whatever the reason, it’s not because these hurts and traumas don’t exist there…. it’s just rare that I am the one sitting across from them. When I do, they simply become human beings, without title or position, who need someone to listen, someone to understand, someone to care. Or, in this case, to hear their story, and share it with the public. I’ve been criticized, mostly by one or two people, for sharing these painful stories publicly, as if I am wrecking people’s lives by doing so. On the contrary, I share stories because those who tell me theirs, and ask me to write about them, or give me permission to, want to have a voice, without exposing their identity.

I am careful what stories I choose. There are many I have heard that you will never see in black and white, unless the individuals choose to tell them themselves. They are powerful stories, but the telling of some horrific truths I simply cannot enter into, at least not at this time in my life. I can hear, and have compassion, but retelling makes my mind stop, and the words refuse to come. But the one thing I have hoped for, is to share the story of a gentleman, or two, who suffered sexual abuse and overcame….

Some months ago, in blog post, I asked if any men would be willing to share their stories, and eventually this gentleman contacted me. He would be willing to share his story and ‘tell all’, he said, as long as I don’t disclose his real name. I could come to his office and even record the interview.

After driving almost two hours, I was greeted by a short and slightly stocky, balding gentleman,  with friendly eyes, a big voice, and a ready smile. To break the ice, we chatted, casually for a few moments, about his work and how successful he has become, and to establish boundaries in the discussion. Anything was fair game, he said.

To lead into the interview, I asked if he has ever shared his story with anyone before, in its entirety, and he had not. And so I began with early childhood memories…


Raised in a Christian home, his parents gave him the best that they could, both physically and spiritually. They were firm, yet loving, in parenting. They were involved in church, but not to the neglect of their children. They had a good and safe home, but they also had their work cut out for them. Jeremy was a high-energy, rambunctious boy…

It all began when Jeremy was babysat, as a very young boy, by ‘nice’ young man next door, in his mid to upper teens, and the babysitter helped him shower before bed. The babysitter joked with him about their bodies, and led into touching each other, covering it with laughter, to make it seem innocent. Beyond that, he said, he had no memories of anything happening.

While there seemed to be no obvious consequences that Jeremy would have recognized, it clearly set life patterns. Now a psychologist, Jeremy says it was studying that helped him understand how this impacted his life.

By age eight a friend introduced Jeremy to pornography, opening a door to a whole new set of problems and confusions. That introduction led to an addiction that would take many years to break.

Initially it amounted mostly to excessive time spent in the Sears catalogue, because there was no other easy access to porn. This lasted until his parents found a ‘home made’ porn book, of pictures glued into a lined subject book, and questioned him. He blamed it on his sister, who was only a year younger than he, but after a through investigation, they didn’t buy the story.

With time Jeremy introduced a boy in the neighbourhood, who was a year or two younger, to porn, and by age eleven he started mowing lawns to bring in money, and used it to buy candy and pornography. Being too embarrassed to purchase the magazines himself, he conned his friend into going into the store, in exchange for candy, to buy topless magazines

Jeremy was diagnosed ADHD at a young age–and it affected him to such an extreme that he was kicked out of preschool before the end of the first week–and was forbidden candy at home, as was his younger sister. His buddy’s home was also highly controlled, with a strong health focus, and as a result he too, almost never got candy. By partnering together, they managed to keep their addictions hidden–both the porn and the candy–while feeding those addictions constantly.

When the computer arrived in their home, unsupervised, providing easy access, Jeremy said the problem escalated to unimaginable levels.

At one point Jeremy’s mom sat down, sensing something was wrong, and questioned him, but he denied everything, and she never asked again.

Driven by guilt, the addiction was a compelling force in Jeremy’s life for many years. Through high school, through his early twenties, and then into marriage, he surrendered, mostly willingly, to the addiction. There were short periods of time when he fought hard, and even gave up the addictions. But it never lasted longer than 2 or 3 weeks, before it would overtake him again, leaving him hopeless, overwhelmed and defeated. Not to mention that he didn’t like who he became when not feeding the addictions.

While this struggle played out, going back to those earlier years, other drama and trauma also played out in Jeremy’s life. His sister developed extreme mental illness, leading to physical attacks and even death threats, starting when she was only thirteen. On several occasions she made actual physical attacks on Jeremy’s life, attacking him with sharp objects or other weapons. He was, at that time, still small for his age in every way, and his younger sister, who was taller, had the upper hand. At night his bedroom had to be locked, to keep her out and him safe. And even that didn’t prevent her from trying.

This struggle only served to deepen the addiction, as Jeremy searched for an escape from reality.

When Jeremy started dating, in his late twenties, there was a sudden and unexpected accountability that he hadn’t prepared for. It began when she asked if he was into pornography. In that moment he decided to be honest, and immediately told her the truth.

Through the rise and fall of their courtship, Jeremy said he pushed his girlfriend far beyond her own boundaries, sexually, but managed to avoid having intercourse before marriage. Still, it added to struggles after marriage. She felt betrayed, almost used, and he was confused by her frigidity after marriage.

The marriage vows didn’t take care of the addictions. Jeremy continued to feed on pornography, going through the cycle of wanting to quit, feeling defeated, and drowning in guilt. And then trying again.

In that cycle of trying to overcome, Jeremy found that all he thought about was the very things he wanted to remove from his life. The end result was that the ‘draw’ to the addiction only grew stronger, leaving him yet more powerless.

Jeremy’s wife gave birth to their first child–a son–still the addictions continued, and their relationship deteriorated. As things grew increasingly worse in their marriage , after the birth of twin daughters, Jeremy’s wife insisted he get help. She was ready to give up on the marriage, struggling constantly with the ‘competition’ of pornography, and feeling like she wasn’t enough.

When trying to have sex with him, she said, she constantly pictured what scantily clad, or naked, woman he had last lusted after. The pornography had become a consuming force in their marriage, threatening to take from Jeremy the woman he loved.

Still afraid to expose his struggle, Jeremy reluctantly joined a Celebrate Recovery group, meeting with men who challenged and inspired one another to rise above, to forgive when they failed, to keep reaching for holiness.

As a result of that group, three men decided to meet weekly, apart from the group, and offer each other accountability. At first it worked like a weekly ‘confessional’, where all that really took place was taking turns admitting to failure. When this proved ineffective, they set up a method of ‘consequences’ in which, whoever failed had to pay the other two men a set amount. This worked effectively, he said, by training the mind on consequences.

“I’ve been ‘clean’ for over half a year now,” he said with bold confidence. He shared how he learned to focus on getting up after failing, rather than beating himself up for failing, and the difference that has made. He acknowledged how much his wife has suffered because of his sin, his choices, and how he wants to extend grace to her, as she struggles through that, and through her feelings for him–or the lack of them.

Jeremy is fighting for his wife’s heart, and for their family unit, without imposing on her the burden of his sin. He didn’t say she has to forgive and forget, and get on with life. He understands the consequences of his wrong choices, and time and patience, as God works, is the answer.

When his son gets a little older, he told me, he will have awkward talks with him about pornography and all that ‘stuff’. He remembers those awkward moments with his parents–even how his dad once admitted to having struggled–and plans to have even more talks… talks that are even more awkward. He will teach his children to protect themselves. Teach them about identity, value and purpose.

Jeremy is breaking a generational chain, by breaking the silence. He has moved from a journey of abuse and addiction, to a journey of freedom and hope through Jesus, through accountability, through honesty.

© Trudy Metzger

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Under Arrest: Forgiving, Releasing and Blessing My Father (Part 2)

Approximately one year after the David Meece concert, I received a phone call. Dad had been arrested and put in a locked psychiatric ward in Goderich Hospital. He had uttered death threats, again, but this time someone had called the cops and had him committed.

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It is an odd thing, after being away from home all those years, and almost forgetting what the constant trauma was like, to get news like that. It instantly threw me into inner turmoil, and restlessness, as past memories resurfaced. Even so, there was a sense of peace. I had spent about eighteen months healing, and the past was losing its strangle hold on me.

The family was asked to meet with the psychiatrist a few days later, so I decided I would go visit him while there.

The night before that visit, I attended an event at a farm near Crosshill, where I was to meet Marvin Beachy, the founder of Gospel Echoes, a Mennonite Prison Ministry. I was to give him an answer about whether I would join them in Goshen Indiana for a year, as a volunteer office staff member.

I shared with Marvin briefly some of the things that had transpired, the counseling I was getting and that I didn’t feel the time was right. I wasn’t ready.

Marvin was kind, gentle and fatherly. He listened well and spoke with understanding and wisdom. “I think we need to pray over you before you leave tonight, Trudy. You need to be protected, going in to see your dad.” With that he slipped away to get the Chaplain who travelled with them for that trip.

Marvin returned moments later and introduced me to the chaplain, whose name I cannot recall, and they started to pray over me. Not many people, if any, had ever done that before. I felt safe. I was ready. Equipped.


I rode up the elevator at Goderich Hospital that next day with a sense of calm. Everything would be okay. Sure, I had mild butterflies. After all, I didn’t know what to expect and my contact with Dad had been very limited in the six preceding years.  But he would always be my dad, and one way or another, I would connect with him.

I found my way to his room, still whispering silent prayers. I was glad Howard, Alice and the children had prayed with me before I left. We had gathered in the garage, stood in a circle holding hands, and Howard had prayed.

I stepped into Dad’s room. He was asleep. Completely out of it. I seated myself on the chair at the end of the bed and watched him. He breathed heavily. That sound asleep and almost snoring kind of breathing.

I sat there, waiting and watching him. Wondering how he was really doing. On the inside. He looked quite peaceful in his sleep.

And that is when I saw him. I little boy, curled up on his bed. Afraid. Lost. Lonely. Confused.

Emotion threatened. I pushed it down. Stuffed the tears. Another time….

He startled, catching his breath in a half snore, as he awoke.

His eyes had a wild look in them. Fear. Dilated pupils. His grey hair, what little he had around the sides of his head, was tousled and unkempt looking. He focused on me, still looking bewildered.

“Have you been here long?”

I smiled. “No. Just a few minutes. Did you have a good sleep?”

“I must have drifted off for a bit.”

There was a moment or two of silence. Where do you start into a conversation with your dad, when he’s been arrested and tossed in a psych ward? What is there to say? We talked about a bit of nothing for a while. Mindless chatter, to break the ice.

I don’t know how we got into it, but we struck up a deep conversation. About life. About God. About family, and his threats. He seemed very confused about the present, almost as if the meds were making him not remember, but the past was in the forefront.

For the first time in my life, Dad talked about his life. What it was like to be picked on, as a young man growing up. How some brothers and friends had bullied and traumatized him.

I fought the emotion. He didn’t need to see me cry. He needed to be heard. Calmly.  And I would offer him that.

And then, out of thin air, he told the story of how he started with the sexual abuse… It tumbled out, as if he had waited all his life to tell it. For the truth to be known.

I didn’t feel rage. Nothing but sadness and compassion. And love. As much as I had feared my dad growing up. As much as I had threatened to call cops. Even plotted ways to kill him in childhood if ever I needed to defend myself… I loved him.

He and I seldom had run-ins, apart from me defending younger siblings. I could reason with him, and understand him. Behind that tough, raging exterior there was a very tender heart.

And that is what I learned on that visit. I saw a very tender-hearted boy, who did not know how to handle his hurts, his disappointments. And it had cost him. Big. Particularly in marriage and parenting.

I asked Dad some hard questions. But he had no answers. The questions seemed to confuse him more than anything, so I let it go. It had been enough for one day.

I said I needed to leave, and Dad looked disappointed. He asked why so soon. Another appointment, I said. But I didn’t tell him it was with the psychiatrist. I gave him a hug, and told him I love him, for the first time in my life. He had no clue how to receive it.

Back in my car the emotion hit. I sat there and wept. A lot of information to take in and contemplate….

To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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Completely Understood & Unconditionally Accepted

When Wil and I arrived at the family gathering I spoke to my older brother, Cor, with Wil as my support. Cor is the fifth oldest sibling in our family. He’s the fourth son, and my mother’s firstborn. Dad had four children when he married my mother, having lost his wife and youngest son only months apart. Together my parents had twelve more for a total of sixteen children, and that doesn’t include the over half-dozen they lost through still birth and miscarriage.

With Cor being ten years older than me, and the oldest at home for most of my years there, it felt natural to go to him and explore what we could do to help dad.

Like Wil, Cor was compassionate and understanding, but agreed that without more memories, specific times and locations, nothing could be done. We could not confront Dad until something more concrete surfaced, or other victims came forward.

It was about that time that bits and pieces of conversations started to replay in my mind, from when I was nine years old. One of my cousins on dad’s side, who was thirty years older than I, had contacted my mom. I had heard this cousin’s name before, and remembered her parents, my Uncle *Jake and Aunt *Helen, who came to visit us in Mexico. I didn’t know *Maria well, having only seen her a few times in my life. After Maria contacted my mom, I overheard conversations that made no sense at the time. My mom seemed upset with her. It had something to do with my dad, but just what it all meant, I didn’t understand.

As I confronted memories and betrayal in my life, these conversation bits resurfaced, with no meaning at first. And then it all began to fit, like pieces of a puzzle. Maria must have told my mom that dad abused her. That was it… I was certain of it.

I had been at Maria’s wedding when I was twelve and knew her husband’s name, so I called Canada 411. This was back when we didn’t have internet to do a quick search, so I called and asked them to search every town in the general area where they had moved. There were no guarantees that I would find her, but if she was my one shot at validating what I was already certain was true, then I would search the ends of the earth to find this woman.

It took some time before I remembered the name of the small hamlet where they lived. I worked my way from there, and found Maria. I called her. Out of the blue. Told her who I was—her twenty-one-year-old cousin. Could I come see her? Maybe on Sunday?

Maria was thrilled to hear from me and welcomed me for a visit. Would I join them for lunch? Her husband was good with the barbecue and would be thrilled to show off a little, she was sure of it.

That Sunday I did the one-hour trek to Maria’s home. I felt bad. I had not told her the purpose of my visit. I wondered how awkward it would be, or if I’d have the courage to follow through. Maybe, once there, I would lose my courage, and leave well enough alone. What if questioning her stirred up old pain and destroyed her?

True to her promise, Maria’s husband served up a delicious steak. The meal was wonderful. Her young son was quite taken with me, so I spent some time with him.

Mid-afternoon Maria and I were alone in the house, chatting. I hesitated, then jumped in. “Maria.. I have a question… You don’t have to answer, if you don’t want to, but I have to ask….” I paused. “It seems to me when I was about nine years old, maybe ten, that I overheard something at home about you… that you had called mom… It didn’t make sense at the time, but now, when I think about it, it makes sense…. I’m sorry to ask… Did my dad sexually abuse you when you were a little girl?”

“Yes.” Maria said calmly. No anger. No shock, as I had anticipated.

Even truth that you suspect, is shocking when confirmed like that. So it’s all true… That’s who dad is… it’s what he is capable of…

I felt I needed to explain. “I ask because I’m sure he abused me too. My memories are vague… all broken up. But I know something happened. Would you be comfortable telling me what happened?”

She hesitated only for a moment before the story spilled out. She had worked as a ‘helper’ for my dad and his first wife when she was only eight years old. Dad’s first wife, a sweet woman, was pregnant with baby number five, and not well. She was bedridden, over the time of the birth, though I don’t recall how long leading up to or after. She died after giving birth, due to haemorrhage, but not before giving Maria permission to tell. To say it accurately, she made Maria feel obligated to tell, even guilty if she kept the secret, but her heart was to protect Maria and truth.

After dad’s first wife’s death Maria returned home to her family, where she told a sister, not much older than her, what had happened. Her sister told Uncle Jake and Aunt Helen.’

Whether they had confronted Dad or not, or whether he came on his own, Maria was not sure. But one day, not long after, my dad rode up in his buggy and her parents went out to meet him in the lane. Maria and her sister had listened at the window, wanting to know the purpose of the visit.

My dad had apologized to Maria’s parents, telling them what he had done, and taking ownership. It had helped, but the scars remained for life, leaving Maria with emotional and psychological struggles for life.

On my way home I had an hour to cry. Even though I was not one for country music, I turned on my radio and listened to country music. Within minutes the song started to play… “I’m seeing my father in me… I guess that’s how it’s meant to be… and I find I’m more and more like him each day…” (Paul Overstreet)

I wept as I cried out to God. I asked Him to be the Father who I grow to be like more each day. That I would see Him in me, and people would see Him in me too. The one thing I didn’t want is for generational sins to scar my children. Those chains would end with me.

In that moment with God I felt understood. Truly. Deeply. And completely. My Father was making me more like Himself in my journey of disappointment and pain. He understood suffering, and emotional and mental anguish. And He would walk me through this, fully embraced, unconditionally accepted

© Trudy Metzger

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Finding Jesus in the Shadows (Part 1)

Continuing my story…

My visit from Howard and Alice, and that life-altering question, triggered the first wave of a long grieving process. Maybe more like the initial Tsunami that set the waves in motion, for years to come, in various ways and stages.

To survive emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, one must learn to ride these waves and take advantage of them, using them for good. But riding waves takes practice, and it’s best if one knows how to swim.

Howard and Alice’s home was a safe place for the initial ‘shock’ part of that journey, and coming out of that shock. For three days, in their home, I slipped in and out of moments of my new reality, trying to come to terms with what had been in my childhood. Though, how does one truly come to terms with the ultimate betrayal from a parent?

God has a way of getting messages through in ways that we can hear them, if we listen. And sometimes even if we don’t. One of my ‘languages’ with God, is music. Maybe even a language with life. When I can’t resolve things, when I’m struggling intensely, I often come across a song that has a message just for that moment. And that is just what happened.

Music began playing the one evening at Howard and Alice’s, that caught my attention. I don’t recall all the words, but the words that stood out every time,  went something like, “…show your Daddy, where it hurts, and let your Daddy fix it…”

A battle raged in my inner part. How was I to show anything to any Daddy, anywhere, especially if it hurt? That was where my pain had started–from my earthly father. How could I trust God, a Heavenly Father to be any different? Why had He not protected me? I couldn’t reconcile it. Still, the words continued to grip me, long after the song was done.

I replayed it, wanting to resolve whatever it was that stirred in me. I rested on the sofa in the living room, alone, listening to the words of the song. Something drew me in, but what?

The tears started, and would not stop. Lying there I realized I was not abandoned. That anything I had lost with my earthly father, my Heavenly Father would restore and redeem.

Papa-God was with me and had never abandoned me, even when I could not feel Him, or see evidence of Him. When I had felt as if I needed to take care of myself, He was there. He had come, in the body of Jesus Christ, to understand my mental suffering, to know my fears, to feel my pain. To tell me I could overcome, just as He had overcome. But I would not do it on my own strength, but in trusting Him.

At the end of day three, I felt refreshed. Ready to move forward. I had cried my tears, and I would cry again, but the initial trauma was over. I returned to the Colonel’s home, to pour my energy into taking care of him.

I met with Howard and Alice, from time to time, to talk through things, but life continued as before, for the most part.

At Christmas I went to Pennsylvania, to spend some time with my then-boyfriend. He had dropped hints, probably inadvertently, that he was going to propose. The hints were unmistakable, as wedding dreams and plans became a normal part of conversation.

For Christmas he gave me a full ski suit and we had agreed we would not do that until our relationship was ‘set in stone’, so to speak, because I was not a skier, and wasn’t likely to pick it up, without him in my life.

We spent a day skiing between Christmas and New Years, and that evening, I was told, I needed to be extra dressed up. I wore my prettiest dress, took extra care doing my hair. The restaurant, he said, was amazing. He had not been there, but he had asked friends before booking it.

We left the house with high expectations.

Life was about to change… dramatically. But not in the way I thought and dreamed.

To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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A Silent Torment… A Gentle Haven

It was fall 1990, and life was unraveling. Emotionally, I was a mess. Physically, I was deteriorating. I had been a believer for 3 years and my faith was strong, but something wasn’t right.

At the time I was in a long-distance dating relation with a young man from Pennsylvania, whom I had met in Bible School several months after accepting Jesus as my Saviour, at age 18, three years earlier. We had started writing letters then, but waited to start officially dating until about five months, or so, later.

Now, two and a half years into the relationship, I started to push him away when he came to Canada to see me. His visits triggered depression and I withdrew into a shell, a mental state I could not understand. When he left, I missed him and wished he was here again.

Such was the cycle of love. There was no rhyme or reason to it, really, in my mind. Nor in my then-boyfriend’s. He was confused when I withdrew, and I hated it, but it was as though I couldn’t help myself. Trapped. Unable to identify, unable to speak.

In hindsight I understand it perfectly, but at the time it was torment. For both of us.

Had we been sexually indiscrete, or had he even pushed me for it, I could have understood it. But in our  time together, we had guarded our hearts carefully. We held hands. And we gave each other good-bye hugs. No intimate kissing, though I can’t say with confidence that there had been no little kisses. We had talked early on about what was important to us, and agreed that abstinence was the only standard, and to protect that, we would have strict boundaries. They served us well. This was especially important because of the life I had left behind. I wanted a clear boundary between my life apart from Christ, and my life with Christ. I was determined, by the grace of God, to leave the pain and shame of my former life in the past.

During our relationship I spent quite a bit of time in Lancaster and Lebanon Pennsylvania, and developed many positive friendship with youth and even some church leaders, who made a profound and lasting impact on my life.

Three homes, in particular, stand out. The Hursh’s, my brother-in-law Leonard’s family, allowed me to stay with them, several weeks at a time, helping on the farm and simply being part of their family. Always I was safe in their home. I was my spontaneous, high-energy self, and never felt rejected for it. Mom Hursh, as I sometimes called her, took me shopping for fabric to make my dresses. She gave me the freedom to choose fabrics that probably pushed the edge of what she thought was acceptable, maybe jumped right over that edge, I’m not sure. But I never felt judged. They took me on an extended family deep-sea fishing expedition and made me feel, in every way, a part of their family.

From milking cows, to working in the fields, to helping in the kitchen, I was ‘at home’ in their home, safe, loved and accepted. Their sons were respectful, in every way.

My friend Connie Weaver, who later married one of the Hursh sons, also frequently invited me into her home. It was the safest home I had ever set foot in. There was something special there that I have not encountered before or since, to this day.

Photo Connie’s sister Jewel and her family. Visit their Facebook page and hear their band.

A home filled with deep faith. Genuine prayer. Laughter. Gentleness. Kindness. Passion. Hard work. Beauty. They valued beauty. Music. Always a lot of music.

Connie’s sisters offered friendship and acceptance, cheerfully inviting me into their home and lives. A father who spoke gently, lovingly. A mom who laughed and loved. And cooked. She was second to none when it came to good food. (For those who don’t understand Mennonite cooking, find the nearest Mennonite who cooks that way, and invite yourself to dinner.) Or maybe the food tasted so much better because of the safety to sit, to interact, and to enjoy it.

Mom Weaver was a great story-teller, painting a vivid picture on the mind as she spoke. My favourite story was when she visited her husband’s home for dinner when they were still dating, and ended up tripping down the stairs, embarrassing herself. I can’t remember if she tripped into her future husband’s arms or if we just joked about it, but the story was told with much laughter. She had laughed when it happened, as her way of handling the embarrassment. I liked that about her too, the way she handled embarrassment.

But two memories stand out above the rest, and each is with Connie, and little things she taught me, by example.

One night, a while after lights were out and we had stopped chattering, a question popped in my head. And any of my friends of days gone by who read this blog, and ever had a sleepover with me, could tell you that this would happen repeatedly at almost any sleepover. (The problem was so bad that it even got me in trouble at Numidia Bible School, with a consequence of cleaning bathrooms with my friend Sally Tucker, who had a similar weakness and bunked beside me. Oh what fun we had cleaning together, chattering some more!)

Lying in the dark, I debated whether I should wake Connie to ask her my question, and after several minutes of contemplation, I broke the silence. “Connie, are you still awake?” I whispered.

“Excuse me, Lord, Trudy wants to talk to me,” I heard her say, clearly not talking to me. She had been praying.

I apologized profusely, laughing of course. Her response to my interruption taught me something of non-religious, intimate relationship with God that I had never seen or known before. Something that seemed so shocking at the time, yet so refreshing. That one could speak to God so candidly…

The other image permanently etched in my mind is when we walked into her bedroom one evening, and on her desk was a neatly stacked pile of envelopes to be mailed out. (For the benefit of this generations… back in the day, we sent snail mail letters to our friends. No texting, emailing, etc.) Connie picked up the stack, studying them, flipping through them, a look of frustration on her face. Her little sister had traced every letter, on every envelope. Connie’s writing was meticulous, her envelopes always perfect. Little hands had done a number.

Moments later her sister walked in the room. “Did you do this?” Connie asked. Her sister nodded. What happened next shocked me.

Calmly, gently Connie spoke to her little sister, even though she was clearly upset. No threats. No intimidation. No display of anger. Gently she explained that these get mailed and people have to be able to read the words to get it to the right address. She asked her sister if she understood. Her sister nodded.

“Ok. Run along and play.”

That was it? No rage? No smack? Nothing more? It seemed almost unbelievable, what I had just witnessed. My childhood had been so different. And after I left home at fifteen, I wasn’t around young children much again until I met Howard and Alice, and their family, whom I shall write about in the next several days.

The third outstanding safe home was with Bishop’s Stephen Ebersole and his wife, where I was free to speak of heart issues. They were not harsh, not judging. They loved, listened and laughed with me. We only barely scraped the surface of my story and my pain, but in their home, with almost a dozen children, I found peace and safety.

That was the brighter side of life, the safe haven from the internal torment….

At home, in the final months of my connections to Pennsylvania, something dark and melancholy overtook my heart and spirit. And thank God that it did. If it had not, I might have remained trapped forever in that silent torment. I would most likely have married the young man I dated at that time, without resolving the abuse in my past. And that would have been disastrous.

As it was, with me shutting down, something had to happen. I was desperate. And I let God know it. How hopeless I felt, with no clue why.

God heard my cry.

That same year I started attending Countryside Mennonite Fellowship, a Mid-West Fellowship church, where God began to heal me spiritually, from the abuses of the Conservative Mennonite Church I had been part of previously. I encountered grace. And, while not fully understood by the people in my new church, because there was no way I could possibly blend into a Mennonite culture with my personality, I was loved and received by the youth, and people in general, at the church, for the most part.

In developing friendships, God had a plan that I was completely oblivious to, but one that would bring restoration in ways I didn’t even know I needed it. One of the youth, Cindy, was about two years younger than I and we quickly formed a ‘sister-kind-of-friendship’.

That friendship changed my life. A friend who refused to stand silently by…

 © Trudy Metzger

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‘The Talk’, Staying Flexible

The conversation I had with Alicia just before her tenth birthday set a standard at the Metzger house. I took Alicia out for her birthday, a special dinner, to celebrate this next level of growing up. Since we had already had, what has since become known as, ‘the talk’, it was an ‘after the fact’ celebration.

For Nicole I did the same, just the two of us, but with the plan to have ‘the talk’ afterwards. Dinner was lovely. The restaurant she chose had live jazz and she was quite taken with the band. As with Alicia, the talk went well.

I hadn’t thought through the next phase. Boys. How would we teach them about their bodies and healthy sexuality? Since I had done one-on-one with the girls, and because of cultural upbringing, it seemed ‘right’ for Tim to do this. But I’m the ‘teacher’ in the house. The communicator. The artist–at least enough to do sketches for the purpose of teaching our kids. The life coach. The one who has no difficulty–once past the initial awkwardness–explaining sex to children, at a level they can understand. I had taken the girls out, without their daddy–something I later regretted–and wondered how Tim would fare to do it alone.

When it came the time for the boys, Tim asked me to join him, and help answer their questions. We had breakfast with Bryan, our oldest, and quickly discovered that a classmate had already given him a bit of information that he didn’t really need at ten. At least he told us, so we could work through it.

With Todd a series of events at school, involving premature discussions of sexuality with some classmates, triggered a conversation well before his tenth birthday. Circumstantially, it was a ‘mom and son’ talk, and while the idealism of our ‘tenth birthday talk’ fell by the wayside, I have no regrets. That day Todd became a responsible and deeply respectful young man. The things that had transpired, particularly the ongoing inappropriate conversations, required him to take a stand with his peers. That brought out strength and character that I see in him to this day.

The summer after this talk I met a leader from a kids club in our town, where Todd attended after school. She told me how she had been teaching about Joseph and when she told the story of Potipher’s wife, she had made it as ‘child friendly’ as possible. She told them it was wrong to cheat on a spouse and that the Bible called it ‘adultery’.  After the class Todd had walked up to her and said, “I know something else we shouldn’t do.”

“And what’s that?” She had asked.

“We shouldn’t have sex before we’re married either,” he said matter-of-factly, and then left.

Todd and I had coffee one evening last fall, at Tim Hortons–Canada’s most popular coffee shop–and he again showed this same strength of character. He told me that it bothers him when classmates talk about ‘inappropriate’ stuff, and when they swear.

I asked how he responds, or what he does with it. “Mostly, I just walk away,” he answered.

Kordan, well… he just turned ten. Being three years behind Todd, with none of the older children being even two years apart in age, he is a bit of a tag-along, in a way. He learns a lot from adult conversation and listening to older siblings. He’s as comfortable with the topic of healthy sexuality as anyone I know, and knows age-appropriate facts.

Nicole and Bryan prefer more privacy and tend not to discuss things as openly. While some talks are ‘mandatory’ in our home, we do try to give them space, and respect that preference for space and privacy. (Even stories I share in blogging, writing, or in public speaking tend not to be about them, or disclosing their names, at their request. Respect is a two-way street and it is important to honour our kids wishes, and not violate their personal space.)

The teaching process is for the purpose of protecting our children, and equipping them to protect themselves. To do it effectively, our children need to feel that it is about them, not about us or a personal agenda. If we stay flexible and respect their ‘personhood’ in the process, that will validate our teaching, and affirm them.

It’s an area I am growing in, not one I wave a flag on, boldly declaring I have conquered. Because of the trauma and broken memories of my childhood, I tend to err on the side of caution and my passion can run away with me.

My children are outspoken, and not afraid to let me know when they think I’m over protective or ‘over teaching’ a topic. While it doesn’t always change my mind, or end the conversation, it does teach me their ‘voice’ and what matters to them, and what their boundaries are. And that does influence my parenting style, more than they know.

My prayer is that my children will be protected from the brokenness that so many suffer, because of a lack of awareness. That they will know their worth. That they will be whole, not broken, and scattered, like a rose that is forced to open before it is ready, leaving petals scattered here and there. The rose can still be beautiful, but it is scarred, and the wonder of what was meant to be can never be regained.

Fortunately, when we fail, Jesus heals and forgives. He restores and makes us whole again. In no way do I want to undermine that. But it comes with a cost because, in our humanity, when those doors are opened, innocence is lost and the battle of the mind remains for years. To equip our children with truth is the best we can offer.

Jesus said, ‘and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’. All truth is God’s truth, and knowing truth is the key to freedom in every area of life.

© Trudy Metzger

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Sexual Abuse & Violence: A Pastor’s Honest Confession

Some years ago an advert in the Elmira Independent announced a one-day seminar about abuse, with a special focus on plain cultures. It was put on by a licensed counselor, who is also a Born Again Christian, and works closely with Amish, Old Order and various ‘brands’ of Mennonites across Ontario, as well as parts of United States. I decided to attend.

The counselor kindly but forthrightly addressed the ‘higher than average’ rates of sexual abuse in the plain cultures, and stated that the more ‘closed’ a culture, the higher the rates of sexual abuse. With sin and abuse covered and hidden in silence to protect image, it is the perfect hideout for a perpetrator, he explained. What was more, in many of the cases he was involved with the victims suffered severe discipline at the hands of the church, when they exposed the abuse. They were accused of anything from ‘causing discord’, to lying, to receiving the blame for the immorality of the perpetrator. To silence the victims, churches excommunicated them or put them on probation.

Having heard this, a Mennonite preacher stood to his feet during the Q & A session, to contest the ‘misrepresentation’ of the severity of the problem. Wearing plain suit and all, he defended the Mennonite church, calling it an ‘unjust accusation’.

The counselor calmly stood his ground, saying he could only present the facts as he knows and sees them, and that it is not intended to harm or hurt the culture. He was there to offer help.

The preacher proceeded to ask the counselor to change his statistics, and say that, “they are as bad as other cultures” and drop the ‘higher than average’ statement.

The counselor was gracious and said, “Ok, for the sake of argument, we’ll say they are as bad, and we won’t say they are worse.”

With it being an open forum, I rose to my feet and shared my story, the 3-minute version. I was abused, first at home in early childhood, and again, later, in the Mennonite church by a leader’s son. The same young man also violated other young people. This too was covered up.  I told how, after I opened up about my story, about sixty of my friends in the Mennonite church admitted they were sexually abused or raped from within the church. I shared, without graphic detail, this tragic reality and the frustration we, as victims experience at not being able to find help easily. I was not harsh or accusing, but I was honest.

When it was over, I walked over to the Mennonite preacher—who happens to be an acquaintance of mine—and sat down beside him. I told him that my intent was not to hurt him or his church, and I pled with him to stop living in denial about what is covered up in the church.

The preacher sat there quietly for a while. I presumed he was loading his spiritual gun to attack me and put me in my place. I had, after all, abandoned their denomination and was viewed, by some, as someone who had abandoned my faith.

Instead, when he finally looked at me, his eyes were filled with shame and sadness. “I am a perpetrator,” he said.

Shell-shocked is the best way to describe what I felt at that moment. He, a perpetrator, was openly defending the culture. And I knew that his wife was one of the many victims in the culture, who had struggled for many years, never quite able to find freedom.

In an instant my role transitioned from ‘the exposer’ to ‘the mentor’. It was the first time I engaged with a perpetrator of abuse for any other reason than to confront and offer forgiveness. This was new and, that it would be a Mennonite preacher from my background, was ironic. Maybe it was God’s grace, because I felt only compassion for him.  It was within a closed culture that I had been most violated, first at home and then someone from church, and to be able to care for this man in that moment taught me something.  We are all human beings with stories, secrets, and sins. We all need grace and forgiveness.

Seeing his grief, and still shocked that he would share this with me, I asked him, “Have you gone back and made things right? Have you confessed it?”

He said that he had, and went on to share how he was privately trying to help other men in the area of sexuality and accountability.

When that preacher stood to his feet and defended the culture, I thought he did it out of sheer ignorance and the genuine belief that abuse is virtually non-existent in the culture. I quickly discovered that it was a desperate attempt to protect what he wanted sincerely to believe about the culture, against better knowledge. He was overwhelmed at the thought that countless others like him, carried this secret, that countless other victims carried the damaging impact for life. He didn’t want to believe it could happen. Willed himself to believe it.

If he was the only one, he could ‘manage’ the problem. If there were a few others, he could make an impact. But if countless perpetrators filled the seats of churches, and countless victims sat interspersed with the perpetrators, it changed things dramatically.

We parted ways, blessing one another, each determined to make a difference in our sphere of influence. I’ve only run into him a few times since then, but usually at funeral visitations and never in an environment where it would be appropriate to ask how that ministry is going.

At the end of that meeting, I met a group of women from the community, representing a variety of Mennonite churches, and spent some time with them. Those connections opened doors for the future.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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Sexual Abuse & Violence: Opening Pandora’s Box

Though the Sandusky sex scandal, at Penn State, has drawn plenty of attention, I have not followed it closely. Bad news is just that: bad news. We become what we feed on, so I try not to fill my mind too much with it. Yes, I try to stay informed and educated but to dwell and obsess is depressing.

In my reading on Friday, I came across some interesting parallels between the silence that has allowed abuse to be covered in the church, just as it was at Penn State. Every situation is unique, and the motivation of all leaders will not be the same. Some will more innocently keep the lid on abuse than others, but in many cases it will be driven by the same ‘bottom line’ as the Sandusky case. I am quoting a few lines, and highlight a few key comments. (To read the entire article, visit the link here.)

Abuse Scandal Inquiry Damns Paterno and Penn State

Louis J. Freeh, the former federal judge and director of the F.B.I. who spent the last seven months examining the Sandusky scandal at Penn State, issued a damning conclusion Thursday:

The most senior officials at Penn State had shown a “total and consistent disregard” for the welfare of children, had worked together to actively conceal Mr. Sandusky’s assaults, and had done so for one central reason: fear of bad publicity. That publicity, Mr. Freeh said Thursday, would have hurt the nationally ranked football program, Mr. Paterno’s reputation as a coach of high principles, the Penn State “brand” and the university’s ability to raise money as one of the most respected public institutions in the country.

[….] Mr. Freeh, in a formal report to the university’s board of trustees that ran more than 250 pages, offered graphic evidence of the implications of what he termed “a pervasive fear” of bad publicity[…]

Tim Rohan, from State College, Pa.; Zach Berman, from Philadelphia; and Richard Pérez-Peña contributed reporting.

Even I can identify with that, as I appear to boldly march, in Joan-of-Arc-style, into territory where angels fear to tread. I’m afraid…

What if I’m judged harshly? What if I’m misunderstood? Hated? Rejected?

Of course I’m afraid. I want to be loved. I love people. I want to be accepted. I accept people. Even those whose choices & lifestyles I speak out against. It’s not personal, not a fight or an attack against people. It’s a fight against injustice, against things that hurt people, things that destroy lives, relationships and healthy identity. Regardless of how things appear, my desire is to impact the world for the better.

So, in spite of ‘pervasive fear of bad publicity, I write from my heart. I say what some don’t want to hear. I speak the truth of my heart in love, and with compassion.

Sometimes I get rejected. Other times I get new friends, like yesterday. After I wrote about homosexuality I got a message from someone, saying, ‘….I am a homosexual heathen…’ and my blog was the connecting point. Long story short, I’m having coffee with my new friend tomorrow night.

On the same day several friends decided they had enough of me. That’s the price you pay. You get judged after being labelled judgemental. I expect the same will happen with addressing childhood sexual abuse more directly… I’m willing to pay the price, and pray many will join me. Especially the church, and fight for the next generation by fighting for innocent children. No more fearing bad publicity, no more idolizing reputation at the expense of the most innocent, most vulnerable.

If we do not change, if we do not open that box, we give it power. Where the Light shines, the darkness loses its power. We don’t need to live with the shame of having been partner to violence, as is now tragically Joe Paterno’s legacy. We must take a stand.

John 1

New International Version (NIV)

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

That is my purpose, my reason for writing.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

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Sexual Abuse & Violence: Introduction

At long last, here I am tapping out my thoughts on computer keys, sharing bits and pieces of my story, or perhaps your story, if you’ve given me permission to do so. I am in the process of overcoming my worst case of writer’s block, since 2001, when I first transitioned from paper—where I struggled often with writer’s block—to computer. There is something fascinating about the way my thoughts spill out on the screen. It has, for the most part, put an end to writer’s block for me. Except for this topic on sexual abuse.

I know it needs to be said, I know it needs to be addressed, but I have, for weeks now, tried to find a good starting point, and have remained stuck. I’ve written some things to share down the road. But there seems to be no good place to begin, so I am going to start ‘chattering’ the thoughts in my head, and hopefully present them in comprehensible form for you to read.

Like a unravelled yarn, so tangled together that there is no way of unravelling it, I have pulled, and studied, and contemplated….

That got me pondering this whole thing of how it is in reality with sexual abuse. Where does it really begin? Or is it a thread of shame and corruption, a perversion of God’s plan, and violation of innocence that began, somewhere in Genesis, and never really stopped?

I have friends who were perpetrators, and hearing their stories has given me much insight into this cycle of abuse. (For the purpose of this series on Sexual Abuse & Violence I will define perpetrator as someone aged 16 or older.) I have many friends who violated children in their early years, for most a one-time act, prior to age 10 or 12, and a few between the ages of 13 and 15. I do not refer to them as perpetrators. Besides the fact that most of them were sexual abuse victims, they were innocent children, in a culture that gave no knowledge on how to manage their sex drive, their natural sexual feelings, and were made to feel dirty and shameful about their sexuality. The only advice that I know of in the culture, with most families was to say ‘thou shalt not’, and ‘you’ll go to hell if you do’. There is so much more to it than that. I will write about that another time.

Even those older than age 15 are ill-equipped and hardly responsible, due to ignorance. In two separate incidences, 16-yr-old boys violated me, when I was around thirteen or fourteen. Because of a lack of education, and healthy sexual awareness, I cannot hold them too hard for what they did. Yes, they took ownership and both apologized to me, but ignorance is a curse, not bliss. They did not fully understand how they wronged me.

In the one case, had my brother not appeared, and had I stayed alone with the young man any longer, odds are high he would have raped me. A man much older than him—(a man who dressed like a Mennonite and travelled across Canada, victimizing young men)—had raped him, and he, in turn, had already violated other youth in the church. Out of his experience and trauma, along with the church’s silence, he became a perpetrator. God only knows where or if that cycle ever stopped.

The worst part was that our church leaders knew the ‘Mennonite poser’ had violated the young man, and the church knew the young man had violated other boys, but nothing constructive was done to protect us. Instead, because he was the son of a leader, they covered it. This led to his victims victimizing other boys, and so the cycle was set in motion and chains started.

At around age twelve or thirteen, I made a vow that I would not have any sexual involvement with anyone. I took care of anything I knew of that had happened in my childhood, before age eleven, and started over with a clean slate. When the young man from church violated me, it set in motion a host of struggles, including very low self-esteem and sexual confusion. Because men had all the power and seemingly had the ‘right’ to violate us, I wanted desperately to be a male so I would not need to surrender to it. I was angry with God for making me a girl, a victim, an object.

Boys wore normal clothes and acted like nothing happened when they violated us. We were stuck in home made dresses, giving males easy access, and still the bulk of responsibility fell on us. When they violated us, it was because we must have behaved in a sensual manner, dressed inappropriately, or perhaps flirted with them. They couldn’t help their sex drive and if only we would behave right and dress right, we would protect them.

How ironic. In a male-dominant culture, where men were portrayed to be the godly leaders, the strong ones, they were not required to be men at all. All they had to do was cry, “she asked for it” and the onus was on us. And even if they didn’t cry it, that was a given. There was nothing of teaching young men and boys to honour, respect, love and protect a woman. Nothing of saying, “if you find her naked, be man enough to cover her and protect her”.

Real men do that. They don’t victimize the younger, the weaker, the innocent. Because of their good character, they take authority over their desires, and choose rather to protect and do the right thing. Jesus was a real man. He was human and could have violated the prostitutes who came to him. He didn’t.

Selfish men use and abuse. Weak men use and abuse. Confused boys also use and abuse.

But the culture failed men terribly through silence. It failed us all. They were not equipped for the hormone surge, and we only knew how to dress ‘right’, not what to do in a vulnerable situation. Many years later I would learn that this is a Christian culture problem, not a Mennonite church problem.

When it comes to Sexual Abuse and Violence, much of secular society, for all its corruption, is more godly than most Christians. In the secular world, silence is discouraged and protecting the innocent, however lacking the methods, is a high priority.

If ever we want to reclaim influence, as the people of God, we will need to take a stand against sin in the church–in particular, the victimization of the vulnerable–and let the light of Jesus shine in.

© Trudy Metzger 2012