(For readers new to Miya’s story, begin here with Part One.)
How To Make Sense of This?
At the time, I felt like nothing good had come out of it. It felt like all the advocating I had done on my own behalf had been useless. It all felt so unfair and I felt so hurt. I trusted everyone in this process to be transparent and to do the right thing not just for me, but for other survivors as well. I knew that the way in which they responded would set the tone for survivors in years to come. I had a wall of disappointment that surrounded me and I felt suffocated.
Looking at things now, there’s still disappointment. I am saddened by the way in which MMN responded and prioritized their organization over a survivor. I am disgusted by how those in leadership positions could say bluntly to a survivor’s face, “we need to protect our organization,” with disregard as to how that would make me feel. I am disappointed that there were not safety policies in place at the time regarding child safety and holding employees accountable if they were to violate said policies. I am hurt by what feels like a betrayal by Jane Frederickson to falsely reassure me that I would indeed be able to see what the outcome of the MMN investigation would be when all along, she knew that it would be in their hands. Still to this day, there’s a lump that sits in my chest about these feelings of betrayal and I know it’ll take time to process them.
There are things that I am grateful for though. Before I name those, I want to stop and clarify that just because I say that there are things that have me identifying ways to be grateful, that does not mean that what happened or how I was treated was okay. It was not and probably never will be, okay. I deserved better, much better. These things of gratitude do not excuse the harm, hurt, and trauma that MMN and FaithTrust Institute put upon me in an already difficult time.
The Burden of Gratitude
MMN agreed to reimburse me any therapy costs going back to 2018 and agreed to reimburse any current therapy costs until June 2022. This was a recommendation that Jane had made back in June. I remember the phone conversation with her when she mentioned that Lyz would be contacting me about this and I was surprised. Never did it cross my mind that there should be some sort of monetary support, so I was surprised to hear of this. Therapy is expensive and as someone who is both in school and working more than one job, this was going to be a lifesaver. I wouldn’t have to spend so much time and energy working about how I was going to pay for the support that I knew I needed.
At the time of the offer, there was quite a length of time in between my therapy sessions. So the calculations that Jane gave to MMN for therapy reimbursement for the next year was based off of that time frame in between sessions. I asked Jane what steps there would need to be taken if I decided to go even more frequently than I was, meaning weekly. I had hit a point where everything felt so overwhelming that I needed more consistent support to help me get through what weighed so heavily on my heart.
I felt so odd asking about this. On one hand, I felt like I should just shut my mouth and be grateful that MMN agreed to pay for my next year of therapy. I shouldn’t ask them to give me more funds for therapeutic support, I should be grateful for what they have given me.
On the other hand, I kept thinking, ‘they offered to reimburse me three years back. I hadn’t been in therapy during that time frame, but thinking about it technically, inquiring about more funds for therapeutic support shouldn’t be a big deal because they offered to go back to 2018. If they are offering that support, then it doesn’t hurt to ask. It’s awkward, but that was a recommendation which they agreed to follow through with.’
In a recent conversation with Jane, she told me, “I did mention to Marissa Stewart of MMN, shortly after your correspondence on Dec 9 about your desire to continue a conversation about additional therapy support. Given our contract work has concluded with MMN, she didn’t respond to me on this information. I want to reiterate that I can’t speak for MMN and they most likely will not share with me their thoughts or direction.”
From what I had understood in my conversations with Jane, I could contact her at any point with questions regarding all of this. She told me that if I ever had questions about additional therapy support, she would be happy to talk to MMN on my behalf. She agreed to be the mutual party between MMN and myself for a couple different reasons. First, confidentiality. I told her from the start that I did not want anyone at MMN knowing who my therapist is or where I go. That was a boundary I drew at the very beginning for my own comfortability. Second, how awkward is it for a survivor to ask an institution for funds for therapeutic support? Incredibly awkward. Not because I’m ashamed of taking care of my mental health or anything but because it’s uncomfortable to ask those in power at an institution that has shut you down many times. So I was okay with letting Jane be my voice to prioritize confidentiality and comfortability.
I can see where Jane is coming from. Her contract is done and so MMN is unlikely to keep in contact with her as she has no business interjecting into their institutional work. I see that point of view. But at the same time I don’t. As someone who works for an organization that supposedly prioritizes survivors, how can you let an agency continue to slip by with silence? You can’t call yourself an advocate for survivors when you repeatedly let agencies decide whether or not to be transparent in their processes and let them completely disregard the survivor. I understand the approach that FaithTrust Institute is doing by doing investigations this way, but I do not agree with it at all. The blatant disregard for the trauma it causes to survivors is baffling. From what I have heard through the grapevine, this is not the first time that this has happened when FaithTrust has conducted an investigation with an institution. It’s sickening.
As of now, it is up to me to approach MMN about additional funds for therapeutic support. I do have an advocate who I trust to put pressure on them to at least give a response, which I appreciate her so much for. But it shouldn’t have come to this point, where it is now up to a survivor to ask yet again for a response from MMN and not silence.
To say the least, I am exhausted.
You Fear that People Will Hate You for Speaking Up
Dear reader, if you have made it this far, thank you for sticking with me and continuing to read my story. I hope you have implemented appropriate self-care as you have read through each part. These things get heavy, so please take care of yourselves.
I’ve talked a lot about technical things that have taken place over the last year, but there is so much more to this journey than what I have talked about. This has been a load to carry. It has felt heavy, impossible, and neverending most days. The emotional, mental, psychological, and spiritual impact that it has had on me feels impossible to explain with words.
In March when I had the initial conversation with one of my safe support people, one of the first things they asked me was, “Have you considered seeing a therapist?” I remember I was taken by surprise with this question. It did not offend me or upset me, rather it made me feel cared for. It had been only about a week since I found out about the investigation and I remember one of the first thoughts that went through my head was, “How am I supposed to get through this? How am I supposed to do this by myself?” Therapy didn’t cross my mind until they asked me this. It helped register in my brain that I am not alone. It helped me register that I can have a completely safe and brave space to process it.
Therapy has not been an easy journey. It never is. I struggled consistently with letting my former therapist in. I would have to repeatedly tell myself, “ ______ is safe. _____ is here to help. ____ provides a safe and brave space for me, it’s okay to be vulnerable.”
I have experienced betrayal by several people and institutions over the last year that has caused trauma mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. I experienced betrayal years prior by Kent, someone who I thought was a friend and someone I could look up to. I met him at Camp Mennoscah, one of the safest places in the world for me, or so it felt like. How could he do this to me? Why did he feel that I deserved this?
I found out early on that Camp Mennoscah was aware of a similar situation with Kent, years prior, but they did not say anything about it publicly. I was so angered. This was a church camp that I trusted. How dare they keep silent for several years?
After some more digging by inside sources, it turns out that Camp Mennoscah did report Kent to the Department of Children and Families, but no police investigation was ever pursued. From what I understand, that was on the survivor’s behalf. The survivor requested that things not go further, due to fear of backlash.
I do not blame that survivor one single bit. I understand the fear. It seems irrational to some but is completely valid. You worry for your safety in every single aspect. You fear that people won’t believe you. You fear that you will be viewed as being overdramatic. You fear that people will hate you because you spoke up.
I get it. Trust me, I completely get it.
But as for now, to this present day, Camp Mennoscah has stayed silent about Kent Peters. Back when Luke Loganbill, a former counselor, was arrested for child sexual abuse, Camp Mennoscah sent out letters to potential campers who had contact with him over the years. They did this as a way to reach out to other potential survivors.
But they have not done this for Kent Peters. Why not? Why has Camp Mennoscah chosen to remain silent? Kent Peters was a counselor out at Camp Mennoscah for 17+ years. The number of young women and girls he has interacted with is very high. I know for a fact that even though 10+ women have come forward, there are many more out there. There are more out there who are not ready to share their story, and that’s okay. They do not owe anybody anything.
That being said, why has Camp Mennoscah not taken this opportunity to practice transparency about what has occurred and let other survivors of Kent Peters know of the options for reporting? I spoke with one of the board members several times and repeatedly encouraged them to speak up against the silence. I did not want to see camp in this light, same as others who have stayed silent. I did not want to see Camp Mennoscah be another enabler of Kent Peters because they are scared of backlash they might receive. But I do, and I always will from now on. I have learned that Camp Mennoscah is not a safe place to send your kids because if something like this happens again, they will prioritize their organization over a survivor, just like MMN.
The betrayal by institutions that I once put my trust in baffles me. There are no words for it.
Losing a Friendship
I have also experienced betrayal by friends who I thought I could count on for support throughout this journey.
In July 2021, a friend admitted to me that she had confirmed for a family member of Kent’s that I was one of the young women to come forward to the police. I had gone over to my friend’s house for something and in discussion before leaving, it slipped out so casually. I was thrown off guard because I was not expecting to hear that and I had no idea of how to respond. One of the first things I kept wondering was, ‘Why did this family member assume I was one of the young women? I have never spoken to them and don’t even know them.’
But this family member did suspect it was me and it was confirmed for them from someone I trusted at the time.
I was in shock for a few days but once it started to set in, I became frustrated and hurt. How could someone I trust, who I called a friend, give away such confidential information? To a family member of the perpetrator, of all people! How could they do that to me?
Then fear set in. Once I realized that this person knew that I had spoken about my experience, I became afraid. Would they come after me? Would they spread rumors about me in the Mennonite community even though I do not know them? Did they confirm for Kent that I was one of the young women speaking my story and would that cause him to come after me? Would someone from their family try to hurt me to silence me?
I was terrified.
I still feel fear.
As time passed, I eventually decided that I needed to let go of the friendship for my own healing. I couldn’t let this sit on my heart anymore as if it weren’t a big deal, because it was. My safety and well-being was compromised, I couldn’t let it be compromised any further.
I ended the friendship and set boundaries to help both of us move forward with healing. It made me sad. Losing a friendship is never easy, but I knew it was the best thing for both of us.
Since then I have come to forgive this person. I have allowed myself to work through the emotions as they have come and sat in the uncomfortable space. Even though I found forgiveness for this individual, that does not mean that any of it is okay, because it is not. Rather I have chosen to allow myself peace in this area of my life as so much else has weighed heavy on my heart during the last year.
Church is Not Safe
That friendship is not the only one that has taken a toll on me the last year. I have spent much time thinking about my relationship with Ken Regier.
I set boundaries between us right away, as I knew I would need space for what was about to come. I am glad that I did. I remember how angry I was back in March/April and I wanted to speak with him one-on-one. I was furious, I was hurt, I was sad. I was ready to rip into him. But knowing myself and how I can be quick to speak out of anger before thinking, I held myself back. I forced myself to give it time and sit with everything. I told myself that speaking out of anger would do nothing but add flames to the fire.
Five months later, I sat down face-to-face with Ken to spill what was on my heart. But as I wrote in part one, there was a lot I held back in that conversation. The space didn’t provide the comfort and safety I needed to be honest about everything.
Months passed by and the relationship with Ken weighed heavily on my heart. I wanted to find forgiveness for him. I was tired of feeling the way that I did and I often wondered how long these feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, etc., would last.
I was angry with Ken. I am still angry with Ken. I probably will continue to be angry with him for quite some time.
Church has always been my safe place. Church has always felt like home. I never once thought that church would turn into a place that I feared and avoided. But it is. Church is no longer a safe place for me to be.
I fear running into Ken or any other family members at church.
I fear judgment.
I fear any ill feelings that they may have towards me for telling the truth.
I fear shaming for telling my story.
I fear the power of the Mennonite community.
In April 2021, our church made an announcement regarding the investigation and to make the congregation aware of resources to pass along if they heard of other survivors.
Most were surprised by this announcement, but I knew it was coming. I was the one who pushed for the announcement. I wanted to see my church be proactive in supporting survivors. It was vital that our congregation know what was going on in the Mennonite community.
The next several months at church were hard for me. It became hard to walk into church and face one of the people who had hurt me the most. It became hard to walk into church, knowing that several people I love and care about work at MMN. I don’t hold it against any single one of them, not in the slightest. But it also makes my heart hurt because they are (or were) unaware of the truth and the hurt that MMN had caused me. Little do they know that someone sitting in the pew right next to them has been affected by this personally, and I am not the only one.
The summer felt dark and lonely. Although I was going to therapy, it was only on a monthly basis for awhile. That was hard for me. I didn’t know how to cope with things, it often felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to, and I felt so lost.
My anxiety skyrocketed during the summer. I found myself becoming increasingly anxious over the slightest things. I did everything that I knew to try to calm myself down when I felt it set in at work or elsewhere. The worst of it came in August when I experienced dissociation for the first time.
I remember being in church and experiencing it. The fear that ran through my body as I went into a panic attack during a training we were doing regarding child safety. There was a topic that triggered me and I sat there with tears in my eyes, unable to move. I feared that if I stood up that I would pass out.
Forty minutes. For 40 minutes I sat there with nothing but pure panic in my heart and tears in my eyes.
Many people will ask, “why didn’t you just get up and leave?” Here’s my answer, “I don’t know.” I thought about it several times. But as shaky as I was, I knew that I would either pass out or wobble so much that I would fall over before making it anywhere but there. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I was frozen in fear. It felt like my whole body was glued to the chair and I couldn’t get up.
The day before that happened, I experienced this same severe panic out in public. I had an experience where I had a panic attack where it felt like I was floating above the rest of the world. It was my first out of body experience. I could see my hands in front of me and what I was touching, but I couldn’t feel anything. I fought the feeling to pass out several times. I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest with how fast it was racing.
It was absolutely terrifying.
In talking about it with a friend later, she told me that what I had experienced was most likely dissociation. I remember not really believing her, but at the same time, I did believe it. My body was in full panic mode and it was looking for a way to escape from everything. I had never experienced that before and it scared me. That weekend was a wake up call. I knew that I needed more help, even if I didn’t know what that looked like.
The Fear of Reality that Lies Within the Walls of the Church Building
Since August 2021, I have stopped attending my church. It has been so hard to sit in a church building where one of the people who has hurt me the most also sits. I watch that person give so much love and respect to other people and often wonder, what did I do that he felt I was undeserving of that love and respect?
How do you sit in a church building where many people you love and care for work for an organization that has caused you a tremendous amount of trauma?
How do you sit in a church building where many people you love and care for, support an organization that has caused not only you, but others you know as well, a tremendous amount of trauma?
How do you sit in a church building where you feel that by speaking up, you are betraying the Mennonite community and even your own congregation, even if they don’t know who you are?
The answer is: you don’t. You don’t sit in a church building with all of this weighing on you. Instead, you stay away, due to the fear of reality that lies within the walls of the church building.
It’s hard. I miss that feeling of being in a space that feels so safe. I had never once thought that I would ever feel driven out of my own church.
I often feel angry that I have let this one person drive me out of the church. I feel angry that I have allowed him to instill that much fear in me. Why can’t I just get past it? It’s frustrating. Church is supposed to be a place that is open and welcome for all, but I feel the complete opposite. It’s not fair.
No Words Left Unsaid
In December as the new year approached, I decided to reach out to people from all walks of life to say what had been sitting on my heart for quite some time. Good, bad, in between. I didn’t want to leave any words unsaid as the new year was about to begin. I also decided that it was time to let go of those relationships that no longer served me. I decided it was time to cut Ken Regier out of my life completely.
I wrote a letter to Ken. I explained why I felt that this was the best step and said all the things that had been left unsaid since August. I said it not to be mean, but to be fully upfront and honest. In my letter I asked him why he didn’t report back in 2018, but it was a rhetorical question. I didn’t need to know the answer, as I knew what his answer was, deep in my heart.
I gave him the option to meet with me at our church so I could give him the letter and say one last goodbye.
I went there one evening after work, at the time I suggested to him, and waited.
I waited and waited. He never showed up.
I told him that I would only be there for a certain amount of time and when it was up, I would put the letter in his mailbox and leave. So that’s what I did.
Defensiveness or Boundaries?
Ken messaged me later and let me know that he put a letter in my mailbox. I was surprised at this. I had told him that I didn’t want or need any response. I didn’t know what to say.
My first instinct was to leave the letter. I didn’t need to read it. I knew that no matter what it said, it wouldn’t change things. I felt at peace with my decision to let him out of my life. But eventually I decided to go get the letter out of my box at church but still didn’t open it. I carried it with me in my purse for days. I had no urge to read it. It just sat there.
As the days passed, I decided that I was not going to read the letter and was going to give it back to Ken. I didn’t need to see what it said. I didn’t need to hear any explanation or ‘apology.’ I made this decision not because I was trying to be petty or stubborn, but because I felt it deep in my gut that whatever was written, would not contribute to my healing in a beneficial way.
As I attended my therapy session that week, I debated bringing it up. The only reason I didn’t want to bring it up was because I didn’t want to be convinced out of my decision. I felt at peace with the decision I made and didn’t really want anyone else’s opinion on it. But I told myself that I was in a safe place and that telling my therapist was the right thing to do. That’s the point of therapy, right?
I didn’t really want to discuss it further but in all effort to be more transparent and open with my therapist, I pushed myself to do that to help continue to build that relationship of trust.
I told my therapist about the letter and how I was at peace with not reading it. I remember saying something along the lines of, “I don’t need to read whatever he wrote to protect his fragile male ego.” I knew these were strong words. They came from a place of some anger but also from a place of protecting myself from whatever was written in the letter. She stopped me and pointed out that these were assumptions.
I was taken aback by this, as she had totally just put me in my place. Which is what I needed. I felt myself jumping ahead and making assumptions about what could be written. I thought about what she said, and as much as I wanted to deny it, I knew it was true.
She then said something about using my approach of not reading the letter as a defense mechanism, to protect myself. I was taken aback by this as well. I could see from her perspective as to how this might be a defensive approach and seemed like maybe I wasn’t open to reading what Ken had to say. But that wasn’t true at all. I was open to hearing what he had written in the letter, but I had done a lot of thinking about whether what was written in the letter could help me move forward or not. I thought about all the possibilities of what could be written in there, all things positive and negative. As I carefully thought about all of those scenarios, I decided that I was still at peace with not knowing what was written.
But as we continued to talk about the letter, the more I started to overthink. My brain caught onto the words “defense mechanism” and I started to translate them to “you are being defensive.” I questioned whether by making this decision, if it made me look defensive or not. One of the first things I vowed to myself at the beginning of everything back in March, is that I would stay open minded to differing perspectives and input. I would stay open to those hard conversations and criticisms, no matter how hard.
Growing up, I’ve always been called defensive. I am not one to sit by and let someone speak words that I disagree with or imply negative things about me or others.
Oftentimes people are gaslighted into thinking that they are defensive and responding in a negative way, but really they have set boundaries that say, “I will not tolerate this inadequate behavior you have shown me.” Because I have never been afraid to speak up and defend myself or others, I have often been told that I am taking a defensive stance by doing so. This is not true. This was me setting boundaries, letting others know that I will not sit back and let others walk over me or others. It was my way of letting others know that I am not afraid to stand up to them.
I took this comment made by my therapist personally. I know that those were not her intentions, but that’s how it played out. Immediately I regretted my decision of bringing it up. I walked into my appointment feeling confident and at peace with my decision. I walked out feeling unsure of myself and questioning my own judgment.
Why Does No One Hear My Voice?
The next evening as I was sitting in my room at my desk, I kept thinking about the letter in my purse and for the first time since putting it in my bag, I felt the urge to open it up.
I didn’t want to be seen as defensive by not reading the letter. I also didn’t want to compromise what progress forward I had made by reading the letter. In the end, worrying about whether or not I was taking a defensive approach won.
I opened my purse and ripped open the letter to read what was inside.
I felt immediate regret. As I read, I was filled with anger, brokenness, sadness, and absolute shock.
Ken wrote in his letter that the reason he didn’t report what I had told him was because
I told him that I felt safe
I told him that it didn’t need to be reported to authorities
Therefore, the blame is on me. He once again failed to take responsibility for his actions.
The line that really got me was when he wrote that he wished me peace, and that he was sorry for all the hurt that Kent has caused me. Kent. Not Ken, Kent.
I was enraged.
How dare Ken put the blame on me for him not reporting? I remember back when he asked me if I felt safe. I honestly thought he meant physically. Did I physically feel safe? So I said yes, because I did feel physically safe. I didn’t think about it in any other way. He never asked if I felt safe emotionally, mentally, psychologically, etc. My brain did not interpret ‘safe’ to mean anything more than ‘not in physical danger.’
I also remember that when he asked me if he should report it to authorities, I said no because I thought he meant the police. Never once did he mention speaking to someone at MMN about it or in any other way. How was I supposed to know that he meant someone other than the police?
I was enraged because I had spent so much time working on not blaming myself for not telling anyone else back then. One of the first things I told one of my closest friends when all of this started was, “I feel like this is my fault…” Had I told someone else back in 2018, it could’ve saved another woman from being targeted. Ken might have kept silent but I did too.
It took me a long time to work through that self-blame and seeing those words set me back.tremendously. I have acknowledged my own failures in this and I didn’t need someone else shoving them in my face once again, especially Ken Regier of all people.
Not once has Ken recognized the damage or hurt that his actions have done. Not once has he said, “I hold myself accountable for x,y,z…and I am sorry.”
In Ken’s letter, he wrote that he had let others guide him on how to approach conversation with me in the recent months. Which explains why our conversations, including the one back in August, felt so…vanilla. My only thought at the time was, ‘you should’ve let someone guide you on writing this letter.’
I was livid. I was furious with Ken for once again, refusing to hold himself accountable. I was furious that he blamed me for what has led me to this point today. I was furious that he had the audacity to say any of that to me. I was angry with myself for trusting him or thinking that I needed to keep giving him second chances.
Although I wanted to deny it, I was furious with my therapist. I had told her about the letter as a way to practice being open, vulnerable, and honest. I told her about the letter because I was proud of myself for the self-care step that I was taking by not reading it. I told her because I thought she would support my decision to not read it and affirm that I was doing the right thing for my healing.
When I realized that I had received the opposite, I was furious. I felt betrayed. The words she spoke were the ones that caused me to second guess myself. It was all her fault. Right?
Lastly, I was furious at myself for letting myself be convinced into reading the letter. My instincts had been right and I was mad that I second guessed myself. Sure, my therapist was the one who gave her thoughts and input into my decision to not read the letter. I knew she had good intentions in this feedback that she gave. Yes, it was her words that opened up that rabbit hole for me to go down. But in the end, I still had control over my decision to read the letter. As much as I want to blame others, I know that I have to hold myself accountable to my own actions, but that doesn’t make the hurt that I felt any less valid.
I felt betrayed and hurt by more than just Ken. I felt hurt by my therapist too. That is a feeling that I will never forget.
I made myself wait a few days to cool down before contacting Ken about the letter. I set up strict boundaries regarding contacting me for any reason. He is not allowed to contact me directly. I set up these boundaries to ensure my own well-being and healing.
I sent an angry email to my therapist about the gist of the letter and said that I did not want to talk about it any further than what I had written in the email. Which was true. I wanted to make it known that I read it, would have feelings of being angry, and then would start to move forward from it when the time felt right.
We ended up talking about it in my next session. She had let me know ahead of time, so I wasn’t surprised. I spent all day dreading the session that was to come. Not because I felt that she couldn’t hold my anger, but because I just needed time to sit with things and then I could talk about it when I felt ready.
That was a hard session. I felt backed into a corner. I felt that I had no choice but to talk about it. It was all so fresh, I just needed time and space. I understood the importance behind her wanting to talk about it but I was not ready. I was backed into a corner and felt so small.
To be fully transparent, I still struggle with my emotions from this. I realized that it’s not just about the letter but the concept surrounding the letter: I set a boundary and it was not respected.
I go back and forth with my emotions about my former therapist regarding this. The hurt was not intentional, but it still happened. In that moment when my boundaries were ignored, it made me feel small. My voice in which I was working so hard to feel heard in many different aspects, felt ignored, by my therapist of all people. That was a hard pill to swallow then and it is still hard to think about now.
Why does no one hear my voice?
Since then, life has been an up and down roller coaster. I have worked harder at identifying my needs, vocalizing my thoughts when I feel something needs to be said, and sticking firmly to my boundaries. That does not mean that I am not willing to be open and to listen, but it simply means that for once, I am putting myself first instead of everybody else. I am proud of myself for doing so.
(Once again, a content notice for supporters of Mennonite institutions, particularly Mennonite Mission Network. Please care for yourself as you read.)
I have spent a lot of time debating whether or not I should release my story. I have spent a lot of time debating whether or not I should reveal my identity. It scares me, putting my name out there. I fear any hatred that comes my way. I haven’t been sure if that’s something I felt that I could handle. Making ourselves vulnerable is one of the scariest things we can ever do.
There are things that I am going to say that many might find hard to believe, but I can’t stay silent. I have to speak the truth. People might get mad at me for speaking the truth, but I will let you be mad if that’s how you react. I want to say ahead of time that it is not me that you need to be mad at, it is the organizations and people that you need to be upset with. I am here simply to tell the truth.
The situation with Kent Peters is not the first time Mennonite Mission Network has enabled sexual abuse. This is not the first time that MMN has shut down a survivor and tried to silence them in order to maintain their reputation.
MMN was faced with another situation in which a sexual predator had abused a young woman multiple times. They were both volunteers for one of the programs that MMN offers to young adults. After their service time was up, the brave survivor shared her story with multiple staff members of MMN in an effort to seek help. She put herself in a space that made her extremely vulnerable and caused her to live the trauma all over again. (I’m sharing this with her permission.)
No one did anything. Not a single soul. Every single staff member that she approached at MMN dismissed, gaslit, and invalidated her.
I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with her and a couple staff members to bring forth complaints about the mistreatment of certain staff members at MMN. I remember sitting there, horrified to hear more in detail about what happened, and I was enraged. Why did it have to take complaining to supervisors of staff at MMN for something to be done? How could anyone dismiss her story? How could they listen to the details of what happened and not do anything?
We had hoped that by attending this meeting, something would be done to address the mistreatment from staff members that both she and I had faced, both in different contexts.
Nothing was done. There was no follow up. There was no apology. Nothing but pure silence. Even after I sent an email to the executive director at the time, Stanley Green, nothing was done.
I was appalled. I was disgusted. I was disheartened for the both of us from the institutional abuse, gaslighting, and dismissing that we both had received from a “Christian” institution.
I still am.
After this investigation with Kent Peters and the organizational abuse by both Mennonite Mission Network and FaithTrust Institute, I knew that I could no longer stay silent.
Every single person who has ever dismissed a survivor needs to be named. Every person who has ever abused their power against survivors, needs to be named. None of the employees at MMN who have invalidated, gaslighted, and/or dismissed a survivor have been held accountable. It’s time to stop staying quiet and to speak up. So I am speaking up.
To the employees, past or current, of Mennonite Mission Network who dismissed any survivor, we will not stay silent:
Kent Peters – Sexual predator. Has preyed on as many as 15+ young women. Used positions of organizational power over children to identify potential victims as minors and groom them for sexual abuse.
Ken Regier – Former HR Director. Dismissed a survivor of Kent Peters AND dismissed the former volunteer survivor who sought out help after experiencing sexual abuse during her time of service. Told the former volunteer survivor several years ago, “What happened is not MMN’s responsibility. That’s not our problem.” Stayed silent.
Sharon Brugger Norton – Current Regional Co-Administrator for Europe and Africa. Dismissed the former volunteer survivor who sought out help. Told the survivor that she needed to “get over her trauma and move on.” Has a personal relationship with the former volunteer sexual abuser and willingly sided with the predator and his family, knowing what he had done in order to maintain that relationship. Stayed silent.
Stanley Green – Former executive director. Received emails from myself regarding the way I was mistreated by staff at MMN. Promised to address the topic later but never received anything back. Talk with Sharon Norton about her actions but no accountability was held. Sharon remained in the role continuing after that. Stayed silent.
Lyz Weaver – Former Senior Executive for Human Resources. Approached survivor of Kent Peters asking to contribute to the internal investigation at MMN. Refused to be transparent about the results of the investigation from FaithTrust Institute. Prioritized MMN’s reputation over the well-being of a survivor. Stayed silent.
Andrew Suderman – Former host parent for MMN international travels. Dismissed the former volunteer survivor and enabled the behavior of a sexual abuser. Said that “kids will be kids” and was unwilling to hold the abuser accountable or protect the survivor from further harm. Stayed silent.
Karen Suderman – Former host parent for MMN international travels. Dismissed the former volunteer survivor. Did not take action to protect the survivor or hold the abuser accountable. Stayed silent.
Tonia Martin – Current Care Specialist. Involved in the decision making team regarding the release of FaithTrust Institute’s investigation findings. Limited survivor of Kent Peter’s to one support person when meeting with MMN. Has chosen to side with protecting the institution instead of the survivor. Stayed silent.
Martin Gunawan – Current Senior Executive of Operations. Involved in the decision making team regarding the release of FaithTrust Institute’s investigation findings. Told survivor of Kent Peters that “We care about you Miya, but we have to protect our institution.” more than 5x in a face-to-face meeting. Has refused to answer questions regarding why MMN needs to be protected. Refuses to be transparent. Stayed silent.
Marissa Stewart – Current Director of Human Resources. Involved in the decision making team regarding the release of FaithTrust Institue’s investigation findings. In an email from her regarding the investigation findings, she ‘thanked’ me for my ‘final appeal’ to release the executive summary. This was my second or third time asking for it to be released. Essentially she was telling me to shut up and leave it alone. Stayed silent.
There are more people, both past and current, from Mennonite Mission Network who have been made aware of situations regarding sexual abuse but have stayed quiet. These are the ones I know of who have had a lot of power and ability to do something about the incidents, but chose to stay quiet in order to protect the institution and themselves.
None of the survivors have forgotten your names, the way that you treated them, or the additional trauma that was imposed upon us during an already traumatic event.
To FaithTrust Institute/Jane Fredrickson: I took a very vulnerable piece of my story and shared it with you with the hope that accountability would happen and that you would amplify the voice of one of many survivors of Kent Peters. Instead, you did the opposite. You have let an organization that holds great power within the Mennonite community silence yet another survivor. My voice, which felt so big at the beginning of the investigation, soon became small. The words that I spoke felt unimportant and even though I used all the strength that I had to scream from the mountaintops to be heard, I was dismissed.
Put survivors first. Reform your policies and the way in which your organization conducts its investigations and reports its findings. Your practices are harmful to survivors of sexual violence.
Do not give survivors false hope like you gave me. Although, I know this is not the first time you have treated a survivor this way, and it is saddening. You were not a helper in my story.
Be a helper in a survivor’s journey after an offense is committed. Stop enabling abusers and hold them and anyone else who enables them accountable.
Mennonite Mission Network and FaithTrust Institute must be held accountable, and this is one way of doing so. Hiding the truth for the sake of protecting institutions will only continue to contribute to a system that is significantly harmful to survivors. The message these organizations are sending to harmful individuals is that their actions are okay. But none of the things I’ve described here are okay.
The Weight of the World
So, there it is. There is my story of what all life has thrown at me in the duration of the last year. It has felt like the weight of the world has rested on my shoulders and has refused to get off.
As of today, in July 2022, life has drastically changed. I have experienced navigating part of the system that survivors of sexual violence face. I have experienced the ways in which people will use and abuse your story for their own benefits. I have experienced hurt and betrayal from those who were close to me and I never thought would betray me. I have experienced a whirlwind of pain, sorry, anger, and frustration.
I am no longer in therapy. The funds for therapy from MMN were only through June 1, 2022. Therapy is pricey, even with insurance. With how expensive things are at this time, it is not something I can afford. Also after experiencing the hurt that I did, in therapy, I think it’s good that I am having a break. It allows me time to process things and to find forgiveness not just for my former therapist, but also for myself.
During this time with not being in therapy, it allows me to use what tools I have developed over the last year to help myself keep moving forward. While I am doing okay and have been okay for a while, I still have days when this weighs extra heavy on my heart and I feel everything so deeply. But I know that I have a strong support network and I know that I am not alone.
Releasing my story terrifies me. Naming people in my story terrifies me just as much. I am doing it not to tarnish the reputation of these individuals, but to hold them accountable for their actions that have contributed to the system that continues to harm survivors of sexual violence.
I have spent quite a vast amount of time debating whether or not I should reveal my identity. There’s really not much that holds me back other than the fear that anyone I have named in my blog may come after me. It may seem irrational, but the fear is valid. There will be anger and resentment for me naming people and “blasting the institutions”, I know this. Putting the names of these people out there is taking a risk in itself. Which is why I decided to not reveal who I am.
There are a handful of people who know my story, whether it’s bits and pieces or full details. They know who the voice is behind the writing. They know to maintain full confidentiality so please do not approach them with questions if you think they know anything.
Many will speculate and think that they have a good idea as to who is behind the writing. If this is you, I ask that you DO NOT approach me directly with any messages. You may message my advocate at Into Account that I have been working with, Erin Bergen, at firstname.lastname@example.org
As I end this blog post, friends, all I leave you with these words: do not sit in the comfortability of silence. Speaking up is terrifying, but it is a domino effect. When one person speaks up, it encourages others to speak up. Be the voice that survivors need after they have faced a trauma and need time for rest and to take care of themselves. You have the ability to help change a system that has been harmful to survivors for years. All it takes is one voice.
To any other survivors out there, know this:
I see you.
I hear you.
I believe you.