A call for more conscientious coverage of abuse disclosures
Re: “Decades-old sexual abuse comes to light,” Sept. 10, page 13.
It is with concern and disappointment that we write regarding Ruth-Ann Klassen Shantz’s disclosure of abuse perpetrated by Lawrence Pentelow, a man in power at a Mennonite institution. The way we talk about sexualized abuse has very real ramifications for those who have survived, or continue to experience, abuse and its effects. We want to draw attention to the ways in which this article harms others who have experienced abuse by perpetuating harmful myths about sexualized abuse.
Pentelow’s framing of his egregious abuse of power as a “relationship” is a deeply problematic distortion. Individuals who attempt to justify their abusive actions and prevent victims from seeking help often engage in this type of manipulation. Such distortions must be challenged in order to call perpetrators of abuse to account, and to send a clear message to victim-survivors that they will be taken seriously if they come forward and that they are not responsible for the abuse they experienced. Repeating abusive rhetoric in print without commentary perpetuates harmful myths that must be dismantled in order to prevent and heal from such abuse.
It is rare that survivors are willing to share experiences publicly. Canadian Mennonite’s coverage of this case of abuse has done little to reassure other victim-survivors that their experiences will be treated with the dignity and respect that they so deserve. We sincerely hope that CM will seize the opportunity to learn more about best practices in reporting sexualized abuse in ways that contribute to supporting survivors and making our institutions safer for everyone.
—Emily Martin, Leah Martin, Clare Schellenberg, Jessie Costello, Anna Wiebe, Daniel Good, Jonathan Moyer and Barrett Bender (former Silver Lake Mennonite Camp staff, CILT leaders, head counsellors, board members or assistant directors)