sexual abuse

The time is now

Attiya meets with Steve, her abusive ex-boyfriend, in the documentary A Better Man. (National Film Board photo)

Steve and Attiya, pictured here in the early 1990s, show in A Better Man that all men can become better if they choose to. (National Film Board photo)

In the remarkable documentary, A Better Man, released earlier this year, filmmaker Attiya Khan documents her meeting with Steve (no last name), her ex-boyfriend who abused her daily more than 20 years ago.

Breaking the silence

While living in Cambodia, Jaymie Friesen, centre, coordinated a therapeutic photography course for women exiting the sex trade (Photo courtesy of Jaymie Friesen)

For Jaymie Friesen, responding to abuse and preventing it in communities of faith is a personal calling. As the abuse response and prevention coordinator at Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba, Friesen supports churches and individuals, and works to raise awareness of abuse and trauma.

A hedge of protection

Forty Mennonite Church Manitoba clergy attended the area church’s biennial “Healthy boundaries” seminar, held this year at Carman Mennonite Church. Led this spring by clinical psychologist Lois Edmund, the conference is mandatory once every four years for all credentialled MC Manitoba pastors.

Lament for those ‘suffering in silence’

A basket of cloth strips was used to symbolize the pain victims of John Howard Yoder’s sexual abuse at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. The note reads: ‘Beloved of God, may you go into the complicated places with courage, for darkness will be conquered by light. May you go with resolve, for God has gone before you. May you go with hope, claiming the promise that evil never has the last word. Amen.’ (Photo by Rich Preheim)

For 40 years, women who had been sexually violated by John Howard Yoder were left suffering in silence while the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) professor became one of the most influential theological voices of the 20th century. On March 22, 2015, AMBS publicly apologized for long ignoring their cries for justice.

Intimacy is not an invitation to abuse

Every 17 minutes, a woman in Canada experiences sexual assault. (Photo courtesy of istock.com)

Every 17 minutes, a woman in Canada experiences sexual assault. Many times these women are assaulted by someone they know, sometimes even by someone they’re in a romantic relationship with.

The latter was true for Jessica (a pseudonym), who grew up attending a Mennonite Church Canada congregation and agreed to speak to Canadian Mennonite anonymously to protect her identity.

The truth about sexual abuse will set you free

The pulpit in the Jesuit Saint-Loup church in Namur, the Netherlands. The monumental sculpture, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me’ was made by the Dinant sculptor Benjamin Devigne (1827-94) in 1876.

I came across an editorial by Dick Benner a few months ago and was distressed to read about the late—and highly regarded—John Howard Yoder having sexually violated 80 women “at last count” (“Healing sexual abuse,” Sept. 2, 2013, page 2). This was news to me, as I am relatively new to the Mennonite circle.

Healing sexual abuse

Two stories on sexual abuse have re-emerged recently on the Mennonite scene that call for sober reflection and some self-examination, but not self-obsession. They should be seen, in the present, as “teachable moments” and occasions for healing, rather than harsh judgments on the sins of our fathers.

The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia

All photos by Noah Friedman-Rudovsky. Noah Friedman-Rudovsky also contributed reporting to this article.

For a while, the residents of Manitoba Colony thought demons were raping the town’s women. There was no other explanation. No way of explaining how a woman could wake up with blood and semen stains smeared across her sheets and no memory of the previous night. No way of explaining how another went to sleep clothed, only to wake up naked and covered by dirty fingerprints all over her body.

A hidden darkness

While the Mennonite faith community has sometimes been contentiously consumed over the past two decades with one aspect of sexuality—homosexuality and same-sex marriage—another darker side has quietly escaped our notice: sexual abuse of women and children.

Telling stories of sexual violence

Rachel Halder started Our Stories Untold to explore the topic of sexual violence in the Mennonite church (Photo courtesy of Rachel Halder)

Hannah Heinzekehr, 27, dedicated a week of posts on her blog to discussing sexual violence in the church. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Heinzekehr)

In Canada 1,397 sexual assaults occur every day, according to the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women. In the United States nearly one in five women reported experiencing rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Take care

Windows in doors and walls between offices are a requirement in most church safety policies, according to Donita Wiebe-Neufeld, co-pastor at First Mennonite Church, Edmonton. (Photo by Tim Wiebe-Neufeld)

Windows in doors and walls between offices are a requirement in most church safety policies, according to Donita Wiebe-Neufeld, co-pastor at First Mennonite Church, Edmonton. (Photo by Tim Wiebe-Neufeld)

Ontario pastor Kevin Peters-Unrau tells a Kafkaesque story of what happened when he volunteered to work with children in his community.

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