Shadows of the past

For weeks I have been having strange dreams of sexual predators and the need to protect my daughter. In the dreams, I would see her, and yet know that “it’s not her”. And so the question arose – who is it that I am supposed to protect?

Then last week, I found out that some acquaintances had been subjected to unwanted calls and pressure from a man… but the dreams didn’t stop. Back to worrying about my daughter.

Yesterday, NBC News published a story, of 5 women abused as children while in boarding school with New Tribes Mission (Senegal & Philippines). I was in Panama – but still boarding school. Still New Tribes Mission. A place where abuse happened.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/religion/ungodly-abuse-lasting-torment-new-tribes-missionary-kids-n967191

I thought I was over it: moved on and healed after the 2012 investigation that was finally wrapped up in 2016. But when I read the article, anger welled up and bubbled back to the surface.

This anger is different from what I felt in 2012 when I was talking to school friends and discussing our stories and experiences – when we finally accepted and talked openly “we were abused – physically, emotionally & spiritually”. Some may even have been abused sexually (you don’t find that in the report).

This anger is not about the abuse that happened at boarding school.

No – my anger is about HOW the Panama investigation was handled – the initial investigators responsible for interviewing victims and witnesses were told that it was “not necessary” that they continue the investigation and interview the perpetrators and field staff.

Someone else would take care of that and “allocation of responsibility”. My opinion is that they were unceremoniously dropped because their opinions of what had happened were too damning. Their confidentiality agreements precluding them from saying anything about what they had discovered – so I guess we won’t know.

Instead, iHart – controlled by New Tribes Mission – finished the investigative and reporting process. Personally, I don’t know a single victim or witness that was satisfied with the final report that came out or any mention of the responsibility that was allocated. Of course, there could be some that were happy with the outcome – and I simply have not had a moment to talk with them and hear their side of the story.

As I said, I was under the impression that I had “moved on” and gotten over my disappointment of how this was “swept under the rug” even 25-30 years later.

But I’m not. I still have work to do – deep within me.

Release & forgiveness.

Not for them – for me!

I don’t want to carry that around with me, as baggage that defines who I am and how I express my compassion, creativity & courage in the world – defined by what happened between 1981-1987 (for me) and certainly not by the report finally published in October 2016. This report sickens me.

It has language like:

for the most part, the code of silence kept abuse from being revealed to leaders

Panama Historical Investigation Summary Report, Theresa Sidebotham, IHART Coordinator, October 5, 2016

Sanitised version of “we told the kids that they should not be seen or heard, because they should not interfere with God’s work” and “you don’t want to be a trouble-maker, so you need to keep your opinions to your self”.

One former leader commented that this Committee chose to put a man in place of looking after children at the missionary school “knowing how brutal he was.”

Panama Historical Investigation Summary Report, Theresa Sidebotham, IHART Coordinator, October 5, 2016

But it’s definitely okay… because they were “doing God’s work” – and children are less important than the mission’s mission. (Wasn’t it Jesus that said – “let the children come to me”?)

One MK alleged rape by an older Panamanian adult, but the allegation, both then and now, had internal contradictions and could not be corroborated.”

Panama Historical Investigation Summary Report, Theresa Sidebotham, IHART Coordinator, October 5, 2016

But please don’t report it to the authorities and get them to investigate, because that could make things difficult for the mission. So, it was not reported or properly investigated.
And so we find ourselves, 25-30 years later, with internal contradictions that can now not be corroborated.

You can read her story here: Kerry Lou’s Story of Abuse and New Tribes Mission

“There was another account of an affair with a Panamanian adult, but since it was an older adolescent MK involved with a young adult Panamanian (5 year age spread), it would have been considered consensual at that period of time.”

Panama Historical Investigation Summary Report, Theresa Sidebotham, IHART Coordinator, October 5, 2016

Really?

If a 20 year old guy has sex with a 15 year old girl, that would have been considered to be okay in 1987? If a 19 year old guy is having sex with a 14 year old girl – was that really consensual in Panama in 1987? If you read the article above regarding her story – you will see that the law in Panama mentions imprisonment. This is not mentioned as being “consensual.

Re-living the investigation & final report

When the investigation was opened into Hogar Misionero (the name of the New Tribes Mission school in Chame), I participated in it hesitantly. There is so much of those years that I don’t remember. I acquired a survival ability to simply block out those memories that made life difficult to handle.

But during the interview with Pii, some of those repressed memories came pouring out (in particular, one question: 

“do you remember anything about the laundry room?”

… and then I remembered 3 of the boys (probably 8-10 years old) in their boxer shorts, with their hands tied over their heads… they had been beaten (well, I am sure that the report would probably say that they had been spanked – you know “normal corporal punishment… with their hands tied up) and left there…

You see… the thing is – I wasn’t supposed to be outside.
I shouldn’t have seen them.
So I repressed the memory.

I wasn’t there.
It never happened.

That was how I survived. 

Well… things came out in the investigation. But when the investigators finished interviewing all the “kids” and “parents of victims”, the iHart coordinator recommended that a different team lead the interviews with the staff… and then SHE wrote up the final report… 

How do I feel about this final report?

White-washed. 

The interviews finished years before the final report came out. I gave up and moved on. 

I thought I was done with forgiveness & anger. 
I believed it was a closed chapter. 

Yesterday – NBC published just 7 mintues on their news in the morning, and further 2-3 minutes in the Nightly News. They published an article. 

And I got ANGRY. Really, really angry. 
Because they (New Tribes Mission – now Ethnos 360) are STILL trying to cover this up. It’s still getting white-washed. Because we can’t interfere with God’s purpose & mission.

For the first time in my life, I am finally comfortable with feeling angry.
I admit, I have never liked how anger feels. Probably, because we had it drummed into us that anger and rage were “of the deveil” and to be avoided at all cost. But I now realise that they certainly didn’t want kids that would speak up against injustice or “rock the boat” – we were to be seen and not heard – in no way “interfering” with the mission our parents had to carry out.

Today, I’m not scared of my anger. I certainly don’t feel ashamed of my anger. This time, I will stop trying to hide it away. For the first time, I am welcoming anger… and I realise anger has a beautiful role to play: it communicates a very simple message –

THIS MATTERS TO ME.

I needed to hear that message: I MATTER.
Those other kids matter – the victims of this abuse matter. 

These past twenty-four hours, I’ve spent time practicing Ho’oponopono and forgiveness. I choose not to carry resentment with me into tomorrow.

I deserve better than carrying that weight into my future!  

But I am also asking myself –

“Is there anything that I am meant to do?” 

How will I engage and express my compassion, creativity & courage in the coming days? 

Yesterday I spoke up and I reached out – to others who I know were affected, to the reporters from NBC, and to my parents.

Today, I am giving myself the gift of processing all these feelings … and as you can see, doing a little bit of writing.

Tomorrow – there will probably be more writing, as I work through the impact this has had.

Next week – we will see – what am I meant to do? I know that all these crazy dreams have a purpose – even if I haven’t been able to work out what they mean.

How will I engage in this, expressing myself with utmost compassion, creativity & courage – honoring a God that is not loving, but a God that is LOVE ITSELF.

Part 2 – Disconnecting
Part 3 – My Dirty Little Secret

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17 comments

  1. You spoke to your parents? How did they react? Mine denied anything ever happened, defended NTM to the bitter end. It split the family.

    • I’ve spoken with mine throughout the process.
      It was really hard for them.
      I was one of the kids that NEVER told my parents everything that was happening, because I was terrified of getting them into trouble – they were always “in trouble” for doing things differently. They didn’t need me to be a trouble-maker…

      So, when I told them, they were heart broken.
      And they REALLY, REALLY struggled with some of what I told them – because the people I didn’t want to see or spend time with were “close friends”, that they trusted.

  2. I also have horror stories. My husband was sodomized and brutalized. Life will never be “normal” for us. In the end, to heal, we must forgive. I too am frustrated with feeling “duped” by ihart investigators…why has nothing been done? That said, I’m glad I told my story and I will continue to do so! We need a voice! The only way it can be heard is by telling our story.

  3. the cloak of silence is deadly. when a young wife, my husband tried to kill me for daring to read something besides the bible – our local newspaper in this case. police broke down the door and save me as i was half way off our 8th floor balcony for that ‘crime.’ they arrested him but my church leaders forced me to say it was all my fault, a ‘misunderstanding’ (!) and get him out of jail because ‘it reflected badly on jehovah.’ my safety, my psychological recovery, never an issue to be considered. rinse and repeat over and over…beth and friends, thank you for giving me tools to root out the shame and pain and to support others in their process…

  4. Related so much to your posts. Thank you for writing so clearly what I cannot verbalize yet. Hours upon hours on the swing, in books, in the trees. 💚

  5. Hey there! Thank you for choosing to share all of this with us! I attended NTBI in 2009 (not an MK) and have dear friends who left the mission because of the deceit and lies NTM fed them and others. I’m trying to bring these horrific events to light. Would you mind if I share this post? You are such a brave woman! Feel free to email me!

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