Focus should be on victims

Focus should be on victims

Letter to the Editor:

I am writing concerning the recent revelation that a Christian Aid Ministries missionary has confessed to sexually abusing boys both in Holmes County and in Haiti.

CAM is a large organization that has done a lot of good in the world. For this reason, when many who support it found out about the sexual abuse, they were immediately concerned about CAM’s future. Some have even openly bewailed the thought that this situation could give Anabaptist churches a bad name.

These reflections and feelings are perhaps natural, but they are irrelevant. The focus of this case is not your good name or the potential crippling of CAM’s ability to continue its efforts. The real travesty is the dozens of boys who are going to face monumental hurdles in overcoming the psychological, sexual and emotional damage inflicted upon them.

I know something about this because I myself am a survivor of male childhood sexual abuse. I write this on behalf of those victims, whose shame I know all too well and whose struggles I feel deeply.

There are things the public needs to understand about childhood sexual abuse. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, “Every nine minutes child protective services substantiates, or finds evidence for, a claim of child sexual abuse.”

They also estimate “one in nine girls and one in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.”

These are sobering statistics. I am one of them. And I think the conversation surrounding this tragedy needs to be focused on the victims.

Childhood sexual abuse is not a one-and-done, forgive-and-forget-it type of sin. The impact of the crime can be long-lasting in the mind, in the heart and in the spirit of the victim. According to RAINN, “Victims are more likely than nonvictims to experience the following mental health challenges: about four times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse, about four times more likely to experience PTSD as adults and about three times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults.”

The latter two statistics were certainly true in my case. In addition to all of the confusion I endured as a teenager, the real effects weren’t felt for decades. In my late 30s I went through major depression, and to this day I continue to suffer the effects of PTSD. I am now approaching my 45th birthday, so I hope you can imagine the extent of the damage that is done to a child who is a victim of sexual abuse.

The boys in this case will face overwhelming odds in recovery for many, many years after Jeriah Mast has paid for his crimes against them. Many in Holmes County have been praying for the victims.

CAM has issued a public statement pledging support for them. This is laudable. But they will need more than prayer. They will need a lifetime of patient emotional and psychological support.

I hope that all are prepared to give it.


Daniel Eichelberger

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load