21 Mar 2009

Mennonite abuse survivor speaks out against church

The Vancouver Sun - March 20, 2009

by Gerry Bellett | Vancouver Sun

When Susan Duncalfe summoned the courage to report her father’s sexual assaults on her, her story would uncover not only the calamity of a childhood’s stolen innocence, but also how a religious fellowship in the Fraser Valley failed her.

Over the past 20 years, scandals involving illicit sexual relations within churches and the way they were either ignored or covered up have caused untold damage to reputations of churches in Canada and resulted in civil damages that have entered the hundreds of millions of dollars.

In an Abbotsford courtroom earlier this month, Provincial Court Judge John Lenaghan sentenced Susan’s father, Kenneth Duncalfe, now a frail 69-year-old, to nine months in jail.

Lenaghan passed judgment, too, on Duncalfe’s Mennonite church, the Abbotsford Church of God in Christ, for knowing of his transgressions since 1990 but failing to report them to the police.

His behaviour had first been reported to the church’s minister 19 years ago by another family member. As a result, he was summoned before a church assembly and excommunicated for “lasciviousness,” a punishment that lasted for a number of months, at the end of which he was allowed to rejoin the congregation.

Assaults started at 14

In a telephone interview from her home in Nelson, Susan Duncalfe, 43, said she had been subjected to hundreds of sexual assaults and molestations starting in 1980, when she was 14.

“It began the night I became a Christian and it lasted until the very day I left the church when I was 22,” she said.

“I left the church because I realized once I left, he would stop touching me. Being a member of the church was a very sheltered thing, men were the authority figures, and while I was a member he could touch me with impunity because he knew I wouldn’t complain,” she said.

“The night I told him I had left the church, it stopped.”

By the time he was “outed” to the church assembly, she was 24 and not living at home.

It would take her years before she took the matter to the police. But in 2006, after becoming concerned for the safety of grandchildren who were within her father’s orbit, she gave police a statement.

Asked why she didn’t complain earlier, she said she was too naive. “I was scared. You don’t know if anyone would believe you,” she said.

It was the failure of the church to help her — “I was made to feel like I was not worth looking after” — that caused her to have the court-imposed ban on publication of her identity lifted when the issue finally came to trial.

“They have to open their eyes and change their practices,” she said.

Susan had initially avoided going to the police and wrote a letter to her parents saying the family needed counselling, and that her father needed psychiatric help and therapy.

“Our whole family is dysfunctional and we all needed help. I thought if he got help, and we got help, we could get through it and heal the family,” she said.

The letter resulted in a visit to her home by Pastor Bev Toews of the Abbotsford Mennonite Church of God in Christ.

“He came to Nelson and wanted to see reconciliation between myself and my dad, and didn’t think laying charges against him was the way to go. He told me he was going to get Dad the help he needed and so I left it at that,” she said.

However, she would later discover that Toews was the one doing the counselling, not an outside professional.

“That wasn’t good enough. I went to the police. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Kenneth Duncalfe pleaded guilty to two counts — sexual assault and indecent assault against his daughter.

His lawyer urged the judge to impose a conditional sentence that could be served at home, but Lenaghan rejected that as inappropriate.

“The degree of culpability of this defendant is enormous. Instead of nurturing and protecting his vulnerable young daughter, he callously and selfishly exploited her for his own sexual gratification,” Lenaghan said.

“The effects his criminal behaviour has wrought on his daughter’s person and life are manifest and tragic. Every child is entitled to an innocent childhood, and to believe that his or her parents are wonderful people who will take care of and protect him or her from harm.

“The defendant robbed his daughter of such a childhood and inflicted great harm upon her. As a result, her life has been characterized by physical and psychological problems, some of which persist,” the judge said.

In a victim impact statement, Susan said the attacks had left her afraid of the dark. She sleeps with her back to the wall, usually on a couch, still needs counselling, suffers flashbacks and has experienced difficulty establishing intimate relationships, she told Lenaghan.

Nine-month sentence

Crown counsel Laura Berman asked for a jail sentence of a year to 18 months for each count.

Lenaghan found a sentence of 15 months for sexual assault to be appropriate, but taking into account the accused’s age and bad health, he reduced it to nine months, with the indecent assault warranting six months. The sentences will be served concurrently.

But Lenaghan was clearly disturbed by what he had heard regarding the church’s response to Duncalfe’s confession, “which occurred in 1990 when he admitted his sexual involvement with his daughter to members of his church.”

Had Duncalfe owned up to his crimes [to the civil authorities] at that time, his daughter might have enjoyed a happier life and “been relieved to some extent of the horrors that bedevil her to this day,” the judge said.

“It is clear from the letters of reference written by members of the defendant’s family and members of his church that ... they seem to regard his actions as sins and to be of the opinion that the actions taken by the church should suffice as far as punishment is concerned. ...

“The defendant’s actions were not merely sins which could be expiated by confession to spiritual mentors, but crimes, offences against the social order which fall to be dealt with by civil society,” he said.

“Both the defendant and members of his church appear to have forgotten or ignored the biblical injunctions to render unto Caesar those things that properly belong to Caesar,” Lenaghan said.

Judge quite right

Prof. Ross Hastings, who teaches pastoral ethics at the University of B.C.’s Regent College, said Lenaghan couldn’t have put it better.

“The judge was quite right in viewing it like that,” said Hastings, who teaches clergy their ethical responsibilities at the college, an interdenominational Christian graduate school.

“There is no question these were crimes and should have been reported by the church to the civil authorities,” he said.

Any pastor who is told such a thing must report it to the police, he said.

“It’s simple and clear. This sort of thing can’t be dealt with in-house, although the Mennonite church is of the Anabaptist tradition and tend to be ‘antinomian,’ that is, to put the church above the law. They have the tendency to believe everything can be solved in-house,” he said.

“I categorically tell pastors they can’t guarantee confidentiality when someone comes into their office. If they are going to confess a crime — if they tell them, for instance, they have molested a child — the pastor has to tell them he is duty-bound to report crimes to the police.

“That position is supported in the gospel, where it is clear that Christians have to obey the law of the land, except when any law violates the law of God,” Hastings said.

He said he knows of an instance where a person confessed to a murder “at the communion table.”

“The pastor sought advice from a lawyer and in the end, counselled that person to go with him to the police where he confessed his crime,” he said.

The Vancouver Sun was unable to contact Pastor Toews for comment.

But he was interviewed by the Abbotsford News following Duncalfe’s sentencing, and said the church didn’t inform police of the abuse because the victim was an adult at the time and no longer a member of the congregation.

As for Susan, has the experience shaken her faith?

“I still believe in God. I know what’s right and wrong, but my church now is my beliefs. I’m not suggesting the church didn’t teach me good things, it did. But I hold on to the more powerful things,” she said.

This article was found at:



Mennonite Church of God in Christ leaders knew of incest and did nothing

Mennonites beginning to pull up stakes


  1. MY CHILDERN ALSO GET SEX ABUSE BY THERE FATHER AND ATHER FAMILY MEMBER IN MENNONITE SEX CULT AND COURT COVRING THINGS UP lawyer TELLING ME Im in the worng area I still fight to get my childern out I miss my children they have my kids for 4 years the court system they in it how do fight this peaple god help me and my childern to get out of the devil cult

  2. rape women & childern in mennonite shoud stop &court shoud chang the law to pretect them NO MORE COVER UP

  3. The same churches preach against Homosexuality and Abortion but they condone incest? What's wrong with this picture? Sin is Sin no matter what! They need DELIVERANCE in Jesus Name! Pray for their Deliveredance

  4. Children taken from Mennonite community as more abuse charges are laid


    WINNIPEG - Children have been removed from an orthodox Mennonite community in southern Manitoba, where more adults have been charged with assaulting youngsters using items such as cattle prods and leather straps.
    Manitoba Family Services would not say Wednesday how many kids had been taken into care, or reveal any other details about the case.

    "Child protection professionals are working with the families and children involved in this difficult circumstance, including providing counselling services and supports during their participation in the ongoing RCMP investigation," the department said in a brief email.

    "The child protection staff are also working to ensure culturally sensitive placements for the children."

    Two adults from the tiny orthodox community were charged in March with various counts of assault and assault with a weapon on several boys and girls between July, 2011 and January of this year.

    This week, two more adults appeared in court to face similar charges involving 12 alleged victims. The allegations are once again that the assaults were repeated and over roughly the same 18-month time frame. They were released pending their next court appearance.

    The identities of the alleged victims are shielded by a court-ordered publication ban. The Canadian Press is not naming the accused and the small community where they live.

    Leaders from the community had approached the Mennonite Central Committee for parenting advice before any of the charges were laid, committee spokesman Brad Reimer said in an interview earlier this year.

    The orthodox Mennonite community is one of many that eschew modern amenities such as electricity and automobiles and adhere to Biblical teachings.

    Royden Loewen, chair of the University of Winnipeg's Mennonite studies program, said earlier this year that many Mennonites believe in traditional corporal punishment for children. But, he added, they follow a rule that says children should not be injured or hit out of anger.

    The allegations against the accused have not been proven in court.

    Defence lawyer Scott Newman, who represents the first two people charged and appeared in court this week with the two latest accused, said Wednesday he is awaiting more disclosure from the Crown.

    "It's such an early stage, there's not much I can comment on," he said.

    RCMP are not ruling out more charges, saying the investigation is not over.


  5. Dozens of children seized from Manitoba Mennonite community

    RCMP lay multiple assault charges against 3 men and a woman

    CBC News June 19, 2013

    Child welfare authorities have removed children from about 15 families in a small Mennonite community in rural Manitoba.

    Only one minor, a 17-year-old, remains in the community after three men and a woman were charged with multiple counts of assault, including assault with a weapon.

    One of the men is facing eight counts of assault and 10 counts of assault with a weapon. The woman charged is facing five counts of assault with a weapon and four counts of assault.

    Court documents allege the assaults took place between July 2011 and Jan. 31 of this year, and involved the use of cattle prods and straps.

    All four adults charged have been released from RCMP custody on bail, but none of the accused can have contact with anyone under the age of 18 without approval from child welfare officials.

    The four are scheduled to appear in a Dauphin court in September.

    The Brandon Sun is reporting the number of children seized from the community was higher than 50.

    The court has placed a publication ban on the names of the children involved, which is why CBC News is not identifying the community or providing the names of the adults charged.

    Officials from Manitoba's Child and Family Services department said child protection professionals are working with the families and children involved. Officials said counselling services and support are being made available while the RCMP investigate.

    CFS officials also said they are working to secure “culturally sensitive” placements for the children who were removed from the community.

    Brad Reimer, who works with the Mennonite Central Committee, said the child welfare agency has had contact with the community twice in the past. Once when it was established in Manitoba and again more recently.

    "They did approach us when some of this current situation came to light," said Reimer. "MCC did meet with them and offered to work with them on certain aspects of parenting."

    Reimer would not say if the community took MCC up on its offer.


  6. Parents of seized Mennonite kids meet with CFS

    CFS officials call meeting with parents ‘starting point’

    CBC News August 15, 2013

    Parents in a rural Manitoba Mennonite community are working to have their children returned to them after dozens were taken by child and family services earlier this year.

    More than 40 children were seized from the community earlier this year, and 13 adults were charged with assault.

    Court documents allege children were assaulted with cattle prods and straps between July 2011 and Jan. 31 of this year.

    All but one child was removed from the community, and now, parents are hoping to have their children returned to them.

    On Thursday, in what CFS officials are calling a starting point, child welfare workers sat down with the parents to discuss how to get their children back.

    Last week, CFS sent a letter to the families, listing a number of concerns about returning the children to their parents.

    Officials said the families have agreed to a set of conditions, including only spanking children with their hands on their bottoms. They’ve also agreed to not leave marks or injuries on the children from disciplining them.

    In addition, children will only be disciplined by their parents -- not teachers or pastors.

    Jay Rodgers is the CEO of the General Child and Family Services Authority in Manitoba. He said at this point, meetings will now be scheduled with each individual family “to make sure there’s a clear understanding of the meaning of the letter but also how parents take the letter and put it into practice with kids [regarding] appropriate discipline and parenting techniques.”

    Children remain in care
    Paul Walsh, a lawyer representing 10 of the parents, said the process is taking too long.

    His clients have some of the youngest children seized, and only one of his ten clients is facing charges. He thinks the children should be returned immediately.

    “It’s a question of time. It’s outrageous that this much time has been taken,” said Walsh. Some of the children were seized in January, while others were seized in June.

    “Here we have a situation where a government agency has taken all children, not treating [them] as individuals -- all children, regardless of age, situation, complaint from everybody -- and that’s not the way we do business in Canada,” said Walsh.

    Former CFS worker pans handling of case
    One former CFS worker and foster parent agrees with Walsh. He’s not happy about how CFS has handled the case.

    Henry Dueck is working to help the Mennonite families deal with CFS.

    “I like to think [CFS has] the best interests of the children in mind, but I think their cure is worse than the disease,” he said.

    Dueck said the process is difficult because the parents don’t have much access to their children.

    “They’re trying to be compliant. They want more visits. It would be so much better if they’d return the children and then engage with them,” said Dueck. “It’s like teaching a nurse to be a nurse without patients.”

    Right now, Dueck and his wife Hilda are working with the families. Hilda said language difficulties and the passage of time have made the situation emotional and difficult.

    “When you see their tears, you can’t help but share their pain,” she said.


  7. Manitoba Mennonites given discipline rules

    By Chris Purdy in Edmonton August 19, 2013
    Global news The Canadian Press

    WINNIPEG – Manitoba social workers want parents of an orthodox Mennonite community to promise they will only spank kids on their behinds and not use objects, such as belts, as punishment.

    They also want assurances that children will not be injured or left with marks on their bodies.

    The parenting rules and discipline guidelines are spelled out in a recent letter from the government’s Child and Family Services Department to members of the tiny community, where Mounties made arrests over several weeks this summer.

    In July, RCMP said they had arrested a total of 13 people for assault offences, some including allegations that boys and girls were struck with cattle prods, whips and leather straps. The province also apprehended all the children living in the community, about 40 of them, who ranged in age from infants to teenagers.

    A court publication ban prevents identification of the children. No trial dates have been set and the allegations have not been proven in court.

    Jay Rodgers, a CEO with the department, explained Thursday that the letter starts the process for returning the children to their parents. Staff are to meet Aug. 15 with leaders of the community and, if they agree to the terms set out in the letter, social workers will move on to the parents to get their assurances as well.

    “It really is just sort of trying to lay out the agency’s worries and the agency’s concerns regarding how the kids have been treated,” said Rodgers.

    The letter says that while Child and Family Services doesn’t support spanking, it’s not illegal.

    It further stipulates that parents must not “pinch, pull hair, sit on, slap faces, pull/pinch ears, burn, withhold food, or have children stand or sit for extended periods of time as punishment/correction.”

    It says safety concerns are “based on children’s disclosures of excessive physical discipline/child abuse.”

    Winnipeg lawyer Paul Walsh represents 10 of the parents who cared for a total of 18 of the seized children. One of the parents, a father, is among those facing charges.

    Walsh said the province acted prematurely, taking all of the children when they weren’t all in need of protection. “The complaints that relate to their children are general and there’s no specific complaint of their being — in any way, shape or form — abused physically, sexually.”

    Yet, he said, his clients are willing to agree to the conditions.

    “There’s a lot of things in that letter that, merely because my clients say they won’t do it, doesn’t mean they ever did do it.”

    Walsh said some of the young children were still being breast fed when they were taken. Others speak only German and are having a difficult time with their English-speaking foster families.

    “These are children and they miss their parents every minute, every day.”

    He also finds it offensive that the province is first meeting with community leaders to get their OK, instead of the parents.

    “Damn the leadership,” Walsh said. “My clients want their children back because they agree, not because of whatever the leadership decides to do … They’re willing to sign on right now and get their children back today.”

    Rodgers said the old order Mennonites have explained that chosen leaders make parenting decisions for the entire community. “We’re trying to be very respectful of how that community makes decisions.”

    In addition to agreeing to terms in the letter, parents will be asked to take a parenting program being developed by the Manitoba Mennonite Central Committee, said Rodgers.

    He added that if children are returned home, social workers will regularly visit the community to assess their safety.

    Some of the adults facing charges have been released on bail on the condition that they not have contact with children. Walsh said if the children do go home, those adults would have to move out of the community.


  8. Kidnapping charges laid in Mennonite assault case

    By Karen Pauls, CBC News September 10, 2013

    Charges have been laid against two women from a conservative Mennonite community in Manitoba, as well as a man from outside the community, for allegedly kidnapping a teenage boy who ran away from foster care.

    The two women from the community, along with the man — who is not Mennonite — are accused of abducting a person under the age of 14. The charges include kidnapping and confinement, obstruction of justice, and interfering with foster parents' ability to care for the child.

    The charges come after a 13-year-old boy ran away from his foster home.

    He, along with dozens of children — all but one of the Mennonite community's kids — were apprehended by child welfare workers earlier this year as part of an RCMP investigation into child abuse.

    So far, 13 adults — including the two women — face charges of abuse based on allegations of children being struck with cattle prods, whips and leather straps between July 2011 and Jan. 31 of this year.

    None of the accused can be named to protect the identity of the children.

    New details of the case emerged at the man's bail hearing on Monday.

    "There was a concerted effort to interfere with the Crown's ability to prosecute its case, to have access to witnesses, and [there was] also interference with children in Child and Family Service's care," Crown attorney Rich Lonstrup told court.

    "Now the concern is not just the case, but protecting the integrity of the case.… There's concern this could be attempted and repeated with other children."

    The two women went missing shortly after they were among those charged with abuse in June. Manitoba-wide warrants were issued for their arrests.

    Around the same time, child welfare workers apprehended all but one of the children from the community, including breast-feeding infants.

    Shortly after, a 13-year-old boy ran away from his foster home. He returned to his community, but his father told him he had to go back into CFS care.

    The father walked him part-way to his foster placement, but the boy disappeared.

    "They found a letter in the chicken coop. He apologized to his father for not listening but said he just couldn't go back to his foster placement," Lonstrup said.

    Teen, women found in Saskatchewan
    The boy was discovered last week near Yorkton, Sask., in a home rented by the non-Mennonite man charged with his abduction.

    The two missing Mennonite women were also living there. One of them, a 24-year-old, had broken her engagement with a man from the community and married the man sheltering her.

    "The community is in shock. They considered [the man] to be a friend and didn't know he had taken [these people] out of the province," Lonstrup said.

    In another twist, the man also arranged for a woman from the community to give birth in Yorkton.

    The woman told police she was afraid that child welfare officials would seize her newborn. The baby was born on July 10 and registered under the man's name.

    Lonstrup said at one point, the newborn's mother and the 13-year-old boy asked to return to their community, but the man who was sheltering them said he had consulted with lawyers who said they shouldn't go back yet.

    They later discovered the man had not spoken to any lawyers.

    continued below

  9. The teenager left several phone messages for his lawyer and social workers, who eventually traced him to Saskatchewan.

    The man's lawyer, Norman Sims, told court that his client got to know community members through business dealings with them over the past few years.

    When the abuse charges were first laid, some of the men could not return to the community, so he let them move into his house. He also helped pay for some of their bail and lawyers' fees, Sims said.

    When the man was asked to help the 13-year-old boy, he couldn't refuse — although Sims told court that his client did advise the teen to return to his foster home.

    It was also not the man's idea to give the newborn baby his last name, Sims said.

    "They [the parents] did that and he was surprised by the idea," Sims said.

    "I think he feels picked upon, if I can use that phrase. He's been trying to help people in that community and he got tied into it in this way," Sims later told CBC News.

    Community 'perplexed,' says advisor
    The man is currently out on bail under strict conditions, including a 24-hour curfew.

    The women will be back in court on Thursday, hoping to be released.

    "I think the community is perplexed," Peter Rempel, an informal advisor to the Manitoba Mennonite community, told CBC News.

    "They haven't had communication with the teenager nor with the people he was with … for several months, so they have trouble understanding what they were attempting to accomplish and why they did it."

    Rempel is part of a committee of Child and Family Services (CFS) workers and community members that will meet again on Friday as they inch towards the eventual return of the children.
    CFS has requested that all of the 20 parents undergo a parental capacity assessment and each of the 42 children have a psychological assessment.

    The parents have already participated in one parenting course and have scheduled another one for next week.

    They have also agreed to comply with an 18-point list of conditions given to them by CFS, including the cessation of discipline with instruments, and spanking children under the age of two and over the age of 12.

    However, the parents are still only allowed to visit for one hour each week and they must speak English, even to young children who only understand their unique German dialect. Some of the children are losing their mother tongue.

    Rempel said the parents are noticing changes in their children's behaviour. At first, they were happy to see their parents and became distraught when they left.

    But the children are developing attachments to their foster parents and have become more passive about their parents' visits, Rempel said.

    "They sense their children moving away. Each child is processing this long period of separation and acting out differently. It will be a challenge when those children do come back," he said.

    "From our history in Canada, what have we learned about the impacts of taking all the children away from a community?" he added. "We can already see the consequences of that."


  10. Seized Mennonite children home soon

    Should be back with families by end of month: lawyer

    Winnipeg Free Press October 5, 2013

    About half of the 40 children seized from an Old Order Mennonite community in Manitoba could be back with their parents by the end of the month, a lawyer for some of the families said Friday.

    The children were taken by social workers in June after 13 people in the orthodox community were charged with child abuse -- including alleged assaults using cattle prods, whips and leather straps.

    Five couples, who have a total of 19 children, were at a court hearing Friday that was closed to the media. Afterward, their lawyer, Paul Walsh, said Child and Family Services has agreed to a timeline that will see all of his clients' children returned by Nov. 1.

    "I think we have a clear commitment from the agency and a clear timeline," Walsh said.

    "It's taken far too long and the children will recover, I hope... but one has to be pleased today."

    One of the parents told reporters he is hoping to see his two children soon.

    "Seeing is believing, I guess, but we've had a lot of delays," the man said.

    "Last time we had a visit, (my son) saw our horse and buggy and we let him sit on the buggy... but when the social worker wanted to take him back to the van again, then he had to cry again because he had his hopes up. He thought we were going home finally."

    The lawyer for the family services agency would not comment outside court.

    Only one of Walsh's clients is facing an assault charge and it does not involve a family member, Walsh said. He represents primarily younger families. All their children are under nine years of age.

    As part of the agreement reached Friday, Walsh's clients are to have social workers visit their homes and check on the children. The parents have also agreed to follow guidelines as to how they can interact physically with their children and other conditions.

    Walsh said his clients did not assault their children and accused social workers of going too far in seizing dozens of kids from the community.

    "My clients insist that there's nothing that they have done that doesn't, in the past, conform with what they're being asked to do."

    The other families are represented by a different lawyer and there is no word yet on when they might get their children back. None of the assault allegations has been proven in court.

    The identities of the children are protected under a publication ban. The Canadian Press is not naming the accused or the small community where they live.

    Old Order Mennonites shun modern conveniences, including electricity and cars, and adhere strictly to biblical teachings. While most believe in corporal punishment, those who know people in the community say they are inherently non-violent.

    Jay Rogers, the CEO of Manitoba's general family-services authority, has said social workers were justified in removing the children.

    The seizure did not result from any cultural misunderstanding, but from specific allegations, Rogers said last month.


  11. Manitoba Mennonite community regrets harshly disciplining children

    CBC Radio October 17, 2013

    Months after all the children of a Mennonite community were seized by authorities, some parents are speaking out. They say their efforts at discipline for defiant and abnormal behavior were called abuse and assault by authorities. Today, CBC's Karen Pauls takes us inside a community that until now has been closed to outsiders.

    Listen to podcast at: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2013/10/17/manitoba-mennonite-community-regrets-harshly-disciplining-children/

    A Mennonite community may never be the same ... the dramatic seizure of their children, police charges of abuse , and the knowledge that unless parents and grandparents agree to change their ways they may not get their kids back.

    "7 o'clock in the morning they were here to pick them up so we got them out of bed, 1 girl and 3 boys got them dressed and they left. Had no idea where they were taking them".

    Earlier this year, child welfare workers seized every single person under the age of 18 from an Old Order Mennonite community in Manitoba.

    The action came during an RCMP investigation resulting in assault charges against thirteen adults in the community.

    Now 40 children and teens are in foster homes as the criminal and civil cases slowly wind through the courts.

    Last week, three reporters were given exclusive access to the community at the centre of this unprecedented action. CBC National radio reporter Karen Pauls was one of them and she joined Anna Maria in studio to share this story.

    And a word of explanation: we cannot name the community or any of the people interviewed to protect the identities of the children.

  12. Mennonite community regrets harshly disciplining children

    'We want to do what is proper,' community minister tells CBC News

    By Alana Cole, CBC News October 17, 2013

    From the highway, it looks like any other farming community in rural Manitoba: a cluster of well-kept homes with brightly painted shutters, perfectly manicured gardens and children's swings swaying empty in the yard.

    But as you get a little closer, it soon becomes clear that the people of this small conservative Mennonite community are living in a different world, one that dates back decades in time.

    The women wear long dresses and bonnets. The men dress mostly in black with long beards and wide-brimmed hats. Most telling is the transportation — horse-drawn buggies instead of cars.

    But there is also something else different about the people living in this community. All their children are gone.

    "The first while, you seem to bump into memories of the children everywhere, and it was overwhelming," says one woman.

    "Now, you're kind of used to it, that they aren't here. But you still want them very much."

    All the children in the community — about 40 of them — were seized by Child and Family Services, some in February and the rest in June.

    Thirteen adults were charged with offences, some accused of assaulting children with a cattle prod and a strap. Community leaders have said the charges stem from disciplinary practices used on some of the children.

    Despite the sensational nature of the charges, officials with Child and Family Services have been working with community members to return the children, provided they are prepared to change their ways. And the community members have signalled their willingness to work with CFS and do what ever it takes to get their children back.

    In support of those goals, adult community members took the unusual step of inviting CBC News into their community and homes to talk about the case and their commitment to change.

    "We do want to do what is proper," the community's minister said in an interview. "And we also want to be law-abiding."

    The minister, along with all others in the Mennonite community, cannot be named to protect the identity of the children.

    'We had some serious problems'

    According to the minister, the community's ordeal can be traced back to events that started a few years ago. Members began noticing what they deemed to be "abnormal behaviour" by some school-age children.

    When it didn't stop, the children were placed in the homes of other families for disciplinary purposes, a common practice among people in this community.

    At that point, corporal punishment was used to try and correct the behaviour.

    "There was some disciplining done at that time which today, looking back, we feel we should've done it different," said the minister.

    "We are a community that depends on helping each other. We had some serious problems."

    Eventually, some community members came to believe that sexual abuse — by one particular member of the community who has since moved away — was the root cause of the bad behaviour being exhibited by some of the children in the community.

    Fearing the children were at risk, the minister asked the RCMP to investigate.

    But the minister said when the RCMP investigated, they could find no evidence of sexual abuse and no charges have been laid.

    Instead, officials focused in on the corporal punishment being used by some adults on some children.

    "They then dismissed our allegations, but they put the emphasis on our discipline," the minister said.

    Shortly after the investigation started, so did the apprehensions. The children were seized and the community members were charged.

    continued below

  13. Working to correct discipline methods

    Since that time, community members have been working to correct discipline methods, in an effort to meet modern standards and law.

    "The MCC has provided us with parenting courses, which we are taking," said the minister, referring to the Mennonite Central Committee. "We have been working with counsellors."

    All the community's members have also agreed to 18 provisions outlined in a letter sent to the leadership by CFS this past summer.

    One provision requires parents to let outside professionals in to assess the ongoing safety of the children. Another states that parents will not allow anyone else in the community to discipline their children.

    The parents had to "commit to spanking children only with their hands on their butts" and can only use physical punishment on children aged two to 12.

    The parents also had to agree not to "pinch, pull hair, sit on, slap faces, pull or pinch ears, burn, withhold food or have children sit or stand for long periods of time as punishment/correction."

    Jay Rodgers, chief executive officer of the General Child and Family Services Authority, told CBC News that CFS has been working to understand the community's traditional beliefs and culture, while explaining what's acceptable in the punishment of children.

    He expects six children will be returned to two families within next couple of weeks.

    "The process that we put in place for this to happen has been working reasonably well," said Rodgers.

    "We have tried to work in very close collaboration with the community and outside helpers who are bridging some of the relationships between our agency and the community."

    'They would like to come back,' says mom

    However, he can't give a specific timeline for when the rest of the children will be returned, particularly if a parent is facing criminal charges.

    That's the case for a mother of two whose young boys were taken into CFS care in June. She faces one count of assault involving a child who was not hers and was not living in her home.

    The woman says she worries the charge is undermining efforts to have her children returned. For now, she and her husband are allowed to visit their children one hour a week.

    "You can see it in our sons' faces when we go to visit them, that they would like to come back," she said.

    "They want to just come home with us. We want to give them that, but we can't."

    Her husband says he fears the children will become more and more attached to their foster parents.

    "They're telling me I've got excellent visits," said the man.

    "They are very happy with our relationship between the children and us, so I think that should have a bearing, too, on what happens from here on. But they can tell us it's wonderful and excellent, but it doesn't seem to help anything."

    In the meantime, the two continue to hope they will be next on the list to have their children back.

    Related Articles on CBC website:

    Mennonite child abuse arrests have community reeling

    Mennonite elders seek salvation through healing circle

    Mennonite community in talks to reunite children, parents


  14. Mennonite families being reunited with children

    Total of 40 children were seized after 13 adults charged with assault

    CBC News November 01, 2013

    At least two couples from an Old Order Mennonite community in Manitoba are being reunited with their children, months after all the community's children were seized amid child abuse allegations.

    After RCMP charged a total of 13 adults from the conservative community with assault earlier this year, child welfare authorities apprehended about 40 children — including those whose parents were not charged with anything — with some taken in February and the rest in June.

    But on Thursday, one couple was reunited with their four young children. Another couple will have their two children returned to them on Tuesday.

    Neither set of parents has been charged with any criminal offence.

    The father of the four children who were returned on Thursday told CBC News he's grateful to have them back, and they're happy to be home after being away for five months.

    "Wonderful. They all expressed excitement about it. They're very, very happy to be home," he said Friday.

    "In fact, they thanked God last night in their prayers that they're home."

    At the same time, the father said he feels for the other families in his community who don't have their children back.

    "As much as we're overjoyed at having our children home, there's still a real heavy weight in my heart because of the other eight families," he said.

    "We feel almost guilty having our children at home now."

    The community and its members cannot be named to protect the identities of the children.

    34 children still in foster care

    Thirty-four other children remain in the care of Manitoba's child welfare system, and the process of reuniting some of those families may not happen quickly.

    Part of the reason is that some of the parents in the community do face charges. Some are accused of assaulting children with a cattle prod or a strap, according to court documents.

    continued below

  15. Community leaders have said the charges stem from disciplinary practices used on some of the children.

    "It's important for us to understand how many of the charges will be proceeding to trial," said Jay Rodgers, chief executive officer of the General Child and Family Services Authority (CFS).

    "It's difficult to return victims to alleged perpetrators, particularly if some of those victims might be witnesses in the criminal process, so some of that is really creating complexities for planned reunifications."

    Rodgers said his agency will start working with two new families to have their children returned to them.

    One couple who doesn't face any charges say they hope to be the next to be reunited with their children.

    "I'm happy for the ones that are coming home, but I'm very disappointed that they don't recognize what our children are going through," said the mother.

    "As adults we can reason it out [and] count our days or months, but the children, they can't figure that out," her husband added.

    Agency 'holding back children,' says lawyer

    Paul Walsh, who represents the couple and four others in family court, says while some of his clients are facing charges, he still believes the CFS agency is not working fast enough to bring families back together.

    "They're just saying that they don't know even the details of the criminal charges," he said.

    "I'm angry about it because they don't know what they don't know, but they're holding back children on the basis of that uncertainty. It's highly objectionable."

    One couple is still waiting to hear what will happen to their two boys, aged one and 3½, and they're frustrated they aren't getting any closer to having their sons home.

    "Last night I couldn't sleep well because of this system with people with authority and responsibility — they're taking lots of time, lots of paperwork, lots of conversation but … if we take too much time, it might be too late for children," the father said.

    "If someone is bleeding to death, you have to take immediate measures even if they're not the best measures."

    His wife faces one charge of assault in a case that does not involve her own children, while the father faces no charges.

    Community committed to change

    All the families in the community have already committed to changing their disciplinary practices.

    As well, they are taking parenting courses to learn how to comply with current societal norms and Manitoba law.

    This past summer, all adult members agreed to 18 provisions outlined in a letter sent to the community's leadership by CFS.

    One provision requires parents not to allow anyone else in the community to discipline their children.

    The parents also had to "commit to spanking children only with their hands on their butts" and can only use physical punishment on children aged two to 12.

    The parents also had to agree not to "pinch, pull hair, sit on, slap faces, pull or pinch ears, burn, withhold food or have children sit or stand for long periods of time as punishment/correction."

    In the meantime, social workers will continue to monitor the children who have been returned to their parents, visiting the families almost weekly to ensure they are safe and well cared for.


  16. Mennonite abuse charges stayed

    By: Ian Hitchen, Brandon Sun February 12, 2014

    There's optimism for a Manitoba Old Order Mennonite community that's been shaken over allegations of child abuse.

    Four community men have had their assault charges dropped and more accused are expected to have their charges stayed later this week if they also agree to sign peace bonds and undergo counselling.

    Last year, police charged 15 adults in the community, which can't be named to protect the identity of the children living there, alleging the children were subject to "extreme discipline" and beaten with objects such as leather straps, cattle prods and whips. Child and Family Services (CFS) took all of the children from the community and put them in care. Six children have since been returned to two families, but 36 remain in placements with Mennonite caregivers.

    A relieved father of nine who had his charges stayed -- effectively dropped by the court -- on Tuesday said he hopes his community can now rebuild.

    "I'm very happy to have the charges resolved, and hopefully that's a big roadblock out of the way to the return of the children," the man said outside a southern Manitoba courthouse Tuesday. All of his children remain in CFS' care.

    The four men who signed one-year peace bonds to have their charges dismissed Tuesday did not admit to any criminal misconduct.

    One man and two women -- including the lone teacher of the community's one-room schoolhouse -- had their charges moved to Winnipeg court on Thursday, and it's expected they'll also sign peace bonds and have their charges stayed.

    "It makes me very happy because I can have contact with my friends again," said the teacher. "It was hard to not be able to teach my pupils and be separated from my friends."

    Three women still face assault charges in relation to alleged abuse, but it's not clear whether they'll be offered peace bonds or some other diversion from the court system.

    Crown attorney Nicole Roch said she couldn't speak to whether this will speed up the return of children to their homes, as that's up to CFS.


  17. Kids shocked with cattle prod

    By Ian Hitchen, Brandon Sun Winnipeg Free Press April 5, 2014

    Incidents of horrific physical abuse of children in a rural Manitoba community were revealed in a Winnipeg courtroom late last month.

    During the case of an Old Order Mennonite community member -- a woman who pleaded guilty to abuse charges -- the Crown said "counselling sessions" were held in which children were spanked, kicked, strapped and shocked with a cattle prod for perceived wrongdoing.

    One girl was strapped and shocked for not eating quickly enough, and sometimes shocked for as little as the look on her face, court was told.

    "The backdrop of it is actually tremendous physical violence with respect to the children," Crown attorney Adam Bergen said in late March, when the woman from the religious community entered guilty pleas to assault charges.

    Neither she nor her community can be identified due to ongoing court proceedings and a publication ban.

    An estimated 80 to 90 people -- more than half of them children -- lived in the community when allegations of abuse came to light. The community still used horse and buggies and abided by traditions dating back to the 19th century.

    About 16 adults were charged with offences such as assault and assault with a weapon. Most were allegedly committed on a number of children from July 2011 to January 2013.

    At one point, there were at least 13 victims.

    There might have been more, court documents allege.

    The 57-year-old woman who pleaded guilty admitted to two counts of assault with a weapon against two girls who were placed in her home after they were removed from their own.

    At the time, one girl was 10 or 11 years old, and the other was between six and eight years old.

    The woman's sentencing will be at a later date.

    Bergen said the trouble within the community surrounded allegations of sexual improprieties among the parents and children of two families.

    Those seen as community elders and other adults would hold counselling sessions in an effort to gain information about whether sexual abuse was taking place within families.

    Violent methods of extracting information were used, the Crown said.

    "Underlying all of this seems to be this sort of hyper-vigilance over any sexual thoughts on behalf of the children, and so that is what the counselling is geared toward," Bergen said.

    Those allegations of sexual abuse -- repeated to police by children from those families -- were later all recanted or dismissed by police as untrue, Bergen said. It's how those unfounded sexual allegations were drawn from the children that forms the basis for the accusations of physical abuse, he said.

    In a previous hearing, court heard the police investigation included physical examinations of the children.

    Children were questioned by community elders and other adults -- often with leading questions or with specific hints -- about alleged sexual improprieties within their families, the Crown said.

    When the children didn't remember things they were supposed to remember, or would falsely admit to the improprieties, violence would follow.

    "The cattle prod is used for large animals and it's basically got an on-off switch and it's described by all the children as incredibly painful," Bergen said.

    Due to the allegations of physical abuse, Child and Family Services apprehended all of the children in waves during February and June of 2013.

    At one point, 42 children were in CFS care but community members have worked with CFS toward their return home. So far, about a dozen have been returned and 30 are still in CFS care.

    Seven community members remain charged.

    Charges against six of them were stayed.

    Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2014 A3


  18. Seized children returning to Manitoba Mennonite community

    CBC News June 19, 2014

    Jay Rodgers, CEO of the General Child and Family Services Authority, said 23 children are now home and he expects almost all will be back in the community by the end of summer.

    The children were taken from the Old Order Mennonite Community by welfare officials last year — some in February and the rest in June. A number of adults were charged with multiple counts of assault, including assault with a weapon, stemming from how the children were disciplined.

    “It's been a process of working with these families around parenting capacity, parenting techniques, learning about child development learning about appropriate discipline approaches,” said Rodgers.

    Court documents claimed the assaults took place between July 2011 and Jan. 31, 2013, and involved the use of cattle prods and straps. The youngest of the alleged victims at the time was less than a year old, and the oldest was 17.

    The province's child and family services authority removed all children but one while the matter was investigated.

    Many of the charges have now been stayed but a community member told CBC News seven people still face charges.

    "We desperately want to do things differently," a man from the community told CBC.

    Nobody from the community, or its location, can be named to protect the identity of the children who were apprehended.

    "We are very committed to trying to stay here, build here and put our community back together again," the man said.




    An Old Order Mennonite woman who admitted to disciplining two young children with an electric cattle prod was sentenced in a Brandon courtroom Friday to three years supervised probation.

    Louisa Bauman, 57, previously pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a weapon.

    The sentencing hearing shed new light on a case that saw the arrest last year of more than a dozen men and women and the seizure of dozens of children from a small southern Manitoba Old Order Mennonite community.

    Court heard residents established the community just eight years ago after breaking from their home community in Ontario.

    Old Order Mennonite communities are traditionally patriarchal, with ultimate authority residing in the hands of church leaders. Community members eschew modern technology, don't use electricity and drive a horse and buggy to get around.

    Bauman's husband, Enos Bauman, holds no authority within the church but wields great authority in the community and is its de-facto leader, Crown attorney Nicole Roch told court.

    number of boys who had been living with the couple reported Enos Bauman had used a cattle prod on them as a disciplinary measure against masturbation.
    "His influence was considerable, such that he in fact had control over most community matters, either directly or indirectly," Roch said.

    Allegations of wrongdoing first came to light in the summer of 2012 when a hired labourer who had been living with the Baumans returned to Ontario and reported to the ministry he had been physically abused.

    Manitoba police were alerted to the allegations and visited the couple's home. A number of boys who had been living with the couple reported Enos Bauman had used a cattle prod on them as a disciplinary measure against masturbation.

    "The boys and their father believed the use of a stock prodder was effective and justified and was helping the boys with their troubles," Roch said.

    In January 2013, a couple who had been ex-communicated from the community following allegations they had sexually abused their children contacted the Ontario ministry for help. The couple's children were living with the Baumans and the community was refusing to relinquish custody.

    Police became involved and the children "did provide statements alleging sexual abuse by their parents but the statements were vague and lacking in detail," Roch said. Subsequent medical examinations proved their allegations were false.

    continued below

  20. Some children lived in a shed, some weren't allowed indoors except to sleep because they were considered so deviant," Roch said.
    Within two weeks most of the children recanted and details of abuse within the Baumans' home started to emerge.

    "Children disclosed of being subjected to extreme physical abuse in the context of what was purported to be counselling," Roch said. "The purpose of this was to assist the children in remembering being sexually offended against by their parents."

    Abuse included spanking and strapping and the withholding of food, sleep and privacy.

    "Some children lived in a shed, some weren't allowed indoors except to sleep because they were considered so deviant," Roch said.

    Enos Bauman introduced the use of the cattle prod as a disciplinary tool and it was adopted by other adults in the community to correct what they saw as "extreme misbehaviour on the part of the children," Roch said.

    Louisa Bauman admitted to shocking a seven or eight-year-old girl after she soiled her clothing and shocking an 11-year-old girl at the dinner table.

    "Both girls described being shocked by the cattle prod as being excruciatingly painful," Roch said.

    Both victims told police Louisa treated them better when her husband wasn't present.

    "People close to Louisa Bauman believe she is the victim of emotional abuse by her husband."
    "People close to Louisa Bauman believe she is the victim of emotional abuse by her husband," Roch said. "They believe she would not have treated children the way she did if her marriage was a different one."

    The laws and norms of the outside world played very little part in Louisa Bauman's upbringing, said Judge Donovan Dvorak.

    "It's understandable why when she acted the way she did, under the direction of leaders of the community, and in particular her husband, she thought it was justifiable," Dvorak said. "On the other hand, that does not absolve her of responsibility ... The adoption of a cattle prod as a method of discipline is one of extreme abuse."

    During the term of her probation, Louisa Bauman will be required to live with a brother in Ontario and have no unsupervised contact with children under 14.

    Enos Bauman remains before the court facing several charges. He is considered innocent.


  21. Mennonite fined $50K for abducting kid from child services
    by DEAN PRITCHARD | QMI AGENCY Sun News November 7th, 2014

    WINNIPEG — A male member of an Old Order Mennonite community that was thrust into the spotlight after all of its children were seized by child welfare authorities amidst allegations of severe physical abuse was fined $50,000 Wednesday after admitting to helping hide one of the children for several months.

    Neither the man or his southern Manitoba community can be identified by name.

    The 31-year-old man pleaded guilty to assisting in removing a child from his community, knowing he was in care.

    The fine, jointly recommended by the Crown and defence, is the maximum allowed for the Child and Family Services Act offence.

    Additional charges of child abduction and obstruction of justice were stayed by the Crown.

    The boy disappeared May 26, 2013, and wasn't located until late August.

    Court heard the man helped hide the boy at a number of community homes before he was relocated to a home in Saskatchewan. He repeatedly told CFS and police he knew nothing of the boy’s whereabouts.

    Crown attorney Nicole Roch said the man and other community members hid the boy and other children so they couldn't provide police statements regarding allegations of sexual and physical abuse.

    Defence lawyer Ted Mariash argued the man was aware the boy was unhappy and "struggling" in his foster placement and only wanted to help him.

    The boy "came to my client in an extreme state of need and my client acted accordingly," Mariash said.

    More than a dozen adult community members were arrested and all of the community's children were taken into care last year after allegations surfaced that the children had been subjected to severe physical abuse, including being shocked with cattle prod.

    Most of the residents have dealt with their charges by way of peace bonds. The community's former de-facto leader Enos Bauman remains before the court.

    The boy remains in foster care "and has expressed significant concerns about returning to his community," Roch said.


  22. Man enters guilty plea in Old Order Mennonite child abuse case

    By Ian Hitchen, Brandon Sun April 7, 2015

    WINNIPEG — One of four key remaining accused charged in connection with child abuse at a southern Manitoba Old Order Mennonite community has pleaded guilty to assault charges.

    In Winniepeg Court of Queen’s Bench on Tuesday, the 32-year-old man pleaded guilty to five charges of assault with a weapon, and one charge of assault for spanking.
    The assaults were committed against three boys, two girls and a young man between January 2010 and May 2013.

    Facts detailing the abuse weren’t read in court, but defence lawyer Scott Newman indicated that a leather strap was used on four children.

    One was spanked with a bare hand. The young man was poked with an iron poker or rod. The offender will be sentenced at a later date.

    In early 2013, Child and Family Services apprehended all 42 of the children who lived at the community over allegations of widespread physical abuse.

    Fifteen adult community members were charged for abuse against numerous children, largely committed between July 2011 and January 2013.

    The Brandon Sun isn’t naming the accused or their community at this time to respect previous publication bans put in place to protect the identity of the victims.
    Many of the adults accused of abuse later had their charges dropped in exchange for peace bonds that require continued counselling.

    One woman was sentenced to probation for shocking two girls with a cattle prod and strapping one of them.

    The man who pleaded guilty on Tuesday is one of four men who still faced charges. All but six of the apprehended children have since been returned to their parents.


  23. Mennonites apologize for history of sex abuse following theologian John Howard Yoder scandal

    by Rich Preheim | Religion News Service July 6, 2015

    (RNS) From seminars to a service of lament to a statement confessing its failure to offer healing for survivors, sexual abuse was a prominent topic at the Mennonite Church USA’s biennial convention, which concluded Sunday (July 5).

    Not prominently mentioned, but on many people’s minds, was the denomination’s complicity in the rampant sexual violations by one of its most distinguished members, the late theologian John Howard Yoder.

    The revelations of sexual violence committed by one of the most influential shapers of Christian pacifism have left many people grappling with the incongruity.

    “The impetus for these initiatives was ‘We don’t want this to happen again,'” said Hannah Heinzekehr, director of communications for the denomination.

    A lifelong Mennonite who died in 1997, Yoder was one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. Many of his books remain in print, including the classic “The Politics of Jesus,” first published in 1972 and called one of the 10 best books of the 20th century by Christianity Today.

    Yoder was also a major force in the Mennonite Church, a 100,000-member denomination that traces its origins to the Swiss Anabaptist movement of the 16th century.

    Yoder became a superstar at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., where he taught for 24 years, respected and admired by fellow church members and Christians who were not Mennonite. Yet, at the same time, he was preying on women, many of them his students. A report has revealed a range of sexual offenses, starting in the mid-1970s, as well as the church’s efforts to keep them quiet.

    Researched and written by Rachel Waltner Goossen, a Mennonite and history professor at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., the report was published in the January issue of the academic journal Mennonite Quarterly Review.

    According to Goossen, Yoder wanted to develop a new sexual ethic, including the idea that intimate physical contact was an appropriate expression of nonerotic Christian love, and asked select female students to help.

    While some were able to fend off Yoder’s advances, which Goossen described as “recruitment,” other women accepted the invitation. Their “research,” consisted of sexual activity, such as fondling, oral sex and occasionally even intercourse.

    The seminary’s former president, Marlin Miller, learned of Yoder’s activities shortly after becoming president in 1975 and tried to convince Yoder that his theology was flawed. The scholarly discussion continued for nearly a decade, abetted by Yoder’s periodic threats of legal action.

    In 1979, Miller finally directed him to stop his “experiments” and five years later forced Yoder’s resignation. Yoder moved to nearby University of Notre Dame, where he remained until his death 13 years later.

    (At Notre Dame, Yoder accosted at least two women, Goossen reported. The university has declined to comment, claiming it’s a personnel matter.)

    Miller told no one — not even the seminary board. And no explanation was ever given for his leaving the seminary.

    continued below

  24. The church eventually disciplined Yoder in 1992. The reason given publicly was for unspecified violations of “sexual boundaries.”

    In 2013, the seminary and the denomination began a process revisiting the church’s handling of the Yoder affair. Victims and their supporters pushed for full disclosure of the abuse claims. Among their complaints was that the church had largely ignored the women’s welfare and was more concerned with restoring Yoder and his reputation.

    “Whether through misnaming, or negligence, or avoidance, or fear of scandal, we failed … what we know to be most true about the Gospel,” Sara Wenger Shenk, seminary president since 2010, told the victims during a March service in which the seminary publicly apologized. “We failed you.”

    According to some estimates, Yoder may have accosted more than 100 women. One of them was Carolyn Holderread Heggen. “I continue to feel a deep sense of relief and healing that the truth was finally acknowledged and confessed,” she said.

    Meanwhile, questions remain about Yoder’s theological legacy. What to do when one of the outstanding proponents of peace and nonviolence has failed in interpersonal relations?

    Already in 2013, the North American Mennonite publisher Herald Press began adding a statement to its 16 Yoder books, noting, “We believe that Yoder and those who write about his work deserve to be heard; we also believe readers should know that Yoder engaged in abusive behavior.”

    William Schweiker, president of the Society of Christian Ethics, said academics will give Yoder the same scrutiny they’ve given to others, such as philosopher Martin Heidegger and his controversial Nazi connections.

    “In these ways, scholarly communities carry out the pursuit of knowledge and truth and monitor the work of scholars,” said Schweiker, professor of theological ethics at the University of Chicago.

    Earlier this year in England, a recent book generated a backlash because it favorably cited Yoder without mentioning his misconduct.

    Krish Kandiah, president of the London School of Theology, told the British website Christian Today: “You at least have to engage with it, you can’t just ignore that part of his life. Imagine how it feels if you’re a victim of sexual abuse and your abuser is still being used as a source of Christian ethics.”

    Karen V. Guth, a theologian at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn., agrees that scholars need to be transparent about Yoder’s abuse, emphasizing “healing for the women he violated and the problem of sexual violence” rather than “salvaging Yoder’s theological legacy,” she said.

    “Anyone who wants to move forward should incorporate feminist insights about sexism and abuses of power into their work,” added Guth. “We all need to be concerned about how to combat sexual violence.”


  25. A Mennonite convicted of acts of aggression and domination against children

    ICI.Radio-Canada.ca December 15, 2015 TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH

    A 59 year old man was sentenced to a year in prison for his role in a case of "domination and aggression" against children of an Orthodox Mennonite community in rural Manitoba.

    The court imposed a publication ban on the name of children. CBC do not disclose the name of community in question nor the names of adults charged to protect the identity of the alleged victims and those who have proven.

    The isolated village of 90 people, which settled the community is part of the most conservative branch of the Mennonites. Its members live there without electricity or car.

    According to legal documents filed by the Crown in Minnedosa, a village about 220 kilometers northwest of Winnipeg near the Mennonite community, the man admits assaulting seven children ranging in age from 3 to 15 years .

    He used straps and electric batons for livestock, to discipline them.

    The Mennonite also attended the "sessions where children were forced to tell sexual abuse of a family member," then it was false testimony.

    A wide range of abuse

    Between 2011 and 2013, several children in the community have suffered severe disciplinary measures and the share of "zealous adults who believed that these punishments were necessary to save the children of the sins of lust," noted in its written observations James Ross, a Crown prosecutor.

    If children do not confess sexual acts they were then punished for their stubbornness. "The punishments continued until the child confesses," recalls Ross.

    Community adults used a wide range of punishments that included including deprivation of food and sleep, whipping or kids and bondage.

    Children could also be administer a "strong impact" using an electric baton for livestock.

    "An obsessive campaign to eradicate an imaginary evil"

    In spring 2013, 13 adults from the village have been charged with assault and assault.

    All of the children, who belonged to the Orthodox Mennonite community, 42 young people from 10 different families, were then removed from their parents by the services the child and family.

    By the time the province took the matter in hand, 10 adults and 32 children were considered "sexual deviants" within the Orthodox community.

    In the words of the prosecutor, they were under a real inquisition or undergoing punishments.

    "The Crown considers these inquisitions are tantamount to a witch hunt. It was an obsessive campaign to eradicate an imaginary evil. "- James Ross, Crown Prosecutor
    According to court documents, even adults have several children gathered around a huge campfire and told them that "they would burn in hell for impure thoughts and actions."

    Various penalties

    In 2014, the charges against four men and four women were raised because the accused have committed to attend training sessions and have no contact with the other defendants.

    A Mennonite village has already pleaded guilty to six charges of assault "repeated" as well as one count of common assault.

    He admitted having punished the children, including his own daughter, because they had had thoughts 'impure', not eating properly, or because they had urinated in their beds. He was sentenced to six months in prison.

    Another woman was sentenced to three years probation, while two men waiting for their sentences to be handed down in February 2016.

    The community parents still attend training sessions and attend parenting classes. So far, 38 of the 42 children were reunited with their families.

    However, two of them were placed under permanent guardianship of the state and two teenagers refused to return to their native village.


  26. RCMP investigate allegations of sexual abuse on Old Order Mennonite community

    Public accusations rare for conservative religious groups, expert says

    By Karen Pauls, CBC News National Reporter February 01, 2016

    The RCMP is investigating allegations of sexual abuse on an Old Order Mennonite community in Manitoba, CBC News has learned.

    The allegations come from two women who left the community in 2013.

    Anna Marquart, 26, is now married to a non-Mennonite man from the surrounding area. She took his last name when they married. Her 24-year-old sister, Emma, is living with them and has also changed her last name, saying she doesn't want any association with the community anymore.

    "Up until now nobody was strong enough to withstand what the community members say did not happen," Emma said in an exclusive interview with CBC News.

    "They are good at covering up. Their deceit is really crafty. Their lies are worse. I have experienced all of that. It is very hard to get out of that," Anna added.

    Both women allege the abuse began when they were still living in Ontario, before their group broke fellowship with the larger community in late 2006 and relocated to Manitoba.

    Anna's first memory of abuse comes when she was four or five years old, and forced to give oral sex to a member of her family. She said the anal sex started when she was 10.

    "That was so bad, I almost fainted and puked. You weren't allowed to go to doctors so you had to suffer the pain," she said.

    A September 2015 gynecologist's report indicates her injuries required sutures.

    "It sounds like she lived through a nightmare," the report reads.

    Emma alleges she was also five when a family member forced her to give him oral sex in the bathroom of their Ontario church.

    "I still remember it because it stunk so much," she said.

    The abuse continued for years, involving different men. Emma said she was gang-raped by five men at age 14 while she was already pregnant. She didn't know who the father was, but says the pregnancy was terminated.

    "They gave me something and when I woke up, my belly was less and there was lots of blood."

    When the community moved to Manitoba, Emma said she was pimped out to local men who were brought to a shed or workshop for sex. She heard the men promising to pay but never received any of the money.

    "I hated it. I fought as much as I could but if you fought till you were tired, then you had no strength left. You got beaten," she said.

    Emma said she got pregnant a second time, after being raped by a family member.

    The girl was taken away at birth and is still living on the community. She's been brought up to believe she is someone else's child, Emma claimed.

    "I am willing to do a DNA test. I love my daughter and I would like her to have a better life," she said.

    However, someone who knows the community well and is trusted by its leaders is convinced "this is a false allegation."

    "Emma has lived in the community continuously and if she had given birth to a child it would have been known by the community and the fact of it disclosed to me," said the man, who wishes to remain anonymous.

    continued below

  27. The women recently gave lengthy police reports, detailing decades of alleged abuse.

    "Our case is ongoing and as such, the allegations are being investigated," RCMP spokesperson Sgt Bert Paquet wrote in an email.

    "This specific case brings its own challenges, however as with any investigation, once completed, we will consult with the Crown to determine whether or not charges will be laid. Several investigative steps still need to take place before this decision is made."

    CBC News has learned RCMP officers recently visited the home of the girl Emma claims is her daughter, although Paquet will not confirm if they took DNA samples.

    The sisters know they'll be called liars and will be criticized for telling their story publicly. They say it's taken years to gather the courage to leave and speak up.

    CBC is not identifying the alleged abusers, several of whom are no longer living in the community

    However, one is already facing charges of sexual assault involving an adult and a child between 2010 and 2013. He is contesting the charges.

    Community leaders were asked for an interview through an intermediary, but they declined to comment.

    'We don't hear about it because it's internal'

    Old Order Mennonites are deeply religious, hard-working, frugal, and have a strong sense of community.

    Many eschew technology and modern conveniences, and are known for using horses and buggies rather than vehicles. They are not part of social welfare programs or healthcare.

    They try to stay separate from Canadian society and are often distrustful of outsiders.

    "When issues of abuse or something like that becomes public or comes before the courts, then internally something hasn't worked," said John J. Friesen, a retired professor from Canadian Mennonite University, and an expert on conservative Mennonite, Amish and Hutterite groups.

    "Either the discipline system isn't functioning properly in that community or the person they attempted to discipline isn't taking discipline."

    It takes a lot for someone to leave a closed community like this because they are usually leaving their family and kinship groups, and giving up financial and psychological support networks, he said.

    "That's a big break and not done lightly. [Leaving] would be very big because everything that's familiar to them would then be lost, given up, and they would need to start over again, rebuilding a different life on the outside. It's traumatic," Friesen said.

    "If somebody leaves and they state a reason why they left, my first inclination would be to believe them because the price they would have to pay for leaving is so high."

    While most Old Order Mennonite or Amish communities function very well, Friesen said problems can develop if they are isolated geographically or psychologically from other like-minded groups that hold them accountable.

    Karen Pauls is an award-winning journalist who has been a national news reporter in Manitoba since 2004. She has travelled across Canada and around the world to do stories for CBC, including the 2011 Royal Wedding in London. Karen has worked in Washington and was the correspondent in Berlin, Germany, for three months in 2013, covering the selection of Pope Francis in Rome.


  28. Man suing Holdeman Mennonite Church over sex abuse claims

    by Alyssa Donovan, KXLY.com February 11, 2016

    COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -
    A man is suing his church for allegedly allowing him to continuously be sexually abused as a child.

    Clayton Peaster is suing the local and national church of the Holdeman Mennonites. The Holdeman Mennonites have a policy to bring wrongdoings forward to church leaders before authorities, and these church leaders are not trained in dealing with sexual abuse victims or children. Clayton hopes that in going after the church at a national level he can change this policy for the better.

    Peaster claims when he was 11 his adoptive father, David Peaster, began sexually abusing him and another child. He says he turned his father over to church officials at the Holdeman Mennonite Church in Bonners Ferry. Church officials excommunicated David Peaster from the church temporarily. He was allowed back into the church 10 days later when he repented for his sins.

    Clayton says the abuse then continued until he was 16, causing him permanent emotional and physical damage, and he wants to change some of the policies in the national church to help ensure this does not happen to any more Mennonite children.

    “The problem is people should've listened when not only me but other people came forward instead of make them grow up and question everything about themselves," he said.

    There have been criminal charges against the Holdeman Mennonite church in the past however this will be the first civil suit. Clayton's lawyers say they are not quite sure how the church will react when asked to change long standing policies but they say its all in the interest of protecting children.


  29. Mennonites Put Children in Danger By Refusing to Report Sexual Abuse

    By Attorney Patrick Noaker

    (February 11, 2016 – Coeur d’Alene, Idaho) Today, a national group of sexual abuse attorneys filed a lawsuit against the Kansas-based Church of God in Christ (“Holdeman Mennonites”) for endangering Mennonite children by discouraging local churches and leaders from reporting child sexual abuse to law enforcement.

    Clayton Peaster, formerly of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, filed a civil sexual abuse lawsuit (Complaint (filed)) with the Kootenai County District Court in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho against Mt. View Mennonite Church, Inc, and its parent organization, Kansas-based Church of God in Christ (Mennonite), commonly known as the Holdeman Mennonites, as well as is adoptive father David Peaster and mother Cynthia Peaster relating to child sexual abuse by David Peaster. The sexual abuse occurred from 2000 – 2004. According to the suit, during that period, Mt. View Mennonite Church leaders were informed about the sexual abuse by David Peaster and did not report the sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities. Instead, church leaders excommunicated the father for two weeks, requiring him to promise to stop the sexual abuse before readmitting him into the Church. Nothing was done to protect the boy, and the step-father continued to sexually abuse the boy for over a year thereafter.

    Starla Toews, a former member and current supporter for those who have been sexually abused in the Holdeman Mennonite Church in the United States and Canada, believes that because of the religious culture, abuse like this is unfortunately all too common and almost never reported to Police. “The Holdeman Mennonite culture thrives on privacy, secrecy, and building up walls to keep the members inside and the world on the outside. Because being separate from the world is such an important part of this religion, when abuse like this happens, everything is handled internally. Instead of this abuse being treated as a crime, which would involve the outside world, it is treated as a sin. We see the results of that here. The perpetrator pleads for forgiveness, the leadership readmits him, and then the perpetrator continues to work his evil, sexually molesting this child under the protection of the Church. What about protecting the child?”

    Pointing to similar incidents nationally, Clayton Peaster’s attorneys claim that putting Mennonite children in peril by refusing to report sexual abuse is common for Holdeman Mennonite Churches. The first incident that is strikingly similar to the current matter involves Kenneth Duncalfe, who was convicted of sexually abusing his daughter Susan Duncalfe in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. Both Kenneth and Susan Duncalfe were members of the Abbotsford Mennonite Church of God in Christ in Abbotsford. During the investigation in the criminal prosecution, investigators learned that the leaders at the Abbotsford Church were aware of the sexual abuse, but never reported it to law enforcement authorities. At Kenneth Duncalfe’s sentencing, Judge John Lenaghan blasted Abbotsford Mennonite church leaders, stating “They have known about the sexual abuse of this young woman for 18 years and did nothing about it.” According to Susan Duncalfe, the Abbotsford Church handled the report according to its internal policies and practices. Instead of reporting the sexual abuse to law enforcement officials, “My father was excommunicated from the church and then reaccepted a couple weeks later, and it was never talked about.” The Abbotsford Mennonite Church of God in Christ is a member church of the national Holdeman Mennonite Church.

    A second incident involves a minister for the El Campo Mennonite Church in El Campo, Texas, who was arrested for and ultimately convicted of the crime of failing to report child sexual abuse involving a 14-year-old girl who attended his church and who was sexually abused by her father.

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  30. According to the police reports relating to the incident, when the minister was asked by police investigators why he refused to report the sexual abuse to police, he stated because he was “Mennonite.” The El Campo Mennonite Church is a member church of the national Holdeman Mennonite Church.

    Nationally recognized Constitutional lawyer and professor, Marci Hamilton, voiced significant legal concerns with the national Holdeman Mennonite’s alleged practices. According to Hamilton, “While this religion’s emphasis on not conforming to the world, and forgiving those who have repented for their sins is protected by the First Amendment, shielding predators so they can continue to sexually molest children is certainly not constitutionally protected and cannot ever be accepted. Everyone, including leaders of churches and religious organizations, must abide by child-protection laws that require reporting of childhood sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities. There is no religious exception to mandatory reporting and criminal laws that require such reporting. There is no Constitutional right to protect sexual predators”

    Patrick Noaker, one of Clayton’s other nationally recognized sex abuse attorneys, said: “It is tragic that the national Holdeman Mennonite Church maintains a practice that puts Mennonite children at risk to be victimized by sexual predators. Religious churches and schools should be places where children are safe from harm, not places that protect sexual predators.” Noaker added “What happened in this case is exactly why professionally-trained law enforcement should investigate reports of childhood sexual abuse. These Church Leaders were woefully uninformed about child predators, apparently believing that internal religious practices would cure the perpetrator. Unfortunately for the young Clayton Peaster, that is not how sexual predators work.”

    “This case is very upsetting,” said Coeur d’Alene attorney Craig Vernon, “the Church could have easily protected Clayton from the ongoing sexual abuse. However, instead of protecting the child and reporting this abuse to Police, the Church announced to the congregation that this dangerous predator had repented and should be forgiven. Tragically, after the Church readmitted David Peaster, he continued sexually abusing Clayton for about another year. The shame is not his; it is theirs.”

    Coeur d’Alene attorney Lee James states: “Clayton’s decision to go public with his story is a courageous act that will help other survivors, especially those abused in the Mennonite Church. He’s helping to de-stigmatize the shame that many survivors carry with them.”

    “What is scary,” James added, “is this alleged predator has still not faced justice. We believe he was excommunicated for two weeks, then pronounced by the leadership as repentant, clean and fit to interact with children. While his victims have suffered, the alleged predator remains in good standing in his Church and has never been criminally prosecuted.”

    Attorney Craig Vernon added “Readmitting a predator after only two weeks, tells us that the focus on forgiving the predator over protecting the child was misguided. This is why our complaint includes a list of non-monetary demands that focus on requiring the Church to have policies and procedures that protect children and not predators. We not only want justice for Clayton, we want basic protections for all children.”


    Complaint http://noakerlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Complaint-filed.pdf

    For more information about the legal team fighting this case go to:


  31. Old Order Mennonite makes emotional apology in child assault sentencing

    By Riley Laychuk, CBC News February 17, 2016

    A 32-year-old Old Order Mennonite man made an emotional apology to the children, the RCMP and the child welfare system at his assault sentencing hearing in Brandon Wednesday.

    The man previously pleaded guilty to five counts of assault with a weapon and one count of assault. He'll have to wait until at least April 11 to be sentenced.

    The Crown asked for 18 months in custody for the 32-year-old man, who cannot be named in order to protect the victims in the case. CBC News is also not identifying the insular horse-and-buggy community.

    The Crown gave a lengthy history of the case Wednesday morning, detailing how children in the community were abused with cattle prods, straps and by the hands of their abusers between 2011 and 2013.

    One child suffered nerve damage

    Court heard that one of the children sustained nerve damage while others sustained bruising as a result of the prolonged abuse that, the Crown said, took place because "zealous adults conceived that strong punishments were necessary to save the children from the sin of lust."

    "The adults came to believe (mistakenly) that most of the children in their community had been sexually active with their parents and other siblings," Crown attorney James Ross stated in a written submission.

    The defence made its submission Wednesday afternoon. It included a letter of apology, read by the man to court quietly and with obvious emotion.

    "Quite clearly he's remorseful," defence lawyer Scott Newman said, adding the man took responsibility for his actions in the early stages and has engaged with CFS to learn new ways to parent.

    He argued that the man should only receive six to 12 months in custody and disputed the Crown's assertion that the man was the second-worst offender of the four. He is now living with his wife and children in a new community, Newman said, adding it hasn't been an easy three years for the man and his family.

    "The important thing is that the accused expressed significant remorse for his role in what had happened and took full responsibility and he's prepared to face the sanction the court hands down to him," Newman said outside of court.

    "There will be a period or an attempt at reconciliation. My client indicated he wants to reach out and make apologies to all those that he's hurt and all those that have been affected by his actions and we'll have to see whether or not people are prepared to accept his attempts at making amends."

    ​​Many members of the small Old Order Mennonite community arrived at the Brandon courthouse on a school bus. A few sat with their heads down during the hearing. They declined a request for comment.

    Child abuse investigation into excessive discipline

    Meanwhile, another man entered guilty pleas on Wednesday morning to seven counts of assault with a weapon and one count of assault. The 58-year-old man is considered to be the community's leader, described as a "main actor" in the case. He will be sentenced at a later date.

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  32. All these charges stem from a child abuse investigation in which social workers apprehended 42 children from 10 families. That was all but one of the community's children.

    So far, 38 have been returned and are living with their parents, who are receiving counselling and parenting courses. Two of the children have been made permanent wards of Child and Family Services.

    While in foster care, many of the children have been exposed to modern technologies they would not have seen at home, from electricity and running water, to television and the internet. Two teenage children are now refusing to return to their conservative Christian community.

    Originally, 13 people were charged in connection with excessive discipline – in some cases, involving straps, whips, and cattle prods.

    In 2014, charges against four men and four women were stayed. They agreed to peace bonds to enter into counselling and have no contact with the other accused.

    In addition to today's sentence, two other community members are already serving time ranging from six months to one year for their assault charges. A woman was sentenced to three years' probation for her role in shocking two girls with a cattle prod, and strapping another one.

    According to Crown submissions, not all of the men took part equally or performed all the acts alleged, but each took part in long-term repeated acts of harsh discipline of multiple children.

    Apology letter to the court

    We are gathered here today because of my wrongs. I have griefed many people due to my past conduct.

    I am sorry how I treated the children. I did not treat the children with respect as a Christian should. And due to my conduct the children's trust and lives became shattered.

    I believed the stories to be true at that time but now I want to say sorry to you all as I see that not all was as I was led to believe.

    To the RCMP I want to say sorry for the time and money spent on my case. I am ashamed and deeply regret the past.

    To the Child and Family Services I also want to say sorry. As I struggled to understand the legal system I did not always respond as would have been my duty. I also want to apologize for all the time and money spent because of my mistakes.

    To the children, I want to say I am sorry how I treated you. It was not right what I did, nor was it a Christian example as was my duty. I am sorry I let you down. You suffered much and I caused you pain and distress.

    For a long time I wished I could have permission to apologize to you. I want to live in such a way that you can feel the sincerity of my apology and that you can once again trust me to lead a godly walk of life which is also acceptable to our Heavenly Father. Again, I am very sorry for how I mistreated you, and I wish you strength and hope as you go on in life's journey.

    I humbly ask you all for forgiveness for my wrongs. It is my desire and my goal to live in such a way that my regret of the past can be felt and seen. It is my desire to love and care for my wife and children.

    I now want to accept what the Courts feel is fair judgement for my wrongdoings.

    With files by CBC's Karen Pauls