אידען! אז מען מאלעסטעט א קינד רופט די פאליס נישט די רבנים
Sex abuse alleged at oldest Canadian Bible school
By Stephane Massinon and Jen Gerson, Postmedia News November 19, 2011
THREE HILLS, Alta. — Canada's oldest Bible school is under investigation by the RCMP after a former student came forward claiming she and dozens of other children were abused by staff as far back as the 1950s and as recently as five years ago.
Linda Fossen, 53, filed a complaint with RCMP earlier in the week, alleging years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, who at the time, was a part-time employee at the Prairie Bible Institute, in Three Hills, Alta., about 100 kilometres northwest of Calgary. A second victim has since come forward to the school principal, Mark Maxwell.
On Saturday, Maxwell said he had been approached by a woman claiming sexual abuse at the school 35 years ago.
“There would appear to be an abuse victim,” he said. “In other words, I’ve got her name, and someone on staff that she has identified ... We may have a real situation.”
Maxwell, who was in Ontario over the weekend, said he plans to address the issue on Monday when he returns.
“We’ll find out where (that staffer) is, and we’ll start going down that road,” he said. “It’ll be up to the (alleged) abuse victim what they want to do.”
Maxwell said he’ll approach police only with that person’s consent.
“If she wants to go that route, we’ll help her, and the police will find us most co-operative.”
As for Fossen, she began her crusade in 2008 after publishing a memoir about her ordeal. Because of that book, she claims more than 80 former students have told her that they, too, were victims of sexual, emotional and physical abuse.
She says administrators at the time — eager to keep the institute’s polished image clean — covered up years of sadistic abuse, dismissed allegations of sexual assault and kept a known pedophile on staff.
And, she claims, deference to the school’s succession of admired, authoritarian leaders allowed it to happen.
She is now pushing the Institute to acknowledge the abuse and to reconcile with its victims — or risk litigation and censure.
Already on the financial brink, the allegations could prove a fatal blow to the school, which began as a class of eight children in an abandoned farmhouse in 1922.
“If God wants the school to continue, he’ll provide a way for that,” said Samuel Schmake, 20, who is completing his third year of a bachelor’s degree in intercultural studies at PBI. “If He doesn’t, that’s His will.”
Fossen, who now lives in Florida, filed a complaint with police this week in which she says her father sexually assaulted her repeatedly. The abuse began in the early 1960s and escalated when he began studying and working part time at PBI, she claims.
She said she never lodged a complaint before as she believed, until she found out otherwise this week, that too much time had passed.
“I knew what was in that Bible because I had it preached to me and pounded into me from my teachers and from the pastors at the Tabernacle, that children were to obey their parents and honour their father. He would tell me: ‘I’m your father and you have to obey me an you have to do what I say. It’s your duty to God,’” she said.
Fossen remembers attending church at the strict school which, at the time, forbade dating and drinking.
She said her father begin to rape her in early childhood. The abuse stopped when she was 12.
“I will never forget the pain that shot through my body. If I would have had a gun, I would have shot him right there. I had so much hatred and I just spit the words in his face: ‘If you ever touch me again, I will kill you. I will tell every single person on this campus what you’ve done to me.’”
She said her father dragged her to the furnace by her hair.
“It looked just like hell. There was flames and he told me that if I didn’t promise right there on the spot to keep our secret that God would send me to hell. He stuck my face into the furnace and I kept saying: ‘I will tell, I will tell.’
“He kept saying: ‘Promise me, promise me.’ Finally I just thought I was going to die. I really felt like my face was melting.”
The child finally relented.
“He yanked my face out of the furnace and he looked me in the eye and said: ‘Now if you try to tell anyone, no one will ever believe you because, remember, I am the preacher and you are the dirty little whore.’”
Fossen believed herself to be the only person to suffer such abuse at the school. She kept her father’s secret until 2001, when she began to deal with her childhood abuse. She confronted her father, who confessed to the abuse.
Then in 2006, she said her PBI high school class contacted her about a reunion.
“I revealed to them that I had been abused and, one by one, kids in my class contacted me and said: ‘I was too.’ I was just stunned,” she said. “I had no idea that any other child had suffered like this.”
Two years later, her book on the abuse she said she suffered was published. Since then, she said she’s heard from more than 80 classmates.
“You cannot believe the pain that I have heard. Girls that have been going through shock treatments, locked down in psych wards, coat hanger abortions because she was carrying her father’s child. One girl, whose dad was a Bible teacher, beats his kids and wife with rebar. Almost every single day, she got beat with rebar. I could never understand why that girl wore long sleeves and high collars.”
Fossen blames the culture on the school’s former authoritarian and insular nature — one that preached absolute deference, especially by women and children.
“We were definitely second-class citizens and we were taught constantly that we were to be in absolute submission to our male authority figures. That meant our fathers, the male teachers. They were like gods to us. We weren’t allowed to challenge them. It was just absolute obedience.”
Most of the alleged victims, Fossen claims, were children of former PBI staff members.
Fossen said she doesn’t want the school to close, and seeks no fiduciary reward for her pain. Rather, she and two other alumnae started a Facebook group to encourage other victims to come forward.
As part of her escalating campaign she’s e-mailed former school leaders, PBI’s recently anointed president Mark Maxwell and even a long retired staff member notorious for his alleged misconduct.
In 2009, she sent a letter to Ted Rendall, Chancellor emeritus of the school, along with letters detailing individual stories.
Rendall responded with shock and a note of spiritual love, encouraging victims to seek healing and to stay on the path of Godly righteousness.
“I must say immediately that I was disappointed in the extreme language used by you,” he wrote. “First you should make a careful study of what the Scriptures teach concerning dealing with matters such as you have raised.”
He suggested passage in the books of Matthew, Corinthians and Galatians.
One of the verses, advising God’s children on how to handle sin in the church reads:
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Fossen later was directed to send all correspondence to Maxwell, the school’s president, who took over at PBI last year with a vow to keep doors and hearts open. Beset by struggling enrolment and fraying finances, Maxwell’s letters back to Fossen show a man who desires to atone for the school’s past, yet unsure how best to approach a reconciliation.
Fossen repeatedly requested the school hire a group called G.R.A.C.E., a Christian ministry that deals with sexual abuse in the church. He declined, and instead appointed a PBI board member, who was also a registered nurse, to meet with alleged victims.
The move was lambasted by Fossen, who said the school has neither the credibility nor the capacity to deal with the allegations in house.
The police have encouraged any victims to speak to them directly.
Three Hills Mayor Timothy Shearlaw said news of sexual abuse probe at PBI had yet to break in the town of 3,322.
“The townspeople, I don’t think, are really aware of the situation as yet. There is no discussion that I’ve run into. And, in Three Hills, the dealings of the Prairie Bible Institute have always been kind of dealt with at the Prairie Bible Institute. The town has never really, until the last few years, been privy to what really goes on campus,” he said.
A lot has changed under Maxwell’s nascent tenure, he said. “Morale at the prairie campus is very good. I haven’t seen that kind of up spirit, positive spirit in years,” he said.
Fossen said she’s giving PBI until Dec. 31 to hire G.R.A.C.E. Otherwise, her band of survivors plan to file a class-action lawsuit.
“We don’t want their money. We want them to acknowledge our stories and we want them to say they’re sorry,” she said. “That’s all we’re asking. Come clean, open your book and let us help you to make sure that this debacle never happens to another child on your campuses ever again. We want to help you train your kids on your campus that it doesn’t matter who did the abuse, you can always tell and these are the people to tell. We’re not the bad guys, we’re the injured. We just want the school to quit glossing it over and acknowledge.”
Calgary Herald, with files from Jeremy Klaszus
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Posted by Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg at 11/20/2011
די גוים וועקען זיך שוין אויף, ווי זעמער אונז?
Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg