5 August 2013
The Perpetrators Were Caught, but the Crimes Continue
By Jean Friedman-Rudovsky
For a while, the residents of Manitoba Colony thought demons were raping the town’s women. There was no other explanation. No way of explaining how a woman could wake up with blood and semen stains smeared across her sheets and no memory of the previous night. No way of explaining how another went to sleep clothed, only to wake up naked and covered by dirty fingerprints all over her body. No way to understand how another could dream of a man forcing himself onto her in a field -- and then wake up the next morning with grass in her hair. […]
Then, one night in June 2009, two men were caught trying to enter a neighbor’s home. The two ratted out a few friends and, falling like a house of cards, a group of nine Manitoba men, ages 19 to 43, eventually confessed that they had been raping Colony families since 2005. To incapacitate their victims and any possible witnesses, the men used a spray created by a veterinarian from a neighboring Mennonite community that he had adapted from a chemical used to anesthetize cows. According to their initial confessions (which they later recanted), the rapists admitted to -- sometimes in groups, sometimes alone -- hiding outside bedroom windows at night, spraying the substance through the screens to drug entire families, and then crawling inside. […]
On my last day in Manitoba, I got a shock.
“You know that it’s still happening, right?” a woman said to me, as we drank ice water alongside her home. There were no men around. I hoped something was lost in translation, but my Low German translator assured me it wasn’t. “The rapes with the spray -- they are still going on,” she said.
I peppered her with questions: Had it happened to her? Did she know who was doing it? Did everyone know it was going on?
No, she said, they hadn’t returned to her house, but to a cousin’s -- recently. She said she had a good guess about who was doing it but wouldn’t give me any names. And she believed that, yes, most people in Manitoba Colony knew that the imprisonment of the original rapists hadn’t put an end to the serial crimes.
As if in a strange time warp, after dozens of interviews with people telling me everything was fine now, I didn’t know if this was gossip, rumor, lies, or – worse -- the truth. I spent the rest of the day frantically trying to get confirmation. I revisited many families who I had previously interviewed, and the majority admitted, a bit sheepishly, that yes, they had heard the rumors and that, yes, they assumed they were probably true.
“It’s definitely not as frequent,” said one young man later that day whose wife had been raped during the first series of incidents before 2009. “[The rapists] are being much more careful than before, but it still goes on.” He told me he had his suspicions about the perpetrators’ identities as well, but didn’t want to give any more details. […]