The Amish Keep to Themselves. And They’re Hiding a Horrifying Secret


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  larry-hampton  •  9 months ago  •  10 comments

The Amish Keep to Themselves. And They’re Hiding a Horrifying Secret
“We’re told that it’s not Christlike to report,” explains Esther*, an Amish woman who says she was abused by her brother and a neighbor boy at age 9. “It’s so ingrained. There are so many people who go to church and just endure.”

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Over the past year, I’ve interviewed nearly three dozen Amish people, in addition to law enforcement, judges, attorneys, outreach workers, and scholars. I’ve learned that sexual abuse in their communities is an open secret spanning generations. Victims told me stories of inappropriate touching, groping, fondling, exposure to genitals, digital penetration, coerced oral sex, anal sex, and rape, all at the hands of their own family members, neighbors, and church leaders.

The Amish, who number roughly 342,000 in North America, are dispersed across rural areas of states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, and Wisconsin, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College, a leading authority on Amish life. Because of their high birth rate—and because few members ever leave—they’re one of the fastest-growing religious groups in America. Lacking one centralized leader, they live in local congregations or “church districts,” each made up of 20 to 40 families. But the stories I heard were not confined to any one place


this article contains graphic descriptions of violence


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Larry Hampton
1  seeder  Larry Hampton    9 months ago

In my reporting, I identified 52 official cases of Amish child sexual assault in seven states over the past two decades. Chillingly, this number doesn’t begin to capture the full picture. Virtually every Amish victim I spoke to—mostly women but also several men—told me they were dissuaded by their family or church leaders from reporting their abuse to police or had been conditioned not to seek outside help (as Sadie put it, she knew she’d just be “mocked or blamed”). Some victims said they were intimidated and threatened with excommunication. Their stories describe a widespread, decentralized cover-up of child sexual abuse by Amish clergy.

“We’re told that it’s not Christlike to report,” explains Esther*, an Amish woman who says she was abused by her brother and a neighbor boy at age 9. “It’s so ingrained. There are so many people who go to church and just endure.”

2  sandy-2021492    9 months ago

I read this a few days ago, and considered seeding it, but for some reason or other, I didn't.

I can't imagine what it's like for the victims.  To stand up for themselves, they have to give up everything they've ever known - family, friends, church (which accounts for most of their social lives), and be maligned in court by the people who should be protecting them.

There have been hints of this abuse in the news for years, but I'm not sure even the journalists reporting the stories had any idea just how common or severe it was.

My mom loves books about Amish society - Beverly Lewis, Wanda Brundstetter.  I've read a few of hers.  For the most part, they depict the Amish way of life as it's publicized to be - idyllic, pious, with a strong sense of community.  They hint at the dirty underside on occasion, but that's it, just hints.

2.1  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @2    9 months ago

The really sad thing is, if they leave they get ostracized. Kinda liked getting punched twice. Stay and say nothing or say something, maybe have to leave and be shunned from the community.

2.1.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @2.1    9 months ago

Yeah, it seems like they always point to the return of teens to the community after their rumpsringa as proof that it's an appealing way of life.  Well, what else are they going to do?  They're deprived of an education that would let them support themselves in the English world, and besides the financial barriers, there are the social ones.  It's hard to leave your family for good.

Paula Bartholomew
2.1.2  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Ender @2.1    9 months ago

If what has happened to some of them had happened to me, I would leave and never look back.  Being shunned would be the last of my concerns.  If had to wait tables and go on the government dole until I could turn things around to survive, that is what I would do.

3  Jasper2529    9 months ago

I'd never known much about the Amish community except that they have very strict rules and barely live within 20th century standards. After reading this article, I did some more research and found a 2004 ABC article of particular interest because it shows that their sexual abuse of young girls isn't a "new" thing.

There are many other articles about their disgusting "secret" ...

3.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Jasper2529 @3    9 months ago

I'm fairly sure this girl was interviewed for "60 Minutes" or a similar show years ago, but I couldn't find the clip.

When Anna turned 11, she told me, her 19-year-old brother began molesting her, stopping just short of intercourse. When he moved away, another 17-year-old brother started raping her. (The court documents involving Anna's family are sealed.) Anna didn't try to stop her brothers at first. "You don't tell your brothers, who are so much older than you, No," she said. But when she got her period at 13 and realized she could have a baby, she started fighting back. "He would make sure he put a lot of pressure on my top so I couldn't breathe," she said of the younger brother.

Anna wanted help, but she didn't think she would get it from her church. So she began dropping hints about the abuse to English neighbors. When they didn't pick up on her cues, she got bolder. In 2001, while cleaning house for her family's landlord, Anna used the phone to call a battered women's shelter in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. The counselors on the other end of the line didn't take her seriously. But after a month of calls, the shelter alerted Children and Family Services Division of Knox County.

When a social worker visited Anna's home, Anna told her about the sexual abuse. She also reported that her parents were moving the family to Pennsylvania. Laurie Roberts, one of the social workers on Anna's case in Ohio, said she was taught in training that sexual abuse among the Amish is pervasive, and seldom reported. (The problem is significant enough that the counties near Knox publish a pamphlet to educate the Amish about sexual abuse.) Yet the county left Anna in her home. "Oh Gosh, I wish I could get it in those C.S. people that my parents will absolutely kill me now," Anna wrote at the time to a cousin who had left the Amish. The social workers "say you'll have to be hurt by them before we'll do anything about it," she continued.

Anna tried to run away. But when her parents figured out where she was and called the woman who was sheltering her, Anna was sent home. Fannie began locking Anna in her room. The family moved to Tionesta, Pa., where Fannie tried to get her daughter declared mentally ill. She took Anna to a doctor who found that Anna's eardrum had collapsed from blows to her head and seemed doubtful that the damage had been caused by buggy accidents as he'd been told. Fannie next tried a massage therapist, Barbara Burke. Noticing scars on Anna's legs, Burke called Children and Youth Services in Clarion County. On a later visit, Burke massaged Anna's father while CYS secretly interviewed Anna in the basement. The agency later visited Anna at her home. But it didn't take her into protective custody. (CYS declined to comment.)

When Fannie found out about the CYS visit, she and Anna went with 13 other kids to the home of John Yoder, an Amish dentist who lived an hour and a half away in the town of Punxsutawney. Yoder's living room had a recliner with a tin pan and some needles next to it. Anna watched as the other kids each had one or two bad teeth pulled. When it was her turn, Yoder shot some novocaine into her upper gum. She shook her head and told him that two of her lower teeth had cavities. He shot the lower gum, and asked Fannie which teeth should go. Anna's mother answered, "Take them all," and Yoder pulled-along the upper gum, along the lower gum, until every tooth was gone. "After he had pulled the last tooth," Anna remembered, "my mom looked at me and said, 'I guess you won't be talking anymore.' "

4  XDm9mm    9 months ago

Having lived in Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish) country (Lancaster County) for a few years, and knowing several Amish personally, as well as a few that left the order, I find this article quite absurd.   Not that these allegations don't happen, but laying blame on the whole for the actions of less than 1% is ridiculous.

4.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  XDm9mm @4    9 months ago

Nobody is saying that all Amish commit sexual abuse.  But the system by which they live permits the offenders to keep abusing, and punishes the victims over and over again.

Larry Hampton
4.2  seeder  Larry Hampton  replied to  XDm9mm @4    9 months ago

...the actions of less than 1% is ridiculous.

How do you know that percentage?

Do you have a link?


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