A new report has stated 52 official cases of Amish child sexual assault in seven states over the past two decades but many more remain covered up as victims are frightened they’ll be shunned from the community or sent to a mental facility.
Approximately 342,000 Amish people live in North America, largely across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, and Wisconsin, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College.
Former Mennonite and Plain People’s Podcast co-host Jasper Hoffman receives ‘hundreds of messages’ from people wanting to share their horrifying stories or help reporting abuse.
The clergy discourages police involvement and instead opts for the punishment of public church confession and up to six weeks of social exclusion.
A new report has stated 52 official cases of Amish child sexual assault in seven states over the past two decades. Former Mennonite and Plain People’s Podcast co-host Jasper Hoffman (pictured) receives ‘hundreds of messages’ from people wanting to share their horrifying stories or help reporting abuse
Lizzie Hershberger said her abuse at 14 led to her being bullied by the community. She, like many others, was sent to a mental facility and medicated with anti-psychotic pills
After that the perpetrator is forgiven and the offense forgotten, several people who have left the community say.
An anonymous woman – who said she was abused by her brother and a neighbor when she was nine – was told ‘it’s not Christlike to report’.
She was sent to a mental facility at a time when she knew about 30 others – including two of her sisters – who had also been prescribed anti-psychotic medication, olanzapine, used to treat schizophrenia.
‘When a victim speaks out they get sent to a facility and drugged so that they shut up,’ she told a Cosmopolitan/Type Investigations report.
When she was discharged notes included advice to ‘be submissive’ and to ‘challenge unhealthy thoughts toward ministers and others using positive/good thought’.
Approximately 342,000 Amish people live in North America, largely across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, and Wisconsin, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College (Columbia, Pennsylvania pictured)
Lizzie Hershberger said her abuse at 14 as she worked for a Minnesota family was regarded as a consensual ‘affair’ and she was spit on and called a ‘schlud’ and ‘hoodah’ – Pennsylvania Dutch words for ‘slut’ and ‘whore’.
Victims are discouraged from coming forward to report the crimes and the abuser gets the bulk of support from the secluded rural communities, usually made up of 20 to 30 families.
‘They didn’t ask me how I felt or my side of the story,’ Hershberger reveals about her own suffering in a Cosmopolitan/Type Investigations report.
Hershberger remembers ‘they watched me all the time,’ and she got daily deep-tissue massages to ‘work through my emotional stuff’ after her mother carted her off 300 miles away to a mental facility in South Dakota.
At the time of her abuse in 1989 some men had even walked in on her attacks but didn’t help. Abuser Chriss Stutzman, 27, eventually confessed and was punished by the church.
But in 2018 Hershberger finally reported him to police and he received 45 days in jail and 10 years’ probation to guideline set in 1988.
The clergy discourages police involvement and instead opts for the punishment of a public church confession and up to six weeks of social exclusion for abusers
In the case of a second anonymous woman abused by her father, he told police the matter had been ‘dealt with by the church’. When they came knocking a second time he confessed to having sex with two of his daughters at least three times but claimed he ‘didn’t hurt them’.
After pleas from the woman’s mother for social worker to ‘do whatever they could to keep him from going to jail’, he pleaded guilty to sexual abuse in 2001 deal where he only got probation.
He avoided an incest charge because the family did not want him locked up.
The anonymous woman was also raped by her brothers, who were not reported and who she still visits on occasion after they have profusely apologized.
One of the victims denied raping her, another claims he only ‘messed around’ and the third did not respond to a request for comment from Type Investigations.
The report mentions that victims can be encouraged to write statements alleging the perpetrator has changed and begging prosecutors to keep their family together.
President Judge Dennis Reinaker has presided over 30-plus Amish sexual assault cases in Lancaster County and told the investigative reporter that in a 2010 case defendants dodged a sentence of up to 30 years after a young female victim pleaded for them to be spared in a letter to the court.
Reinaker said the victim would only cooperate upon agreement the men received no jail time.
Horse-drawn buggies are a popular mode of transports for members of the Amish community. However it’s reported more victims are finding ways to report their abusers despite having little access to technology
Now it’s reported that victims have started a ‘much slower and less highly visible’ version of the #MeToo movement, according to Linda Crockett, founder and director of Safe Communities.
‘But I have seen a real uptick over the past 10 years in Amish women coming forward,’ she says about the organization that works to prevent child sexual abuse. ‘They hear about each other—not on Twitter or Facebook, but there’s a strong communication system within these communities. They draw courage and strength from each other.’
The Amish communities have little exposure to police, technology, and motorized transport and are only educated to eight grade level, which does not include sex education.
Judge Craig Stedman, former district attorney of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where there are nearly 40,000 Amish people, said more victims are reporting their abusers
However some have resorted to finding pay phones.
‘I get phone calls now….There’s a bunch of Amish who have my cell phone number, and they use it. The men call on behalf of the women,’ Judge Craig Stedman, former district attorney of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where there are nearly 40,000 Amish people, agreed.
Stedman is part of a task force that connects Amish people to police and social services, however only Amish men have attend their meetings.
‘Amish victims don’t even know the names of body parts,’ Stedman told the report. ‘To describe a sexual assault without having any fundamental sex education, it presents even more challenges.’
Stedman added that courtroom turnouts still appear to heavily support male abusers.
It’s despite Amish community members starting their own Conservative Crisis Intervention committees to liaise with local authorities.
‘We’ve had cases where there’ll be 50 Amish people standing up for the offender and no one speaks for the victim,’ Stedman said.