Child Sexual Abuse In The Amish Community

Child Sexual Abuse In The Amish Community 2018-04-27T12:58:54+00:00
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The Amish community operates as a separate society within modern America. Followers rely on being self-sufficient and living off the grid. They support themselves by building homes, raising livestock, farming produce, and other physical labor - rejecting the technology that powers much of the American economy.

Sexual Predators In The Amish Community

The Amish also handle crimes much differently than mainstream society. Anyone who was raised in an Amish community was taught that criminal matters are best handled within the community, rather than relying on law enforcement authorities or courts. Unfortunately, this means that victims of child sexual abuse and other crimes often feel helpless and alone.

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Are Amish Abuse Survivors Cut Off From Justice?

The vast majority of the Amish community are pious, law-abiding citizens. But like any religious community, there are bad seeds who look to prey on the vulnerable. Many victims of child sexual abuse in the Amish community feel powerless to do anything about it.

There are several reasons why Amish victims and survivors of abuse may struggle to get the justice they deserve:

  • The Amish are the ultimate pacifists, and even a lawsuit or criminal charge is seen as a violent action by many.
  • They believe forgiveness and atonement with God negate the need for criminal punishment.
  • They believe these crimes result from spiritual shortcomings rather than psychological disorders.
  • The Amish don't teach their children about sex, so many abuse victims can't describe what's happening to them.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, former Amish rape survivor and victims' advocate Torah Bontrager had this to say about the community's attitude toward abuse:

"They won’t even warn their children of known child molesters and rapists within the community. They pretend that the rampant sexual assault found in almost every community doesn’t exist. The Amish attitude toward sexual assault is so bad that when a female is raped, she is punished for “being too tempting” to the male and is required to ask the male attacker’s forgiveness for having tempted him."

Addressing The Crisis Of Sexual Abuse

Some communities are doing more to address the widespread problem of sexual abuse amongst the Amish. In Lancaster County, Common Pleas Judge Dennis Reinaker has established a Plain Community Task Force which is intended to educate the Amish about sexual abuse, why it's important to prosecute offenders, and how to provide Amish victims with the support and counseling they need.

This process will take time. The Amish have been operating under the same traditions for hundreds of years, and the necessary changes will not happen overnight.

The community shame associated with these crimes makes it very difficult for practicing Amish to seek help from outside sources like law enforcement and attorneys. But victims who have left the faith can make a difference by raising awareness about this issue.

How Can A Victims' Rights Lawyer Help?

If you or a loved one is a survivor of child sexual abuse in the Amish community, we understand that you may be afraid to speak out. But it's important to tell your story so that your abuser can be held accountable and so other potential victims are spared from suffering further abuse. While forgiveness is a key tenet of any Christian faith, forgiveness alone won't do enough to help curb this serious problem.

When abusers aren't punished, it's often only a matter of time before they act again and victimize others. The culture of denial and handling things internally makes it far too easy for sexual predators to live comfortably in the Amish community.

A lawsuit or criminal trial may bring shame to the community, but this can be a motivating factor for doing more to punish offenders and protect victims from abuse.

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