Members of the Lancaster County Amish community contacted police – after first meeting with church leaders – about alleged cases of sexual abuse in their midst. From Lancaster Online:
In what appears to be the first such case of its kind in Lancaster County, an Amish bishop has been charged with failing to report suspected sexual abuse.
Levi S. Esh Sr. 63, of Pequea, was charged Tuesday with one felony and one misdemeanor count of failure to report to appropriate authorities.
According to charging documents, in late October 2019, two concerned members of the Amish community met with Esh on one occasion, and another occasion, Esh and other Amish leaders about sexual abuse.
“They were told once, ‘It’s been taken care of and it’s none of your business’ and then at the second meeting, ‘We aren’t talking about it’ and ‘it’s none of your business let it go,’” the documents said.
The members then went to police.
The underlying matter concerned John G. Beiler, 41, of Providence Township, who was recently charged with sexually assaulting three girls several times between 2011 and 2015. The girls were between 12 and 14 years old at the time.
According to court documents, Beiler confessed to church leaders to abusing the girls and was told to confess to the girls’ father. Beiler was then excommunicated and Esh told the girls’ father that church leaders were keeping a close eye on Beiler.
Since last year the Plain community has been under the spotlight over the abuse issue, first with a series of articles in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last spring, and then another report this January.
The Amish people who spoke up in this case first confronted church leadership in October. One wonders if media coverage played a part in encouraging the Amish community members to speak out.
There have been other recent outreach efforts to encourage Amish to communicate abuse cases to authorities. Also, there may very well have been concern that the man in question remained a threat to other children in the community.