Report Highlights 50+ Sexual Abuse Cases In Amish Communities Over Two Decades

A story published this week by Type Investigations and Cosmopolitan magazine has collected the accounts of victims of sexual abuse in Amish communities.

Author Sarah McClure also tallied up cases of abuse by Amish offenders over a two-decade span.

McClure reached a total of 52 documented cases of abuse across seven states in her investigation. One judge cited in the story has personally presided over 30-plus cases.

In her report McClure shares the difficult stories of three Amish-raised women, Sadie, Lizzie, and Esther, as examples.

amish buggy wheel

In the course of the report she also looks more deeply into the dynamics which can perpetuate silence and allow abuse to continue to happen, or permit abusers to escape with only light punishment when caught:

It’s common for Amish victims to be viewed by the community as just as guilty as the abuser—as consenting partners committing adultery, even if they’re children. Victims are expected to share responsibility and, after the church has punished their abuser, to quickly forgive. If they fail to do so, they’re the problem.

When the rare case does end up in court, the Amish overwhelmingly support the abusers, who tend to appear with nearly their entire congregations behind them, survivors and law enforcement sources say. This can compound the trauma of speaking out. “We’ve had cases where there’ll be 50 Amish people standing up for the offender and no one speaks for the victim,” says Stedman.

Amish communities and churches have responded in different ways to cases of sexual abuse.

In some communities, Amish people have worked with law enforcement and been proactive about reporting abuse. McClure describes some of these efforts on the Amish side:

Some Amish have started their own initiatives too. In multiple states, their Conservative Crisis Intervention committees liaise with local authorities on reporting and prosecuting sexual assault cases. One Lancaster County member, Amos Stoltzfoos, told me that “a lot of things have changed and forced us to comply and not allow things to be swept under the rug, like they had at one point.” (Stricter mandatory reporting requirements were implemented in Pennsylvania in 2014 in the aftermath of the high-profile Jerry Sandusky child abuse case, for one.)

Now, Stoltzfoos says, the Lancaster County Amish, at least, “aren’t interested in hiding things” and have “adapted and recognized that we need to change with some of the education that we give to the parents and the children.” He says they’ve also tried to understand the lasting trauma that can make quick forgiveness difficult for victims: “Our community does really care….It just takes time.”

Yet the Amish are a diverse group scattered across 500+ locations across North America, and the ways they respond to sexual abuse (including willingness to cooperate with outside authorities) are not going to be uniform.

Though covering up and “forgetting” cases of abuse no doubt continues to be the norm in some places, in others, abusers have been brought to justice following action by members of the community.

Examples include a case last year in Pennsylvania (following an awareness program in the community) or in a Michigan settlement in 2018 where Amish leaders notified the police.

Read McClure’s report in full here.

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    1. Virgadean Richmond

      Thanks for presenting more information

      I saw the link to the story you highlighted on Facebook however just her story was linked and not the additional information you provided. The story needs to be told, however, I think that the story author could have presented the story in a less “clickbait” manner. Thank you for presenting more information so people have information that things are not like that in all Amish communities.

      1. I am glad you found it useful Virgadean. I could have gone on further in a longer post but the links I provided in the post cover a lot of what I would have added. One thing I would like to see and I wish was included with the article is a full listing of the 52 cases of abuse that were found.

    2. Jim Cates

      High Drama?

      Ms. McClure interviewed me for this story. While she does acknowledge changes in Amish communities to address this issue, what I noticed during her interview was a “pull” away from an emphasis on those changes. I talked at length about the effort by Amish leadership, both ministry and lay leaders, to confront abuse in their communities that is occurring in so many, many places. That was clearly not an interest. She kept pulling me toward a dialogue about hidden abuse. In my experience with journalists with genuine integrity? They allow the interview to go where the interview goes. They collect the information they find, as it is. If they choose not to give it weight, so be it, but it serves as a balance to the story. I was concerned when our call ended that she had an agenda, rather than a story, to report. The high drama here saddens me that what could be a fine journalistic effort is marred by the need to “sell” a biased portrait of the Amish.

      1. Jim, I appreciate you sharing that. In reading the article earlier this week I got some of that same kind of feel — that there was an agenda, and that the full picture wasn’t being painted. Thanks for confirming that for me.

      2. Astounded

        I will say coming from a psychologist who serves the Amish, I am appalled with these comments. You must know that if anything is “high drama,” it is attempting to recover from the effects of sexual abuse. You are also in a position to know the breadth and depth of the sexual abuse problems among the Amish you serve. As a counselor, you have to be aware that minimizing the problem is the last thing victims of sexual abuse need because it is yet another way of silencing. Those who defend the Amish reputation at all cost are the ones guilty of “selling” a biased portrait of the Amish. “Selling” is the key word here. Those who defend the Amish most vehemently are often in a position of profiting from the “goodness” of the Amish.

      3. Stephanie Berkey
    3. Erik, a facebook friend and I were discussing this article earlier this week. I shared with him that I wasn’t impressed with the nature of the article — it seemed from the outset to play upon emotions, which usually is a red flag to me that there is possibly/likely some manipulation going on. I appreciate Jim Cates comments above — totally fits with my feel in reading the article. Plus, IMO it presents the whole of Amish culture in the negative light of some clearly bad individual incidents — as if it is the Amish culture that spawns such things. “Patriarch” societies are not inherently bad, even though the writer would seemingly have us believe it to be so.

      But such flawed writing aside, I do have a related question for you (Erik) and anyone with solid data-based insights: Is the level of sexual abuse worse (per capita) worse among the Amish vs. US population at large, as this article left me feeling the author wanted us to believe? And what data is that conclusion based upon?

      1. Those are good points. To be frank I go into reading articles like this expecting them to emphasize the emotional and personal side because a) that illustrates how ugly and horrible sexual abuse is, and in a story of this kind whose subject is sexual abuse, should be conveyed in some manner and b) that is the biggest-impact way to draw readers into this kind of a story (for a popular readership) – leading with statistics or some other “cold” approach wouldn’t do that.

        And that said I wouldn’t point someone to this article for an academic account on how abuse unfolds and works in Amish communities. For that I’d point people to the above Jim Cates’ book Serving the Amish – and I did in this case direct Sarah to that book (and here while I’m at it, full disclosure, if it matters – Sarah McClure contacted me and we spoke on this topic at some length about a year ago, I believe when she was just starting to explore this story).

        But I do think she at least covers the concern and efforts of the Amish to combat the abuse and the mechanisms which perpetuate it, and to a degree which was more than I recall seeing in past stories on abuse among the Amish – so it at least felt somewhat balanced. So I give it credit for that, and I didn’t really feel a need to “flag” the story for that reason, and the ones I mention above.

        The question you close with is a good and relevant one, and I don’t know the answer.

        1. Sure, a story like this is far more than facts and figures; and it is a very ugly and horrible thing and should not be divorced from the personal and emotional aspects of it. A story that like this that fails to reach the emotions has (IMO) simply failed. But reaching the emotions is not the same thing as being emotionally driven. Maybe I’m just too empathetic by nature (although some would argue that point (ha)), but it just feels that the lead paragraph is designed to drag the reader through the events, leaving us to react to the balance of the article from manipulated emotions instead of letting the horrid facts speak for themselves and then take us where *they* take us, instead of where the writer predetermines where *she* wants us to go. But maybe it’s just me.

          1. Yea it’s a good question. I just don’t know if it’s possible (or desirable) to disengage the two (again speaking of a piece aimed at the public and not a more analytical piece, which tries to dispassionately address for instance the question you raised in your first comment).

            Generally speaking I do think that some of the structures of the Amish church and culture do discourage offenders from being prosecuted and permit abuse to go on for far longer than it should (again caveat being that this is obviously not the case everywhere or even the majority of places). Even if we were to discover that Amish abuse rates are identical or lowerto the general public…I still think that drawing attention to dynamics within the Amish that perpetuate abuse is important. I would hope that abuse among the Amish would be much lower than the general public – after all this is a group which professes and lives the doctrine of Christian love of one’s brother and sister and I’d hope the standards would be a lot higher. If not, that’s a big problem to say the least.

            I do think there is a slant in this piece but I don’t think she “slagged” the Amish like I’ve seen in some places. Which pleasantly surprised me? Maybe my expectations for journalism have dropped too low, I don’t know.

            1. By-and-large I agree. Problems of this nature certainly need to be noticed in order to be addressed/corrected. On that we totally agree.

              It’s just that a random isolated article in Cosmo about sexual abuse among the Amish, as if it were the norm of the culture, and taking the reader almost step-by-step of incidents of abuse — is that really going to bring change. I don’t think so. It’s just going to get emotions all ablaze among people who are not in a position to make any positive changes in a group they have no knowledge of or personal ties to. This same kind of emotional reactiveness is what has fueled Ferguson MO (not far from where I live), the Occupy Wall Street (and other Occupy events), and just far too much of the general reactiveness around us. It serves to stir up people who can’t help, gives them a false representation of the Amish world in general — like what does the average Cosmo reader know about the Amish to balance out this kinda stuff? I just think that the article within the readership of Cosmo will leave the typical reader with the totally wrong impression of the big picture of the Amish — and I trust folks will understand if I find that quite problematic.

              But I belabor my point. Please forgive me — I tend to maybe get a bit overly involved when I feel that the whole truth is (intentionally or not) being sacrificed for a limited perspective or agenda.

              1. Don that’s a good point, assuming the article’s reach is isolated to Cosmo’s readership. In that case I would say, maybe similar to your line of thinking, that I’m less concerned about what the average Cosmo reader takes away because I assume they probably have either no opinion or a low opinion of the (“science-hating, puppy mill-running, male patriarchy-enabling, insert other negative stereotype here”) Amish anyway. I say that last bit with tongue-in-cheek if it’s not obvious:)

                However these types of pieces tend to echo and get picked up and linked to by other publications and then read by other demographics, which could bring the issue to a more consequential audience.

                I’ve been keeping an eye on that, and so far in Google News I’ve just seen it picked up in Lancaster Online, the York Daily Record, and a site called Crime Online (also the Daily Mail, but I don’t think that counts here). There may be others as well that aren’t showing up in that source or not published online. So that’s not a ton yet as far as national reach or other regional papers outside the Lancaster/PA area, and so maybe I’ll end up being off here, but for now I guess it’s something.

                I credit you for being bothered by the article and the idea that the full picture reality is not fully reflected there, and that Amish who have nothing to do with abuse may see their image or reputations tarnished to some degree. I realize I’m not exactly being idealistic in my approach to it.

                1. As always, you make good points. And maybe there is not an ideal way of handling this topic. As I’ve heeded Jim’s wisdom of listening more and talking less, I’ve noticed a very higher percentage of agreement that the article was over-sensationalized — my biggest complaint even prior to seeing the link to it on AA. (Of course it is quite possible that my making such a big deal of it here may have made others feel that way too, I don’t know.) There also seems to be voiced agreement that the author writes without due balance: the article seems to imply that it is inherent within the very culture of the Amish (and if it is culture-based it must thus be a universal problem through all communities); and that there are throughout the culture poor and inadequate — or no measures at all — taken to properly deal with the problem. It is further out of balance because it is written to an audience that, arguably, in many/most cases doesn’t have a context for knowing more of what the Amish world is about.

                  Relative to this last item, yes, such is just the nature of writing random articles for a mixed audience (like Cosmo). In my book, I would have less objection to the original article posted here in a group that knows more about the whole of the Amish world — there is a context for realizing that this is just an element of a much bigger world. In an audience without that context, it leaves the reader with a false sense of perspective.

                  Suppose that instead of this being about the Amish it was written about you (forgive me for making this a personal example) and your family dating back to your great-grandfather. All that any reader would know about your family is what they read in that article. And all the article said was focused around the swindling that 3 generations of brothers had done in shady business deals. Now the article didn’t focus on the brothers (you uncles) per se — hardly mentioning them at all. But it did spend a huge percentage of its time going into great depth on the poor widow and her orphan children who could were homeless and had to smooth out dirt under a bridge just to have a place to lay down to sleep at night; further, the article went into detail about another victim who had to evensearch out opportunity to sell herself just to make a few bucks to feed her starving kids. And then the author discussed other victims — in equally graphic detail. Then the writer points that that these victims were not victims of the specific brothers/uncles, but of the family at large — how inept the family was in curtailing the wrongs of the brothers, and minimalizing what efforts were there. Not context for the good that the family had done in other ways. And in amongst all this, the article states that the family was a culture of swindlers — besmearing the group as a whole because of the gross crimes of the few. And I have to ask, how would you personally feel when that article hit the news stands? (And I hope you know me well enough to know this is NOT a personal attack — just an attempt to convey what is so bothersome to me about the Cosmo piece.)

                  And let’s take the illustration a bit further, if you will allow. Say the article did in fact finally make it to the right place to make someone aware who addressed the problem and jailed your uncles. The outcome is good — and even though it was your uncles you are glad that someone was able to deal with an issue that you yourself attempted to influence for a long time. But even though the end was good…, knowing the kind of light that it put on your family as a whole — casting a dark light on the good as well as the bad — did the end justify the means?

                  You make a good point that other venues will — and apparently have — taken up the article. And no, Cosmo is not the only place to originally publish this piece. But the real question in my heart is this: Will readers walk away from reading the article having a true representation of the people covered in this article? The article highlighted some three victims, but it was actually about the abuse they received within their culture — in essence making the Amish as a whole culture (without qualifications) the bad guy, not the individuals within that culture. You and I know that isn’t a fair representation of the Amish culture; will the readers of the article have reason to know that as well? And both the reader of the article and the subject of the article (Amish as a whole) *deserve* to have the full truth conveyed. Hopefully some good will come from it nevertheless — but if so, I will applaud the good while still saying that it was done in an unfair way — unnecessarily besmirching a lot of good folks in that culture along the way.

                  There was a little boy sitting in a church service one time as the pastor seemed to go on and on and on, passing the normal quitting time by a long shot. When that pastor finally looked at his watch in amazement, he said, “Seems I have waxed eloquent on my topic, my apologies.” The little boy later asked his mom what the preacher meant about waxing the elephant. (ha) My apologies for once again “waxing the elephant.” ☺

                  1. Dannie Otto

                    Reply to Don Burke

                    Don, I think the importance of this article is that the culture is in fact responsible for how it responds to these incidents of pedophilia.My parents left the Old Order Amish in 1957 when I was 4 years old. There was not great drama or trauma. I am close to my cousins and continue to attend family gatherings, funerals, and so on. I don’t think McClure overly dramatizes or is unfair in her portrayal of how these things have been handled among the Amish. The incidents she describes are horrible and indefensible.

                    I have had several discussions in the last decade with my Amish cousins who are ordained ministers or on the school board of their parochial schools about the necessity of having legal professionals and social science professionals come and talk to their quarterly ministers meetings and the annual school teacher’s gatherings about the law and their responsibilities as mandatory reporters. I have not got any indication that they took this seriously.

                    Your expectation that McClure also balance her story by reporting the many virtues of the Amish community is a misguided view of the responsibility of a journalist. The story she tells about the Amish is true. Those of us who know the Amish well know that there are many positive stories that one could tell, but her story is about their inadequate response to sex abuse of children. As far as I can tell she tells this story truthfully.

                    It is also true that the Amish are joined in their inadequate handling of these incidents by the Catholic church, from parish to the Vatican, by universities and colleges, from small colleges to top ranked universities, by our politicians, by our corporations, from small family companies to fortune 500 companies, by our major media corporations, and on and on.

                    The Amish in leadership positions are not uniquely horrible in their handling of these cases. They are just like everyone else. That is a disappointment to those of us who expect better from the Amish. Maybe we should take them off the pedestal we, not they, have place them on and recognize that they are fully human, capable of extraordinary good, and capable of allowing horrible things to happen within their community.

                    1. Dannie, I do appreciate your time and effort in trying to directly address my questions/concerns. I can appreciate your perspective (and the personal experience behind it). But I hope you can understand that your statement that there is no great drama in the way the article is written does not make that factual for many of us who read it. I have stated in this thread that my feelings on this could just be me (i.e., just subjective), but as many have also noted it is something they share as well.

                      As you say, one fundamental question is how the Amish as a culture respond to such instances of abuse. Two of the Amish “authorities” who were consulted for by the writer are among us in this thread, and at least one of them (if not both, I don’t recall at the moment) have stated that the author did not properly represent the whole of the culture or even the tone of their input in the interview itself (and in fact, skewed the direction of the interview), but weighted the final piece towards a negative reflection of the culture. That is very problematic to me, and I hope that you do not take offense when your claims of fairness are, IMO, eclipsed by what others have shared about the lack of proportionate representation on the good responses that the writer knew about within that culture.

                      And again I go back to one of my earliest complaints: To what end? I can’t speak for what other venues this article might have appeared in, but (as I understand it) no small part of the initial target were Cosmo readers (and Cosmo is a large enough venue to warrant it’s own article if need-be). What was the intended outcome for/from the Cosmo readership? Information? Not that I’m seeing, for the information given here would foreseeably leave the typical Cosmo finishing this article with a less than accurate full-picture of the overall Amish culture (having little or no additional exposure to what the whole Amish world is). Activism? Yeah, I’m really believing that the Cosmo readership is going to rise up in mass support, funding help clinics, providing volunteer helpers (both which the Amish would not likely use anyway), or pressuring powers that be into action. I could be wrong…, but just not seeing such a response being the likely outcome.

                      So, we end up with Jo/Joe Average finishing the article, IMO hanked around by the emotions while reading it, and walking away with a false sense of what the Amish culture is about (both specific to this question, and in general) — and with nothing to do with those emotions than let them seethe. Sorry, but in my book that is not good journalism.

                      But as I said, I do genuinely do appreciate you attempting to address my concerns in such a kind and reasoned way.

                      1. Dannie Otto

                        Drama or Trauma

                        Don, I think you misunderstood my comment opening comments. I wrote that the was no “great drama or trauma” in my parents leaving the Amish. I wrote that “I don’t think McClure overly dramatizes or is unfair in her portrayal of how these things have been handled among the Amish.” The stories she tells are intrinsically dramatic. They should stir up emotion. It would be sad if they didn’t.

                        Journalists are bound to tell the stories they chose accurately. Within the scope of a Cosmos article on how the Amish handle sex abuse and pedophilia, she is bound to tell that story accurately. She is not bound to tell the whole story of the Amish. Plenty of other people, including the Amish themselves are doing that. They are not an unfamiliar group within American society. In my view, the only issue is whether she tells the story which is the focus of her article accurately. No one has provided evidence that she has been inaccurate.

                        I have been interviewed by journalists on occasion over the years and not always been happy with the quotes they chose, or the focus they put on my comments. But I have never been misquoted or treated unfairly. It was just what I thought was the most important point was not what the writer chose to highlight. And so it goes. They are the author. It is their story. They frequently have different interests than the interviewee.

                        The issue of sex abuse and pedophilia has been festering in our society for decades. Unfortunately, religious communities as a whole have been complicit in covering up and minimizing incidents of sex abuse. It has largely been the secular press that has brought pressure to bear on religious and civil leaders to address this problem. This is a sad commentary on the ethical integrity of our religious leadership across denominations. It is also true the until recently, the religious leadership across denominations has largely been male. So, calling this out as an issue of patriarchy is accurate.

                        Critics question the sensationalism of McClure’s article and question whether Cosmos was the appropriate forum. Well, I invite people to read this article “The Gentle People” in Legal Affairs from 15 years ago:

                        This is a detailed article in a sober minded legal journal which details horrible stories similar to what is described in McClure’s article. How many of McClure’s critics have read that article or even heard of it? Oh, that is a dry legal journal with a narrow readership. Who would read that? What change did that article create? But put these stories in Cosmos which is in magazine racks in convenience stores and grocery stores across American and it will be read.

                        You are concerned that Jo/Joe Average will read this article and have their emotions manipulated and leave with “a false sense of what the Amish culture is about (both specific to this question, and in general).” I think you under estimate Jo/Joe Average and you under estimate the Amish.

                        The Amish in American are not a delicate flower that need to be protected. They are one of the most robust religious groups in America and are flourishing in ways that make leaders of other Christian denominations envious. Too often the gatekeepers who try to protect the Amish in fact infantilize them and treat them as less than morally responsible human agents who can withstand scrutiny. Such scrutiny shows that the Amish have very many admirable qualities that the rest of us can learn from. But when they behave badly, they deserve the negative publicity just as much as the Catholic Church and other religious groups that have protected and enabled pedophiles. The Amish will survive this publicity and if they respond appropriately, will be better for it.

                      2. Dannie, yes I did understand your comment on the drama to be a ref to the article and not your parents removing themselves from the Amish culture. My apologies for not following your flow of thought on that.

                        You have no reason to know this, but I have done my share of writing through the years — from research projects to Sunday School curriculum to articles for denominational newspapers to even an article here on AA from time to time. So yeah, I understand that a writer has the right to set the course of his/her subject, and to guide the data collection (including interviews) accordingly. But having picked the subject, when the author cherry-picks the material to agree with her leanings within the subject as the writer did here — that is problematic. And as far as lack of “evidence” to that end, well, I take that to mean that you don’t take Jim at his word. I do not know Jim personally, so maybe you are right and he isn’t to be trusted; but since I don’t know him to be a liar, I’ll gamble on the truthfulness of a man I deem to have shown himself to be the greatest example among anyone I’ve read in this thread.

                        And as I have written elsewhere, I understand that emotion is a part of the subject here, and I question anyone who is not touched emotionally by it. That isn’t the objection. It is, rather, that the writer opts to make this a story that plays upon and leads by the emotions — and that is a red flag to me. If the facts are not convincing enough to lead me to the conclusion the writer wants, then for heaven’s sake don’t attempt to manipulate me by emotions. And the overly-detailed description of the circumstances around the incidents of abuse were not designed to lead the reader by pertinent facts, but to unnecessarily play upon the emotions. That is not to say that they taint the facts…, but when a writer thinks that the facts aren’t enough in themselves and has to resort to leading by emotions — again, it’s a red flag in my book.

                        As with the article writer’s over-generalization of the Amish, I disagree with what is IMO your own over-generalization of “religious leadership.” I am a pastor — making me a part of that religious leadership, so I know a thing or two about this group. Granted, there are big problems within a limited number of individuals within that group — but that gives no warrant to generalize the whole in it.

                        As to your finding problems with patriarchal system (in general), and the the high percentage of males within religious leadership (in specific) — well, all I can say is that in my studied conclusion the pattern of male leadership within the home and within the church is what has been and remains the pattern established by God. Paul plainly states that women are not to have roles of teaching or otherwise having authority over men in the church; and the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. These are universal principles, and there is absolutely no contextual support for the various attempts to remove those limits by siting (presumed) cultural limitations of that time which (supposedly) no longer apply. So, I suppose if one is not convinced by God clearly stating that it is just that way, then they are likely not going to be swayed by me saying that God says it is that way, so I won’t stain the point here.

                        And I never made the Amish out to be a delicate flower — not even close. But truth is. And it is worthy of protection — even in a Cosmo article.

                        As to the rest, I think I have pretty much made my thoughts clear, and rehashing them will likely serve no useful end. So I’ll just leave it at that.

              2. Thou dost protest too much…

                1. “Doth protest too much”? And that is your rebuttal to my objections – that the volume that I write is in itself an idication that what is said is wrong?

                  So, dear readers, it looks like your task is to see who has written the most protest, and judge accordingly.

                  Me, well I prefer to judge based upon content, and not volume.

                  1. Sexual abuse among the Amish

                    Mr. Burke: The Bible was written by men who understood little if anything, about women and their capabilities. They understood very little of the human kind! It’s been proven over millennia that women are just as capable, if not more so, as men. Quoting the Bible to justify treating women as second class citizens does not make it right. By the way, how many fundamentalists and evangelicals actually live the Bible as it is written, word for word? It can be and has been, interpreted by millions, to justify all manner of evil. I know a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian woman who has three children. Two of them are fundamentalist Christians, but not evangelicals. One is Christian but not a fundamentalist nor an evangelical. None of them can agree to the same interpretation of the Bible! As I asked before, whose interpretation is to be accepted? Yours, because you’re a pastor? I’ve met pastors and priests who don’t have the same interpretation of the Bible. I have attended many different Christian churches over the years. Is it that fundamentalist, evangelical Christian woman who interprets the Bible correctly, or is it one of her three children, who cannot agree amongst themselves, who interpret the Bible correctly? If there really is only one interpretation of the Bible, why are there so many different Christian denominations?

                    1. Janice, with due respect, I am afraid you are quite mistaken. The Bible was authored by God, the One who created women as well as men and who knows women and their capabilities far better than you or I do. As He inspired each of the many men who penned the various individual books that make up the Bible, He guarded over every word written to assure that it was 100% accurate. (That is what the word “inspired” means when we’re told the Bible is inspired.) Any flaws that any individual who penned those books may have personally had is a non-issue since God so guarded the writing of each word they wrote. I’ve written a booklet on the subject, and you are more than welcome to access it here:


                      “Whose interpretation?” you ask…. Well, when you get right down to it “whose” doesn’t matter either. The only real question is what did *God* intend a given passage to mean, within the whole context of the scripture? That it’s from me or you or the woman you mentioned or any of her three children is a non-issue. The only real question is, in light of the whole Bible, what does the part in question really mean.

                      But as to what your reply has to do with my previous response which questioned the legitimacy of “doth protest too much,” I’m afraid I’m totally at a loss.

                      1. Walter Boomsma

                        Can't resist...

                        This thread hasn’t gone too far off-topic, eh? Don, I can’t resist sharing two things I learned from a great theologian–you probably know both.

                        First, we should know what we don’t know. That’s not to say we become an agnostic, but much like the Amish we may need to learn that we simply can’t understand and explain everything. Some things just are–God knows what He’s doing.

                        Second, (which is really an expansion of the first) when our “certainty” becomes arrogance (definitely not saying that of you personally!) it seems are at least a little presumptuous to think we can know what God knows. We are far from omnipotent and omniscient.

                        A little gelassenheit is sometimes in order. (Couldn’t resist that, either!)

                      2. Walter, words of wisdom right there!

                        This reminds me of somewhat the same truths I heard years ago in Bible college when a good friend and fellow student asked our instructor, “Dr. Thomas, why do you think that God did…. (whatever the narrative we were studying told about.” The kind but insightful answer was absolutely priceless and has remained with me through these nearly four decades since (paraphrased): “Brother, the passage here does not give that answer, and only a fool would choose to speak where God has chosen to be be silent.” Boom!!

                      3. Sexual abuse among the Amish

                        Mr. Burke: With all due respect, your rote response answered nothing! You don’t actually address the fact that the Bible (and its myriad tweaked interpretations) has fomented so many different denominations, all claiming to preach ‘God’s true word’, other than to dismiss it. Your before-last comment means what exactly? Who interprets the Bible is a non-issue because what really matters is what does the part in question really mean in light of the whole Bible? Again, WHO decides what the passage means in light of the whole Bible? You don’t have an answer that makes a modicum of sense to those of us who have questions. As for what my comment has to do with Ms. Furlong’s comment regarding protesting too much, reread this response and you will understand what my comment had to do with it.

                      4. Janice, you said that the Bible was written by men who didn’t understand women; I corrected that by saying that it was instead authored by God who understands women better than you or I or anyone else. It is true, and it is trustworthy. Do some people mishandle it in ignorance, or allow bias to warp their understanding? Of course. (And it is not the truths of the Bible, but the mishandling of it that has brought about much of the denominational discord you mention.) But just because some folks mishandle it doesn’t mean that the truths are unavailable to us. We are each accountable for our own digging out of the truth, regardless of what others have twisted it to mean. So yeah, what others say is in fact a non-issue — we are responsible to see for ourselves.

                        Apparently you do not wish to be straightforward in addressing how your comment related to my previous response. Fine by me — but I’m not playing cat-and-mouse games with you. So I’ll just consider your reply to be a non-answer and I will therefore just drop the subject at that.

                    2. Stephanie Berkey

                      Janice, as we endeavor to understand scripture it helps to avoid confusing culture in the Holy Bible with the will of God. It has been the natural disposition of mankind to use influence and power selfishly, against God’s will. The Holy Spirit influences men and women to support rather than undermine each other’s individual positive development and contributions. Our different roles are meant to enhance that. As daunting as that task is and as imperfect as we all are, failings are inevitable, but these don’t negate God’s plan, though the adversary would have us believe otherwise.

                      Don, appreciate what you expressed here. To me, the beauty of the law in the gospel and scriptures is just that: the spirit of the law, which can be different things in different situations. That’s why learning to correctly discern and heed the Holy Spirit is so vital. As for, “Thou dost protest too much”, brainstorming, expressing and considering different viewpoints, and respectfully sharing them is essential to problem solving.

                      Walter, that’s a good point about not presuming to know what God knows. However, I believe He wants us to seek out truth, which includes seeking to share perspectives and ideas. It can take a lot of effort and enlightenment, as well as courage, and we need to feel OK in our will and efforts to do so. I try to do this confidently, but can over do that, for which I apologize. I believe God wants us to seek to know what He knows, to become perfect like Him (Matthew 5:48).

                      1. Sexual abuse among the Amish

                        Ms. Berkey: I appreciate your answer. You are not dismissive towards those who disagree with you. You just keep professing your faith. While I may not fully agree with you, I do appreciate it. A pastor on this blog is dismissive towards my comments to the point that he has blocked me from responding to his last comment to me. I had to chuckle. He confuses dialoging with debating. In my opinion, the best persons to spread the word are those who do so with respect and humility, and an open mind. A degree in theology is no guarantee of effective and spiritual pastoring. You should continue to spread the word as you are doing. Thank you.

                      2. Janice, please be aware that in spite of your assumptions and presumed guilt on my part this pastor has not blocked you — no more than you have blocked me or Stephanie from responding to your last post earlier today. It would rather seem to simply be a limitation set by the forum coding in the website that only allows comments-to-comments to only go some ten levels deep. I’m sure that Eric will confirm that this is not of my making if you wish to ask him.

                        As to the remainder of your last comments, I’ll leave the readers here to decide what they choose to believe.

                      3. Stephanie Berkey

                        You’re welcome, Janice. I appreciate your comments. May God bless you in your worthy endeavors to help women and girls.

      2. Jim Cates

        Sex abuse frequency and the Amish

        Erik is too kind in his reference to my book. As a psychologist, I need to make a full disclosure myself here. The following comments are based on my clinical observation, and not on any kind of database. But first, most of us in the field assume that all types of abuse of children are under reported, in all populations. Second, it seems likely that because sexual abuse is most commonly perpetrated by relatives and close friends, given the larger families and family interactions among the Amish, one Amish person who sexually offends has the opportunity to create many more victims than would be true in non-Amish North American families. Again – no data to back that up, but we have such horribly poor data on all types of sexual abuse, in any group.

        1. Thanks Jim for your reply. And as far as I’m concerned, such personal experience working among the Amish certainly qualifies as “data” in my book. My earlier qualifications about data was more focused upon responses on the level of “we had an Amish neighbor once,” or “I read one time that….”

          Your points do seem plausible. I would entertain a third factor (speaking from general human nature, not from Amish-specific knowledge) that in climates where discussion of issues are absolutely taboo, once a problem is introduced into a family (or other group) if often festers and grows because there feels to be no acceptable way to get help. (E.g., victims of abuse tend to be abusers themselves.) But on the other hand, I have to wonder if the taboo element and your second element (family size) might also play into helping to reduce the problem in the first place. After all, if family size were a critical factor, arguably there would be more occurance in all situations of large families vs fewer children vs only one child (all other things being equal).

          And of course attempting to quantify abuse is further complicated by the question of what are we comparing? Is it number of perpetrators; number of victims; number of incidents? — and all of these would give different perspectives.

          But all that said, I still wonder if there is a way to adequately be able to compare the level of sexual abuse among the Amish vs. the population as a whole. I feel the article’s writer paints the Amish as a whole as a culture by nature disposed to such abuse. And while I accept that some abuse is there (and that any abuse is horrible), I think she failed to give credible support for such an implication or substantiating that it is worse there than in non-Amish settings.

          Any thoughts you wish to add are certainly welcome.

          1. Jim Cates

            Sex abuse frequency and the Amish

            Ah, Don – I could develop a dialogue with you about this that goes on and on, and would love to hear what you have to say! For the moment, let me comment – I agree with your thoughts. But let me also pull back for a time. I know there are Amish working so hard to address this issue in a positive way, from within the settlements, who read this blog. I also know there are Amish who have been abused and are disillusioned, and have left the church, and read this blog. I would be interested in their ideas and opinions, much more than having me continue to speak out. Not that I can stay quiet for long! But a wider dialogue would be far more interesting than expanding my ramblings.

            1. Excellent point. And one I’m certainly glad to likewise take a step back and follow that wise approach.

              If in the future you do wish to dialog more, please feel free to contact me. (My email is linked to the header information on my posts, if you wish to do so in private discussion.) As a pastor I might can bring some general input to the table, but I would be interested in your wisdom as one with the inside track on Amish-specific stuff.


          2. Dannie Otto

            Victims tend to become abusers

            Don, I hope I am misunderstanding your intent with your statement in parenthesis: ” (E.g., victims of abuse tend to be abusers themselves.)”.

            I am aware that “some abusers have been victims of abuse”, but that is very different than saying “victims of abuse tend to be abusers”. I hope I am misunderstanding your comment.

            I hope you can explain your intent and if you intended to make that claim, I hope you can direct us to some supporting research.

            1. Dannie, thanks for allowing me to address your question on something I was apparently not clear enough on.

              It seems the problem is around my phrase “tend to be.” I’m no expert in this field, but as I understand it a victim of abuse has a greater tendency — as compared to people without an abusive background — to perpetuate the problem in their own abuse actions towards others. What I did *not* intend to imply is that the majority of the abused will abuse.

              My apologies for being less than clear. I hope this answers your concerns.

        2. Thank you for these insights...

          These insights are much more what I expected coming from your perspective, Mr. Cates. This provides insights that I hadn’t considered, and it rings true, coming from someone who grew up in that culture. Thank you!

      3. From whose perspective?

        Patriarch societies are not inherently bad from whose perspective? Do you have any idea what it is like to be a woman or a girl within a male-dominated society? Do you know what it feels like to be raped and then have your voice silenced by those you have been taught (and forced) to obey?

        Yes, this male-dominated society does “spawn such things.” I’m sorry you feel that this article “presents the whole of Amish culture in a negative light.” If the truth does that, it is perhaps time to take another look at the culture you have been “selling” as idyllic.

      4. Sexual abuse among the Amish

        I did not get the impression that the journalist who wrote this article was not interested in putting the emphasis on some of the changes the Amish have recently implemented regarding their dealing with sexual abuse amongst their own. But, then, I am a woman and read it as a woman. You are a man and you read it as a man. A woman will focus on how slowly changes are being made because, women, after all, are usually the victims. Some men are also victims of sexual abuse. Men will focus on the changes, regardless of how slow they are, because men are usually the perpetrators, and see themselves as victims of those changes and don’t really want any changes. I think the emphasis should always be on the fact that the perpetrator is never the victim and should not receive support from their community, thereby, revictimizing the victim. A victim should never be expected to forgive and forget just to allow the community to move on with their lives as if nothing happened. Something evil happened and it needs to be dealt with seriously, and in favor of the victim, not the perpetrator. This shaming of a victim who finds it difficult to forgive and forget, is typical of patriarchal societies.

        1. Stephanie Berkey


          Exactly, Peter, and Mark 9:43-47

          This shaming is typical of any society. Patriarchal societies were founded by the ultimate patriarchs and examples: Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They would never condone nor minimize these atrocities in any way and true Amish men know that, and seek to emulate them in judgement and sacrifices. But I can see how victims and survivors would not be able to believe that, at least not for a very long time, especially when such betrayal and hypocrisy is so severe and compounded with emphasis on quick forgiveness and inappropriate tolerance. A true Amish perspective would not expect leadership in sacrifices from children.

    4. Stephanie Berkey

      I also feel the author of the original article is trying to make it sound like these things are worse with the Amish or unique to the Amish culture. These things happen all over the world, tragically. Getting so graphic is not necessary, does not help, and comes across as a horrible attempt to manipulate emotion.

      The “English” culture also tends to blame victims and defend abusers, and has cruelly done so for generations. Even President John F Kennedy’s family did (his sister was abused and sent away). Many other famous people have similar experiences, another one was Miss America of 1958, Marilyn Van Derbur, who has offered excellent insight about how to overcome the effects. I sincerely hope any Amish who need this kind of help will get it.

      1. Virgadean Richmond

        I agree Stephanie

        I definitely agree the she did not have to be so graphic in her descriptions of the abuse that happened. It is exploitation all over again. It leaves me feeling gross and angry with the abuser but also with her for exploiting the victims with her story. Her story solves nothing and just creates hard feelings against the Amish. It frustrates me when people try to smear a whole group of people because of the actions of some. It also makes me irritated especially when they try to smear a group of people who are trying to follow God.

        1. Descriptions of abuse

          I have mixed feelings on those descriptions. On the one hand, they’re horrible to read, and maybe more than we need. The article could be written without them.

          On the other hand, if anyone is unclear as to the type of harm done to these young individuals, such descriptions make it crystal clear. A term like “sexual abuse” is rather abstract and leaves open a lot of possibilities. Those descriptions do not.

      2. Sexual abuse among the Amish

        What happened to Rosemary Kennedy was a direct result of a bad doctors, an overly ambitious and unscrupulous patriarch, and a weak matriarch.

    5. Jeffrey C Masters

      BY the nature of the Amish faith, I can understand why these things were swept under the rug. It is sometimes hard to understand why my Amish friends do things the way they do, I try not to interfere, as I am not of their culture, and I cannot truly understand. I do not think that the Amish I know would tolerate, nor hide abuse of this kind, but I can tell you I will start a dialogue with them about this subject and see how they feel. I am glad that we are close enough to have this kind of conversation and not cause a problem between us.

    6. Walter Boomsma

      The question might be, "Why?"

      We seem to have recently seen a spate of articles… and I find myself asking why was this article written? The same could apply to some comments.

      Let’s start with some simple math. Fifty abuse cases in Amish Communities over two decades averages out to 2.5 per year. How does that compare to non-Amish Communities? (By the way, in both cases, I’ll grant that there’s serious under-reporting.) Understand, anything more than zero is tragic. I’m merely trying to create perspective.

      We gain nothing by “horribilizing” the Amish and their approaches to this or any other issue.

      They chose to address the problem differently than the non-Amish who seem to think the solution will be found in law enforcement and punishing offenders. (Closing the door after the horse is out.) Is their approach succeeding in reducing the problem? I don’t think we know the answer to that.

      Is the non-Amish approach succeeding? (That might be a rhetorical question.)

      When’s the last time you read a headline of an Amish parent killing their own child? (That might also be a rhetorical question. But if I ask the same question about non-Amish, I think the answer is different. My answer is “a couple of weeks ago.”)

      They just might be doing something right. Note I did not say they might be doing everything right. But who does?

      1. Thanks for raising these questions Walter. I’ll take a crack at a response, to at least some of what you bring up. I wasn’t eager to share this article (this is about the last topic I enjoy posting about) and as I noted in comments above it’s far from perfect. I get the point about comparing Amish stats to non-Amish and whether the Amish are getting a fair shake in this. Normally I’m more sympathetic to that argument (and have made similar points myself often enough in the past). While it could be valuable to know that data for comparison, I don’t think it’s as important in this case.

        The reason is that it seems there is something systematic in the Amish dynamic (again in some, not all places) that has created a climate for abuse to occur and perpetuate. I think it’s been shown that the “forgive-and-forget” approach that has been the way of things in many of these cases is not ideal, leaving the offender unpunished, untreated and free to act in a community where there are many young potential victims. The dynamics have been identified in serious academic works like Jim Cates’ book which I’ve referenced already, and the knowledge of which is a plus here in addressing the issue. We might not be able to as easily identify such dynamics in a less uniform general public comprised of many different types of people. But since we do know that these circumstances exist in the Amish, there is at least an opportunity to address them in this community, and drawing attention to them could do some good. 

        As an example, I would point to the program created which caught the offender in PA last year which I linked in the penultimate paragraph of the post, as well as the programs McClure identifies in the article, which I excerpted in the post. There is also the aspect of public pressure encouraging more self-reporting even where formal programs do not exist (did that come into play, for instance, in the second example I linked in Michigan?) Perhaps more publicity would encourage other similar programs to start in other of the hundreds of communities and lead to more offenders being stopped? Will awareness encourage local law enforcement in different areas to begin paying more attention and begin efforts to work more closely with their local Amish communities?

        I am aware of the potential for negative blowback against the Amish as a whole due to articles like McClure’s. I am not interested in crusading against the Amish and demonizing them – this is a group of people I admire for many reasons. But I tend to think that those who dislike the Amish already are going to be drawn to this article and see reinforcement for their dislike, while many of those who are already sympathetic to the Amish are going to write this off as propaganda or a writer with an agenda. So it probably won’t move the needle that much. But even if this article dings the Amish public image somewhat, in the end I think the PR aspect is less important than reducing this problem for the long term. That said, again if it were up to me I would choose a different vehicle as far as the article itself, but the article which ended up being written might serve a positive purpose. I could be being optimistic here.

        1. Thank you, Erik

          “…there is something systematic in the Amish dynamic (again in some, not all places) that has created a climate for abuse to occur and perpetuate. I think it’s been shown that the “forgive-and-forget” approach that has been the way of things in many of these cases is not ideal, leaving the offender unpunished, untreated and free to act in a community where there are many young potential victims.”

          Very well said, Erik. I would also add that in the forgive-and-forget approach, the victims are ignored at best, and at worst blamed and shamed. They are nearly always silenced.

          I appreciate your coverage of this important issue.

          1. Thank you Saloma. Do you know of any other efforts, formal or otherwise, where Amish and the appropriate authorities are cooperating on these issues (besides those mentioned here)?

            1. No, Erik, I don’t know any more than you do on that. I do know that there are women gathering to share their stories of abuse in Old Order communities, including the Old Order Mennonites here in the Valley. One woman who left this community down here told me there were a whole group of women who gathered together and asked her to go to their bishop to tell their stories. Apparently they didn’t feel safe talking about what happened to them with the bishop themselves.

    7. Walter Boomsma

      Thanks, Eric...

      As always, a very thoughtful and logical comment.

      Years ago I knew a woman who would tour local bars seeking donations to a worthy cause. She did well, and was fond of saying “It may be the devil’s money but the Lord can use it.” To some extent I feel that way about these articles.

      So I suppose an article that is clearly written as an attack of the Amish regarding sexual abuse may create a dialog that might not otherwise take place. I am merely questioning how effective that dialog is in actually addressing the issue when it seems to be more about the Amish than it is about abuse.

      I am far from convinced that the Amish way fosters abuse and the “data” cited In this article actually suggests the opposite. Whether or not “forgive and forget” (I question the forget…“move on” might be more accurate) aspect encourages repeat offending I do not know based on this article. I think the Amish have a better understanding of the differences between consequences and punishment than most of us. As a society, we crave punishment in spite of the fact our penal system demonstrates that punishment is not the most effective way to change behavior.

      An article exploring the consequences to an Amish offender would definitely get my attention.

      Please understand that I meant no criticism of you or Amish America for publishing the article. I truly love children and want more than anything to seem them protected—and to learn how to protect themselves. Amish children have some wonderful protective factors that non-Amish do not. The good stuff just doesn’t seem make good headlines in the media.

      1. I like your “devil’s money” analogy Walter. It seems to ring a bell. That works here.

        I think your concerns are fair and I get where you’re coming from. Maybe I am giving this too much credit, but after reading it, it didn’t strike me as worse than I expected, and I was happy to see some credit being given to positive efforts to combat the problem. Again maybe my expectations are just low after following Amish media coverage over the years. This is not the first story to cover the topic of abuse.

        “Move on” I think says it better than my term “forget”. Thanks for that. I think an important part of the question is not just about punishment but about treatment of the offenders and securing other vulnerable children in the community from potentially being victimized as well as preventing continued harm to previous victims. I’m not sure that examples we’ve seen in Amish cases have offered the best approach for the protection of those children. Jim’s book offers more on that topic; there are also some publications produced by Amish but I’m not sure how available they are.

        I did not take anything you said as criticism, so no worries there, and I think we share the same concerns as far as the children go. I try to cover the Amish in whole here on the site, and unfortunately that sometimes means the uglier things, and sometimes media coverage of those uglier things is less than ideal, but sometimes I have to run with the material I’ve got, especially if it’s a high-profile piece that is going to get attention regardless. I think we’re on the same page in that I certainly would like to see more of the good headlines and stories in the media as well, and subsequently here on the site. We do get them, but I think the general media finds them on average less clickworthy than the negative stories. I guess that’s how most media goes nowadays.

    8. Stephanie Berkey

      I feel it’s very important to discuss these things, but honestly and respectfully. It’s an epidemic everywhere. It’s fueled by pornography. It’s confusing because different Amish communities view and handle things so differently. Only six weeks shunning? That sounds more appropriate for looking at porn.

      Jesus said it would be better if they were drowned in the depths of the sea than to abuse a child (Matthew 18:6). Mercy can’t rob justice. Accepting the consequences and seeking to repair the damage is part of leaning from mistakes. And forgiveness does not include tolerating abuse; that isn’t love. Only through harrowing struggles, seeking out truth, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ are these consequence eventually overcome, usually through a lifetime. It’s a father’s duty to lead the family away from these abomidable crimes and protect against their inceptions.

      1. Sexual abuse among the Amish

        Stephanie: What if there isn’t a father?

        1. Stephanie Berkey


          That’s a good question, Janice. If there’s no father, or if the father won’t, then mothers should ensure this is done with the help of God and others who are trustworthy. This is an important reason why God gives us two parents. Absolute power has been known to often corrupt absolutely.

          An example in the Holy Bible of this kind of support from a strong matriarch is Rebecca who ensured, under God’s direction and help, that leadership of Israel was given to Jacob, the more capable and righteous son. Women often have more influence and power than they realize, and can develop and exercise these with a closer relationship with Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father.

          When a father abuses like this, he causes his wife to become in many ways the equivalent of a widow and his children to become orphans, in direct opposition to James 1:27 which reads, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and keep himself unspotted from the world.” When family or church leadership fail to do this, God calls upon inspired and caring women to help make vital changes.

    9. Jim Cates

      Amish Resource

      In terms of resources by and for Plain people to address the problem, there is a book just out in late 2019, “For the Sake of a Child,” written by Allen Hoover (Old Order Mennonite) and Dr. Jeanette Harder (Social Work Professor, University of Nebraska, Omaha). Allen has been a strong advocate for counseling resources in the Plain people communities, including the Amish. The text is an overview of the problems of child abuse in Plain communities, parenting techniques to minimize the potential for such abuse, and resources when abuse is discovered. The book is available through Ridgeway Publishing, 2080 McComb Road, Stoneboro, PA, 16153; 888-822-7984.

      1. For The Sake Of A Child

        I happened to pick this book up while in Holmes County a couple months back (from Robert Troyer’s bookshop which I mentioned on the Edna Troyer post). Have not gotten into it yet but this story is as good a reason as any to do so. Thanks for telling us about this as another resource Jim.

    10. Walter Boomsma

      An interesting aside...

      This same article, posted by someone who clearly was using it to disparage the Amish, appeared on the Facebook Group “AmishCountry.” As is often the case on social media, it turned into a major argument that included name-calling etc. (Thanks to Eric for not allowing that to happen here!) Ultimately, the moderators announced they were taking everything down, original post and all…

      I just ordered “For the Sake of a Child.” It will go beneath “The Amish Way” on my night table which I’m close to finishing. Jim, thanks for that information. It can also be ordered online through Ridgeway Books (

    11. thom


      I am kind of blown away by the honesty and bravery it took for the women in the article to tell their story. They had to know all of the blowback they would get from it. Both in the community and online. We can argue about the intention of the journalist until our faces turn blue but we should not for a second dismiss the concerns raised or belittle their experiences. And we should not bury our heads in the sand. It is not often that Amish or former Amish women raise their voices like this. We should probably listen when they do. Also I think that it was important for them to use graphic language in the article. From the women who shared their stories it seems like one of their biggest obstacles was not having agency to tell anyone what was happening and not having the language to express what was happening. Hopefully putting it in stark terms and language helps to make a connection with others. Not shrouding it in vague terminology

      1. Succinct and powerful

        Thank you for these succinct and powerful words. Your compassion is moving. You’re absolutely right, we do need to feel uncomfortable. And you’re also right about being able to tell one’s story.

        I find one of the most chilling parts of the article the accounts of women being drugged and detained in the “culturally appropriate mental health facilities.” These centers are cropping up in many places, and it is sobering to know how they can and are used to silence the oppressed and the abused.

        I am grateful to compassionate readers who “get it.”

    12. Emily

      For the Sake of a Child

      “For the Sake of a Child” is also available for purchase on the Ridgeway Books website at this address: I recommend copying and pasting as they don’t seem to have a “search” function for their catalog.

    13. J.O.B.

      Author just repeating what victims said.

      The story is graphic out of necessity.

      Stories like this is what puts pressure on the Amish community to make needed changes. To stop hiding/protecting the abuser and make it easier for the victim to tell their story Without fear. That it’s ok to speak up and you will be supported for doing so.

      Without this story, the Amish can continue to practice supporting the abuser and shaming the victim….who often was just a child.

      52 documented cases when it was made clear that there are many more that are never made public. Victims who were sent away and drugged….shamed into being quiet….made to believe they were guilty….community supporting the abuser while the victim was alone.

      If you are unhappy about the authors motive, think about how the victims must feel! They are the ones who were actually abused/raped.

      The story points out that by going public, the Sandusky case helped bring needed attention to these horrible problems In the Amish communities.

      You are suppose to feel uncomfortable. That is what brings about change. Otherwise, you’ll just sit there and continue to romanticize those Amish pictures that are posted on this site.

      Oh, and if you question the motive of the author, please remember, the ACTUAL victims have gone public first and told their stories of abuse….in detail. The author is just repeating what was already told by the victims.

      Authors like this bring attention to a horrible problem. And this attention gives victims a chance to end/prevent more abuse from happening.

      1. Stephanie Berkey

        Did the girls say that their culture was one of incest, rape, and abuse? Title of the article, “… A year of reporting reveals a culture of incest, rape, and abuse.” ~ Sarah McClure
        Would you say that is what the Amish culture is about?

        1. J.O.B.


          Some victims have given interviews and literally describe a culture that made it difficult for the abuse to stop and get help.

          After all, the Amish would shun the abuser for 6 weeks. After those 6 weeks the abuse started up again. Some members of the community blamed the victims and even started calling the victims bad names.

          So yeah, that’s a pretty bad culture those victims were in. And it was a Amish culture.

          Amish community. Amish culture. Amish abuse. Most Amish seem to be good people. But there are obviously a few communities that need to make a few changes in how they handle cases Of abuse.

          Of all the things to complain about, such as children being raped, the author’s motivation should be the least of your concern.

      2. Virgadean Richmond

        I disagree on the need for being that graphic

        If you read the comments above yours you will see that one of the people interviewed indicated that the author had an underlying agenda and it was not the supposed point of the story.
        No, the story did NOT have to be that graphic to be effective. People are NOT stupid. The author knows graphic details sells stories and make good gossip but that is about all.
        Anyone that is going to do something about the issue will do it without the gory details.

      3. Amen!

        You’re right, stories like this (and yes, graphic!) are supposed to make us feel uncomfortable.

        These stories should be challenging the romantic ideal of Amish life because that ideal does not exist. Amish life has its merits, but it is also fraught with inequalities, abuse, and powerful mechanisms for silencing the oppressed and abused.

        Thank you for your voice of compassion.

    14. Stephanie Berkey

      Something to Keep in Mind

      Helping end this abuse is one very needful thing, and I greatly appreciate that. Vilifying the Amish, as if that’s what they are all about or are the only culture struggling with this problem, is not helpful. I’m sure these girls don’t want their families and culture maligned or persecuted. Sadly there are people who capitalize on things like this to further their own selfish, destructive, and unrelated agendas.

    15. Pamela

      The good Samaritan

      I appreciate this article being posted. Obviously it, the abuse, is real and a problem. What household and with whom can’t be solved by criticism of the article. Personally, for me, I have to ask myself if I am willing to help.

    16. Stephanie Berkey

      How can we help, besides speaking out strongly against it? I’m very willing to do so and appreciate any ideas on how to further do so.

      1. How to help

        Stephanie, thank you for asking this question. Believing and feeling compassion for these women’s stories is more helpful than you can know. Romanticizing the Amish culture is one of the ways Amish women feel silenced because they don’t feel believed.

        Understanding the ways the Amish tend to handle abuse cases is also important. The harm that forced forgiveness does to victims cannot be understated. This makes victims carry the blame and the shame, even when they are children.

        As I mentioned above, I believe changes need to be imposed from the outside. Anyone in law enforcement needs to hold the perpetrators to the same standards (with reducing their prison sentences) as those in the mainstream society. Some Amish men are emboldened by the idea that “worldly” laws don’t apply to them. For far too long, law enforcement officials and others have been under the impression that the Amish take care of their own problems. But they are not capable because they have not been schooled in modern psychology and they do not understand the lasting effects abuse has on victims.

        Lessons have been learned in our society about how to treat (or not to treat) victims of abuse — we no longer try to silence them, and we don’t ask them to forgive before they are ready. We lend them counseling and support in their healing process. We certainly don’t force them into the company of their abusers in the name of reconciliation. Counselors, social workers, and others need to ensure that they hold to these same standards when they are treating Amish abuse victims.

        Thank you again for asking this question.

        1. I meant...

          “without reducing their prison sentences”

          1. Stephanie Berkey

            Thank you Saloma, your response is very helpful. I do believe them and have great sorrow over the challenges they face in healing. I’m concerned about their feelings of identity, and perhaps that is not the first issue to address normally, but online like this I felt to do so. Their heritage and people are much more than this, and I would encourage them there is much there to feel proud about too as they bravely confront the crippling shame they didn’t deserve.

        2. Virgadean Richmond

          How to help

          I objected to the graphic nature of the article because I felt it was to sell magazines and not really to help the women. I think if it was in a Christian magazine without the graphic details there would be a boatload of folks ready to help and been vastly more constructive.

          Is there anything else besides believing them and having compassion that we can do? Is there a more reputable place (than Cosmopolitan) that the story can be told so that people who are willing to help can? Are there resources near the communities that people who want to volunteer can help? Are there resources that people who do not live near the Amish can donate to? I don’t live near them now, what can people like me do?

          1. Brenda

            A victim speaks out

            I have been reading through many of the posts above, trying to wait until I got through them before commenting. However, when you posted the following comment…

            “I think if it was in a Christian magazine without the graphic details there would be a boatload of folks ready to help and been vastly more constructive.”

            …I had to respond. I am a victim/survivor of this abuse. My family were Mennonites, who had once been Amish. My Grandparents were all Amish before converting to Mennonite. And the generation before them are all Amish and mostly Old Order Mennonite. One of my Aunts (the only one who would willingly talk with me had also been a victim of sexual abuse) told me about the history of sexual abuse throughout the family. One perpetrator was an Amish Bishop!

            I will address the above comment and comment in general about some of the responses. First off, I want to thank you so much, Erik, for posting this article!!!!

            1) to respond to the statement above: First, I will tell you that statement really hurts and angers me, being a survivor of this abuse. It is a true statement, perhaps aside from the being more vastly constructive. The problem is, the Christian community (and I am a Christian myself) wants to address this subject by calling it nice little phrases like “Sexual abuse,” “incest” and other such terms. Those terms hold very little weight in describing some of the most horrid and traumatizing events that do years of lasting emotional and physical damage. Once again, in that statement I get the sentiment that you want this wrapped up in a neat little summary. Or would the knowledge that a father repeatedly forced a 4 year old daughter to perform oral sex have more weight? And believe me, that was using mild language right there. You have no idea the horror that we have been through! It is not neat and tidy.

            2) I have read in the comments the term “forgive and forget,” which was used on me to sweep this under the rug. First of all, that is from a verse of Scripture which is being taken out of context. It is referring to moving beyond the sin that one’s self has committed. To take that out of context is something that is impossible for survivors to do. I should know. I buried this deep within my subconscious mind for nearly 40 years before it all came rushing back. I spent years going through flashbacks, feeling memories, taste memories, actual memories, night terrors – where one wakes up but cannot shake the feeling that their life is about to be put in serious danger. These actions have caused us lasting damage and we have to go back and address the damage and the ways that it continues to affect us in the way we do life. I could say more, but not here.

            3) Even thought I did not read the article, I can say with certainty that whatever number she reported, it is much, much greater than that. The Amish and Conservative Mennonite Communities wrongly believe that these things can be addressed by the perpetrator confessing his sin (asking for forgiveness?) is the way to handle these matters. If the victim holds any wrong feelings, then they are looked upon as the one in the wrong. Even though they have been highly traumatized and without help, it will show up in the ways that they do life and what they believe about men. We know that these things do not happen in every community. However, due to the power given to the Amish Priests and Bishops, and the strong teachings of obedience to those in authority no matter what, it is a breeding ground for perpetrators. And the percentage of them re-victimizing is extremely high because they have not dealt with what drives them to victimize in the first place. In the Mennonite/Amish community, or at least in my family, and in most cases; perpetrators were first victims.

            Erik, I so much appreciate your responses to the other comments on this article. It made me feel validated, like finally someone is standing up for us.

            I am an adult now, but I was a toddler when the abuse first started (maybe even before) and it went on at least through age 7 or 8. I don’t know for sure how long it lasted because I learned to block things out.

            I just want to plead with everyone, when you read articles like this, please stop and realize that these were little children who had no voices and experience such traumatic events (plural because they don’t just happen once or twice). Regardless as to how the author presented it, take your focus off of that and look at us, the Survivors of these hideous acts.

            I was very surprised to read that some Amish communities are actually addressing these issues. Most do not. Even the more conservative Mennonites do not (at least from what I am aware of).

            Lastly, it really bothered me that the one comment was grappling about the statistics. Those numbers, according to this article, represented only the research that she actually came up with. It did not compare the numbers to the amount of Amish in these areas (as far as I read) to come up with a percentage. And as I stated before, we all know that sexual abuse statistics are far less than what is actually occurring, especially in the Amish Communities.

            Finally, please don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful for being raised in a somewhat conservative Mennonite church because it taught me the importance of knowing Christ and a love for his word.

            Having said that, can you even imagine being a young girl or by and being molested (another very generic term for something so horrifying) by your church Bishop or Priest? What do you think they grow up believing about men? About God? Or what about a toddler who is molested over and over again by the person who is supposed to be the godly leader of the home? Who is supposed to be the one protecting her, not committing such violence of her body, heart and soul? What does she grow up believing about men? about God? I will tell you because I am her. At 3 years old I remember looking at the bible poster of Jesus holding a child and others gathered around him. “Jesus is a man. Men do bad things to little girls.” Having that question of whether I can trust God or not.

            I have been through counseling, much counseling, recovery weeks and done a lot of hard work with Jesus’ help. I have paid thousands of dollars so that I can live a solid, real life for Jesus Christ. I continue to pay for what was done to me from the health issues I now have and cannot work. And to this day, Only two Aunts on my father’s side knows that he molested me, because he molest them as well. That makes it very difficult for me to go to family gatherings. Even though I have forgiven my father, the pain and the hurt does not go away. I had been ministering to other women but because my health has gotten worse, I haven’t been able to do so. I am 57 years old and feel like I am 80 years old. Still, I know that each day God gives to me means he has a purpose for me. Sometimes it is posting messages about God on Facebook, sometimes it is posting messages here or texting someone. On the days when I lie on the couch with fever and pain with extreme fatigue, yet my mind is racing; at least I can pray for people.

            I pray that whoever reads this will take your focus off of all the other issues that you believe about this article and realize that there are little girls like I was out there even now being abused in committees that were supposed to be teaching and showing us the love of God.

            1. BRENDA BLACK

              Just a clarification

              My father passed away in 1992 before the memories resurfaced. But because no one on his side except for the 2 sisters, know about the abuse, it makes family gatherings difficult. Also because some of his brothers look like him.

              1. Brenda

                Just another clarification

                The sentence: “And the generation before them are all Amish and mostly Old Order Mennonite.”

                Should have been: “…Old Order Amish.”

            2. Stephanie Berkey

              Dear Brenda, thank you for sharing your story. I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through and are still going through! May God bless and heal you. Our prayers are with you.

            3. I appreciate you sharing that Brenda. I can only imagine it takes a lot to do so. I pray that you can find peace and health, and start feeling your years again, or better than that. I am truly sorry you have had to pay such a heavy price. Thanks for putting your story out for someone who may need to read it, and benefit in some way.

        3. Thank you for sharing these insights here, Saloma. I have an idea how important this issue is to you, and many others.

    17. Walter Boomsma

      One more time...

      I’m not sure articles like this are “helpful” for at least two reasons. First, the question starting with one of the very first comments–is the article meant to create awareness of sexual abuse or criticize the Amish. (Personally, I think creating awareness without at least SOME suggestions for what can be done doesn’t accomplish much.)

      More importantly, I think one can rightly question whether or not this article might have exactly the opposite impact. The Amish are a private people… this article suggests that if you reveal sexual abuse, you may be “exposed in very graphic detail in the media.” Does that encourage people (especially victims) to report it?

      I know a lot of people who were sexually abused as a child. In some cases, it was quite apparent but no one did anything. No one talked to that child, no one spoke up to the victim or the abuser either because they didn’t know it was happening, didn’t know how to address it, or simply didn’t care enough.

      My suggestion is that we all become aware of the risk factors and warning signs that a child may be in an abusive situation (not just sexual–even neglect is considered abuse). Google it! I happen to be a mandated reporter–it’s not too difficult to find training online, but just learning what the signs are by reading a few pages on some child advocacy sites may make a difference. We forget that while we have a social and systems problem, abuse happens one child at a time. Just maybe you can save one child from harm.

      One important way to do that is to build strong children who are less likely to become abusers. Personally, I think the Amish do a better job with that than non-Amish.

      This is a forum about the Amish and, as such, not the best place to find that information. But I will offer one link to a tip sheet that will get interested people started:

      Thank you!

    18. Al in Ky

      There was a six-minute report on the “All Things Considered” newscast on National Public Radio (NPR) on Sun. Jan. 19, 2020. It was an interview of Michel Martin from NPR with Sarah McClure, the author of the article being discussed in this post. I listened to the interview and read the transcript (both are on the NPR website) and did not hear or read much that Sarah McClure had to say about how Amish communities are positively addressing the issue other than “there are Amish leaders who are reporting, who are talking to the police. But there are others who are not”.

    19. J.O.B.


      The facts are there are some Amish communities that are still not reporting this abuse.

      Facts are some Amish continue to foster a culture that protects the abuser and makes it difficult to protect the victim.

      Facts are some of the victims are telling their stories about being abused in graphic detail. Including using curse words to describe their anger and pain.

      They are the victims! If they feel the need to speak out, it’s not for you to silence them for whatever reason. Their words! Their choice! Not yours!

      Fact is by being graphic you are all reading and typing comments.

      That is the point.

      To get your attention and put pressure on These communities to change this horrible culture which allowed this abuse.

      Even some Amish have admitted that the public case of Sandusky here in Pennsylvania has helped bring awareness to such abuse and has started to get some Amish to communicate better with law enforcement.

      The more you comment, the better. Although it is a little disturbing some of you are more focused on the author’s motive than the girls who were raped. Priorities people. The majority of Amish seem to be good people. But we should not put them on a pedestal, either.

      1. Well said...

        Thank you for that.

    20. Al in Ky

      Addendum to my comments above — I am concerned that the interview/report on National Public Radio (NPR) on Jan. 19th did not include any information that Sarah McClure included in her article in Type Investigations about positive developments in addressing this problem. Such as “especially in Pennslyvania, efforts are being made to reform Amish culture itself”; and “Some Amish have started their own initiatives too. In multiple states, their Conservative Crisis Intervention commmittees liaise with local authorities on reporting and prosecuting sexual assault cases.”

      Also, in the NPR report at least one statement is incorrect when it stated, “(The Amish are) a traditional Christian group based in rural areas in the Mid and Northwest…”. According to the Young Center’s 2019 Amish statistics, there still are very few Amish districts in the Northwest, yet there are hundreds of Amish districts in the Northeast, (as well as hundreds in the Midwest).

      1. Really?

        Al, in the face of the atrocities described in the article, are you really going to quibble about where the Amish are located and whether or not a “positive” point is included in a six-minute broadcast?

        1. I don’t want to speak for Al but I don’t think he’s disregarding the importance of the abuse issue as a whole. I read the NPR interview with Sarah McClure…I wouldn’t have minded to see a bit more on the positive work done on the Amish side, especially from such an influential news outlet. McClure does bring it up at least briefly to her credit. I think it would have been an appropriate topic for the interviewer to ask a follow up question on.

          That sort of thing could be taken as an encouraging sign by those Amish who are involved in such efforts. That kind of coverage shouldn’t be necessary to them continuing those efforts, but it seems like the sort of thing outsiders should be encouraging more of, if they are really concerned about solving this issue.

          I think people are just concerned with the Amish as a whole getting trashed here, where I don’t think it’s appropriate to blame “Amish culture” as a whole here (and I think I can understand why people might feel the original article does that, starting from the article subtitle – “A year of reporting by Cosmo and Type Investigations reveals a culture of incest, rape, and abuse”…[“a culture”]).

          1. Stephanie Berkey

            Thank you, Erik, exactly.

    21. Jim Cates

      A Further Consideration

      As the topic becomes heated, two thoughts. First, I am VERY glad to hear Saloma Furlong weigh in. Saloma has written about her experience among the Amish. It was tragic, traumatic, and she has described it with a poignance and dignity that defines the difference between “victim” and “survivor,” at least in my mind. Second, that brings me to Ms. McClure’s choice. A Lancaster paper recently did a series of articles on abuse in Amish communities. I contrast the writing there with Ms. McClure’s. Granted, both (and Saloma’s, for that matter) are pitched to an audience. But the Lancaster articles, and Saloma’s book seem pitched to audiences designed to weigh the facts. Ms. McClure’s article concerns me, in that it is pitched to a popular magazine, designed to sell copies and turn a profit. There is so little underlying social advocacy in Cosmo.

      1. Does the venue matter?

        If a “popular” magazine is the vehicle for getting this story out there, is that a bad thing? I believe there are two questions to ask:

        1. Is it true?

        2. How do I respond?

        Is it important whether or not Ms. McClure is paid for her article? Is it important whether or not you are paid for your work among the Amish?

        I have to disagree. I think my book and Ms. McClure’s article are both designed to tell the truth, even when it isn’t pretty. I’m not sure how one “weighs the facts” of someone’s story of abuse and oppression. I think weighing in on compassion is far more important.

    22. Stephanie Berkey

      More focused on the authors motive? I don’t think so. It’s a concern because honesty is needed when first trying to grapple with such an shocking and horrible problem. An unbalanced view can also hurt the victims with their sense of identity.

      Patience with that is needed with survivors, who can see and express these things passionately. They’ve been very hurt and are still healing, but publishers do not have that justification.

      I’m not sure about the way it’s calculated and the reform there, but I can see how prison time is needful to: firstly protect the public, secondly serve to warn others against the crime, thirdly in reform because accepting natural consequences is part of the learning process as individuals and as a society. A man who rapes his own child should receive at least thirty years. That child will face handicaps, in the most cruel ways possible, all of his or her life. It would also be good for the offender to be permanently shunned by all Amish (and Mennonites, the equivalent) for the rest of his life. Maybe that’s how these crimes could be taken more seriously before the damage is done, and the good parts of their cultures preserved.

    23. Jim Cates

      Another Viewpoint

      I just finished at article in The New Yorker (1/20/2020) that epitomizes what I would have like to have seen in Ms. McClure’s article. Titled “A Violent Defense,” written by Elizabeth Flock, it uses the story of a woman accused of murder when she killed the man who raped her as a vehicle to address the inequity of women accused of assault when actually assaulted by men. The storyline occurred in an Alabama county, and there is more than a nod to the “good ole boy” law enforcement network that allowed this injustice to happen. But Flock does not then indict a) all law enforcement, b) all southerners, or c) all men. She balances the story, moving back and forth between the gripping and tragic reality of women suffering unjustly, and data and statistics drawn from research and criminal justice sources. I would hope this story will surface online in the near future. It is such a stark contrast to Ms. McClure’s report, and demonstrates how a report, such as the one done on sexual abuse among the Amish, could have been done with journalistic integrity.

    24. No Simple Answers

      I will write my final comments to all, and then I will move on to other ventures.

      I understand that for many of you, the stories Sarah McClure told in the Cosmo article come as a complete shock. The Amish culture has served for many as the model of a good society, and this shatters any ideal you may have had of a simple and wholesome Amish lifestyle. I imagine you are still in the shock phase of losing this ideal. I get that. Some of you have even asked what you can do to help. But I know that it is rare to shock someone into action. First our minds try to work around the truth and find a way to still hold on to what we’ve lost. Action normally comes when we have finally accepted the truth. Our conscience then becomes our guide as to how to be of the most help. This is fertile ground for creative ideas for new approaches.

      Sarah McClure is right when she states that there is a perfect storm of factors to cause this widespread abuse. The Amish belief system is like modern psychology turned inside out.

      It is human nature to lean toward freedom, the way a plant will lean toward light. But the Amish do not value freedom. They value obedience.

      It is human nature to want to determine one’s life path through self-awareness and self-actualization. But the Amish do not value a strong sense of self. They value the collective. In every Communion service I attended, church members were asked by the bishop to give up their individuality for the sake of the community in the same way each grain of wheat gives up its individuality to become a loaf of bread.

      It is natural to reach for one’s potential, and in modern society, that includes acquiring as much education as a person finds satisfying. The Amish deliberately end their children’s education at the eighth grade, as if ignorance is a virtue. Most youth are ill-equipped to defy their parents and leave home, which is what they would need to do to continue their education.

      Modern psychology teaches us that self-awareness and self-reflection are positive aspects of becoming a healthy individual. But Amish children are taught that thinking about themselves too much will spawn pride instead of humility. Any injustices or abuse they endure are forced into the unconscious. Except it doesn’t stay there. When they are grown and have children of their own, there is nowhere for that pain to go except right down to the next generation. Despite all their declarations that they will treat their children differently, they find themselves treating their children the same way they were treated. Self-correction is impossible without self-awareness and self-reflection. To break the pattern, a person must face the pain they themselves endured.

      In other words, even Amish people need modern psychology in order to break the intergenerational patterns. They cannot do this on their own.

      One of the reasons I find the concept of the “culturally appropriate” mental health centers so chilling is because without schooling in modern psychology, these centers for controlling those who want to speak out. I was offered a “tour” through such a facility from a former employee. He wanted me to understand how wonderful the center is in taking care of the Amish with mental illness. But when the woman who took me through showed me the locked cabinet of drugs and informed me that all the patients are on medication, I got the heebie-jeebies. I realized the potential for these facilities to be used for people who are not “obedient” in the name of “mental illness.” This was years before I heard any of these stories.

      Was I the only one who thought of the movie, “One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest” when Esther told the gut-wrenching story of how the patients at the center all had to take turns taking their medication?

      I have a question for all of you who are trying so hard to hold onto the “positive” aspects of Amish culture. If you heard that these atrocities were happening in a Hassidic Jewish community, would you be looking for the good? If this was happening within the FLDS, would you be looking for the good in their culture? If the answer is no, then ask yourselves why is it so important to focus on the good in the Amish in the face of these horrific stories?

      As I wrote on my own blog today, I honestly don’t know how to “fix” the Amish culture. With more freedom, education, sense of self, could they still maintain their culture? If not, does it deserve to survive? These are the fundamental questions that are brought up with the realization that the Amish have a systemic abuse problem.

      And we haven’t even begun to address the physical abuse problems. I find that is equally as devastating.

      The nature of Ms. McClure’s report is not the issue here. She is merely the messenger. Please don’t kill her.

      1. thom

        no simple answers

        thank you so much for this post. This is not first that I have heard of the mental health facilities that are mostly not regulated. I’ve heard some really troubling stories… I think your concerns are more than valid and I hope you keep raising your voice for those who are often forgotten or over looked

    25. Walter Boomsma

      A few more thoughts...

      I stopped commenting as this became more heated with polarized– and that included some commenters picking up some very wide paintbrushes. In some cases, I felt that I was being personally attacked. That I may not agree on certain points seemed to imply that I was unsupportive, not understanding, and not very compassionate and guilty of romanticizing the Amish. Much like any victim, I continued to suffer in silence. However, in attempt to achieve closure, I strongly feel the need to share a few final comments.

      (I suspect a few will see what I did in the previous paragraph.)

      1. Abuse (of any sort) is horrible, tragic, and not acceptable. To imply that those who were critical of the original article think differently is categorically unfair.

      2. The Amish religion (which drives their culture) is not demonic nor does it cause abuse. On the contrary, there are some aspects of it that encourage and even require healthy living–physically and mentally. It makes no sense to throw out the baby with the bathwater. That is not equivalent of romanticizing the Amish. It’s called “common sense.”

      3. There are differences between supporting victims and proactive prevention. (See #1.) While I do believe in the need and value of supporting victims, that alone will not solve this problem. Being aware people are hungry does not feed them.

      4. “Modern psychology” is, in my opinion, greatly overrated–just as science has become a sacred cow. We non-Amish have enough mental health issues on the rise (including suicide rates) to cause us to wonder if we are even close to finding solutions.

      5. Behaviorists pretty much agree that “punishment” is not very effective at changing behavior. While it is important for there to be consequences, the punishment of the abuser perhaps has more value to the victim than it does to prevention. A study of ethics supports this. Some obey the speed limit because they fear getting caught. Far more do not.

      6. Given the direction of mass media, questioning the messenger and having an expectation of journalistic responsibility and ethics is more necessary than ever. That should be true whether we agree with the position the writer/reporter is taking or not. We aren’t “killing” the messenger by questioning motive and approach. We are attempting to encourage responsible reporting.

      7. There is perhaps a fine line between challenging the Amish and abusing or bullying them. Whether it’s the lighting on their buggies (or the buggies themselves) or how they handle wastewater, there’s a trend toward arrogance on the part of non-Amish. There’s got to be at least one Amish person who is quietly thinking, “Instead of trying to fix our culture, go fix your own.” Make no mistake–we created that resistance because we didn’t focus on how to live together in harmony and mutual respect.

      I will (finally) close with a rhetorical question. If an Amish person who was truly faithful to the Amish religion visited this forum because they were concerned about sexual abuse–perhaps even a very specific situation–how would he/she feel after reading this thread… and to whom (if anyone) might they turn for help?

      1. Jim Cates

        Thank You

        Thank you, Walter, for this comment!

    26. Walter, I heartily agree with (virtually) everything you said. (I would disagree with #5 in the general sense that punishment doesn’t change behavior — for if it is appropriately severe and administered consistently it will often prevent many new cases from even occurring — and we seldom have any way of knowing the degree of that impact. The problem is that more often it is too watered down, and not done consistently — and the nature of cases such as this, once the problem is started it is almost impossible to stop it with punishment alone.)

      I would also add an 8th item: That patriarchal structure is not the demon that it has been presumed to be — in the original article and later slammed by what seemed to be emotionally-driven comments here. From what I can tell — and yeah, it is my job to be able to tell — that is the kind of system that God set up for humanity. Obviously some are brash enough to point a finger at God and tell Him that His way is wrong, but I’m not going to be that person.

      I will also once again thank Jim for his comments as the discussion “heated up,” I think he put it. They helped me to understand a bit of the backstory behind the wildfire (and note, in my book there is a huge difference between explain (which Jim did) and justify), and thus stopped me from throwing more gasoline on the fire — which I was just short of doing.

    27. Walter Boomsma

      Thanks to you both...

      Thanks to you both (Don and Jim) and to others who attempted to bring reason and calm to the discussion and keep it thoughtful. I had the gas can in my hand a few times!

      Don, I think we fundamentally agree on #5 and, in retrospect, might add a word to the effect that “punishment isn’t always an effective way to…” I recently talked with a mom who had quite an “aha” when we discussed the difference between punishment and consequences. Her daughter was very resentful of punishment but couldn’t argue much over consequences.

      And I actually thought about adding a #8, but hoped it was covered in #2. Again, if I had it to write over I might have included the James Adams Quote, “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us.”

      That’s not to say there is no place in the world or on this forum for critical thinking. Most bias or prejudice comes from a lack of thinking and continues because we search for evidence that we’re correct in feeling the way we do. One of the things I’ve done at school with middle schoolers is to create debates wherein the teams have to represent the opposing side–they don’t know that until after they’ve picked their side. “If you think chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla, you must “argue” in favor of vanilla.

      But not everything needs to be a debate. There’s also room for exploration.

      1. Yes, there is a place both for punishment and consequences — and often the latter will do the job if we give it the room that it needs.

        And yes, I mentally noted that my #8 dovetailed with your #2; but being that it is a factor in life outside of the Amish I wanted to make particular note of it on its on merit.

        “Not everything needs to be debated” — a truism that I need to remind myself of more frequently than I do, I’m afraid.

    28. Peter eckelt
    29. Stephanie Berkey


      Exactly, Peter, and Mark 9:43-47

      This shaming is typical of any society. Patriarchal societies were founded by the ultimate patriarchs and examples: Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They would never condone nor minimize these atrocities in any way and true Amish men know that, and seek to emulate them in judgement and sacrifices. But I can see how victims and survivors would not be able to believe that, at least not for a very long time, especially when such betrayal and hypocrisy is so severe and compounded with emphasis on quick forgiveness and inappropriate tolerance. A true Amish perspective would not expect leadership in sacrifices from children.

      1. Stephanie Berkey

        We all our asked to make sacrifices, like forgiveness, but God leads us in and through it and never asks us to do more than we can handle or more than he has done. Good patriarchs seek to do so also with inspiration, good judgement, and example. I heard of one bishop helping a woman by saying, “I can’t understand what you’ve been through, but I’m trying to”, which meant a lot to her since she’d never heard that before.

        These cases can be very difficult because there are casualties on all sides and can have different appropriate responses to each situation. Many young men (especially Amish I imagine) have no idea how devastating the end of the road they are going down can be. There needs to be ways for them to repair and rebuild their lives too.

      2. Dannie Otto

        "Ture Amish Men"

        Stephanie, you need to read the article and these stories carefully. It is “true Amish men” who committed these atrocities and it is “true Amish men” who allowed them to continue. A “true Amish man” is a man who is in good standing with the Amish church. So it was true Amish bishops and fathers who allowed these things to happen. Perpetrators were put in the bann for brief periods of time and then allowed to participate fully as full members of the church. If you don’t understand the bann, you might consulte James Cates book ” Serving the Amish – A Cultural Guide for Professionals”.

        If the perpetrators and enablers were not “true Amish men”, rather were imposters, we wouldn’t be so embarrassed and angry at the culture which allows these things to continue for years.

        1. Stephanie Berkey

          True Amish Men

          There are imposters in most societies in this life. May I ask, how do you determine a true Amish Man, or what any man or woman is for that matter? I determine who a person really is by what they do repeatedly and with what motives. True Amish men have at heart to do as Jesus Christ did, and act accordingly, even though they are still in the process. If they are repeatedly not doing this, they are not living true to their professions of being Amish and are not in “good standing” with God. That is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about: motivation and ways to act and become more like Him, and effective ways to respond to those who won’t.

          1. Sexual abuse among the Amish

            Who determines what is God’s way? Who determines the correct interpretation of Scripture? You? Amish elders who want to sweep a tragedy under the rug? Those who justify voting for a criminal? Those who shun a victim? Who?

            1. Stephanie Berkey

              Janice, Jesus does, who descended below all things and overcame all things. He has shown us the way, and will continue to do so. We all have the privilege of knowing him with: sincere prayer, scripture study, and following him in faith. We’re all given different perspectives and trials in this life, but it isn’t these that define us. Rather it is our earnest persistence and our struggles against temptations, toward the “better angels of our nature” that define us. His grace is sufficient that we may be perfected in Christ. (see All Men Everywhere, by Elder Dallin H. Oaks).

            2. Stephanie Berkey

              Who determines what is God’s way?

              Jesus said, “I am the way…” – John 14:6
              He also taught that all good things come from God and any thing which persuades us to believe in Christ, to love and follow Him, is inspired of God.

        2. Stephanie Berkey

          It was imposters who crucified Jesus Christ.

          1. Stephanie Berkey

            They were the chief priests and leaders of the Jews, whose patriarchy was very temporary, as is any man’s who isn’t sincere in following God. Heavenly Father will be a perfect Dad to anyone who pray to Him. He comforts, guides, and blesses us through any and all trials. He and Jesus descended below all things and they, along with the Holy Spirit, help us overcome all things also.

    30. Walter Boomsma


      I might suggest that we look at “The Happening” — the name often given to the Nickle Mines tragedy in which five Amish School children were killed and another five were injured in 2006. Surely there are differences–the “abuser” died is a big difference because it lessens the “punishment” question… but the way the Amish “society” responded and handled that stunned the world.

      Fortunately, as far as I know, no one wrote an article headlined “Amish Society Demonstrates a Lack of Compassion for Children and Encourages School Shootings…”

      Just something to think about.

      1. Stephanie Berkey

        Thank you Walter, that is a very good point.

    31. Walter Boomsma

      "For the Sake of a Child"

      My copy arrived yesterday and I dove in almost immediately! While I’m far from finished with the book, I heartily recommend to anyone concerned about abuse among the Amish! It is a wonderful combination of stories (illustrating both good and bad practice) and narrative. As such, it is both fair to the Amish (it uses the term “plain people” to be more inclusive) and shows how quickly a strength can become a weakness… and offers thoughts on how to turn weaknesses into strengths. Think of it as a “must read” if you’ve commented here!

    32. Another Must Read...

      I’d like to add to the “must reads” for all those who have commented here.

      These are links to a case of sexual crimes committed by a “real Amish man.”—years-for-sexual/article_043a61cc-3eaa-11ea-b6ae-2bd6df0e42de.html

      And for anyone interested in reading my personal account as someone who was in the courtroom, here is a link to my blog:

      1. Stephanie Berkey

        I hope listening to survivors, getting educated, and finding ways to insure greater protection will be a top priority to all people. Christ’s teachings in the New Testament should embolden us to make the sacrifices needed to protect children. I agree that those who won’t do this should be called out on it.

        If the Amish want the English to stay out of their business, then they’ll do a better job of listening and responding to these concerns. Those who claim the freedoms protected under the US Constitution are required to live up to the standard of morality of the same, one way or another.

    33. Stephanie Berkey

      What would Jacob Hochstetler say? He was willing to forgive and lay down his life for his enemies. He did it out of faith in and love for Jesus Christ. There was a time for it, and it helped establish great blessings including peace and freedom in this country. But a war is being waged upon families today, in the which it is not appropriate nor God’s will to be passive. This war turns men against their own wives and children and must be met with a different kind of love, tough love.

      The Amish are not unfamiliar with using tough love with their shunning. However it has been grossly misapplied when shunning girls and women like Saloma when they seek to protect their selves, which they have every right and duty to do! If permanent shunning was ever appropriate it would be used with those who perpetuate this abuse. Father Jacob would say stop helping a war being waged against your own children.

    34. Jim Cates

      Perhaps Rambling Too Far Afield, But...

      I have debated whether, and if so, how, to answer many of the responses to this blog. My apologies if this response goes too far astray, but Saloma’s comments, in particular, have given me pause to reflect. Many years ago, a supervisor and mentor I much admire said, “You will never make a good therapist if you cannot accept the fact that people are capable of infinite evil.” He was right. I resisted that idea, wanting to see the good in everyone. The truth in that statement (at least for me) is that without accepting infinite evil, I cannot accept the possibility that people are capable of reaching beyond their human limitations, and practicing infinite good. Wanting to see the good in the Amish, as with any culture, does not blind me to the horrible atrocities of sexual abuse committed there. No child should be subjected to such pain, and I remain thankful that Saloma, and other survivors, speak out with fervor about the injustices they face. At the same time, I have met with those who sexually offended, and know the pain in their lives, too. Abuse creates a complicated network of coercion and manipulation that leads to anger, distrust, and long-term trauma. Victims and survivors have my full support. But so, too, do those who have offended, and recognize the pain they have inflicted. So, too, do those who commit themselves to change the world, whether through education, or through one life at a time. I am truly sorry that those of us who advocate for change cannot agree on how that change should occur, but I am so thankful that our voices can all be heard.

      1. Stephanie Berkey

        Rescuing Modern Day Slaves - Children Worldwide

        Thank you Jim Cates. I appreciate everything you said.

        Here are more ways to help save, heal, and protect children worldwide. First we need to learn about it. Some of these people are making incredible sacrifices, even risking their lives.

        Operation Underground Railroad – founder Tim Ballard at

        Upcoming movie on worldwide about stopping child slavery with Jim Caviezel, “The Sound of Freedom” (2020)

        Making the above movie: Jim Caviezel and Tim Ballard of Operation Underground Railroad, with Bod Evans:

        1. Stephanie Berkey

          Another Hero Saving Children

          Ashton Kutcher Speech to Congress on Human Trafficking

        2. Stephanie Berkey

          Here’s more on a world wide perspective of abuse:
          A Sharia Survivor Shares Her Story: Anni Cyrus

    35. Don Burke is correct on 10-reply-per-comment limit

      ‘Janice, please be aware that in spite of your assumptions and presumed guilt on my part this pastor has not blocked you — no more than you have blocked me or Stephanie from responding to your last post earlier today. It would rather seem to simply be a limitation set by the forum coding in the website that only allows comments-to-comments to only go some ten levels deep. I’m sure that Eric will confirm that this is not of my making if you wish to ask him.’

      What Don wrote above (regarding a 10 reply limit per thread) is correct. This is because the columns get too thin to be easily readable at that point. You would just need to start a new comment to continue. There is no “block commenter” feature available on this site and I have not blocked anyone here on the admin level. Sometimes if your comment does not immediately appear it means it may have gone into moderation. I check regularly and approve these as long as they don’t contain bad language.

    36. Stephanie Berkey

      Some things we only can know through experience. That’s why it’s important to have respect and reverence for one another’s suffering and sacrifices.

    37. Stephanie Berkey

      Here’s more on a world wide perspective of abuse:
      A Sharia Survivor Shares Her Story

    38. Stephanie Berkey

      Rescue of Victims & Catching Predators - Group Effort

      These efforts need our help. Please pray for them and those they help.
      Thank You!

      Operation Toussaint Trailer

      2,000 Criminals Arrested for HUMAN TRAFFICKING – We’re Just Getting Started

    39. Stephanie Berkey

      President Trump’s War on Human Trafficking and Child Abuse

      President Trump’s War on Human Trafficking
      Posted on by Liz Crokin

      Child Abuse Arrests are Trump’s Uncelebrated Deeds