No tv or pop music for you, missy

Ah yes, the Amish. Who would ever have thought that a religious sect that isolates its members would turn out to have a nasty habit of raping its own daughters and sisters? Besides everyone who thinks about it for a minute?

As a child, Sadie* was carefully shielded from outside influences, never allowed to watch TV or listen to pop music or get her learner’s permit. Instead, she attended a one-room Amish schoolhouse and rode a horse and buggy to church—a life designed to be humble and disciplined and godly.

And very safe for rapey boys and men.

By age 9, she says, she’d been raped by one of her older brothers. By 12, she’d been abused by her father, Abner*, a chiropractor who penetrated her with his fingers on the same table where he saw patients, telling her he was “flipping her uterus” to ensure her fertility. By 14, she says, three more brothers had raped her and she was being attacked in the hayloft or in her own bed multiple times a week. She would roll over afterward, ashamed and confused. The sisters who shared Sadie’s room (and even her bed) never woke up—or if they did, never said anything, although some later confided that they were being raped too. Sadie’s small world was built around adherence to rules—and keeping quiet was one of them. “There was no love or support,” she says. “We didn’t feel that we had anywhere to go to say anything.”

All rules, and no love. Lots of rape, and no way to escape from it.

This god sure as hell hates women.

So she kept quiet, even when the police asked questions.

Even on the day when, almost two years later, Abner was sentenced by a circuit court judge to just five years’ probation.

And even on the day when, at 14, she says she was cornered in the pantry by one of her brothers and raped on the sink, and then felt a gush and saw blood running down her leg, and cleaned up alone while he walked away, and gingerly placed her underwear in a bucket of cold water before going back to her chores. A friend helped her realize years later: While being raped, she had probably suffered a miscarriage.

It’s as if the males in her family saw her as an appliance, not a person. Did they get that from their god?

Sarah McClure, the author of the piece, says it’s everywhere:

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

And these men all, it seems fair to assume, see themselves as particularly godly and devout and holy and thus “good” – yet they have no compunction about repeatedly raping their own sisters and daughters.

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

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

Wait. It’s not Christlike to report. But is it Christlike to rape?

Why is the onus on the victims to shut up and endure the constant assaults, and not on the boys and men to refrain from assaulting their sisters and daughters? What about telling the men to be “Christlike” first?

T here’s no one reason for the sexual abuse crisis in Amish Country. Instead, there’s a perfect storm of factors: a patriarchal and isolated lifestyle in which victims have little exposure to police, coaches, or anyone else who might help them; an education system that ends at eighth grade and fails to teach children about sex or their bodies; a culture of victim shaming and blaming; little access to the technology that enables communication or broader social awareness; and a religion that prioritizes repentance and forgiveness over actual punishment or rehabilitation. Amish leaders also tend to be wary of law enforcement, preferring to handle disputes on their own.

But the religion seems to prioritize repentance and forgiveness not just over punishment or rehabilitation but also over not raping. Over stopping. Never mind punishment, what about stopping? What exactly is the repentance if the raping never stops?

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.

Does God hate women? Looks that way.

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