Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sexual Assault in the Amish Community

(Vernon County, WI) ABC News covered a story of Mary Byler, a now 22 year-old woman who has left the amish community where she was repeatedly sexually assault and raped by her own family members."If somebody was raping me, I'd look up to the ceiling, count the blocks or count the cracks in the wall, or just I was completely not there emotionally". Mary reports that he brother Johnny started assaulting her when she was 6 and he was 12. Another brother, Eli, also started to repeatedly rape her. These abuses lasted for several years along with physical beatings from her stepfather.

In the Amish community women are characterized as quiet and submissive, according to Irene Garrett who has also left the community and written on her experiences there. The community does not teach women about sex, let alone what sexual assault is, leaving many unable to describe what has happened to them as anything other than "bad".

Mary's mother would tell her she didn't "fight hard enough" or "pray hard enough" when she told her mother what was happening. In fact her brothers would repeatedly confess their sins in church where their punishment would be removing them from church activities for a set time until they show true repentence. The community strongly emphasizes public confessions, but also immediate forgiveness and essentially forgetfulness of what happened.

Mary decided to take action by alerting authorities after her 4-year-old sister reported to her mother that another brother, David, was "being bad" to her. The following details of the legal process can be found with the full story at: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=2365919&page=1

Opinion Submission for ABC should go to: abc.news.magazines@abc.com


  1. I appreciated the quote from Judge Michael Rosbrough upon seeing the Amish community out in support of Johnny, who had raped Mary 50-150: "The thought occurred to me, 'how many of you have ever cried for Mary Byler? … You may have prayed for her, I don't doubt you have, but how many of you cried for her? For the loss of her childhood." Despite his awareness that Mary was not given justice by her community it was disappointing that Johnny received the lightest sentence.

    Also, from someone of faith my soul truly does weep when "religion" is used to perpetrate and conceil abuse. I do not believe that the God I love resides in any individual or community that allows harm.

  2. This is shocking, but it needed to be told. I applaud Mary for coming forward.

    While I admire the Amish in many ways, I also recognize that they are in the wrong in a very important way: They feel they are above the law. Indeed, they basically come out and say exactly that, that they don't concern themselves with mankind's laws but rather God's thoughts about them. They have their own justice and ways of handling crimes. Is this any different from the Vatican and powerful members of the Catholic Church trying to cover up their gigantic sex scandal?