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Investigation Calls Sex Abuse 'Open Secret' Among Amish

But women are beginning to come forward
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2020 5:30 PM CST
   (Getty/David Arment)

(Newser) – It is not the typical image that comes to mind in regard to bucolic Amish communities. But a story by Type Investigations and Cosmopolitan reports that sexual abuse, including incest, is an "open secret spanning generations" among the Amish. The investigation cites a slew of factors that lead to the abuse, beginning with a "patriarchal and isolated lifestyle" that prevents victims from having much contact with outsiders, including police or authority figures. That isolation extends to technology. What's more, education typically ends at eighth grade, and it does not give students any knowledge of sex or their bodies. And generally speaking, the Amish culture puts an emphasis on repentance and forgiveness when abusers are outed within the community. Any punishment is usually handled internally.

“We’re told that it’s not Christlike to report,” says one Amish woman who was abused by a brother and neighbor boy at age 9. “It’s so ingrained. There are so many people who go to church and just endure.” (About three dozen Amish people were interviewed for the investigation.) The news is not all bleak, however. Sarah McClure writes that Amish women are slowly changing their culture. "I have seen a real uptick over the past 10 years in Amish women coming forward," says Linda Crockett of Safe Communities, which works to prevent child sexual abuse. "They hear about each other—not on Twitter or Facebook, but there’s a strong communication system within these communities. They draw courage and strength from each other.” The investigation explores that trend and looks at individual abuse stories, often within families. (Read the full story.)

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