Guest post: Suffering in silence


Guest post by Misty Griffin

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One of the only photos taken of the Author during her teenage years. Here she is seventeen years old.

“People would smile reverently as we walked by, never did they suspect the horrific sexual, physical and mental torture that my sister and I suffered on a daily basis. To the outside world we were the epitome of chasteness, sobriety and down to earth values. In reality my life was a living nightmare  straight from the depths of hell.”
                                                  – Misty Griffin

If you are a rape victim among the Amish it is in every case a very harsh and scary reality. You have no allies, no one to talk to about what happened and no one who will hold your hand as you cry. You the victim are hushed from the very moment word gets out and are told by church leaders that you must have done something to welcome such an attack. In addition you are told that if you speak of the matter you are unforgiving and will go to hell if you do not repent. If the victim is a church member she will be shunned if she refuses to forgive and live as if nothing had happened. Even the victim’s family will not allow  her to talk for fear of being caught and punished by the church.

Children are not taken out of the home. If the rapist is the father they must continue to live in his household until they marry.

This is the most horrifying reality of all. Being Ex- Amish myself I can recall more than one family who got sideways glances from other church members during social gatherings; however the truth still remains that abused children are not taken out of the home and will usually continue to be raped their entire childhoods.

In most cases the perpetrator is a male relative, and even if the victim marries and gets out of the home she must still continue to be around her rapist at church, family gatherings, social gatherings etc. For many Amish rape victims it is more than they can bear, and they either commit suicide or develop a mental illness. The pain of never being able to talk about what happened to you or may still be happening is such a heavy burden.

One of my good friends who was a rape victim ended up dying after she starved herself for a year. It was so sad and unnecessary; she had been harshly reprimanded by the church after being raped at the tender age of fourteen. She was told not to talk about what happened to her and after a few years she quit talking completely. Laura died a year later after she went into a massive seizure. She had been looked upon as odd after her rape and the funeral was very minimal.

Unfortunately there are many children like my friend Laura and  they suffer in silence while they are continually raped with full knowledge of the church. In my own Amish community the bishop’s wife was my best friend, and after a few years she risked a shunning by confiding in me that she and all of her siblings had been raped by her father. He had been reported many times to the church leaders by her mother. He was in turn placed in a six week shunning each time. However since he was a deacon in the church, after his six week sentence was up he was back to preaching and attending church matters. He was a serial rapist who had ruined the lives of all 11 of his children, yet each time he confessed in the church he was given nods of approval and was taken back as a good man who had confessed his sins before God and man.

After I became aware of her plight it made me physically sick when I saw her father get up to preach while his children sat on the church benches with children of their own. I would feel physically sick and had to look away while the tears rolled down my cheeks. It was so unfair and worst of all each time he stood up to preach it was a slap in the face of his victims. I could not understand how people could be so cruel and more than once I sat with my fist clenched under my stiff white apron.

Amish rape victims are forced to suffer in silence as they continue to be raped.

The Amish are a closed society and do not allow any outside interference when dealing with church matters. The Amish are in essence their own country, government and judicial system, and if a church member is found talking to a non-church member about church matters they will face a shunning; this shunning may even last longer than it would for a rape crime. A person who is caught talking to non-Amish about the dealings of the church will be watched for a long time since involving the outside world is one of the greatest offences in the Amish church.

Since the Amish have their own judicial system they are also ill equipped to deal with such serious cases as child abuse and rape.There are no jail cells in which to confine a member who is posing a threat to the community and since calling the “wordly” outside authorities is not allowed, the only way of punishing a member is to shun them.

If one is willing to confess their sins  (which most offenders readily do) you are only shunned for 3-6 weeks, no matter the severity of the crime. The only consequence to this very short form of  shunning is that you will not go to church or social gatherings, and you must sit at a different table than other church members. Most of the time rape victims continue to be raped during this time and usually do not report it again.

The Amish believe that once a person confesses they should be automatically forgiven even if that man is confessing to his tenth rape. Everyone must forgive and forget, even the rape victim. If the victim shows any hostility towards the offender or openly refuses to stop talking about the matter, they themselves will be shunned. In this case the shunning would last much longer since the victim will have a hard time going before the church and admitting she was wrong to harbor such ill feelings.

Why don’t people just leave the Amish?

Being Amish is something that is ingrained in an individual from birth. One is taught that the outside world is evil and to leave the Amish would mean that you will never go to heaven, ever. You are brought up to believe that you must follow all rules without question. If you do start to question or have a problem with a certain rule you are told that you are prideful and that you must humble yourself because God only receives the humble into his kingdom.

Even if you are a sexual abuse victim you do not dare leave the Amish for fear of going to hell. Besides the fear of going to hell, there is the fear of being shunned. I myself am currently a shunned Ex- Amish and fully am aware of its  sting. Any young person who is shunned by the Amish goes out into the world completely on their own. They have very little if any money, no family, few friends and no ID, drivers license or social security card. For me I often explained it as being teleported from the 1600s into the 21st century. It is a daunting and scary experience and it would have been much easier to remain Amish and I most likely would have, had my conscience allowed it. Below is an excerpt from my memoir that gives some perspective into just how a young Amish woman may feel.

It had long been my experience that even if the predator was placed in the six week Bann, they would still continue to rape and often go on to be a serial rapist, some of whom have been known to rape all of their children with full knowledge of the church. In each case, never has anyone hugged the child or asked them if they were okay. The only thing the church members were concerned with was silencing them.

 And so that morning as I struggled, I was not only fighting for myself but also for my potential offspring. I so despised this ancient tradition of silencing victims and could not understand how everyone else could simply stand by and look the other way. I could not, and at times I had felt physically sick from the things I had heard and witnessed.

But I was Amish, and that in and of itself was my world, my life and my government. To leave the Amish would most certainly mean I would go to hell, as well as be banished from everyone that I held dear. To leave the Amish was truly the ultimate sin…  ( Excerpt from my memoir  Tears of the silenced)

Rape happens in every culture

As callous as this may sound I have actually been in a debate with more than one Amish fan and have heard them make this very comment. It is true that rape does happen in every culture, the only problem is that in the Amish there is absolutely no justice for the victim and the most heartbreaking reality is that the victim will most likely go on to be raped for many years because the Amish church is unable and unwilling to stop the rapist.

Although I am sure this article will get many comments saying that the Amish are kind and gentle people who abide by the law, have strong family ties and good morals etc. My question to you would in turn be. If you know the Amish are a closed and secretive society why would you dear reader pretend to know anything about them. I can answer this for you by informing you that if you have never been Amish you will never truly know what it is like.

  I was always curious why the outside world viewed us with such reverence and respect, that is until I left and saw that the outside world was filled with Amish romance novels and a dangerously charming view of our culture.

One spring morning nine years ago I stumbled into a small police station in rural Minnesota, I had been attacked by the Bishop of my church and he had threatened to kill me. As I talked to the policemen that morning I was met with raised eyebrows, He just could not believe what he was hearing about his God fearing, quiet, gentle Amish neighbors. I became frustrated when I saw he was having a hard time believing me. I had risked everything to come to him, I knew that when I returned home I would  be shunned for several months and would more than likely be refused the right to marry, ever. No family would ever allow their son to marry such a trouble maker, going to the police was the worst sin I could commit. And without marring I was destined to become an old maid, in the Amish a woman who does not marry remains under the authority of her father and brothers and has no more rights than a teenager. The below excerpt is what I said to the policeman when he just sat there staring at me.

I was furious now, and I spun around, slammed both my palms down on the table and leaned toward him.

 

“Why is it so hard for you people to believe the Amish are just as capable of crime as any other human beings? The only difference is that they don’t have to pay for those crimes. And, ironically, these very people you hold in such high regard think you are going to hell because you are of the world.”

“Well, I am sure that is probably true,” Officer Jensen nodded his head. “They are people, but they are raised with a strict doctrine they have to follow.”

“Or what?” I snapped. “You tell me the Amish policy on rape and murder.”

“Well, I never thought of them like that,” he nodded his head again as if finally he might be getting my point.

“Exactly,” I said, straightening up. “I am so tired of you English putting cameras in our faces and taking our picture like we are cute little puppies or something. We are people with all the faults the human race has to offer.” I looked him straight in the eyes. “Do you really think you would even so much as hear if I died tonight? No,” I said, shaking my head. “You would never know. I would simply be buried in an Amish cemetery, thought to have died from some unknown cause.”

“I find that a little hard to believe,” Officer Jensen looked at me skeptically.

“Oh, really?” I asked with raised eyebrows. “How many Amish autopsies have you heard of? How many Amish do you have walking in and out of your office every day? Don’t you find it strange that the rest of the world traffics through here, and no Amish do?”

“I have to admit you are the first I’ve interviewed,” He said. He leaned back in his chair.

( From my memoir Tears of the Silenced)

What can we do to change things.

First of all everyone can start by keeping their ears and eyes open. My mission is not to only talk about the Amish but also to touch on the subject of child abuse. I myself was not born Amish but I was raised like them on a lonely mountain top. Here I was beaten, tortured and sexually assaulted on a daily basis.. I was taken to the Amish community at the age of eighteen and due to my horrific childhood was readily accepted by them because I had been raised with stricter rules than they themselves practiced.

During the first twenty two years of my life ( Before my escape from the Amish) I saw many times when an outsider noticed something was amiss but no one ever bothered to do something about it. Many times I know it was because of our religious appearance but I firmly believe that just because someone is religious they should never get away with abuse. Many times in this world a horrific abuse could have been prevented if someone had not looked the other way or told themselves it was not their problem.

In cases of child abuse I believe that it is everyone’s problem. Our children are the future leaders of the world and how they are treated today will affect how they rule the world tomorrow.

In the case of girls that are raped in these strict religious communities, my hope is that if you ever come across such a girl you will encourage her to prosecute the offender. No matter the cost. This is the only way these men will ever see that there are consequences for their actions. My plea to everyone around the world is that you never go through life and miss the opportunity to save someone. My childhood and young adulthood was a living nightmare, I was unable to help myself because I did not know how, and I was also to scared to try. I was in serious need of a hero, for someone you could be that hero.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

                               – Mahatma Gandhi
About the author: It has been nine years since Misty left the Amish. She was shunned (outcast) after she refused to recant her police report against the Amish bishop who sexually assaulted her. Calling the police is completely forbidden among the Amish. She is the survivor of horrific child abuse and hopes to inspire people with her life’s story. It is her sincere wish to show people that no matter what you have been through in life the impossible is possible. Her life’s story proves this motto. 
Misty is currently a nursing student and the recent author of her memoir  Tears of the Silenced. She is also an active advocate for child abuse and sexual assault awareness.
 
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Is it safe to smile?, 7  mo after leaving the Amish. Misty was dealing with severe PTSD and terrifying nightmares.
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 7 months after leaving the Amish. A surprise birthday party thrown by her knew friends in Seattle WA. Misty is 23 here and this is her first birthday party.
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7 mo after leaving the Amish. Misty’s twenty third birthday party in Seattle Wa
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7 mo after leaving the Amish. Misty is in the Spokane WA bus station. She is traveling from Seattle to Lacrosse WI to try and get her younger sister out of the Amish

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  A selfie Misty took of herself while in Lacrosse  WI at her sisters home. Misty had to agree to dress Amish again in order to enter the house. She was met by local ministers who tried to force her to recant her police statement. She refused and her sister was to scared to leave the Amish. Misty returned to Seattle and her new life.
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 A year and a half after leaving the Amish. Misty joined a missionary group. Here she is at a mission in Sao Pualo Brazil with fellow missionary friends.

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Misty griffin today. She is 32 years old and has been out of the Amish for nine and a half years.

Comments

  1. Katydid says

    I live about two hours from a major Amish enclave. Even though they’re known for horrifically abusing dogs and cats in breeding mills and frequently cheat the “English” in their stores (for example, if you buy a dozen donuts from an Amish bakery, you need to keep a careful eye or you’ll find you’ve paid for 12, gotten 8), people think the Amish are something cute right out of the movie Witness.

    There was a television show on tv a few years ago about people who leave the Amish; there’s at least a couple of ex-Amish who have made it their mission in life to help those who want to leave, by acquainting them with the American culture, finding them jobs, getting them into schools, etc.

  2. Blanche Quizno says

    I read an account by a young woman raised Amish – her older brothers began raping her when she was in her early teens. When she reported it, the brothers got a 3-week vacation from mandatory church attendance, and she was required to “forgive” them. They continued to rape her.

    Before her father’s death [*when Mary was 5 years old*], Mary told her mother, Sally, that he was molesting her. At first, Sally didn’t believe her daughter. Mary said that her mother told her, “He says he’s sorry and you have to forgive him.

    When Mary’s brothers began raping her, she turned to her mother again. Sally scolded the boys and gave them what Eli described as a light “mother’s tap.” She also gave them an herb that she hoped would reduce their sex drives. When the abuse resumed and Mary went back to her mother, she said Sally responded, “You don’t fight hard enough and you don’t pray hard enough.

    Johnny’s punishment for his confessed sins lasted two weeks. During that period, he was shunned, the traditional Amish punishment for serious transgressions. As if sin were contagious, the community erects a metaphorical fence around the sinner. Johnny wasn’t allowed to leave his home except to attend church. After his punishment, he returned to working in his harness shop.

    Mary’s punishment, by contrast, lasts forever. http://legalaffairs.org/issues/January-February-2005/feature_labi_janfeb05.msp

    I was wrong – not a three-week vacation from church. A TWO-week vacation from church. After he confessed.

  3. iknklast says

    I’m…I don’t know what to say. I feel this so deeply. So many families refuse to recognize the pain of the girls that are being raped under their own roof. I heard it “He’s a god-fearing man, you must be mistaken”. No one believes. My molester went on to be a minister – I tried to tell the church (not Amish, in this case – conservative Protestant denomination). They nodded, said of course they would look into it, and then ordained him. Nothing more.

    I found out a few weeks ago that my nieces were molested by the same relative. I am still struggling with the guilt of not speaking up earlier – but can a child be expected to speak up, especially when they know they won’t be believed? The men in the family were always right. How could I tell anyone? How could my younger sister tell anyone?

    I’m glad Misty is going to be all right. 10 years of therapy got me better (until a few weeks ago!). I wish all the other little girls would be heard, believed, and gotten out.

  4. Blanche Quizno says

    From the source provided above:

    When [her mother] Fannie found out about the CYS [Child & Youth Services, aka Child Protection] visit, she and Anna [who had been raped by her brothers] went with 13 other kids to the home of John Yoder, an Amish dentist who lived an hour and a half away in the town of Punxsutawney. Yoder’s living room had a recliner with a tin pan and some needles next to it. Anna watched as the other kids each had one or two bad teeth pulled. When it was her turn, Yoder shot some novocaine into her upper gum. She shook her head and told him that two of her lower teeth had cavities. He shot the lower gum, and asked Fannie which teeth should go. Anna’s mother answered, “Take them all,” and Yoder pulled—along the upper gum, along the lower gum, until every tooth was gone. “After he had pulled the last tooth,” Anna remembered, “my mom looked at me and said, ‘I guess you won’t be talking anymore.’ “

    Anna bled for three days. Her family ignored her, except to periodically hand her a drink. She couldn’t talk, but that didn’t matter, because Anna had nothing left to say. At church, she looked away when other kids pointed at her mouth. Fannie Slabaugh told me that Anna had asked for her teeth to be pulled. But the detective who investigated the case, Trooper Michael Pisarchic, said that the other kids who went with Anna to see Yoder said that Anna was being punished.

    Even then, Anna was not removed from the home. Her parents threatened her with lethal violence unless she recanted; since the state had failed her, she did as she was told. She eventually escaped, on her own. Anna got no help from anyone.

    Hooray religion.

  5. Blanche Quizno says

    @3 iknklast – no, it’s not your fault. A horrible crime was committed against you; it’s a wonder you survived. It was not your job to stop the monster – trust me, his fellow adults, his peers, knew what he was doing. And chose to protect him instead of you (pl).

  6. says

    This is beyond horrible.

    My best wishes and admiration to all the survivors of such horrific abuse. I hope all are able find some kind of normally and hope once freed from such cult communities. My heart breaks for those who did not survive and for those still living under such tyranny.

    I can’t believe we are in the 21st century yet still turn a blind eye to these kinds of brutal, criminal assualts in our own supposedly free nations (Canada, the US & other Western countries. All in the name of “respecting” religious and cultural “differences.” Some religious and cultural “differences” don’t deserve respect.

  7. iknklast says

    Blanche, Ophelia – thank you. 10 years of therapy convinced me it wasn’t my fault, but when the new incident arose, I had to go through it all again. It’s an ongoing struggle. This article just woke some old memories, that’s all.

    For the past three years, my molester has been sending me a Christmas card every year. It’s like they’re determined not to let a person get better. There really is no escape for the victim; the molester? He has no guilt at all. Nothing he did was wrong.

  8. Grace says

    That is so horrible, how the mother Fannie told the amish (so called dentist) to punish her Daughter Anna by pulling all her teeth, for the crimes her brothers did to her when they raped her! Her sons should all have had their tools removed so they could not rape her again!
    The mother, her sons and the amish (so called dentist) should all go to prison!
    If they would do that to all the men and boys who rape, the problem would be solved in a hurry, the 2 week ban is not even a slap on the wrist!
    It literally makes me sick to read what these little amish girls have to suffer and not be allowed to tell anyone!
    <3 God Bless These Girls <3

  9. Yvonne Hill says

    I ordered Misty’s book today and I know it will not be an easy book to read. It is a book I must read and I hope that more ppl will do the same and read it. THESE ANIMALS WHO RAPE NEED TO BE STOPPED. Just bc your amish doesn’t mean u r above the law … .It also reminds me of my upbringing in the Catholic religion. Wnere priests I know were raping children and all that happened to them was that they were transfered to another church. Where they could continue their behavior.
    We all need to stop this . I am so glad Misty wrote her story. I applaude you bc I know it was not easy Misty.

  10. Gilda Dedekind says

    Dear Misty

    I have just finished reading your book “Tears of the Silenced”

    I have been mortified to hear the atrocities that you and Samantha had to endure.

    I have read many books on the Amish and I have had a fascination for them. Not any more
    I might say Misty.

    I am every so sorry for the pain and suffering that you had to endure.
    I only pray that each and every person who does these things will be brought to book and pay
    for the things they have done.

    Please will you write to me and let me know whether your Mom and step dad have been brought to
    book as yet.

    Lots of love from Gilda

  11. marjorie shetler says

    Dear Misty Is there any way I can chat with you in private We used to be amish too But not that horrible strict type! How could we help those young girls So heart breaking Kanst do nach diech swetsa !!!! Majj

  12. says

    I am currently reading your book Misty. You are truly an Inspiration. What you had to endure is truly horrific. I am at the part where you are with Aunty Laura and studying and grandma has just come to stay – Oh yeah you answered the phone to Brian. I like getting insight into different religions, this one about the Amish is a real eye opener, never in my wildest dreams did I think this all happened.

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