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Photo: ‘Sins of the Amish’
‘Sins of the Amish,’ is a recently airing limited documentary series that is incredibly insightful and informative about the hidden horrors that exist within the closed societies of Amish and Mennonite people. This series takes aim and exposes the horrific atrocities committed by various members of the Amish communities. Multiple women that were either former Amish or Mennonite, speak about the abuse that they experienced, firsthand, and outline the ways in which these communities are designed to silence victims of various forms of assault. This series does an excellent job of building its evidence and forming the assertion that these closed societies can be places where even the most wicked of people can hide. In societies like these where there is no true threat of punishment for sexual abusers, crimes relating to this are swept out of sight, and predators are allowed to continue to act as they please without any consequences. The hidden reality of these closed societies is heartbreaking, as to an outsider these “plain communities,” are perceived as kind, generous, and caring.
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The Role of Women within Amish Communities
Women have a particularly difficult role within these closed societies. In Amish communities, the Church and religion that these people practice are all-powerful. Then below the Church, men are considered the head of the household and their word is law. Women and wives are told to do as their husband commands and to follow his orders. Women hold a submissive role in these communities and must rely upon the words of others to dictate how they should act or what they must do. It is with this level of control and power placed over women and children, that there is a clear opening for predators to abuse and assaults those that they hold authority over. In some instances with the people that were interviewed for the series, the wives themselves are victims of abuse and have no way of protecting their children from the same sexual assault that they are personally subject to.
The way that these communities are designed, there is no clear law or order besides that which has been established by the Church. Additionally, only men are allowed to hold positions of influence and authority, especially within the Church. Women in this way are considered to be property and the purpose that these communities have for women is that they must cook, clean, and provide children for their husbands. The basis upon which these communities are founded is one of control and silence.
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‘Sins of the Amish’: What Is The Scale Of The Abuse?
The scale of abuse that is captured by this docuseries is astounding. Every woman who was interviewed and featured in this series was a victim of sexual assault. In many instances, this sexual assault came at the hands of either their father, brother, or a close family member. After these victims were assaulted and they chose to tell someone about their abuse, they were told to “forgive,” their assaulter and to never speak of it again. In this way, these closed societies act as an oppressive, torturous system as it chooses to turn a blind eye to the sexual abuse of young women and children. In Amish society, the most powerful position one can attain within a community is a Bishop. This Bishop is the head of the communal Church in that area and wields great authority in that community. In one case a woman confessed that when she was a young girl, she moved to an Amish community and the Bishop of that particular area began molesting her.
She also stated that one day she walked in on the Bishop sexually assaulting his own daughter, and that moment is when realized that this monster was abusing all the children of that community. The heartbreaking aspect of this abuse is that in Amish communities if a member turns to the police outside of their society, this is considered a crime far greater than that of the abuser. These societies do not allow for any way in which victims of sexual assault can attain any semblance of justice. When a member of a community is considered the highest authority of that group of people, how is it possible for a victim ever to bring justice if that victim will be considered an outcast if they turn to outside law enforcement? The scale of abuse is far greater in these communities than outsiders will ever know and it is saddening to know that many young children and women are oppressed and subject to this constant sexual abuse without anyone there to help them.
Does This Limited Series Accurately Convey The Hidden Reality of Amish Societies?
Shockingly, this limited documentary series is incredibly accurate. It relies on the primary accounts of victims and former Amish. These women have first-hand knowledge of life within these closed communities as well as how predators operate within the confines of these societies. It is almost as if these societies have accepted the gross nature of this sexual assault upon their young women and children, as if it is as a part of daily life as any other thing. In one interview, the documentary covers the experiences of a former Amish member, Mary. Mary was a victim of extensive sexual assault at the hands of father, brothers, and cousin. Mary confessed to her mother what was happening and her mother told her to forgive and not speak of it again. Mary remained silent until she found out that her brothers were sexually assaulting her younger sister. When Mary learned of this she went to the police and they planted a wiretap on her. She then confronted her brothers and received their first-hand confessions.
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During her brothers’ sentencing, the Amish community sent four buses containing Amish members in support of her brothers, Johnny and Eli. These members did not care whether Mary and her sister had been raped. The only thing that they cared about was showing support for these Amish men who were being prosecuted by a system outside of their beliefs. There are video recordings of the courthouse where the seats are packed full of Amish members lending their support to these monsters. The backwardness and brainwashing that exists within these closed communities are insidious. They allow monsters to prey upon the innocent and do nothing to protect them. These societies even go so far as to shame these victims who would seek justice for their years of torture and assault. It is saddening to know the truth of the hidden realities of these communities, as now they only serve as proof that without fair law and order, this abuse will only be allowed to continue to exist.
By Thomas Jacobs
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Thomas Jacobs is an avid writer, Cinema aficionado, and filmmaker. He graduated with Dean’s Honors from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a major in Film and Digital Media. His passion is directly tied to the appreciation and creation of film and television, and this fact is reflected in his intent to be a writer for the acclaimed entertainment journal, The Hollywood Insider. His beliefs mirror the core goals and mission statement of The Hollywood Insider by sharing an admiration for quality entertainment as well as bolstering a sense of positivity and equality among all humans. Thomas believes that Cinema is an advantageous promoter of civil and social empowerment, and he shares a mutual societal view with The Hollywood Insider, that people should not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.