Incest in Amish communities

shesulsa

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I'm speechless.

This is what is known as a cult. The authorities have been known to go after people like this en masse, yet ignore other factions. Why?

Will these victims ever be vindicated? Will these communities be destroyed if all the offenders are removed and prosecuted? One almost wonders what horrific retaliation they might engage when confronted and a war on incest is declared - not that it ever would be...bigger things to chase, you know, like oil and money.

*sigh*

I am sick to my stomach now. Where is the public outrage? Where is the champion of the cause? Who will do it?
 

Floating Egg

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I think the key issue in this article is molestation rather than incest. I'm not advocating incest, but it's not always connected to sexual abuse. This clarification may seem to be a moot point considering the consequences, but incest itself is such a complicated topic that it kind of muddies the water of discussion.

The really sad thing is that the Amish also have a history of covering up murders and rapes. None of this, unfortunately, is all that surprising when looked at in context of history. Insular male dominated communities are dangerous enough as it is, but by combining that with ignorance and relgious certainty you're left with a festering wound that is very difficult to heal.
 

loki09789

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Feisty Mouse said:
This article is too long for me to copy and paste here.

http://www.legalaffairs.org/issues/January-February-2005/feature_labi_janfeb05.html

Is this what happens when the rest of America idealizes a subculture so much - that we effectively allow citizens to be so isolated they can be trapped in this way?

It's horrific.
I hesitate to throw the baby out with the bathwater on this one. It may have happened in an insular community. It may have been incestuous because it was relatives that were victimizing her BUT the point is that she was molested. It would be just as horrible if it were her school teacher/priest/boss.....if it was so regular.

Upstate NY (not Amish for the most part) has a high incest/molestation rate as well. I think it comes down to isolation more than anything else.
 

shesulsa

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Floating Egg said:
I think the key issue in this article is molestation rather than incest. I'm not advocating incest, but it's not always connected to sexual abuse. This clarification may seem to be a moot point considering the consequences, but incest itself is such a complicated topic that it kind of muddies the water of discussion.

I find your bait irresistable. What do you define as incest or how are you defining incest as opposed to molestation or rape?

Floating Egg said:
The really sad thing is that the Amish also have a history of covering up murders and rapes. None of this, unfortunately, is all that surprising when looked at in context of history. Insular male dominated communities are dangerous enough as it is, but by combining that with ignorance and relgious certainty you're left with a festering wound that is very difficult to heal.

Agreed. And more difficult to rectify, since the Bible is such a great hiding place for so many.
 

loki09789

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shesulsa said:
I find your bait irresistable. What do you define as incest or how are you defining incest as opposed to molestation or rape?



Agreed. And more difficult to rectify, since the Bible is such a great hiding place for so many.
I made the same distinction so I will take your bait:) and reply:

Incest is sexual relations between first biological cousins or closer (as it is generally defined now). That could be consentual and between adults.

Molestation/Rape is different because of the power/violent intent behind the act and the target of the act.

I do agree there is usually a strong tie/correlation between the two (father/mother molest own child therefore it is incest) but they are not synonymous
 
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Feisty Mouse

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Isolation, insulation.... and the overwhelming concept of submission to another person or people, and the concept that once a person has said "I'm sorry for _____" you have to act as if it is done, you cannot speak of it again.

I think there is a difference between humility and forced subservience, and the wrong path has been emphasized here.

People should be allowed to have a voice, and be allowed some personal dignity. Being in a situation where you are forced to submit your body to another for any use they deem fit... no, no, no. No.

ETA: I think the cases were both incestual and molestation/rape.
 

Floating Egg

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It wasn't intended as bait, but after re-reading my post I can see how it was interpreted as such. I think loki09789 addressed the issue quite well, though I will go a bit further to emphasize what was implied in his post, and that is that the definition of molestation is open to a great deal of interpretation.

Wikipedia has a very nice section dealing with incest. In particular, its mention of the Trobriand Islanders is quite interesting. I've referenced the passage in question below:

For example, Trobriand Islanders prohibit both sexual relations between a man and his mother, and between a woman and her father, but they describe these prohibitions in very different ways: relations between a man and his mother fall within the category of forbidden relations among members of the same clan; relations between a woman and her father do not. This is because the Trobrianders are matrilineal; children belong to the clan of their mother and not of their father. Thus, sexual relations between a man and his mother's sister (and mother's sister's daughter) are also considered incestuous, but relations between a man and his father's sister are not. Indeed, a man and his father's sister will often have a flirtatious relationship, and a man and the daughter of his father's sister may prefer to have sexual relations or marry.
 

Floating Egg

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People should be allowed to have a voice, and be allowed some personal dignity. Being in a situation where you are forced to submit your body to another for any use they deem fit... no, no, no. No.
While I agree in principle, there is a long line of people behind us that have tried to impose what should be, only to succumb to the very thing that they despise.

Equally disturbing is that people suffer today as much as they ever did, and that there's a good chance that they will go on suffering. My heart goes out to these people because I too dream of what should be.
 
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Feisty Mouse

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F.E. ~ I'm not exactly sure what it is that you're saying, in regards to these cases in particular. So there should be some cases in which you should completely submit yourself to the whims of another? I'm not clear on your point.

And although incest does not always = molestation, I believe that it is in these cases.
 

hardheadjarhead

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I wouldn't call the Amish a "cult." If we follow the idea that the difference between a cult and a religion is merely 200 years, then they don't qualify as a cult.

The Amish are one of the oldest religious sects in America. They're descended from the Anabaptists, and their roots go back to the sixteenth century. They arrived in America around 1730 and settled in Pennsylvania. They're now located in 24 states. We have a number of Amish and Mennonites here in Indiana.

Here are the problems I see:

1. A religious demand for unquestioned obedience and deferment to males.

2. The emphasis on separation of church and state taken to such an extreme that secular law enforcement is left in the dark or is rendered otherwise powerless.

3. The Amish community mandating "forgiveness" instead of excommunicating its members.

4. A failure to exercise Meidung, or shunning, of those perpetrating the crime.

5. An extremely reactionary mindset that leaves them isolated from--and hundreds of years behind--the rest of the world.

Fifty years ago incest wasn't talked about much in our society. It was something that "hillbillies" practiced. Decent people didn't do those sorts of things...or so we thought.

Today in the United States that particular skeleton is mostly out of the closet. We recognize it for what it is and how it occurs. Not so with the Amish. Their family secrets are much more easily kept hidden, isolated as they are on the fringes of our world.

The incest isn't occuring because they're Amish. There is nothing inherently evil in their religion. What evil that exists among the Amish festers because of a staunch refusal to talk about such things openly. They see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Like a dysfunctional family, they pretend it isn't happening.

One might assume that this "clamming up" is a result of their religious culture. Argument could be made for this, I suppose, from the perspective that staunch religiosity breeds priggishness. Priggishness gives rise to ignorance and silence. Ignorance and silence nutures hidden immoralities.

But we musn't be quick to demonize the Amish because of this. We really have no idea as to the extent of such abuse. There is no ruler to measure the prevalence of these crimes. If we assume the rot exists throughout the Amish community we err; and fail in doing so to look at the positive aspects of their lifestyle.

Regards,


Steve
 

Floating Egg

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F.E. ~ I'm not exactly sure what it is that you're saying, in regards to these cases in particular. So there should be some cases in which you should completely submit yourself to the whims of another? I'm not clear on your point.
What I'm refering to is the danger of imposing a system of values. It's a double edged sword.
 
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Feisty Mouse

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Good point, Steve.

I did not post this with the intention of saying, "The Amish much die!" or that the Amish lifestyle = molestation.

What creeped me out about the article was the possible pervasiveness, due to the nature of the society, and the isolation, included with the fact that, once confessed, a transgression may never be mentioned again.
 

shesulsa

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FM, I agree.

Steve, I concur with Feisty when I say that I do not intend to infer that all Amish are evil nor that all Amish are cultish. However, these factions who condone repeated transgressions which harm others IS evil, IMHO. These transgressions (a.k.a. crimes) are not only tolerated, but it can be presumed, according to their lack of action in instigating shunning in these cases, that the loyalty is NOT to the word of God or Christ nor the act of being Christ-like, but allegiance to an insufferable ideal which is harmful to others. That is how I find the appropriateness to apply the word cult in this case.

Those who spoke of isolation: I find it interesting that we can't have people too spread apart, nor too close together. Curious things happen with a lack of or too much exposure.

So how does everyone feel the law should intercede here - or should it?
 
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Feisty Mouse

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I, for one, certainly thing the law should intervene in some way. These are American citizens, even if they desire to isolate themselves from contemporary culture as much as possible. If children are being molested, they should be able to say something about it, get out of the situation, move to a friendly place.

I cannot condone keeping children - or adults - in a situation where they will be repeatedly molested and raped. That just does not make sense to me. And whilst I respect other cultures, I do not think a) rape is ever to be condoned, and b) the Amish culture is "about" these kinds of situations ~ they seem to be trying to hush up the crimes (which is pretty typical of lots of relatively closed communities, including academia, business, military, etc.), but this is not a "value" of theirs.

So yes, legal aid and intervention should be there.
 

GAB

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Feisty Mouse said:
I, for one, certainly thing the law should intervene in some way. These are American citizens, even if they desire to isolate themselves from contemporary culture as much as possible. If children are being molested, they should be able to say something about it, get out of the situation, move to a friendly place.

I cannot condone keeping children - or adults - in a situation where they will be repeatedly molested and raped. That just does not make sense to me. And whilst I respect other cultures, I do not think a) rape is ever to be condoned, and b) the Amish culture is "about" these kinds of situations ~ they seem to be trying to hush up the crimes (which is pretty typical of lots of relatively closed communities, including academia, business, military, etc.), but this is not a "value" of theirs.

So yes, legal aid and intervention should be there.
Feisty,

Could not have said it any better, that's why I waited.

It should not surprise anyone, it has been around forever.

I would hope someone in the position to do something will.

Regards, Gary
 

Lisa

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Yes, I agree Feisty, the law should do something about this. The law is written for each and every citizen and should not exclude anyone because of race or culture, that in itself would be discriminatory. Rape and molestation of children is disgusting and wrong, plain and simple. The laws are written to protect those who can not help themselves. Our children deserve the best chance they can get to live a healthy and happy life.
 
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Melissa426

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This discussion reminds me of the whole Priest/altar-boy abuse allegations.

Perpetrator was a person in power, not to be questioned, was supposed to be a trustworthy person in an authority position. Many people knew but did nothing to protect the victims. Hush-hush, sweep it under the rug attitude towards the whole things.

Just as we can not sweep the entire Catholic priesthood with the molestation brush, nor can we condemn the Amish population as a whole. This quote, from the article, says it all, IMHO.

" No statistics are available, but according to one Amish counselor who works with troubled church members across the Midwest, sexual abuse of children is "almost a plague in some communities." "

a. No statistics are available.
b. What the he11 does "almost a plague" actually mean?

The Amish are not as isolated as many people believe. I am in healthcare and see many, many Amish at the hospital I work at. The women deliver their babies here. I know pediatricians who take care of the children. They are required to go to school .

If a teacher or doctor or nurse were to see signs of abuse, by law, they are required to report it, same as non-Amish. No police department would hesitate to investigate, even if the Amish leaders requested they not, which I don't think they would. Maybe attitudes are different among different Amish communities

If Amish church leaders or other adults know about the abuse and do nothing to stop the perpatrator, they should be accountable under the law, same as the Catholic authorities.

For what it's worth...
Melissa
 

Floating Egg

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My biggest question has to do with what kind of affect intervention would have on the Amish community, and whether or not it matters. It seems to me that if the flood gates were opened for outside intervention in sexual abuse cases, then they will also open in other areas.

It's conceivable that because of outside intervention the Amish community could dissolve. I'm already aware of one point of view which dictates that the lack of a real education for Amish children is a form of abuse. Mental illnesses also go untreated among the adult population, which could be viewed as a human rights violation.

I don't claim to have any answers, just a lot of questions. My immediate emotional reaction tells me that a child's personal safety is more important than the preservation of culture, but when I start thinking about all the possible avenues I get a headache. I'm sure this kind of thing has been dealt with in an episode of Star Trek.
 
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Feisty Mouse

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Floating Egg said:
I don't claim to have any answers, just a lot of questions. My immediate emotional reaction tells me that a child's personal safety is more important than the preservation of culture, but when I start thinking about all the possible avenues I get a headache. I'm sure this kind of thing has been dealt with in an episode of Star Trek.
:D I understand what you're saying.

From the article, at least, it sounds like the Amish communities involved would not necessarily collapse, since the child or children (or, later, adults) who left were shunned.

What could be done to try and preserve a culture while protecting children who have been harmed?

I think a lot of things are shades of grey. The Amish culture might have to alter some to accomodate the American legal system (such as it is, with its own flaws), but it need not disappear or be swept under.
 
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