Friday, September 03, 2010

Sexual abuse among the Amish

Sexual abuse happens in every religion, even the Amish.

“Chester convinced her that he could take her stomachache away,” James Small, a detective with the Waushara County Sheriff’s Department, reported in Wisconsin court filings. He asked her to lie on his stomach, the probable cause statement said. “She recalled being on top of him in his bedroom and that he ultimately penetrated her.”

Although not a case of clergy sexual abuse, it is interesting to note how a closed religions community handles allegations of sexual abuse among it members. Chester Mast stands accused of assaulting six girls over in ten years. How did the Amish handle the problem? They handled it themselves.

“We tried to work with it ourselves,” said Joseph Wagler, the bishop for a neighboring church. “We punished him, and he owned up to it. We put him away from the church, as a community.”

Community members say that in an effort to cure Mr. Mast of his affliction, they excommunicated him on three occasions: in 2004 when he returned from Wisconsin amid accusations that he had raped his cousin; and again in 2009, when new revelations surfaced of his alleged sexual misconduct. The third excommunication came this year, when after a tortuous internal debate, the community appealed to law enforcement.

I sure hope there are mandatory reporter laws in play here. The pastors who let Mast come back and abuse again are culpable, as are the other adults who allowed him to continue to abuse.

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