By far the most damning piece of the puzzle is the way some Amish leaders brainwash their youngsters to believe that nightmares like rape and incest are not just normal, but always the girl’s fault. While unpacking some of her old Amish materials, Mary uncovers one of her old sex education pamphlets titled “To the Girl of Eleven,” one of the only informative resources she had.
“This sex urge, once it is awakened and active in a young boy at the age of puberty and beyond, can become a powerful driving force within. Every decent girl will do her best to help him, and not make it harder for him. Even in your own home, if you have brothers in your teens, you should be mindful of this,” she reads. “Your brother innocently coming upon you and seeing your partly uncovered body may suddenly have strong sexual desires aroused within him. His intentions were not bad, but he suddenly finds himself a victim of your carelessness in the lust of his own body.”
The pamphlet also encourages young girls not to appear in scanty nightclothes or climb up ladders around their male family members, to keep their dress closed, and to close their door at night so that their brothers do not feel inclined to molest their sisters if they spot them half-naked in bed.
Still, a closed door didn’t prevent Mary’s brother from raping her in the middle of the night. She says she used to sprint to her room before he could catch her, but locking the door wasn’t enough.
“He would take off the hinges,” Mary tearfully recalls. “I remember him grabbing me and then I remember instantly splitting into two people. Like I wasn’t even there. When I came back, the door was closing, and he was gone.”
Mary eventually left the community and took her two abusive brothers to court. It would be hard to argue there was justice. Her elder brother Johnny, who confessed to raping Mary upwards of 200 times, was given one year in jail with the ability to leave and work, and 10 years of probation. Along with that, busloads of Amish people arrived at the hearing to defend Mary’s rapist brothers.
“I have a feeling she is doing this out of spite more than anything,” Mary’s own mother wrote to the judge. “Ever since I learned to know Mary personally, she had a habit of making things sound worse than they really are.”
Why the flurry of hate towards Mary? There is the belief that speaking out against rape is actually a worse sin than the rape itself. To publicly accuse an Amish brother of such an act is to ruin his life, so you must forgive him instead of going to the police or spreading gossip.
On top of this abuse, “the Lord commands” that physical discipline must begin at 3 months old, meaning Amish fathers are expected to beat their children from infancy. One woman recounts how her father used to ask her baby sister to clap and smile, and when she inevitably didn’t—babies can’t understand words—the father would beat the baby.