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Austin Cline

Amish Rape Scandals

By August 28, 2004

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One doesn't normally think of the Amish when it comes to sex scandals, but that's what is going on in Wisconsin: a man has been jailed for raping and molesting his sister for years.

The Star Tribune explains:

"I was molested by my father when I was 3 and gang-raped day after day by my cousins and brothers, starting when I was 6 or 7," [Mary Byler] told the Star Tribune before Wednesday's sentencing. Byler, 20, alleges that she was raped more than 200 times by members of the Amish family in which she grew up. "And when I'd tell my mother about it, she'd tell me that if I had prayed harder, fought harder, these things wouldn't happen.“
"I was sent to school ... and my mother told me, 'If you truly don't want this to happen, it won't.' I've been judged by the Amish all my life. I've been on trial all my life." ... Eli Byler, 24, who told the Star Tribune in April that he first raped his sister when Mary was 8 and he was 12, was sentenced to eight years in prison Wednesday after previously pleading guilty to one count of the sexual assault of a child. "Eli, I hope you still hear my screaming in your nightmares," Mary Byler said in court, reading from a prepared statement as family members and nearly two dozen other Amish listened. "You were my brother. "You should have protected me . . . and you raped me."
Eli Byler, one of three brothers charged with sexual assault of a child, told the court, "I believe God will forgive me."

Does this sound like remorse? Not to me.

David Byler, 18, is charged with two counts of the sexual assault of a child, a relative who is now 6 years old. For Mary Byler, the alleged assaults by her younger brother were the breaking point that prompted her to contact authorities in southwestern Wisconsin's Vernon County. Viroqua is about 25 miles southeast of La Crosse. ... "I don't want her to grow up like I did," Mary Byler said, her shaky hands lighting one cigarette after another. "It scares the hell out of me. More than a dozen women who left the Amish have contacted me and told me they were raped by their fathers, brothers, uncles and cousins. But they couldn't tell a soul because it's such a closed society."

The Amish tried to handle things themselves by banishing one brother from church for six weeks and forbidding the other from associating with church members until he had “improved” his character. Some “punishment.”

"If it happened many times, it's not rape anymore. She's probably asking for it," said Byler's stepfather, William Kempf, 78, in a Star Tribune interview in April. On Wednesday, he said before the sentencing: "Mary's been brainwashed." Kempf, charged with three counts of sexual assault and one count of battery against Mary Byler, pleaded no contest last month to lesser charges of misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct and was sentenced to 18 months probation. His comments were typical of what Mary Byler said she's heard since her childhood in western Pennsylvania, where the sexual assaults began, she said. She recalls her father, Abraham Byler, awakening her "and just plain molesting me" when she was 3 or 4.

It’s awfully convenient that a man accused of molesting and raping a little girl would think that, once he does it multiple times, it’s not longer his fault because she was just “asking for it” all along. This sort of closed, insular community is a breeding ground for crimes like this because there is no independent authorities to observe or evaluate what is going on. Abuse of all sorts happens easily and often in situations where accountability is hard to find.

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Comments
May 21, 2008 at 10:11 pm
(1) Priyanka says:

Indian(The asian subcontinent-India)society is not Amish but these type of crimes go unreported each day.We talke pride in our cultural history and the rest but we donot question the sexual crimes against children and helpless women.

August 16, 2010 at 12:59 am
(2) my says:

In societies where women are seen as possessions and subordinate to men these kinds of crimes are usually rampant and serious. The punishment doesnt fit the crime and the abuse continues to the detriment of the victim and for generations thereafter.The victim is left with no one to turn to.
How can you turn someone away whos asking for help
These people who are supposed to help should start growing a backbone!

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