Amish Abuse Awareness Conference #2
Updated: Oct 2
Intro to SW Practice Methods #13253
Professor Tracey Pritchard
Cultural Immersion Paper
For the Cultural Immersion assignment, I selected the Amish community of Holmes County Ohio. I am building a house in Knox County and have noticed a large presence of Amish in the area (my home builders are a family of Amish) and upon graduation I will be working in and around this population. My previous experience with this population is strictly as a tourist, encountering them while traveling to get home cooked food, taking a relaxing drive through farmland, while trying to escape technology. They seem friendly but not overbearingly so, their children are always obedient and never disruptive, and all are dressed in modest clothing. This population has skilled craftsman, farmers, bakers, and quilters if you only looked at the Amish goods sold in stores most frequented by tourists in towns like Berlin and Walnut Creek. I wanted to look deeper than the surface of this population and see where they might be vulnerable and need assistance.
My first experience immersing myself into the culture started with an informal meeting with Hope Anne Dueck, one of the co-founders of the organization known as, A Better Way. The mission of this Christian organization is: “equip trusted adults in children’s lives with the tools to recognize and respond to potential and actual child sexual abuse.” Hope Anne Dueck is a child abuse prevention educator and victims advocate with roots in the Amish community. She understands the population and the vulnerabilities that exist for the children because of long held beliefs and practices of their culture. She does not hesitate to share her knowledge and resources with law enforcement, court systems, social workers, churches, and teachers to name a few. She dresses somewhat plainly so that she can blend in more with the communities, so that they feel “safe” talking to one of their own and not an “outsider”. She serves a mixed population of Mennonite, Amish, and “Englishers”. Dueck shared the brochures her organization uses for distribution to the above-mentioned communities (which is basically everyone) and makes them available to law enforcement, schools, conferences and various other agencies. These brochures focus on types of abuse, terms used when reporting abuse, consent, and recently added into her arsenal, a brochure with dolls that show and name various body parts for both girls and boys. This meeting with Hope Anne was essential as she laid the framework for the next immersion project; attending the Abuse Awareness Meeting at a Holmes County community center in Millersburg, Ohio.
The Abuse Awareness Meeting had an attendance of over 400 male and female Amish. I was 1 of 4 people who were not from the Amish population in attendance that day. I drove myself, but sat with my friend Hope Anne Dueck and 2 of her friends who are also victim advocates. The meeting began with hymns in Pennsylvania Dutch or German and proceeded to have speakers from an all-older bearded man panel of 5 or 6. Topics included: The Headship of the Home, Addiction and Pornography, and a Question-and-Answer segment. A personal account given by a younger Amish man of his sexual abuse that he experienced as a young child was discussed at length with no specific details, followed by an even briefer explanation as to why he then molested his eleven-year-old cousin at the age of eighteen, followed by a lengthy speech about how terribly lonely prison was as he served his 6-month sentence. His victim was briefly referred to but given 1 minute of his thirty-minute speech. He did appear to be uncomfortable telling his story but certainly did use the word “I” excessively. Example: “I was hurt. I was selfish. I struggled. I was lonely.” The final topic was given by a gentleman named Harley A. Miller the title of his speech was: A woman’s view of being molested. The Q and A section was interesting, and I wondered if anyone would ask why a woman wasn’t giving that speech. In fact, someone did ask the question and the solution was to let a woman write a letter and a man would read it at the next conference. There was a segment called: An Abuse Case, which had no references to an abuse case or how to report one, or any definitions of abuse. But in the agenda paper underneath the title of the segment was this: Church-Ministers-Family-Law. I could not help but wonder if this was the sequence that Amish are to follow. First report to your Church, then your Minister, your Family, and then, finally, Law.
My friend had prepared me for some of what I might hear regarding treatment of victims, females, and dress codes, and I was looking forward to hearing how the Amish community handles abuse cases and prevention. I dressed conservatively and I now know that more coverage is better, and less jewelry is a good idea too. In order to build a trusting relationship, I do not want to dress in a manner that would be off-putting and make them feel uncomfortable while telling me personal accounts. I was also very disturbed by the speakers being all male, the disparaging comments toward women and the control they had over the audience. The center was very quiet with no one speaking much at all, even at breaks and lunchtime. Certainly not like the typical high school cafeteria at lunchtime. Soft spoken seemed to be the desired voice tone. I was angry and saddened by the oppression I feel the females endure in this population. For all the pride that the men felt in putting together the conference, I did not feel that it answered any questions about how to report or prevent abuse. To say it was a good effort would be a lie. It seemed more of an effort to continue the line of authority: Church-Ministry-Family- and the last resort would be Law.
I did not feel uncomfortable, but more convinced that help is needed and that walking softly and patiently in this population might be necessary. My previous beliefs in seeing picturesque fields with children tumbling out of their little white schools and dressed adorably cute does not exist anymore. I know that they are a community and population ravaged by the same things “we” face. Child abuse knows no barriers and no community can be free from protecting the children from perpetrators. The Church does not have the capabilities of stopping humans from hurting each other, but it does offer a pathway to healing and it could be effective here, however the church wants to be the authority and in cases of abuse it cannot be. One speaker suggested that to protect women, males should not look at them below their neck and that bitterness and promiscuous behavior from females were the undesirable results of sexual abuse and these two things would make for a bad marriage. He also expounded that woman were the weaker vessel because they are emotionally unstable because of their hormones and that the lack of circumcision in male babies could lead to behavior associated with sexual sin and potential deviant behavior. Other speakers spoke of trust and accountability within the church. One speaker suggested that you should only talk to someone you trust because “if you talk to someone and church people come around and start asking a lot of questions….” He trailed off here and implied with his silence that you do not want people asking questions. His message was clear. Still another speaker indicated that women should never disrespect their husbands by raising their voice, nor should they go behind closed doors to argue. They should accept the husbands’ decisions as he is the authority and head of the female and the family. No need to raise your voice and protest because you are emotionally unstable anyway and no one should even see you except above your neck. If you have been abused as a female, this will undoubtedly cause marriage issues for your husband. So, girl get some help for that, so you don’t cause this in your marriage. Go find your perpetrator and ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness to the perpetrator sooner than later for his benefit and yours (but mainly his) because we wouldn’t want him to reach the end of his life never dealing with the issue and perhaps not get into heaven. You don’t want that on your conscience, do you? Subtle messages, with a huge impact..oppression.
To summarize the impact of the conference and my private time with Hope Anne Dueck beforehand, I would say it was life changing. It took me a few days to even function after a 9am to 4pm conference. I wanted to drive up the next day and “rescue” everyone from scary bearded men. After a while I settled down and realized that of course, not everyone is an abuser and there are very fine Amish people, but I do feel that the Amish female population is being oppressed and that their voices are not being heard. I want to be able to be that trusted listening ear for them. Should I have the privilege of being able to help in the future I am sure I will utilize what I experienced at the conference, and I know that my friend Hope Ann Dueck will always be a trusted resource when I need more insight. The purpose of this assignment was to make the “other” become more familiar. I feel that the two experiences I had and reading a few books that were for sale at the conference helped me see the population in a more accurate light. I will close with Hopes words to me: “The big takeaway, what everyone needs to know, is that Amish and Mennonites are fully human just like anyone else. They have good people and awful people and wonderful people, just like everywhere else.”
Beachy, Esther (2019). The Roar of Silence. Stone House Publishing
Abuse Awareness Meeting September 25th, 2021 Millersburg, Ohio
A Better Way Co-Founder Hope Anne Dueck (private meeting/ planning for upcoming Abuse Awareness Meeting)
Griffin, Misty (2020) Tears of the Silenced
Tammy Dannemiller has an Associate’s degree in the arts and sciences working towards her BSW. Bachelors of Social work. She is currently a junior. This paper was an assignment for one of her classes.
" This paper was worth 100 points but it seems like I learned a million life lessons from this one assignment, making it the most valuable paper I have ever done."