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  • Writer's pictureMary Byler

Amish Abuse Awareness Part 3

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

"Gaslighting in the Name of God"

Edited by: The Anonymous Athiest

I was hopeful when I heard there even was an "Amish Abuse Awareness" meeting. Meetings like this did not exist when I was Amish. I was hopeful that going there, I might hear some things like: "When someone discloses, believe them." "Here's a list of ways to help prevent abuse..." "When someone discloses, religious ministry in PA are considered mandated reporters and must report to the proper authorities. Every. Single Time." "Educators are mandated reporters and must report any suspected abuse, by law." "Here are some terms and translations to help you understand what we mean by saying things like 'mandated reporters', 'perpetrators', 'victims', 'survivors', etc." "When children are young, it is important to teach them 'safe touch' and 'not safe touch', here are some examples..." Those are some examples of what I had hoped to see and hear.  As I sat and listened to more than seven hours of talks at that conference, I felt every emotion known to man.  I was so sorely disappointed. After I left the meeting, I drove back to my hotel. I had planned to attend a church service that day. I couldn't. I cried. I wrote. I wept. I chatted with a friend.  I did a livestream about the meeting and through it all I kept thinking, "This is blatant gaslighting victims, designed to elicit empathy for perpetrators in the name of God." Gaslight: verb (used with object), gas·light·ed or gas·lit, gas·light·ing. A form of psychological abuse wherein an abuser causes a victim to question their own sanity. This was not a case of hearing one or two stray comments.  I was organizing my thoughts on exactly what was said that struck me as gaslighting, but then I realized that there was not much said that wasn't some kind of manipulation.  Was it gaslighting to hear someone say, " ...the Bible says Woman Must be Silent"? Or could it be saying, "you must "Les es gehe..." (let it go)? Or, "die Frau miss stuft fagehlesse..." (another way to say, "let it go")? Or challenging victims to "...within the next seven days, look in the mirror and bury your 'things', in the ground"? Or, " must pray..." as the simple solution for both the perpetrator and the victim? The last, most egregious example: "Abused children are attention-seeking." I am not a psychologist; I cannot say for sure.  But I had to ask myself, "Was this gaslighting done in the name of God?" The time at that conference could have been much better spent by talking about how children who have undergone trauma or abuse in any form require medical treatment from a qualified mental health provider who is trained in trauma.  It's been proven that children who experience trauma and don't receive appropriate support can end up with complex PTSD as a consequence. Here's a quote from an article that outlines some of the effects of trauma on children: "Because childhood abuse, neglect, and trauma change brain structure and chemical function, maltreatment can also affect the way children behave, regulate emotion and function socially. These potentially life-long effects include: - Being constantly alert and unable to relax, no matter the situation - Feeling fearful most or all of the time - Finding social situations more challenging - Learning deficits/disorders - Not reaching developmental milestones in a timely fashion - A tendency to develop depression and/or anxiety disorder(s) - A weakened ability to process positive feedback (Source: I'd like to explain something that appeared to be lacking as well.  "Children cannot consent to sex" was missing from the content. I repeat: a child cannot consent. The laws in each state may vary, but children cannot consent to have sex with an adult.  Children are inherently innocent and filled with joy and love of life.  Abused children did not CHOOSE to be abused.  They require support from professionals, and families need to have patience while supporting them. Victims need empathy and compassion, they need to be allowed to process the trauma.  They did not choose this. Show your children you love them, that you're there for them, listen to them, allow them a safe space to let out their frustrations, pain and feelings.  What may seem minor to you may have been the ticket to triggering your child's trauma response in their brain. My suggestion: love your children and embrace who they are. 

This is Part 3 of a series on the Amish Abuse Awareness conference in Loganton, PA, on the 22nd of May, 2021.

Look for Part 4 "All Perpetrators Were Victims" next week.

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