• The Misfit Amish LLC

Update 4: CSA in Amish, Mennonite, Hutterite, Anabaptist & Other Religious Communities

Updated: Oct 3

Prevention of Childhood Sexual Violence

By Mary Byler and Tara Mitchell


What you teach your children can be vital to the prevention of sexual violence in childhood. We performed an analysis of these questions:

*Based on the National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s description of child sexual abuse, did you experience child sexual abuse?

*Were you taught that child sexual abuse was a sin?

*Were you taught child sexual abuse was a crime?


We asked these questions because we wanted to better understand the relationship between English as a second language as well as the relationship between religious and secular groups when it comes to child sexual abuse.

In this article we are presenting the information we found. People who were taught child sexual abuse is a sin and a crime, were the least likely to also report having experienced child sexual abuse.

Based on that, we recommend parents can help prevent their children from experiencing child sexual abuse by having open and frequent age-appropriate discussions that include these themes in a religious setting.


The relationships among people belonging to a church being taught child sexual abuse was a sin, being taught child sexual abuse was a crime, and experiencing child sexual abuse were explored.


First, the relationship between being taught child sexual abuse was a sin and being taught child sexual abuse was a crime was explored, taking into account the participants’ church heritage: born Anabaptist, joined Anabaptist, or raised other.


There was significant difference for our 58 participants raised as part of a church that was not Anabaptist who answered the questions about being taught child sexual abuse was a sin or a crime. Of the 19 participants who were not taught it was a sin, 68% were also not taught it was a crime and 32% were taught it was a crime. However, of the 39 participants who were taught it was a sin, 82% were also taught it was a crime and only 18% were not. In essence, these participants were most likely to be taught that it was both a sin and a crime; however, those who were not taught it was a sin were still more likely to not be taught it was a crime either.


There was a marginal difference for our 20 participants who joined the Anabaptist church that answered the questions about being taught child sexual abuse is a sin or a crime. Nine of them were not taught it was a sin, and, of those 9, 89% were also not taught it was a crime. Of the 11 who were taught it was a sin, 46% were also taught it was a crime. This was likely only a marginal difference because of the low number of participants who joined an Anabaptist church in childhood. It is important to note, though, if participants were NOT taught it was a sin, they likely weren’t taught anything at all. But even of those who were taught it was a sin, only 46% were taught it was a crime.


Finally, there was a significant difference for our 240 participants who were born Anabaptist that answered the questions about being taught child sexual abuse was a sin or a crime. Of the 240 participants, 97 were not taught it was a sin. Of those 97, 93% were also not taught it was a crime. Of the 143 participants who were taught it was a sin, 59% were also taught it was a crime. The pattern of their responses was quite similar to the participants who joined the Anabaptist church; the greater number of born Anabaptists allows these tests to be more powerful. However, it is also worth noting that the most common combination for Anabaptists born and joined was they were not taught anything at all. However, the second most common combination for born Anabaptists was being taught it was both a sin and a crime, whereas the second most common combination for joined Anabaptists was being taught only that it was a sin. It is difficult to draw conclusions from this pattern, based only on 20 people who joined the Anabaptist church, but it does warrant further consideration of the unique perspectives of those who joined the Anabaptist church.


We examined people who reported no teaching, sin only teaching, crime only teaching, and both teachings. We then examined the relationship between participants’ personal experience of abuse and type of teaching. There was a significant difference in experience of abuse based on type of teaching.


Interestingly, of the 27 people who were unsure about being abused, the participants were equally likely to not be taught anything, be taught it was a sin, and be taught it was both. The participants were least likely to be unsure if they were taught it was a crime only. However, only 14 people out of the 318 were only taught it was a crime, so it is difficult to draw any conclusions about that type of teaching. Because we do not know the context within which the child was taught it was a crime, nor do we have a sizable amount of data re: teaching children that CSA is a crime. We do have data that suggests repeated and open conversations with children that are age and gender appropriate serve as a mitigating risk factor when it comes to childhood sexual violence (Manheim, M., Felicetti, R., Moloney, G. 2019).


Of the 155 who were abused, the majority (51%) were not taught anything, with another 28% only taught it was a sin. Only 16% of those abused were taught it was both a sin and a crime. The opposite pattern was true for those who were not abused. The majority (64%) were taught it was a sin and a crime, 16% were taught it was only a sin, and 18% were not taught anything.




In essence, one of the biggest differences between our participants who were abused and not abused is what type of teaching about child sexual assault they received. Those who were abused were most likely not to be taught it was a sin or a crime, whereas those who were not abused were most likely to be taught it was both. Being taught it was a sin only was not as beneficial as being taught it was both, but at least being taught it was a sin was better than being taught nothing at all. Therefore, one way you can protect your children from child sexual abuse is to teach them that child sexual abuse is both a sin and a crime.


References:

Manheim, M., Felicetti, R., Moloney, G. (2019). Child Sexual Abuse Victimization Prevention Programs in Preschool and Kindergarten: Implications for Practice, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 28, NO. 6, 745–757

https://doi.org/10.1080/10538712.2019.1627687


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