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The Memoir "Why I Left the Amish" shatters our illusion of an innocent, Amish childhood

The Amish have always been a part of my life. As a child, we visited Lancaster, PA frequently. Some of my favorite toys were cast iron Amish figures, complete with two children on a see-saw. Today, of course, Amish live among us on the Eastern Shore, and we regularly "brake for buggys". We have Amish markets in Crumpton, Easton and Middletown, DE. I've traveled to an Amish farm near Dover to purchase fresh milk. I even took my children there to play for several hours when the Amish kids had chicken pox- though mine stubbornly refused to contract the illness. 

My vision of an Amish childhood involves lots of animals. chores, laughter, good food and family togetherness. But I'm now reading a book that has me questioning that innocence. 

"Why I Left the Amish", a memoir by Saloma Miller Furlong, has opened my eyes to the possibility of physical, emotional and sexual abuse among the Amish.  Furlong, raised in Ohio, believes her father suffered from some form of mental illness that made him reclusive and violent. The Amish community was unable to deal with the challenges and the children were left to fend for themselves.

The plight of the eldest son is particularly terrifying to me. He was apparently sexually molested while working on a nearby English horse farm, and Furlong believes Amish boys are highly sought after by pediophiles, as they're trained to be obedient and to NOT make waves. This, combined with a physically abusive father, resulted in a young man that could easily show up on a Criminal Minds show as a serial killer.  He tortures rabbits, refusing to let his siblings feed them as he determines how long it takes them to starve to death. He sexually molests his many sisters, resulting in at least one pregnancy. Their mother is aware of the abuse - but does nothing except blame the girls for allowing the behavior.  

I've never considered abuse among the Amish. But abuse among any group of people that do NOT seek support or help from outside their insulated community has to be an abuser's nirvana. They can do whatever they want - without consequence. Recently an Amish leader has taken grief for shaving off beards as a punishment. Perhaps this was the only punishment they could imagine? Real problems, and real abuse, need to be monitored and governed by our state and federal systems, regardless of religious belief. 

Because if Amish mothers don't have the power to protect their adorable children - we need to do so. 

Saloma Furlong's Website   

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