Mary Byler: Abuse and Incest Among The Amish

January 24, 2005

Impressed by their piety, courts have permitted the Amish to live outside the law. But in some places, the group's ethic of forgive and forget has produced a plague of incest—and let many perpetrators go unpunished.

When she wrote the letter that she hoped would protect her sister, Mary Byler was lying on a twin bed, surrounded by rainbow-colored walls and a sky-blue ceiling decorated with bright white clouds. A stereo sat on the floor beside her. There were no signs of the Amish upbringing she had left behind—no plain wood furniture or chamber pot. Nothing except a stuffed doll that had belonged to her 6-year-old sister. The little girl had put the doll's bonnet on backward.

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