In the spring of 2005 I found myself opening the door of a police station and hesitantly making my way to the front desk. I was 22 years old, in Amish garb and I looked more than a little out of place as I glanced around the police station.
The one thing driving me to break with Amish church teachings as the police woman stared at me? The bishop’s children. If I did not come forward and try to save them, no one was going to. I had to break with everything I had been taught and report the bishop for sexual assault. It was the only way to save his seven children, who I suspected he was molesting.
For some reason I thought there would be an immediate stir within the police station, an immediate response to make sure the children were safe. Someone would question them, their father would be removed from the home. Something would be done for sure.
I could not have been more wrong.
My Story of Joining in the Amish
I was not born Amish. I was born into a home of drugs, domestic violence and incest. I was 4 years old and my sister was 2 when my mother, who was 21 at the time, met a harsh off-the-gridder in his late 40s. My sister and I were raised in isolation, on a ranch six miles out of town, where we were forced to mimic the Amish lifestyle and dress. Our days were spent as slaves on the ranch and we were subjected to severe beatings and sexual abuse on a daily basis. At the age of 18, I tried to escape and that is when my sister and I were taken to a real Amish community where we were adopted into separate families and became baptized church Members.
I thought my sister and I had reached safety but I was wrong. I immediately began to witness older children molesting younger children in plain sight of adults and the adults doing nothing to stop it. I was in shock and even more so as women began to confide their sexual abuse stories to me and tell me how they had been silenced and told to forgive by the church leaders.
For three and half years I wrestled with this knowledge and did not oppose the church. After becoming a maid for the bishop I endured six months of daily sexual assault. I did not come forward and tell anyone because I knew the victim was always blamed. It would ruin my reputation, I may never have the chance to get married if I told anyone.
Finally, one day when I caught the bishop with his 12-year-old daughter in the basement, I knew I had to go outside of the church and seek help for the sake of the children.
This one act propelled me forward on a mission I could not foresee at that time, but one that will hopefully go on and establish child safety laws in the USA and possibly abroad.
Child Abuse Hidden Under the Broad Banner of Religious Freedom
Even though I begged the police for help for the sake of the children, I could barely get them to budge. After I told the detective about being savagely assaulted by the bishop that morning and how I had found him in the basement acting inappropriately with his 12-year-old daughter, the detective literally looked at me and said that they could not arrest the bishop based on my account of being sexually assaulted alone. I would need proof. I was desperate, what proof could I give them? No one offered to look me over or take pictures of the bruises on my breasts. They did not even know about my badly bruised breasts because I did not think to tell the male detective about it.
The bishop was not arrested until 11 years later when two of his daughters reported him in an effort to save their baby sister. By that time the bishop had molested almost all of his 11 children. Some of the children who were sexually abused had not even been born at the time I had gone to the police.
The reason for this horrible failure on the part of the police? In the United States, freedom of religion is one of our most celebrated freedoms. While it is an amazing liberty to have, one that I fully support, it is applied too broadly. Freedom of religion should not outweigh basic human rights.
I left the Amish after reporting the bishop, feeling like a failure. I felt I had failed the children even though I had done everything I knew to do to help them. Seven years later I sat down and started writing my memoir, Tears of the Silenced, and began raising awareness about child abuse and child sexual assault coverups in strict religious communities. In 2019, I began gathering together former Amish sexual assault survivors to tell their stories in a Peacock documentary called Sins of the Amish, which aired in May 2022. In addition, I recently teamed up with Emmy award winner Elizabeth Page to write a script based on my memoir.
All of these things were great for getting the message out, but I knew that by themselves, they would not change things.
Becoming a Mom
In October 2018, my husband and I were blessed with a baby we had been hoping and praying for. A few months after his birth, Peacock gave the green light to Sins of the Amish. I was overjoyed about these two new adventures in my life, but as I watched my son grow I was struck by his sweetness, his innocence, and above all his vulnerability. I knew that in some religious circles it is not uncommon for babies as young as three months to be spanked. I remembered the screams of my own baby sister as she was beaten severely for tiny mistakes.
Thinking about these things made my stomach knot. In the research I had done for Sins of the Amish, some people reported to me that their first memory was of being raped at three years old and that it may have started even younger. These brave souls, many of whom did not want to come forward publicly, confided in me that they and their siblings had been beaten on a daily basis – 20, 30 even up to 100 lashes – with a belt, wooden stick, switch or whatever the parent felt like using. Church leaders did not help them and in many cases encouraged it as discipline.
Mothers would sometimes implore church leaders for help and they were told to go home and be submissive to what the head of their household deemed fit. In some cases both the father and mother were equally abusive.
As I listened to each story I wondered who would ever step in to help these children? A documentary, no matter how shocking, would not bring real change. For years filmmakers have been making documentaries about adults coming out of cults and ultra strict religions. Survivors have stressed that children are still trapped inside and are experiencing the same child abuse they did and yet the government does not step in to help these children. With all of these thoughts swarming through my mind I finally sat down and wrote #invisible.
This is a change.org petition I started that is demanding congress take action on behalf of the children, all children, in the United States, not just the ones who attend public school. It’s unfair that religious groups can keep children isolated where they have zero access to mandated reporters, no sexual abuse prevention education and no human rights whatsoever.
In the petition #invisible I am asking that:
Every teacher whether licensed or unlicensed ( Amish, Mennonite and other strict religious school teachers are unlicensed) be required to take mandated reporter training and be held accountable to report suspected abuse.
All children receive age appropriate sexual abuse prevention education (Erin’s law).
President Biden ratify the United Nations rights of the Child (the USA is the only country in the UN to not have ratified the Rights of the Child).
Now I need help to get this petition in front of the American people so they can back it. I hope to get enough people together for a huge march in D.C. That is what it is going to take in order for congress and President Biden to sit up and take notice. It is going to take the American people coming out in huge numbers and demanding change for the sake of the children.
After I gain traction in the USA I hope to go global with these ideas. Every child should be entitled to basic human rights. The UN child rights is great for saying what each child deserves and is entitled to, but we need more action on how each country is taking steps to ensure these rights and we need the USA to ratify it.
If anyone reading this wants to help me get the message out about the petition I would be so grateful. Blogs, websites, sharing on social media, contacting friends in the media. Anything you can do to help will help get this issue in front of congress. You can contact me through my website.
Misty Griffin is the author of her best selling memoir Tears of the Silenced. She wrote her memoir to raise awareness about child abuse and sexual assault coverup among the Amish and other strict religious groups.
Misty’s inspiring story takes you through her ordeal as a severely abused child and then her experiences as a young woman in an Amish community – a place where pedophilia was never reported or punished – and finally her escape and efforts to save her sister and bring the perpetrators to justice, all while adapting to a modern life she had never known.
Now a Registered Nurse, happily married and with a child of her own, Misty has dedicated her life to save children from the hell she endured. She is the Consulting Producer on the documentary series about child abuse in Amish and other cloistered communities, which premiered on Peacock in May 2022. She has also been to D.C, accompanied by her former Mennonite friend Jasper Hoffman, and spoken personally to a member of congress about sexual assault and child abuse among the Amish and Mennonites.
Misty hopes to pass legislation to mandate reporting of child abuse in cloistered communities such as the Amish and to extend Erin’s Law – which mandates age-appropriate sex abuse prevention education in public schools – to private schools and religious communities.
Misty’s change.org petition #invisible calls on Congress, the Senate and President Biden to take action.
World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good.
Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms
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We are back this week from our extended summer break and have been up and running behind the scenes in October planning out our next year! Today, we have a special call to action for World Food Day…read on!
Sunday, October 16, 2022, I was in Philadelphia with the CARE foundation for World Food Day at the hip Taiwanese restaurant, Bao·logy, with the amazingly talented and inspirational Chef Judy. And I don’t use those adjectives lightly – Judy’s bao buns, dumplings, noodles, and more were delicious!
Local public servants, CARE volunteers, and people working on humanitarian initiatives that help feed those who need it most in Philadelphia attended the event. There, Chef Judy encouraged guests to join together to help eliminate hunger and powerfully stated that we’re “under-resourcing our most important resources, our people.” Now that Chef Judy and CARE have sounded the alarm and called us to action this World Food Day, I’m calling YOU to action, too. But first, let’s take a deeper look at what food insecurity looks like in my home country, the U.S., and globally. I’ll also provide some simple tips about how we can all help reach SDG #2 from our own corners of the world!
What is the current food insecurity situation in the U.S.?
To put it into perspective, that is about only 4 million people less than the ENTIRE population of Canada OR about the same as the entire populations of the countries of Peru or Saudi Arabia!!! This is not ok.
Even though the percentage of food insecure households has decreased slightly in recent years ( in 10.5 % in both, 2020 and 2019, and 11.1% in 2018), we are still leaving way too many people unfed in the United State.
White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and the Farm Bill
At Sunday’s event I learned that there was a recent White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on September 28th. The U.S. government coordinated with leading companies and organizations around the country to tackle the nation’s food insecurity state by state. President Biden is planning to put the U.S. back on track to eliminate national hunger and reduce diet-related diseases such as, diabetes, obesity and hypertension by 2030.
Some examples are Bowery (an indoor vertical farming company) forging new partnerships with hunger relief organizations increasing its produce donations by thousands of pounds, Chobani’s adopting of 3 schools to end food insecurity and also launching a program to encourage the adoption of 50 schools by additional businesses across the country, Google making the search for SNAP benefits more easily accessible, and the American Academy of Pediatricians focusing on training all of its doctors to better identify malnutrition and referring patients to helpful resources. Organizations are attacking the problem in all different creative ways. Here is a full list of what was pledged at the conference.
Additionally, in the U.S. the Farm Bill, originally passed in Congress in 1930 as part of the New Deal, is also up to be refunded for 2023. It’s original three main goals were:
“Keep food prices fair for farmers and consumers.
Ensure an adequate food supply.
Protect and sustain the country’s vital natural resources.”
Today, the Farm Bill impacts “a multitude of topics, such as health care, poverty, climate change and school foods.” Refunding this legislation is important to farmers and national nutrition programs.
What does Food Insecurity Look Like Globally?
With all the focus on the U.S., you may be wondering where your country or the entire planet stands when it comes to food security. According to a Standing Together for Nutrition study, in 2019, the UN World Food Programme estimated that 150 million people in 81 different countries needed food assistance. In February of 2022, it rose to 276 million people. The agency predicts that number to increase to 323 million this year alone!
Sadly, the planet is not on track to reach Sustainable Development Goal #2, to eliminate hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030. According to CARE, recent global events such as 1/3 of Pakistan being flooded and staggering inflation in Lebanon ameliorate the global hunger situation. Not to mention,the strains on the global grain supply from the war in Ukraine.
The Global Food Security Reauthorization Act
This past July, I was on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. lobbying U.S. Congress with a fellow CARE advocate, Christina Nhankundela of Mozambique. CARE works in over 100 countries servicing over 90 million people in over 1300 projects relating to crisis, food and water, health, education and work, climate, and equality. Christina and I were both part of an even bigger movement of over 200 CARE advocates (including World Mom, Cindy Levin, too!) on the hill asking our senators and representatives to support the reauthorization of the Global Food Security Act.
The Global Food Security Act runs out in 2023 and is not emergency food funding. It provides sustainable programs to mostly women globally. Not only is the act keeping people fed, which is just the right thing to do, but it is a fantastic example of the U.S. working together from both political aisles to make a humanitarian impact.
Think Globally, Act Locally to Meet SDG #2
So, you may be thinking now what you can do from home to help the world reach SDG #2. Here are some ideas!
1) You can join CARE as a local advocate or donate.
2) Contact your domestic government representatives to tell them why you think it’s important to eliminate hunger in your country or globally! And ask them what they are doing about it!
For example, if you’re in the U.S., you can call and write your Congress members to support the Farm Bill and the Global Food Insecurity Reauthorization Act and vote in November for Congress members who support the legislation. Not sure where your representatives or candidates stand on eliminating hunger and what food related policies they support? Pick up the phone, call them, Tweet them, Instagram message them, ask in a Facebook comment, show up at a campaign event — whatever it takes — just ask!
3) And wherever you are on the planet, you can coordinate a local food drive, donate to your local food bank, or find ways in which you can help local organizations carry out the work to help feed people in your community. For example, I will be helping my daughter’s Girl Scout troop organize a local food drive soon to help supply our local food bank.
I hope you will join the World Moms in our call to action, doing what you can when you can, to help feed the people who need it most! Please tell us in the comments or on social media what step you took! We want to hear from you!
This is an original post to World Moms Network from founder, Jennifer Burden, of New Jersey, USA.
Come check out our TikTok (Hey, did you know we’re on TikTok? We are just beginning over there, so give us a follow!), Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook posts about what the World Moms have been up to!
Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India.
She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls.
Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.
World Moms Network Editor at Large Elizabeth Atalay attended the recent ALT Summit + The Riveter conference in New York City.
The Riveter summed up some of the memorable moments in this post.
The ALT Summit + The Riveter conference was my first in-person event since the pandemic and brought about all the feels! The very first panel of speakers hit it’s mark by capturing the mood of this time.
The Art of the Pivot and Rise of the Anti-Hustle Culture the conference
Many of us are re-emerging from the fog of the pandemic to a new normal. Work no longer means a 9-5 with a commute to an office 5 days a week. One of the positive aspects of the global shut down has been to let us all re-imagine a different lifestyle than the fast pace we’d been operating on.
Granted most of the attendees of the ALT Conference are creators and entrepreneurs to begin with. We’ve been working out of the lines for decades, but it feels like the rest of the world is just catching up. Maybe the answer to the question “How are you?” will be met with something other than the frequent response of “Busy!”. We can strike that quality of life balance we strive for without being judged as harshly.
There has definitely been a shift from the “get it girl” “hustle” attitude of the past decade toward better life balance and self-care. Often the biggest barriers we face come from within, as one of the opening panelists so succinctly pointed out:
Sometimes the enemy is the inner me.
We are often toughest on ourselves. After years of virtual meetings, attending the ALT Summit + The Riveter in person felt great. The messaging was often about supporting each other, community, and pushing through tough times to the other side
All the props to Gabrielle Blair!! And…today is Pub Day for her book!
One of my favorite moments was Brittany Jones-Cooper’s interview with best-selling author and Alt Summit founder, Gabrielle Blair, about her new book, Ejaculate Responsibly. Gabrielle was brilliant, funny, and backed by science in speaking about her new book. She is changing the conversation around the issue of Abortion.
The book succinctly points out that instead of controlling and legislating women’s bodies the focus should be on men’s lack of accountability in preventing unwanted pregnancies. To follow her progress towards change with this book check out @DesignMom on Instagram and this segment on @CBSMornings!
“Ejaculate Responsibly,” a new book written by a self-described “religious mother of six,” argues that “men cause all unwanted pregnancies” — and, therefore, should be the focus of abortion debates.
I have to be honest that the conference was a bit overwhelming, but in a good way. With so many great speakers on topics of interest, and the desire to socialize, after not seeing people for such a long time, it was a lot to process. I was such the kid in a candy shop that I completely missed the morning keynote by Julia Haart — author, designer, and star of Netflix’s My Unorthodox Life.
Protecting Kids on the Internet
After a fabulous lunch where we soaked up the sun overlooking the Hudson River at Pier 60 I attended 7 by 7 by 7, a round of 7 speakers who each presented for 7 minutes. Dahlia Hashad’s presentation on Social Media Battlegrounds: The Fight For A Safer Internet has stuck with me ever since.
She highlighted the risks to teens on the internet, the rise in negative issues, and the algorithms that these trillion dollar (yes, not billion, but trillion) companies allow that harm their users. She and her team with the Disinformation Project are fighting to pass legislation to protect kids online. Dahlia encouraged all of us to stand up to the big tech companies to insist on better safety guidelines. If you are a mom who is concerned about online safety for your children and would like to see legislative protections put in place, you can join the Online Influencer Safety Team here or scan the QR code below.
The vibe of the day was all about a community of women supporting women in their endeavors. It was capped off with closing keynote Sallie Krawcheck-CEO and founder of Ellevest, an investment platform for women, by women. When women take control of the finances more money goes back into the community, and Ellevest is on a mission to get Moore money into the hands of women. I like that idea!
These are just a couple of moments that stood out for me in a packed with information and inspiration day. Don’t worry, if you missed the ALT Summit + The Riveter in NYC, you can now get tickets to go to The ALT Summit in Palm Springs in March!
Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.