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.
Learn more about Misty by listening to her podcast with World Moms Network editor Tes Silverman.
When my second child was six weeks old my husband had a business trip to Asia for one week. One evening when I was breastfeeding the baby, my first child demanded me to pick him up and carry him to the toilet, “Mom, I need to pee, now!”
I couldn’t figure out how to deliver a 4-year-old child without interrupting the feeding. Plus, the 4-year-old was perfectly potty trained. So I told him, “Come on, honey, you know how to do it by yourself. I can’t pick you up now. I’m feeding DiDi.”
“No, no, no! I want you to take me!”
“I can walk you down the hallway.”
“No, no, no! I want you to pick me up!”
I didn’t know what to do. My husband wasn’t home to help. I was tired. Now I was trying to nurse my baby to sleep while my young child throwing a tantrum, which really adds in salt to injury when being sleep-deprived.
Then he peed his pants and had a meltdown.
“Honey, honey, that’s okay!” I tried to calm him down, “We all have accidents. Now you take your pants off and wrap yourself in this towel. Then come sit with me. We’ll clean you up once DiDi are done eating.”
But he was crying like his head is being cut off. He cried too hard to hear me.
The baby finally fell asleep. I put him in his crib. Then I picked up the crying child and cleaned him up. He must have been crying badly, because when we were in the shower, I heard the doorbell.
A police officer stood at my door and asked if everything was alright in the house.
“Yes, yes,” I told him, “My child had a meltdown. But we’re good now.”
He asked me a couple of questions to make sure I was okay. Then he wished me a good night and left.
One of my neighbors called 911 and reported the cry. Realizing that, I actually felt peace, knowing someone cares about what’s happening in my house.
I was born and raised in Taiwan. At about my son’s age, I was beaten up by my parents almost every day. There was always crying, often blood. But no one ever showed up at our door and asked if everything was alright.
Our neighbors looked at me pitifully when I walked home from school. Then they turned around and chatted in low voices. I could tell that they all know something was happening in our house. Yet no one ever asked.
I finally escaped from the horror. I fled to America, left behind an irritable father, a depressed mother, and an anxious sister.
I finished journalism school in America and became a journalist. I write about parenting, education, family lifestyle, maternal and infant health. Currently serving as the US correspondent for a Taiwanese parenting magazine, I frequently write about how people in America parent differently from people in Taiwan.
Last year, a Taiwanese couple posted prank videos with their kids on Facebook. In the video, the parents scared their 5-year-old and 3-year-old with a vacuum machine until the kids cried. After trying to fight back and protect his little brother, the 5-year-old was spanked by the dad with a clothes hanger. The video angered its audience, but nothing happened to this couple.
At about the same time, the controversial American Youtubers “DaddyOFive” were sentenced to probation for similar videos with their kids. I wrote about the case for the magazine. A Taiwanese pediatrician commented, “Many young lives could be saved if only we judge parents like Americans do.”
I could have escaped from the horrible domestic violence much earlier if my parents were being judged. My sister didn’t have to suffer from anxiety disorder if my parents were being judged.
In 2016, 16 children under six died in car accidents because they didn’t use car seats (Jing-Chuan Child Safety Foundation, 2017). There is a car seat requirement, but no one would say anything if parents don’t use car seats or leave their children in a car alone. Those 16 children didn’t have to die if their parents were being judged.
Three years ago in Taiwan, I saw a father slapped his toddler in a restaurant. At the scene, I seemed to be the only one who was shocked. Others shushed me, “it’s none of your business to judge other’s parenting.” I silenced. I still feel bad after three years.
That night when the police showed up at my door and questioned my parenting, I knew I was being judged. Being judged doesn’t make me feel like a terrible mother, as long as I know I did nothing wrong. I don’t feel attacked or ashamed for being judged. I feel safe, knowing we, as parents and a whole-of-society, are watching each other. And by so doing, we protect our children.
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by To-Wen Tseng
Child grooming is a term that describes the befriending of and establishing an emotional connection with a child, and sometimes the family, to lower the child’s inhibitions for child sexual abuse. Many young girls have been married off to older men or have been lured into predatory relationships through this tactic. Some of these girls are said to give their consent, but what does a child know? It’s our duty as parents and society to protect our children. Child grooming is unacceptable and people should be prosecuted for it. In my youth, I experienced child grooming by a man old enough to be my father. I probably would have been married at the age of 14 with loads of children and a truncated life had he not been stopped.
The child grooming started when I was about 14. There was a man about my father’s age who lived in our neighborhood. As is our cultural tradition, I treated him like a father. I would greet him whenever I see him and I never thought anything about his smiling to talk to me and ask me how I was faring. I was just 14 and reading novels was more on my mind than marriage.
Since my school was far from our home and I didn’t have enough money for transport, I had to leave home early to get to school on time. At some point, the man started to meet me on my way to school. I would greet him at the bus stop as we were all brought up to do, and he would pay my bus fare. After the first few times I grew wary. I hate anything free in my life – I still do. Sometimes I would sit in front seat and pay before he got the chance to pay for me. This went on for months and in the the process he started chatting me up and offering me money, which I would always refuse.
I became desperate to avoid him, but he would always be hanging around waiting for me. Of course, I couldn’t insult him or walk away from him, because respect for one’s elders is a critical part of our culture. This old man was a cloth merchant, and was incredibly wealthy by our standards. His children were always well fed and clothed. He would offer me money, more money than I had ever seen in my young life, money that was supposed to tempt a hungry child who had nothing. I would always refuese. One day, he forced the money into my hand and I let it fall to the ground.
I became desperate to escape that old man, but I could not. I switched to a bus stop further from my house, yet he found out and started following me there. I was hunted for over a year by this man and I didn’t tell anyone. Who was there to tell? I didn’t even think it was in my place to tell anyone. We didn’t have that closeness we have with our children today and I pray our children have more with their own children. After a while he started talking about marriage and how he would make my life enjoyable and also he would take me on trips abroad.
The old man even started giving food and money to my parents. Imagine what it was like for a starving family to get such assistance. He was adored in our house. This was classic groomer behaviour: buy the child, then try to buy the parents. Sometimes I try to imagine what would have become of me if I had not been so strong-willed at age 14. Would I have decided I wanted to marry him?
The harassment lasted for a long time, but eventually he left me alone when he realised I was not interested in his thoughts of marriage. When I was 15, he married an even younger girl of maybe 13 years. She was taken out of school to marry him. They had a daughter together, and years later they divorced. All this happened before I even got married at 24.
The old man has since passed away and is no longer a threat to me or any other owman. I cry when I think about this story, knowing how an old man had tried to trap me, and how he eventually trapped another young girl. I know what it was like to live with this harassment and fear. I know child groomers when I see them. When I hear about dirty old men saying a 14 year old decided to marry them, I see a child groomer who should be in jail for putting such thoughts in her head in the first place. Grooming a child with money, promises, love and hope should be made illegal. Many lives have been destroyed by it.
God protect our teenage daughters. They are an endangered species.
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Aisha Yesufu of Nigeria.
Photo courtesy of Phil Warren / Flickr.
Photo by Elizabeth Atalay
It was too hot for October as I pushed the baby’s stroller towards the busy intersection, nervous about navigating the after school traffic.
As I approached the T junction, I could see a woman striking her arms out wildly from the driver’s seat of her car, stopped at the red light. She looked as though she was battling someone in the passenger seat with all the strength the confined space would allow.
I had been reading and thinking a lot about women and women’s rights in Morocco since my arrival a couple of weeks prior and in the split second it took me to walk from the trunk to beside the window, I had concluded she was an abused wife, fighting back.
Prone as I am to flights of fancy, I had her whole heroic back story firm in my mind as I walked level to the front window and realized that she was in fact landing punches on a boy; about 12 or 13 and looking utterly deflated as he half-heartedly held his arms up against his mother’s blows. (more…)
I just read an article on the first real-time study to be done on spanking. Researcher George Holden originally set out to study how often parents shout at their children. He asked the parents to tape their interactions with their children and was surprised to hear how often they spanked or slapped their children and even more surprised at the reasons.
One parent slapped her child for turning the pages of the story book she was reading him. Another mother spanked her child for approaching the stove (which was not on). And yet, another one slapped her child 11 times in a row because the child was fighting with his sister. (You’d think she would realize it’s not really working!)
The study spanned people from different backgrounds and races, so as not to be bias in one way or another. The parents were told that it was about their interactions with the children, and they were asked to roll the tape from when the children came home from day care or school until bed time. (more…)