Sexual Abuse in the Amish Community

Ironically, Johnny, who raped Mary first and most often, got the lightest sentence. Now married and with children of his own, he was given 10 years' probation. For the first year he can work in the Amish community during the day but must spend every night in the county jail.

The Vernon County court also sentenced Mary's mother to two years probation for failure to protect her daughter. Her stepfather was sentenced to 18 months probation for battery and disorderly conduct.

Garrett says Mary's case may strike people as particularly startling because the public has an idealized perception of Amish life. "It's like any other society. You have great families, very well-balanced, but you also have dysfunctional ones. Take the Amish off the pedestal. They're just like everybody else," she said.

For some time now, Mary Byler has been living in a radically different world. Her new life has some distinctly not-Amish trappings: a driver's license, a smoking habit and a GED. Just last March, she joined the Army--hoping to pursue a career in nursing. And she's on a mission of her own, to help other abuse victims in and out of the Amish community.

She says her life now has not only new pleasures but new responsibilities.

And she's on a mission to help other abuse victims, in and out of the Amish community.

"If somebody, some girl or some boy or some child who's being hurt by somebody, would get some good out of this story. That would make me feel really good," Mary said.

Also, for Mary, there's an ironic carryover from her former life an abiding faith. She said, "I feel like God helps those who help themselves. You know, there's a verse in the Bible to that effect, and I really believe it's true, because, you know what, if you don't have the strength to stand up for yourself, there's really not much he can do for you."

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