My name is Misty Griffin, I live in Pasadena, CA and I am the author of Tears of the Silenced , a Registered Nurse, and the consulting producer on NBC/Peacock's new docu-Series Sins of the Amish . I am the one who gathered the former Amish together for the series. I left the Amish in 2005.

I have started a petition called #invisible

Ask me anything!

I am calling on Congress to pass a Child Rights act here in the United States in order to put protections in place for all children, including those in ultra strict religious circles. I am looking for journalists, bloggers etc. who would want to help me get the word out about the petition. My hope is to get millions of signatures and do a Child Rights march in D.C this fall. I have already been to Capitol Hill and spoken to one sitting member of congress. This member of congress was interested but said I had to get the American people behind this in order for congress to listen.

If you are a journalist/blogger, have a website or know of anyone who is or does I would be most grateful for any help in getting this petition in front of the American people. Nothing of significance will ever change if we don't band together and fight for it. Children in religious circles are invisible to the outside world and have no where to turn for help. Children in general have no rights in USA, not really, none that are enforced for all children across the board. They cannot demand change on their behalf, we must do it for them.

Here is my Proof

Edit-1-Hi everyone. I will be back at 3 pm pacific 6-28-2022 to answer more questions. I have a toddler. Thanks!

Edit-2- Hi everyone, thanks for the great discussion. I am signing off for the night but feel free to continue to post questions for the next few days and I will answer them as soon I can. You can always contact me via my website as well

Comments: 748 • Responses: 47  • Date: 

jlevy1126976 karma

I often wonder how children in these strict religious communities are treated. What kind of treatment are you looking to protect children against and what kind of legislation are you hoping to see that would accomplish those protections without infringing on rights?

SexualAbuseAwareness2250 karma

That is the thing that always comes up, infringing on the rights of the parents. I want to pass a child rights act that would give basic human rights to each child. They would have the right to receive age appropriate sexual abuse prevention education, and every school teacher whether licenced or unlicensed would need to take mandated reporter training and be held accountable to report suspected child abuse. Right now unlicensed teachers like Amish and Mennonites are not required to take any training at all. Religious freedom should not outweigh basic human rights to safety, but right now in the USA it does.

Zazenp534 karma

Just a note: it’s important to realize/remember that the label “Mennonite” covers a FAR wider group of people than the label “Amish”. There are plenty of conservative Mennonite communities but there are many Mennonite sects that are fairly liberal. I was raised Mennonite (non-believer now) but the different churches my family attended were at the heart of major cities, had female pastors, used modern technology, and had several college professors and scientists as members. These are the mennonites who are highly involved in lobbying the government for human rights issues such as open borders, anti-war, anti-police violence, more care for the homeless, equal access to healthcare, and more aid to developing nations. Shoot, the mennonites prioritize education so much they even operate multiple liberal art colleges.

However, while the Mennonite church likely has the same cover up issues that literally all churches have, any anabaptist church or community who focus on enforcing separation between their members and the rest of society will likely have a stronger problem with all forms of abuse without the victims having resources. I’m not convinced forcing mandated reporter training is going to be the solution (it can easily cause weird side effects in practice), but I applaud efforts to make sure those children have equal access to assistance.

I’m just hoping we don’t paint the mennonites in the same broad brush that can reinforce stereotypes that many mennonites do not represent.

MrHappyHam79 karma

Thank you for clarifying. I assumed it was a specific denomination.

SexualAbuseAwareness278 karma

Yes that is true about the Mennonites. If we have mandated reporters in public schools we should have them in private. Why for some children and not others?

charminghypocracy196 karma

Absolutely. One problem I discovered as a mandatory reporter in healthcare was how difficult it was to take any action in insular communities. I was in a small community right outside of a large city. Realized how quickly I would lose both my job and housing by going above the Doctors. We need funding for reporters too. I would always report, but I can't imagine what one might do if they had their lives tied up in that community.

Children absolutely deserve a bill of rights. They are the most vulnerable members of society.

SexualAbuseAwareness56 karma

Well said!

Zazenp30 karma

My clarification is purely out of how people view mennonites. Amish are, by definition, strict, patriarchal, conservative, and exclusionary. SOME mennonite communities do fit that definition but mennonites are not, by definition, those things. I’m fine with all religious schools being mandated reporters (though requiring Amish teachers to take an online class will cause some issues).

My point is that the majority of Mennonite churches are far more liberal and open than the way you are representing them. The reason this is not common knowledge is because those mennonites tend to look and act like regular people and nobody notices the mennonites walking among them. Basically, when I say I grew up mennonite people picture Amish living instead of growing up in Chicago, going to public school, having a father who was a computer software designer and a mother with a phd.

Would you consider changing your wording to be “conservative mennonite communities” when including them as part of the issue?

SexualAbuseAwareness16 karma

Yes, Thanks for the reminder!

Superben1419 karma

What do you think about children having a right to access information in general? I’ve heard many stories of children in religious upbringings being prevented from accessing the internet or other media that might teach them about the world outside their religion. I don’t think that indoctrination should be legal.

SexualAbuseAwareness43 karma

I hear where you are coming from but you have to be careful about how much you ask for. Right now I am concerned with just the basics to bring in safety measures into these communities. If you make it too nitty gritty it will get struck down and go no where.

olderaccount5 karma

So you are saying sexual abuse is more common in those communities than in the population at large and they have less opportunity to be reported because theirs teachers aren't required to report it?

SexualAbuseAwareness25 karma

Yes, I believe sexual abuse in strict religious communities is more prevalent. If you dont do anything to stop it, if the predator knows they are not going to be reported to the police. What is there to deter or educate against it?

lightningsnail5 karma

Who pays for this mandated reporter training?

SexualAbuseAwareness3 karma

The school board. Even Amish have school boards.

trent6295730 karma

What was your introduction to modern life like?

SexualAbuseAwareness1900 karma

I had a lady take me in. She gave me a job at her furniture store. I was afraid of everything that made noise, the vacuum cleaner, the hairdryer. I was in shock for a few months. The outside world was like a different planet.

sternje540 karma

So that whole "Breaking Amish" show, was that all bullshit or real or some mix? I've heard of Rumspringe. How do you go back?

SexualAbuseAwareness1206 karma

I know people from Breaking Amish and one producer. It was all staged. Everyone had left the Amish many years prior.

If you want to go back to the Amish after rumspringa you tell the ministers you are ready to receive baptism. You throw away all of your worldly stuff and behave according to church rules.

SunnyAlwaysDaze447 karma

The one thing on that show which seemed real and heartbreaking, was the teeth of one young lady that she was able to get fixed. Just terrible and disgusting that they would pull out all of a child's teeth.

SexualAbuseAwareness377 karma

Its common among the Amish.

sternje101 karma

I don't mean the logical steps of going back, but thanks for that info. I mean after having that kind of freedom [of Rumspringa], going back to what might seem to most outsiders an extremely restrictive lifestyle. What motivates people to do that? No judgement, just curiousity.

SexualAbuseAwareness384 karma

If you leave you lose your family and the only life you have ever known. That is the motivation to go back. Amish have a 98 percent retention rate.

aspiringcreator191 karma

And as you said it was a shock for you. Probably for majority of others too. People don't usually like environments that shock them.

SexualAbuseAwareness133 karma

Yes, it was very shocking. I would never have left if I did not feel like an accomplice to crimes by staying. It was easier to stay.

llama_therapy429 karma

What prompted you to leave? What was the assimilation process like in the non-Amish world?

SexualAbuseAwareness1377 karma

I was the bishops maid, he sexually assaulted me every day for six months. I was quiet, didn't want to ruin my reputation until I caught him in the basement with his daughter. I went to the police.

Adjusting to the outside was very scary. It took a couple years. I was 22

Chazmer87290 karma

Fuck man, who's the Bishop?

SexualAbuseAwareness749 karma

I dont give out names to protect his children. But NBC verified my account before airing it in Sins of the Amish.

BadAtHumaningToo158 karma

Please tell me that evil bastard isn't around kids anymore?

SexualAbuseAwareness673 karma

He's in prison now. Finally.

rhymes_with_snoop83 karma

How did the community respond to that? Angry at the outside world for taking away their bishop? Supportive of his victims? Pretend nothing happened? Or are you too far outside the community now to know?

SexualAbuseAwareness43 karma

They shamed the daughters who reported him, 11 years after I did and tried to coerce them into dropping the charges. All of the children are no longer Amish. The oldest daughter got custody of everyone younger than 18 and raised them on the outside.

TistedLogic-34 karma


SexualAbuseAwareness42 karma

I cant give that out for safety reasons.

Jabbles22329 karma

What are some practices that probably aren't considered abuse but are still bad?

SexualAbuseAwareness679 karma

Having to wear a uniform, having no sense of identity. Have no freedoms to choose what you want to do in life.

mewithoutyou59260 karma

Are there resources for Amish when they leave the community? What can be improved upon in that regard?

SexualAbuseAwareness412 karma

No, there are a few people who help but few Amish know about them. I am not sure how you would get that info into the community. They dont want people to leave.

mewithoutyou59124 karma

I live in an Old Order Mennonite area and I always wondered about that.

SexualAbuseAwareness240 karma

Yes, old order Mennonites are very much like the Amish. No one can reach these children as it currently stands. These children have no resources for help.

DaytonaDemon251 karma

I frankly have no greater regard for the Amish than I do for any other religious cult; but to the average American, the Amish can seem to do little wrong. They're seen as gentle, community-minded, living-off-the-land souls who wouldn't hurt a fly. Never mind the Amish puppy mills, the widespread animal abuse in their midst, the selfish refusal by Amish hardliners to outfit their horse buggies with lights and reflectors (thereby endangering everyone after dusk), and those same folks' rejection of smoke detectors and other "devil" devices. Finally there's the biggest one of all: the fact that the Amish faith, like that of other heavily patriarchal religions, leads to no small amount of child abuse — mental, physical, and sexual.

How did the Amish manage for so long to operate under the radar, and above all suspicion? What will it take to adjust the overly rosy public opinion of the Amish and inject a dose of reality into it?

Thank you so much for what you do.

SexualAbuseAwareness329 karma

Amish tourism drives this narrative. I think by former Amish like myself speaking out it will eventually erode the rosy picture people have of the Amish, but it will take time.

joelmooner250 karma

How did your Family / Community treat you after you left the church ?

SexualAbuseAwareness627 karma

I am shunned. I hear from my sister a couple times a year via letter.

vacuous_comment179 karma

The Amish tend to get a free pass, maybe for being cute or something.

If you have the background knowledge, could you comment on how their controlling behaviour compares to other high control groups such as JW, Mormons, Scientology etc?

SexualAbuseAwareness328 karma

The Amish are more controlling. You literally have to wear a uniform every single day of your life. People on the outside dont seem to notice that.

saefvr176 karma

Hello, thank you for doing this AMA. As someone who is totally ignorant about the Amish, are there any stories that you would like people like myself to know? Any resources that you'd suggest that we research?

SexualAbuseAwareness183 karma

Yes definitly.

You can watch my series sins of the Amish

or read this article

FEO4161 karma

I live in a town with a very large well assimilated Mennonite population. They are generally highly regarded and people flock to their businesses partly for the novelty but also they do tend to be some of the highest quality shoe makers, home builders and restaurants around town. Is there anything I should be looking out for or doing differently?

SexualAbuseAwareness254 karma

If you suspect abuse report it. Be there for Mennonite women and children as a friend. But it is going to take wide spread reform to create any real difference.

FEO457 karma

I’ve only really spoken with person who lived in the community and she sold cocaine… they ride electric bikes and use public transportation, if you are around town on the weekend it is almost impossible not to see at least one Mennonite family, would this indicate that the sect in my town is less controlling/restrictive than others around the country?

SexualAbuseAwareness92 karma

Mennonites usually interact more with the public. But it does not mean they are less controlling. It depends on the church. Some are liberal, some are strict. But when it comes to cases of abuse, most have the same view points all the way from strict up.

ConfidentialX153 karma

Hi from the 🇬🇧 and thank you for sharing your story and raising awareness.

For someone who has very little knowledge of the Amish church, are they relatively self-policing?

For example, if a member of the church community was the victim of a crime, would the church leaders within the community largely self-govern/police the situation?

PS - I hope you are doing well.

SexualAbuseAwareness191 karma

Yes, in general they handle things internally.

ajtrns20 karma

how common is murder?

SexualAbuseAwareness67 karma

I don't know. But it happens.

the_banana_sticker81 karma

Aside from your family, what do you miss the most?

SexualAbuseAwareness207 karma

The large groups of children who were always following me around.

bigredwerewolf71 karma

What's are the positives in the Amish community If any for a woman?

SexualAbuseAwareness225 karma

There are few positives. Women have no rights. Even the things I enjoyed doing such as quilting, baking etc. I am not sure they were positives.

RationalPsycho4258 karma

Are you religious?

SexualAbuseAwareness133 karma

I am non denominational Christian.

09647 karma

Thanks for shedding light on this matter. I live in an area near Mennonite communities that have stores, etc. So two questions. First, are Mennonites any more likely to engage in these behaviors? Second, is there any benefit to avoiding some of these industries (restaurants and the like) or would that be more harmful to the communities who depend on that form of income?

SexualAbuseAwareness84 karma

Yes Mennonites have the same practices of not reporting abuse like the Amish. Putting a financial strain on an abusive culture is not a good idea. Can lead to further abuse.

TheTopherEvans47 karma

How did you decide to leave? Did you participate in Rumspringa? Is that why you left?

What's the reasoning for being so isolationist yet selling things to the rest of society? Isn't there a contradiction there?

What else can I read on the Amish? I don't really know much but it seems fascinating.

And for the punk question, have you seen the movie The Village?

SexualAbuseAwareness143 karma

My community was ultra strict, we did not have Rumspringa. The Amish are isolated so they dont become influenced by the outside world. I saw the village a few months after leaving. Seemed familiar to me!

iand762347 karma

What was the first fast food item you tried once you left the amish?

SexualAbuseAwareness126 karma

I dont exactly know. The lady who took me in loved KFC, so probably that. I had some prior to leaving the Amish though. On special occasions.

mind_the_gap44 karma

Were you named Misty when you were Amish or did you choose that name for yourself when you left?

SexualAbuseAwareness129 karma

I was not born Amish. I joined as a teenager after being raised in isolation by my abusive parents.

bearslikeapples29 karma

Weee you aware that the Amish weee heavily involved in drug trafficking from Mexico all the way to Alberta canada?

SexualAbuseAwareness52 karma

Yes. I know a former Mennonite woman who was shot during a plain drug war. It's real.

Dblcut327 karma

Would you consider the Amish to be a cult? Every-time I’ve suggested that, people get mad, but to me as an outsider, a group that is so strict, insular, and doesn’t even let you get an education beyond 8th grade seems culty to me. I know most Amish people seem happy with their lives but I have to wonder about the ones that feel trapped

SexualAbuseAwareness57 karma

They are taught to feel happy or they are considered proud. I would definitely consider the Amish a cult.

DanzelFossington17 karma

Can they use wind up radios?

SexualAbuseAwareness70 karma

Old order Amish cannot use radios. Some sneak them but they are not supposed to.

UnappreciatedComment21 karma

What if someone sneaks one in and is found? What happens to the person?

SexualAbuseAwareness58 karma

If they are a baptized church member they will have to confess in church. If a teenager a stern talking to from parents.

DanzelFossington11 karma

Thanks! So even if you produce the power yourself that's still not cool, it's the fact that it's powered at all? Sorry just want make sure I got this right

SexualAbuseAwareness33 karma

Its the electric items, you are not allowed to have them in the first place so even if you produced the power you dont have anything to use it on.

AT-ST53 karma

My parents sold their farm to an Amish family, but they kept a nice sized portion on it for a barn and horses. The Amish family paid us for access for access to our barn, and paid for a phone line to be put in. This was in SW Pennsylvania, and it was very common for people who were neighbors of the Amish to have a phone line in their shed/garage/barn for their use.

One day I went out to the barn to tend to the horses and our neighbor was just sitting in there listening to a radio. It was a radio he had put in the barn by his phone. I always thought that was strange. What is the justification for having the items stored on someone else's property for use? A phone I could understand, you need one for a lot of the farming business stuff, but the radio always puzzled me.

Also, I have a pretty big grudge against the Amish. I had a dog that we would tie up outside during the day so she wouldn't run off. She had access to food, water and shelter so she wasn't in any trouble, and she would come in during the night. Well one day my grandfather was coming out of the horse barn and he saw one of the Amish teenagers, who had been coming up to use the phone, just haul off and kick my dog. She was older at this point, and a little frail. He ended up breaking her hip and we had to put her down.

SexualAbuseAwareness58 karma

Amish, in general, not all, but most, view animals as being here for mans benefit. Animal cruelty is wide spread. Many Amish children are not taught to be kind to animals.

As far as the radio, it was probably kept on your property so he could deny it was his if found. When church is held at an Amish persons house the men generally gather in the barn so a radio in his barn close by the house would have been easily discovered.

fredrichnietze13 karma

why is what we have now not enough? what barriers are there in place to stop others from going to the police ? what are the cultural ramifications of going to the police or speaking up about abuse? if the religious/town leader is not the abuser can Amish go to them and reliably get help in these situations? how wide spread is this in the amish community?

SexualAbuseAwareness60 karma

Child sexual assault is rampant among the Amish. If you go to the police you will probably be shunned and become an outcast. The police are reluctant to get involved. The government does not enforce protections for children in private schools. Amish children have zero resources or protections.

fredrichnietze20 karma

why are the police reluctant to get involved? if you were writing the legislation how specifically would you go about solving this? creating some way to contact the police anonymously in the community's or spying on them or breaking them all up? how can you solve a problem if people arent willing to come forward and be shunned?

SexualAbuseAwareness29 karma

The police are just reluctant because they say they do not want to infringe on any ones religious rights. Its really messed up how much they consider to be under the hat of of religious freedom.

Legislation would need to make it mandatory for everyone to comply. School teachers would be able to tell church leaders they must report or they could all get in trouble. Amish would need to put a phone next to the school house.

doorrat7 karma

Thanks for doing this.

I grew up not far from Lancaster, PA and so day trips out there with my family were a common occurrence for tons of reasons. I could ask so many questions but I'll try to limit myself here.

Can you speak at all to Amish real estate practices when dealing with outsiders? The rumors and friend-of-a-friend sorts of stories I'd heard over the years basically boiled down to a sentiment that there wasn't much that was unethical (in the sense that ethics didn't even apply if the counterparty was non-Amish) if someone Amish is buying or selling land from/to somebody non-Amish. If they could play up a stereotype, or "accidentally" fail to disclose information, etc., that made the deal more advantageous for them then it was possible. Do you think that's fair as an overall assessment? Or are the things I've heard over the years just bad rumors? Or just stuff like that has probably happened and wouldn't surprise you but is only some members doing it?

Secondly, and I'm sure things have changed a lot since 2005, what has happened in communities where having a phone - let alone smartphone - is basically a prerequisite for interacting with the outside world? I've absolutely seen Amish with smartphones when tending their shops. Do those just get turned off and ignored once the day is done? And is there any truth (at least as far as you know) to the idea that I've heard where some Amish households will in fact have a landline phone that's not allowed in their houses themselves but are instead kept in their own "phone booths" that are some distance from the house? If that actually is a thing, are there rules as to how that's utilized?

Finally, speaking of communication, whenever I am out in Lancaster, should I be saying something to the kids that work some of the booths/shops about your work? Is it even possible to bring up such a thing in the 30 seconds I may be interacting with them? Or would anything like that coming from a grown thirty something year old man just be counterproductive? And this may be a whole other giant can of worms but I've not seen it asked elsewhere: is it exclusively the girls being taken abused or do the male kids possibly need to be made aware of these issues as well?

Thanks again. I hope that your work is able to continue to make a real difference.

SexualAbuseAwareness29 karma

Lancaster is not a good example of Amish life. They are more liberal than most. The stricter Amish do not have smart phones etc.

Adiroit2 karma


SexualAbuseAwareness13 karma

I tried to do this a couple times before but it was taken down because I did not know how to upload the right proof. Sorry for that. I finally figured it out!