Escaping the Amish – Part 1

In February, I received an e-mail from a reader using a Columbia University address — Torah Bontrager — that ended curiously:

“…and if you ever want to hear how I escaped the Amish, let me know.”

Those peace-loving bearded folks from Witness? I called Torah, and after just a few minutes, I knew this post had to be written.

For those of you who feel trapped because of a job or self-imposed obligations as an entrepreneur, this will put things in perspective.

How do you escape your environment if you’re unable to control it? If almost no one on the outside realizes what’s happening?

I’ll let Torah tell us in her own words…

Torah Bontrager after escaping the Amish at age 15.

To start, tell us a little about your background.

I’m twenty-seven and graduated from Columbia University in 2007. I was born in Iowa. We moved to Wisconsin when I was three and to Michigan when I was ten, and I lived with my family in traditional Amish communities this whole time. I escaped from my family and the Amish when I was fifteen. I’m the oldest of eleven children. Four of my siblings were born after I escaped.

What are the most common misconceptions or myths about the Amish?

Here are some of the most common false beliefs about the Amish:

-The Amish speak English (Fact: They speak Amish, which some people claim is its own language, while others say it is a dialect of German. Most people don’t know that Amish was only a spoken language until the Bible got translated and printed into the vernacular about 12 years ago.)

-Amish teens have a choice whether they want to remain practicing the religion. (False)

-Amish is only a religion (Fact: It’s a religion, culture, and language, etc.)

-Amish kids go to public school, or are taught similar courses (e.g., science) as public school kids

-The Amish are Mormons (False)

-The Amish have arranged marriages (False)

-Amish men have more than one wife (False)

-The Amish put all their income in the same pot, like a communist or socialist banking system (False)

-Cameras and music/musical instruments are allowed (False)

-The Amish are “peaceful gentle folk” (False)

What were the positives of growing up Amish?

-Growing up bilingual (Though I didn’t become fluent in English until after I escaped and I was always very self-conscious about my command of the English language)

-The emphasis on the solidarity of the extended family unit

-The emphasis on being hospitable to strangers, helping those in need, whether Amish or “English” (anyone who’s not Amish is “English,” no matter what language or culture he/she represents)

-Building your own houses, growing your own food, sewing your own clothes

These experiences taught me self-reliance, self-preservation, and gave me the ability to relate to non-American familial cultures much better than I might otherwise.

The biggest negatives?

-The rape, incest and other sexual abuse that run rampant in the community

-Rudimentary education

-Physical and verbal abuse in the name of discipline

-Women (and children) have no rights

-Religion–and all its associated fear and brainwashing–as a means of control (and an extremely effective means at that)

-Animal abuse

I consider these negatives as personal positives in a somewhat perverted or distorted way. Without having experienced what I did, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, shaped by the experiences I’ve had since. I always tell people that I’m thankful for having grown up Amish but that I’d never wish it upon anyone else.

What had you want to escape?

For as long as I can remember, I had always envisioned a life such that wouldn’t be compatible with the Amish religion and lifestyle.

I loved learning, and cried when I couldn’t go back to school the fall after graduating from Amish 8th grade. The Amish do not send their children to formal schooling past 8th grade. A Supreme Court case prevented forcing Amish children into high school on grounds of religious freedom. I knew that, by US law, I wasn’t considered an adult until eighteen. I didn’t want to wait until then to go to high school.

For four years, I tried to come up with a way that I could leave before turning eighteen without my parents being able to take me back, so I could go to school.

People generally have a peaceful image of the Amish. Can you explain the physical abuse?

The Amish take the Bible verse “spare the rod and spoil the child” in a literal sense. Parents routinely beat their children with anything from fly swatters, to leather straps (the most typical weapon), to whips (those are the most excruciating of), to pieces of wood.

When I was a little girl, my mom used to make me run down to the cellar to retrieve a piece of wood to get beaten with. I’d choose the thinner ones because I thought they’d hurt less.

One day I couldn’t find a thin piece and I had to get a thicker one. Luckily, I discovered that the thick ones hurt less. So every time after that, I’d get a thick one. It made her feel like she was hurting me more, and I’d scream harder just to make sure she didn’t catch on that it actually hurt less.

One of my acquaintances stuttered when he was little and his dad would make him put his toe under the rocking chair, and then his dad would sit in the chair and rock over the toe and tell him that’s what he gets for stuttering.

Even little babies get abused for crying too much during church or otherwise “misbehaving.” I’ve heard women beat their babies — under a year old — so much that I cringed in pain.

How did this all culminate for you prior to the escape?

My dad was a hunter and taught me to shoot. One evening after eighth grade, when I was fourteen, I came back from target practice in our field. The sun was just setting and I paused for a moment on a little knoll just below the house to enjoy the view. I had just gotten done with a good practice shooting, and I remember that the thought suddenly struck me: today would be a good day to die.

I hadn’t gotten beaten by my mom that day, and we hadn’t had any significant arguments over anything. I thought that if I died, I wanted to die without being mad at my mom. So I thought, I might as well take the opportunity to do so before I got back to the house—at which point who knows whether there would be another fight or a beating.

I put a bullet in the chamber and raised the rifle up. The closer it got to my head, the faster my heart beat. I was taught that whoever committed suicide would go to hell. But I was so miserable in the Amish culture that I believed God would understand that my motives were good.

In the end, I didn’t have the guts to point the barrel straight at my head. Okay, I thought, I’ll just put the gun next to my cheek to see what it feels like.

The instant I felt that cold hard steel, I suddenly realized that I wanted to live.

I had never had that thought before in my life. I had always thought I wanted to die. I don’t know where the idea came from that I wanted to live, but it completely changed my outlook on life.

Just remembering the feel of that cold steel still makes me shudder.

It was an instant flash of revelation—one that appeared and disappeared just as quickly. But in that moment, I realized that I truly wanted to be alive, that someday I’d be happy, and that I must be destined for something better in life—or surely I wouldn’t have gotten a crazy thought like wanting to live.

I branded that thought and feeling into my head. I told myself never to forget it, that no matter how depressed or how much I might want to kill myself in the future, even if I don’t have that same feeling again about wanting to live, I still shouldn’t kill myself because there was a better life in store for me.

At that point, I knew I had to escape.

[Continued in Part 2]

Postscript: This post is not intended to generalize all Amish. Rather, it is one person’s experience with the common constraints of the Old Order Amish. Please see Torah’s further explanations in the comments below.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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210 Replies to “Escaping the Amish – Part 1”

  1. Is this how you want us to respond to tweets?

    On the tinea tweet: I have a very bad case of eczema and have attributed it to food allergies, specifically nuts. I avoid them and it has cleared up. They are not the same disease but the symptoms are almost identical. Hope this helps! For any further help I would recommend Dr. James Privitera in Covina, CA.

  2. Tim,

    This chilling story is not uncommon. I’ve met a bunch of kids and adults from a couple of different groups whose stories are remarkable similar. Glad you’re blogging about it. The stuff with punishing the babies, beating the kids and relegating the girls and women to slave status. Ugh. All too common. Fundamentalist cult. Can be as big as the Amish, or as small as a family.


    1. I am glad this is being told. I grew up with Amish neighbors most of my life. There are good families and sects and bad. Some around me were bad, they stole, lied, cheated, and one neighbor is in prison for 18 counts of molestation and rape. Everyone romantizes them and it needs to stop. As I said, there are other families that are good, just like any english.

  3. wow, this story about escaping the Amish is a lesson in courage. I loved learning as a kid and i wonder what i would have had to go through if my interests had not been supported and cultivated and suppressed instead…

  4. Wow, that’s an amazing story. I didn’t know much about the Amish, this has really opened my eyes. I’m looking forward to seeing part 2.

  5. FYI… “spare the rod, spoil the child” is NOWHERE in the bible. Its a line by poet Samuel Butler, in Hudibras (1664).

    Butler’s line is a perversion of several psalms and proverbs, the proper meaning being that if you do not properly discipline your child, you are a bad parent.

    Its often quoted by “religious” types who enjoy beating children.

    Glad to hear you’re free, Torah!

    1. “Spare the rod, spoil the child” is a paraphrase of a biblical verse (Proverbs 13: 24 (KJV)):

      “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

      To say it is “NOWHERE” in the Bible is rather like saying that “separation of church and state” is nowhere in the constitution. True, the exact prhaseology doesn’t exist, but the concept is clearly alluded to.

      1. Yes, for protection of the church from the state and not for protection of the state FROM the church! Read the letter where the phrase originates! Original Supreme Court decision on this was very mishandled.

  6. Thank you Torah for having the courage to share your very personal life experience, which has shaped you as a strong woman, determined to grow through education and life experience, allowing you to now make ‘ choices ‘ not forced upon you. This story surely should remind us all that there are always so many less fortunate than ourselves and that feeble illusionary excuses we create in our minds should be abandoned in exchange for chasing our dreams and fulfillment. Once again we see that the first step is always the hardest, but once taken you’ll never look back. Paul,Australia.

  7. Torah,

    Have you ever thought of writing a book about your life? If so, this post is a pretty good start. Looking forward to reading more.

  8. I really wanted to read the FISA post, but it seems to have disappeared.

    It’s unlike you to succumb to pressure. a bit disappointed.

  9. Cool story, when does part II become released? Why did you wait so long to post this story? I recall the pic from a while ago and you stating you were going to post it someday. Did you personally meet this girl?



    1. I’m not defending the sentiment, but you have used the verse out of context. Psalm 137 is a song of vengeance against a captor.

  10. Wow. This is an amazing story.

    We don’t realize how powerfully entrapped we are by our own minds until we manage to break out. From experience I can say that is extremely hard to break out of that mind that was formed by our childhood — but such an amazing healing process when we do, if we had less than mediocre parents.

    What is the FISA post?

  11. For the past month I’ve been somewhat suicidal..

    I’ve realized how badly I needed to get out.. and when my parents wouldn’t sign my lease paper.. I lost it.

    But I just find it crazy how you always seem to have a story or blog post that’s somewhat relevant.


    No name (but my real email)

    PS Now get part 2 out 😉

  12. Just wanted to point bex in the right direction: “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly (early).” (Proverbs 13:24)

    An inhuman doctrine, but one that exists in the Bible nonetheless.

    To Torah, my well wishes.

  13. Tim,

    This is insane. I have been through Amish towns and communities and thought they were a peaceful people, but somehow this story does nt come as much as a surprise.

    It is unfortunate and sad that someone would have to go through this.

    I’m interested in part 2.


  14. The language spoken by the Amish is not called “Amish”. It is an Americanized corruption of a dialect (Palatinate German) spoken in Germany. The regular Amish don’t call their language Amish. Maybe the “Low Amish” do but they are a breed all their own.

    Anyways, interesting piece. I see Ms. Bontrager isn’t a very tolerant person but she most likely learned that right at home so I don’t condemn her for that.

    Is it as hard to leave the Amish as she lets on? You better believe it. In reality, it is hard enough but not nearly as hard as it seems. But you never know that from the inside. When a kid makes the choice to leave the Amish they are literally giving up their very life in the hopes of a better life. And all that in spite of a constant barrage of stern warnings about how horrible a life outside the Amish religion is.

    1. I live in central PA, on the edge of “Dutch Country”. The language is referred to as Pannsilfaani Deitsch, misunderstood as “Pennsylvania Dutch”. In fact it has been a written language since at least the 19th century. The Boonastiel stories are in Deitsch. The spelling was erratic until a Penn State German Professor and his colleague systematized the spelling. This spelling, Buffington-Barba, is based on German letter sounds. Another spelling is, I believe, the Ohio spelling, based on English letter sounds. Es Nei Teshtament, the New Testament, is available with Ohio Deitsch in the middle, and King James English on the far sides.

  15. While I am no expert on the Amish, I have family that lives in northern and central Pennsylvania, so we have spoken to, met on the street and even talked to former Amish who left their community but wanted to stay close.

    I will say that I believe you are incorrect in your statement that children may choose to stay in the religion is false. first baptism does not take place until adulthood, so technically they can not remain since they do not yet belong.

    I think what you are referring to is what is sometimes called Rumspringa. it is true that not all sects allow Rumspringa, this is a time for teenagers to decide if they want to be baptized into the faith. in many cases this is a time for personal reflection, but in some cases some teens are allowed to leave their community to explore their options without fear of retribution. it is up to the elders to decided how broad teens involved in Rumspringa can go.

    I am some what surprised that you would take one account and place a judgment over an entire religion. this would be the same as saying all Muslims want to blow-up Americans as a part of their Jihad. as many people who take the time to study know jihad is the struggle in faith, self, word and actions. violence is not the main focus, but largely it is interpreted as some sort of war on western society.

    1. I’m a little surprised to hear you say this…. Coming from the same background I can say that what Torah has shared is all true. Though some groups are more extreme than others….

      Just a thought… but, looking at them through rose glasses is distressing to some people who have left because of knowing the inside story, and left because of the severe abuse…. they say that young people have a chioce, but it is only words. The teaching does not get that idea across.

    2. I did not grow up amish but grew up in the amish community and what Torah is saying is very true of the amish religion as a whole. I went to school with the amish and mennonites in the community I grew up in and my parents treated me the same as the amish when I left there church with the shunning, etc. It is very ingrained in the children to follow the rules set forth by the church or you are going to hell as she said. I was always told to “let your conscience be your guide” and not let your bible be your guide. So it becomes very ingrained in your mind that if you think differently you are wrong. You literally have to make a choice to leave family and friends behind if you choose to live the normal life style. It truly amazes me how people on this site who have no clue about the inner workings of the amish religion make statements about things presented being false. Just amazing!

  16. Wow! I am shocked and stunned. Tora(h) – I am so glad you are alive.

    Here’s to escaping when needed!

    love Jena la Flamme

  17. Wow! That is very powerful!

    Tim I really enjoy your blog. It is very easy to sit back and scream and moan what is wrong with this world.

    It is a much harder task to create / edit / format this type of content!

    I agree, @Joel Falconer context?

    Rock on!

  18. Yes. As a child growing up in a fundamentalist church, I had a less severe but not dissimilar experience with religious indoctrination — especially deep-rooted beliefs devaluing women. Thankfully, I can also relate to the exhilaration of escaping!

    A good book about this sort of “de-conversion” (can I call it that?) is Karen Armstrong’s Spiral Staircase. Amazing stuff–

  19. So let me get this straight. We’ve got troops fighting all over the world while child beating Amish trot along in their buggies on America’s byways? Might Afghanistan be about building a gas pipeline to warm waters?

  20. Hi Tim

    That was a great article and You should do a documentary about myths/vs

    reality of the Amish Culture and sell it to sixty minutes.With 1/2 the funds establish a Non profit that would enable women and children to break away from abuse, specifically from Cults,Amish or not.

    You could interview that Cult from Texas that was just in the news. The sad reality is that women and children get the dirty end of the stick in this atmosphere.

    One would not think this was possible in today’s day and age.If this happened in another part of the country.These parents would be arrested for child abuse. Plain and simple.

    In my book, your a hero for blowing their cover.

    aside question.

    You were interviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle the other day.You mentioned certain V’A,.s you use. Can you please let me know who they are? I lost the article.

    I have had difficulty with Brickwork and YMII wanting to do phone calls.

    I guess they don’t mind receiving them, but don’t like calling out?

    Sure wish I could find a VA for that.


    I am sure you’re aware of it by now, but if your not. There is quite a large group of people with whom your almost a “Counter Culture Hero”

    with what you have accomplished.

    The 4 hour work week has become the bible for my generation dissastified with the status -quo. You have found a way out. Please keep it up.You inspire so many of us. You have no idea how many.

    Thank you for writing this book. I have not given up the dream.

    Tom G. San Francisco

  21. There are some things that are not universally true in this article. There’s a very large population of Amish in my area of northern Indiana. A huge tourist attraction. About 10 years ago I dated an Amish girl during her “free period” where she gets to do whatever she wants and decide whether or not to go back (she didn’t, she was 17 I think at the time). Met her at a club. So at least the Amish teens around here do get the option to stay or leave. She lived with a friend and her parents in a “normal” house during this time. Also, she went to public high school. Unfortunately at the time asking her about the Amish wasn’t what was on my mind so I didn’t ask her too much about the life. I did meet her parents as they rode up in a horse and buggy at one of her cross country events. That was trippy!

  22. Wow – powerful story of transformation. I’m glad to hear that you are pursuing the life you want Torah and that you had the courage to achieve it at such a young age.

  23. Hi All,

    Thank you so much for your great comments. Part II is coming soon — promise!

    @Tom G,

    Thank you so much for your kind words. Please search “outsourcing olympics” on this blog to find some of my new recommendations for VA firms.

    At the moment, you can also get a free week of tasks at my current favorite here:

    All the best and keep up the great contributions to the conversation!


  24. I always thought the Amish were a nice peacefull bunch like in that movie Witness above! But o was I wrong, damn I feel the world should know and do something about it, we all have righs, and especially baby’s, what the *&%£ how do you beat a baby for crying?????

    Any way I suppose if they had oil Bush would be there protecting their rights!

  25. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is actually analogous to the rod of the shepherd. It’s really a beautiful, sentimental teaching that has been totally perverted by some.

    A good shepherd never beats the sheep, but uses the rod to guide them with a gentle touch. That this homily should justify child abuse is the exact opposite of its intended meaning, which is “by failing to guide your child with love and instilling discipline (not punishment) in a consistent and gentle way, you ruin the child’s chances of successfully functioning in relationships and society as a whole.”

    What a powerful story. Good book in the making! Torah’s moment defines her, doesn’t it? It really is about any particular moment that would define each of us, as well.

  26. Tim,

    I have the following suggestions for your friend’s skin conditon.

    Go to and do a cleanse of their system witha paratrax, then livatrex to get rid of any internal fungus that could be triggering the condition.

    Then, I would advocate, having a food allergy test to see whether anything that they were eating is aggravating it, so as to avoid it.

    And finally, I would seek out a healer to see how they could help them to transform their energy, so as to get rid of something energy that could be contributing to their condition and provide them with cleansing and protecting ‘tools,’ so that they do not attract the condition back.

    oh.. and another: I would advocate that they go organic, properly organic with all of their skin products, from shower gel, shaving gel, and I imagine cleaning products too could likely aggravate this .

    I trust that the above helps, just ask them to email me if they would like any help:)



  27. I do not deny Torah’s horrible experience growing up in an Amish community, but I am sad that she has stereotyped all Amish to be like her parents. I grew up in an Amish community and have had none of these experiences.

    I would like to kindly suggest trying not to stereotype Amish in your second post while still truthfully sharing your personal experience growing up Amish.

    Torah, I am sorry you had to go through these experiences growing up.

  28. Hi Tim

    Torah’s profile is really insightful and, when I read it at 6:30 this morning, it had me awake and totally on edge. It left me feeling a little ashamed that most of the “basics” about the Amish culture – the language, the schooling, the religion – I was clueless about. But when it came to the more scandalous details, I was pretty aware. I think I can personally apply this misgiving to some other cultures, not just the Amish. It feels very dangerous to know only of the seemingly outrageous characteristics of a culture, but almost nothing on the fundamentals. Thanks for a wake up call, literally.

    On another note, I saw your the tweet about your friend’s skin. I gave up dairy years ago and every single health problem I was having – including very mysterious skin allergy issues – went away. Explaining the issue and the fix is a bit long winded but I’d be happy to email or Skype with your friend. It might be worth a try. Feel free to pass on my email.

  29. I never understood the “one person” narrative as an example of how a community operates. Perhaps I’m the lone therapist on this blog, but if I were to provide “one person” narratives of the horrors my secular patients shared, many of you would provide disclaimers like: “This is one person, from one family…”, etc., etc.

    We all generalize our suffering and project it onto others. I’m not diminishing Torah’s pain, but I’m highly skeptical of her unbiased outlook of Amish culture, belief, etc

    p.s. Tim… The 4HWW is outstanding. As a therapist, and service provider, many of your ideas (products) are difficult to implement. But I’m reading/doing the book within a group, and hope to come up with innovative solutions. Thanks for the inspiration.

  30. @ Betsy – perfect response for a Biblical verse that is, as usual, misunderstood/misused/misquoted by most people. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Tim,

    Thank you for posting this story. This story is less about the Amish and more about the human spirit. Her story also reveals the very fine line line between the lowest point in a life and the highest point. I cannot begin to imagine the feeling she had when she put the gun to her cheek (the lowest point) and the decision to live (perhaps the highest point in her life at that time in her life).

    Tora and Tim – thank you for sharing this experience.

  32. Hi Tim,

    Great blog! Sorry to take up blog space with this question but I was browsing a book store in Vegas two weeks ago and saw a book you recommended about work. (Your name, with a little blurb, was listed.) I didn’t buy it because I was on my way to Maui and already had too many books with me! When I got back to Vegas, I never made it back to that book store and darned if I can remember the title of the book. Would you consider providing a list of recent books you recommend? (My copy of 4HWW is at home – don’t know if this book is listed in it.) Keep up the great work!

    BTW – I gave my MoGo Mouse to a friend who does presentations on a PC for work and he uses it all the time. Thanks for that contest!

  33. A moving and brave piece of writing. I hope your truth-loving and gentle search for a proper way to live will continue to succeed as well as it has started.

  34. Cheap & easy, low side-effect Tinea versicolor remedies:

    Home remedies:

    From a respected former USDA plant scientist:

    Other suggestions:

    A product in health food stores called Swedish Bitters (a liquid herbal extract). I can’t say it’s been tested on Tinea, but I use it for just about everything. Dilute slightly and dab on affected areas.

    Shower three times a day and use Dr. Bronner’s unscented soap. Not a lot, just a few drops to remove the sweat and body oil. Cut back to once a day if skin gets dried out.

    Good luck to your friend.

  35. @Torah,

    Very glad to hear you made it out of such a horrible circumstance. The people who hurt you and others should be brought to justice.


    The problem with a story like this is that it can give the false impression that ALL people following a certain religion are bad. And that is just not true. I am not personally Amish so I can’t really speak on the topic in general, but just as there bad people in the Amish community there are bad people in EVERY community. Including atheists and agnostics. Targeting religions and religious freedoms is a VERY dangerous proposition. If we loose our freedom of religion in this country, then all the men and women who fought for our freedoms died in vain.

    There should be checks and balances. Something should be done to protect the innocents being abused in Torah’s old community, just as something should be done to protect the innocents being initiated into gangs every day in this country. It is not a perfect country, but we need to continue to have our freedoms or it will no longer be the country the founding fathers fought so hard to create.

  36. It’s time to invade Amish country and liberate those sufferers from tyranny. They wouldn’t happen to have oil, would they?

  37. Any community that is so closed off from view tends to want to keep other’s outside influence at bay and keep their own secrets in only familiar view. I do feel for Torah and am glad she has found meaning in her experience and life.

    I do feel that the article can feel a bit dangerous as it paints only one picture of the Amish. Since many of us do not know about the Amish and will make assumptions like they are all nice and make quilts or are all incest, child beaters. We wouldn’t want to start a I hate Amish campaign like many American’s say it’s ok to hate Muslims due to some zealots within Islam.

    We all know some Christians, Muslims, Jews and others who take their “scriptures” and skew them to condone their behavior. That doesn’t mean that all the people within the community are the same and act as such.

    I am sure Torah’s experiences were very real in her community and with a community very closed off from a spotlight will have many aspects like Torah experienced. I am glad she is coming forward as I am sure many who have left her old community have had experiences similar.


    As for your Friend’s yeast problem. I have something similar. Here are some suggestions: Reduce stress, UV light treatment, air conditioning, check for hormone imbalance (outbreaks tend to come when hormone levels change), build up body’s immunity with vitamins A, E, C, D, selenium. Reduce or eliminate all sugars – no candy, soda, ice cream, even bread products. Increase probiotics and other healthy bacteria like plain yogurt or suppliments, drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep, take cool showers and drink Pau D’ Arco Tea.

    Prevention is key after an outbreak. The body is in stress so that means somewhere there is imbalance within the mind/body/spirit system.

    Good luck to your friend. I know it is no fun to have stuff all over your body and face.



  38. Tim,

    It’s interesting how after awhile those of us who are frequent readers and commenters on your blog sart to feel we know you, which is, of course, hardly reality, but heck, I’m gonna’ stick my neck out here a bit and ask:

    Why such a slanted story?

    I can barely see the connection with entrepreneurship. . sure there is adversity in running one’s own business, but if that is the parallel, then Torah’s case is hardly one anyone outside her world could really relate to. . .and I have to wonder why you didn’t at least clarify certain points for some some semblance of objectivity. Perhaps that’s in part two, and I’m jumping the gun, but editorially speaking, if objectivity awaits in Part II, not at least alluding to it in Part I sets the tone for comments like mine and those of a few others above.

    Surely you cannot think that all Amish are of the ilk Torah highlights.

    I’m afraid rather than draw any real parallels to entrepreneurship, Torah’s one-sided commentary on your blog, with the readership you possess, merely gave her the perfect mouthpiece with which to spread her story. Good in one sense, not so in another.

    I look forward to Part II.


  39. I was raised amongst Amish and Apostolic communities in Southeast Iowa. Apostolics in that region share some of the strictness of the Amish – the women do not work outside the home, they wear skirts, hair in buns, no makeup, no jewelry… the families own cars and use electricity but do not have televisions and do not pay for entertainment (thereby excluding the option to attend school plays, sporting events, etc.). Many in the community are now rebelling against such things, but these values and behaviors were pretty firmly established while I was growing up.

    My family raised me Lutheran, but I can still relate to the angst that Torah refers to. I’ve been sitting here for 30 minutes trying to find a way to further describe it, but I’m just running round circles in my head. I could make additional statements about how I view the sociological landscape of the Midwest, or how people stifling their passions for each other and their purpose in life affects them, or recount my own childhood gun stories, but I just keep coming back to the thought that ultimately every person’s spiritual journey is their own. And when I think about that, I feel at peace, like I don’t have much else to say, and I get excited about the present moment.

  40. The comment left by ‘bex’ about “spare the rod, spoil the child” not being an actual Bible verse is correct. It’s not an actual verse but a paraphrase taken from this:

    Proverbs 13:24

    He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

    Thanks for clarifying this, bex.


    1. Torah,

      I cannot find your website or domain. (Says it is for sale????) I would be interested in contacting you as I also left a group like that. I’m working on my healing, but it hasn’t been easy. I’m leaving my website here for you. Could you please contact me???



  41. Tim, I’m afraid you got suckered. This is just not a true story, but the fact that it came out on the heels of the FLDS story in Texas, we’ve got a lot of people who really want to believe that all non-conformist communities are filled with rapists and pedophiles. Some undoubtedly are, but I doubt that’s the case here. If child abuse is happening in the Amish community, I’d confidently wager that it’s happening in MUCH larger percentages in our own backyards in “normal” communities. We don’t help the issue by sensationalizing it, rather we can help only be keeping our eyes open and reporting situations that many of us are ashamed to admit that we’ve seen and never doen anything about.

  42. To ‘ian in hamburg’:

    Yes, I’ve thought about writing a book. It’s one of the things I’ve always wanted to do but until now, I didn’t feel that a) I had enough of a story and b) I was emotionally ready to talk about the negative sides (I want the book to be a well-balanced account of my experiences and background).

    Now that I graduated from Columbia, my next major project is writing the book (I’m currently drafting the proposal). I have Tim to thank for helping me get my story out to a wide audience via this blog. I’m very grateful for this fabulous start.


  43. I can’t believe you printed such a slanted story without giving another side. I grew up around the amish. They are for the most part a very peaceful and happy people. Just because your correspondent was abused and knew of a few others does not make this an amish-wide thing. Further, I know several amish who have left the religion but still go back to see their families on a weekly basis, and have good relationships with them. This was a very one-sided article, Tim.

  44. @doc kane

    Lifestyle design. I think that’s your answer. Completely – and as consciously as possible – re-inventing one’s life seems to me the epitome of lifestyle design.

  45. I have to echo the minority and reaffirm that this story is an isolated incident.

    I am not Amish myself, but grew up in an area heavily populated by them, and had many Amish acquaintances and friends growing up. Something like this is horrible, yet, because it happens in a culture most have little knowledge of, people tend to brand the entire culture like that.

  46. Okay, I have to say– I was initially not excited about this article, but now I’m totally interested!

  47. This is a response to ‘littleblackriver’ who says the following:

    “The language spoken by the Amish is not called “Amish”. It is an Americanized corruption of a dialect (Palatinate German) spoken in Germany. The regular Amish don’t call their language Amish. Maybe the “Low Amish” do but they are a breed all their own.”

    The “regular Amish” do call their language Amish. When asked by English speakers, most Amish people reply, in English, that it’s Pennsylvania Dutch (a misnomer), German (incorrect) or ‘a dialect of German’. However, in Amish, we call it Amish. Sometimes we also say ‘German’ but that’s borrowed from the English misnomers.

    As a sidebar, to readers who are curious about the terms “regular Amish” and “Low Amish”, I can’t speak for the author, but I assume that by “regular Amish” he/she means the Old Order Amish and by “Low Amish”, he/she means the Swartzentruber Amish, the Swiss Amish or other varieties of Amish denominations that are more conservative than the Old Order Amish.

    Regarding the author’s comment that the Amish language is not a language:

    Three hundred or so years ago when the Amish first came from Europe, the language they spoke was a dialect reflecting whatever region they came from. They came primarily from the Palatine German region and so most Amish spoke Palatine German dialects (e.g., Austro-Bavarian). However, over several hundred years, what the Amish speak has evolved into its own language.

    Some linguists might disagree that Amish is a language, saying that it should only be considered a dialect. However, I claim that it is indeed a bona fide language because of the mutual intelligibility property or social/political criteria as it pertains to linguistics.

    Linguists have problems providing a clear definition for ‘language’ vs. ‘dialect’ or what criteria must be met in order for x to be considered a language. Currently, from the research I’ve done, one of the most accepted ways to define language vs. dialect seems to be by determining whether or not they are mutually intelligible.

    According to Wikipedia (see, “In linguistics, mutual intelligibility is a property exhibited by a set of languages when speakers of any one of them can readily understand all the others without intentional study or extraordinary effort. It is sometimes used as one criterion for distinguishing languages from dialects, though sociolinguistic factors are also important. Intelligibility between languages can be asymmetric, with speakers of one understanding more of the other than speakers of the other understand of the first. It is when it is relatively symmetric that it is characterized as ‘mutual’.”

    German speakers cannot understand Amish speakers enough to meet the mutual intelligibility criterion. Amish speakers tend to understand German speakers more than vice versa but even then, most of them can’t sustain a basic conversational dialogue with a German speaker. (How much German that an Amish speaker understands usually depends on a) whether or not he/she took German in Amish school and b) how much of the language they picked up on by reading the Bible in German.) Clearly, Amish is a language distinct from German.

    Now, when it comes to comparing a Palatine German dialect with Amish, the mutual intelligibility level is much higher. However, based on my command of the Amish language (its my mother tongue) and the sites I’ve visited that contain Palatine German copy, I would not be able to understand a Palatine German dialect without, as Wikipedia says, “intentional study or extraordinary effort”.

    I know that the credibility of Wikipedia is up for grabs, so here’s a link from Indiana University’s website (excerpts from a book, “How Language Works” by an IU professor) that doesn’t seem to disagree significantly with Wikipedia’s quote above:

    According to the Indiana University article (see link above), “The answer to this question [i.e., what makes x a language instead of a dialect] is complicated. There is no clear answer because the words dialect and language are used in different ways for different purposes. There are two completely different kinds of criteria related to the distinction between dialect and language, linguistic criteria and social or political criteria.”

    Ethnologue (, a resource recommended by the Indiana University article, calls Bavarian a language according to Ethnologue’s criteria for what constitutes a language. However, for political/social reasons, Bavarian is commonly considered a dialect. On the other end of the spectrum, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are dialects, not separate languages, under the mutual intelligibility property but for political/social reasons, they are considered languages. (Just fyi, Ethnologue calls them languages.)

    Here’s what Ethnologue has to say about the problem of language identification (see

    “Due to the nature of language and the various perspectives brought to its study, it is not surprising that a number of issues prove controversial. Of preeminence in this regard is that of the definition of language itself. Since languages do not have self-identifying features, what actually constitutes a language must be operationally defined. That is, the definition of language one chooses depends on the purpose one has in identifying a language. Some base their definition on purely linguistic grounds. Others recognize that social, cultural, or political factors must also be taken into account.

    “Increasingly, scholars are recognizing that languages are not always easily treated as discrete isolatable units with clearly defined boundaries between them. Rather, languages are more often continua of features that extend across both geographic and social space. In addition, there is growing attention being given to the roles or functions that language varieties play within the linguistic ecology of a region or a speech community.

    “The Ethnologue approach to listing and counting languages as though they were discrete, countable units, does not preclude a more dynamic understanding of the linguistic makeup of the countries and regions in which clearly distinct varieties can be distinguished while at the same time recognizing that those languages and their “dialects” exist in a complex set of relationships to each other. Every language is characterized by variation within the speech community that uses it. Those varieties, in turn, are more or less divergent from one another. These divergent varieties are often referred to as dialects. They may be distinct enough to be considered separate languages or sufficiently similar as to be considered merely characteristic of a particular geographic region or social grouping within the speech community.

    “Not all scholars share the same set of criteria for what constitutes a “language” and what features define a “dialect.” The Ethnologue applies the following basic criteria:

    “ * Two related varieties are normally considered varieties of the same language if speakers of each variety have inherent understanding of the other variety at a functional level (that is, can understand based on knowledge of their own variety without needing to learn the other variety).

    * Where spoken intelligibility between varieties is marginal, the existence of a common literature or of a common ethnolinguistic identity with a central variety that both understand can be a strong indicator that they should nevertheless be considered varieties of the same language.

    * Where there is enough intelligibility between varieties to enable communication, the existence of well-established distinct ethnolinguistic identities can be a strong indicator that they should nevertheless be considered to be different languages.”

    As you can see, how to determine whether x is a language or a dialect is a controversial issue. Just fyi, Ethnologue has an entry listing ‘Pennsylvania German’ as a language and ‘Amish Pennsylvania German’ as a dialect of ‘Pennsylvania German’ (see NOTE: Calling the Amish language ‘Pennsylvania German’ is a misnomer.

    However, my stance is still that Amish is a language (for social/political criteria if not for linguistic criteria). If anyone would like to contest this, I’m very open to being persuaded otherwise. I’m interested in seeing what arguments can be put forth to solidly claim that Amish is not a language.

    1. Wow. I don’t know or remember your field of study at Columbia, but your linguistics knowledge is extraordinary. Regarding the difference between a language and a dialect, I once heard that a language is a dialect with an army!

      I am curious to know how you supported yourself after you left the Amish or how you afforded to attend Columbia. Perhaps that will be in part 2?

  48. George, to quote a famous physicist: “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil. But for good people to do evil — that takes religion.”

    The problem with religion (and any authoritative ideology) is the dogma: the word from above which shall not be challenged. Critical thinking in such environments is despised and faith overly praised, and those are the consequences.

  49. Tim,

    I have to correct you (and Torah) on the name of the language. It’s not called “Amish”. Amish is the name given to the community and the religion. Truly Amish is a culture, just as Welsh and Scots are. The language’s proper name is Pennsylvania Dutch or Pennsylvania German. The terms are interchangeable and both refer to a butchered version of early German. It’s much like the various dialects of English and/or Spanish where a person speaking the language in one region may not be able to understand someone speaking the same (theoretical) language. Even within the Lancaster PA Amish communities there are barriers in the language.

    The reason the language is not called Amish is because the Amish are not the only people who speak it, there are also the Old Order Mennonites who are nearly identical to the Amish in nearly every aspect of their lives and theology. Because of the similarities of the two groups, the “Peaceful” nature of the Mennonites is often what causes the confusion with the Amish.

    While I’m neither Amish or Mennonite, I was born and raised in a small town called New Holland in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. My father’s side of the family has it’s roots in the Mennonite community as well, and I grew up around many people of both the plain variety and the “English”. I still learn new things about all of these groups on a regular basis, especially now that I no longer live amongst them.

    Feel free to contact me with any questions.


  50. Thank you, all readers, for your wonderful, supportive comments. It means so much to me! I’m even more inspired now to continue to increase public awareness about what goes on behind the scenes within the Amish, based on my experiences and knowledge.

    Some of you mentioned that I should write a book. I am currently drafting a book proposal about my experiences pre- and post-escape and will shop it to agents/publishers soon. The book is something I wanted to do ever since I escaped and now that I graduated from Columbia, the timing is right for it. I’m very excited about seeing it come to life.

    Some of you disagree with some of the statements I made in the interview. I’d like to make it very clear that all of my statements about the Amish are statements about the Old Order Amish that are true in general at a minimum (if not true across the board). I try to always preface statements with ‘in general’ wherever necessary. Like any other society, certain practices and thoughts vary from community to community, family to family and individual to individual. But the statements I make are true in general and there are some issues that I will address or have addressed that will give you a very different picture from what the Amish would like you to have.

    It’s very important to me to provide a fair and accurate portrayal of the Amish. If my statements differ from what you’ve read or seen or heard, it’s very likely due to your having been the recipient of what the Amish wanted you to believe. Whatever the case, I’m always happy to clear up any confusion if anyone has any questions or to be challenged if anyone can provide compelling evidence that differs from the statements I make. ? This is a learning process for me, too.

    All my best and thanks again to you all for your support and interest,


  51. To reader ‘Paul Yoder’:

    I realize I’m blatantly stereotyping here based on your name but were you raised Amish or Mennonite? Please contact me via my website, if you were raised Amish. I’d love to exchange experiences with you.



  52. Speaking as an ex-Mennonite, I agree with Paul Yoder.

    There is a great deal of variety among Anabaptists. These are people who, in the conflict between the Catholics and the other Protestants, picked “none of the above”. It’s a contrary and “ornery” bunch, whose primary saving grace is that rather than get physically violent over their differences, they just choose not to associate with those they disagree with. They’re as apt to shun each other as they are modern conveniences. That means that individual groups of Amish or Mennonites can be quite different in character from each other.

    Torah’s story doesn’t sound all that dissimilar from my own, but I’d caution against trying to generalize on the basis of one person’s experience.

  53. Thanks, ‘Betsy’, for your explanation about the meaning of ““Spare the rod and spoil the child”. I like it.


  54. The Amish are a very diverse group composed of small (25 families or less) communities. There are commonalities and there are differences – if you look closely, you will often find striking differences between communities. And, these people are, as I heard one Amish bishop quoted, human, with all of humanities imperfections and failings. It is only when we look at these groups from the distant outside – as people often look at animals in a Zoo – that we see all bad or see all good or even see a few examples of either and attribute them to all members of the same group.

    I have seen great acts of kindness amongst the Amish/Mennonite communities. Most who I know are good, honest people who cherish their children as I do mine. This weekend, I will attend an auction put on by the Amish and Mennonites that has the sole purpose of raising money for the people of Haiti. Tens of thousands of dollars will be raised and the people who donated their time and products do it because they are good, decent folks who will help anyone in need. Do some abuse their children? Do some of those ‘English’ people we know as neighbors?

  55. To all readers who’ve commented about this topic and to ‘joshua’ in particular who says the following:

    “I will say that I believe you are incorrect in your statement that children may choose to stay in the religion is false. first baptism does not take place until adulthood, so technically they can not remain since they do not yet belong.

    “I think what you are referring to is what is sometimes called Rumspringa. it is true that not all sects allow Rumspringa, this is a time for teenagers to decide if they want to be baptized into the faith. in many cases this is a time for personal reflection, but in some cases some teens are allowed to leave their community to explore their options without fear of retribution. it is up to the elders to decided how broad teens involved in Rumspringa can go.”

    ‘joshua’ is correct in saying that technically anyone who is not baptized cannot remain practicing Amish because he/she hasn’t yet joined the Amish church. However, practically speaking, if you are born and raised Amish and under the rules of the church, you are a practicing Amish.

    All parents/communities fear for any child who leaves the Amish (or becomes non-practicing Amish) whether or not he/she is baptized. Depending on the community and parents, the child is believed to be almost certainly destined for hell (unless, in some cases, the child joins one of the other Anabaptist groups). The prevailing belief is that if you were born and raised Amish, then your best shot at getting to heaven is by practicing the Amish religion.

    Generally speaking, in the big communities (as well as some smaller ones), it’s very common for teens to explore the ‘outside’ after they turn sixteen and before they get married. This period is referred to as ‘rumspringa’. Exploring or experimenting with the outside isn’t actually allowed but it’s generally accepted in the big communities because a) there are too many teens so the parents don’t have any control over them, and b) this has been happening for generations so the parents more or less expect their kids to experiment as well, even though the parents don’t actually want their kids to interact with the outside nor give them permission to do so.

    In communities where it is more accepted (although still not actually allowed), rumspringa is often considered to be a time when kids can sow their wild oats—if they must–with the express purpose to then join the Amish church and never leave. Rumspringa generally is NOT viewed as an opportunity to legitimately decide not to remain practicing Amish.

    Amish kids do not have a fair or free choice whether or not to remain practicing Amish—unless they ‘choose’ to remain practicing. In the smaller communities in general, teens do not have the chance at all to explore the outside during rumspringa like the teens in the bigger communities (or some smaller communities) do. One of the reasons the smaller communities were established was precisely to keep control over the teens, to limit the number of families and hence the number of teens so they couldn’t band together to go against their parents’ wishes.

    When I say that Amish kids don’t have a choice, perhaps one could argue that philosophically speaking they do. However, I wonder how much of a free choice an Amish kid has if a) he/she is told all his/her life that leaving the Amish (or becoming non-practicing) will result in his/her going to hell, b) he/she is not provided a non-subjective education about the outside world—or at least sufficient exposure to determine with an appropriate amount of knowledge whether or not to stay or go, and/or c) he/she is ostracized by his/her family if he/she does leave.

    If someone would like to argue that technically/philosophically the kids do have a fair or free choice, I would be happy to hear what you have to say. But for practical purposes, believing that Amish kids actually have a choice does nothing to prompt the general public to offer assistance and resources to those who do not wish to remain practicing Amish and only perpetuates the cycle of unhappiness and suffering that each generation of Amish kids experiences.



  56. Lookout Tim she is not human! Cmon dude, gorgeous Ivy Leaguer, boxer, foreign languages, Tibet, “opportunity agent” WAKE UP MAN SHE IS A CYLON PROGRAMMED AND INSERTED TO ATTRACT AND DESTROY YOU

  57. We can all change our lifestyle at will – for some it takes a little more will and as long as you accept that it can be done you will succeed.

    I like this blog because the underlying message is: “I can”

  58. That’s f*ing terrifying. I can’t wait to hear about how she escapes and whether or not her parents try to kidnap her back into the fold.

  59. I think it should be clarified that the True/False questions may ONLY apply to the Amish community she lived in, and not of all Amish communities. I fear that many readers will not understand that distinction. It’s like trying to say the FLDS represents what all Mormons are like, or that all followers of Islam are radicals.

  60. @Joel Falconer context –

    The reference to Ps 137:9 is about Babylon, which was/is an enemy to Israel; It is a pronouncement against her enemies. It is NOT a pronouncement or endorsement to kill children. Happy is the one who destroys Bablyon as it has destroyed all the others around it.

    In other words, if a nation came and abused, destroyed, tortured, raped, burned, etc you and your entire country, then you would be pretty happy to do equally vile things to them.

  61. In the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania, a devout group of Christian people live a simple life without automobiles, electricity, or modern machinery. They work hard and live quiet, peaceful lives separate from the world. Most of their food comes from their own farms. The women sew and knit and weave their clothing, which is modest and plain. They are known as the Amish people.

    A 32-year-old milk truck driver lived with his family in their Nickel Mines community. He was not Amish, but his pickup route took him to many Amish dairy farms, where he became known as the quiet milkman. Last October he suddenly lost all reason and control. In his tormented mind he blamed God for the death of his first child and some unsubstantiated memories. He stormed into the Amish school without any provocation, released the boys and adults, and tied up the 10 girls. He shot the girls, killing five and wounding five. Then he took his own life.

    This shocking violence caused great anguish among the Amish but no anger. There was hurt but no hate. Their forgiveness was immediate. Collectively they began to reach out to the milkman’s suffering family. As the milkman’s family gathered in his home the day after the shootings, an Amish neighbor came over, wrapped his arms around the father of the dead gunman, and said, “We will forgive you.” Amish leaders visited the milkman’s wife and children to extend their sympathy, their forgiveness, their help, and their love. About half of the mourners at the milkman’s funeral were Amish. In turn, the Amish invited the milkman’s family to attend the funeral services of the girls who had been killed. A remarkable peace settled on the Amish as their faith sustained them during this crisis.

    One local resident very eloquently summed up the aftermath of this tragedy when he said, “We were all speaking the same language, and not just English, but a language of caring, a language of community, [and] a language of service. And, yes, a language of forgiveness.” It was an amazing outpouring of their complete faith in the Lord’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”

    The family of the milkman who killed the five girls released the following statement to the public:

    “To our Amish friends, neighbors, and local community:

    “Our family wants each of you to know that we are overwhelmed by the forgiveness, grace, and mercy that you’ve extended to us. Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. The prayers, flowers, cards, and gifts you’ve given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you.

    “Please know that our hearts have been broken by all that has happened. We are filled with sorrow for all of our Amish neighbors whom we have loved and continue to love. We know that there are many hard days ahead for all the families who lost loved ones, and so we will continue to put our hope and trust in the God of all comfort, as we all seek to rebuild our lives.”

    How could the whole Amish group manifest such an expression of forgiveness? It was because of their faith in God and trust in His word, which is part of their inner beings. They see themselves as disciples of Christ and want to follow His example.

    Hearing of this tragedy, many people sent money to the Amish to pay for the health care of the five surviving girls and for the burial expenses of the five who were killed. As a further demonstration of their discipleship, the Amish decided to share some of the money with the widow of the milkman and her three children because they too were victims of this terrible tragedy.

    Forgiveness is not always instantaneous as it was with the Amish. When innocent children have been molested or killed, most of us do not think first about forgiveness. Our natural response is anger. We may even feel justified in wanting to “get even” with anyone who inflicts injury on us or our family.

    Dr. Sidney Simon, a recognized authority on values realization, has provided an excellent definition of forgiveness as it applies to human relationships:

    “Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.”

    Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours. The folly of rehashing long-past hurts does not bring happiness.

    Some hold grudges for a lifetime, unaware that courageously forgiving those who have wronged us is wholesome and therapeutic.

    Forgiveness comes more readily when, like the Amish, we have faith in God and trust in His word. Such faith “enables people to withstand the worst of humanity. It also enables people to look beyond themselves. More importantly, it enables them to forgive.”


  62. Lookout Tim she is not human! Cmon dude, gorgeous Ivy Leaguer, boxer, foreign languages, Tibet, “opportunity agent” WAKE UP MAN SHE IS A CYLON PROGRAMMED AND INSERTED TO ATTRACT AND DESTROY YOU

    Well, just couldn’t make it through the comments on a post about a woman without some sexist B.S., could we?

  63. Hi Tim – I am currently reading your book and it has already changed me. But since i have been little have always wanted to be a childern’s TV presenter due to a number of things and circumstances at home I was unable to follow my dream. I have two kids and used to entertain kids but Tim what I am stuck on is the HOW. I have no proffesional experiance only what I do for friends and family entertain the kids. I also want to set-up my own business. As I didn’t have a very good education I want to give that to my chidren I need to raise £2k per month as my son starts private school in sept and I need to cover his fees. He mamged to get in. I am spritual and I do breathing called art of Living. if you have any further tips for me please let me know. I uderstand you ar coming to London you are meeting with a girl in PR if possible there is a group of us that would love tohave just 10 mins with you please let us know if you can spare this time for us. I also win alot of competitions and I have travelled the world as a result of this. Everyone tells me to write a book on this but my problem is I need guidance as I don’t have that around me. Tim I would really appericiate your help and advise on the matters above. I look forward to meeting with you very soon. Kind regards Bindya Shah.

  64. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is actually analogous to the rod of the shepherd. It’s really a beautiful, sentimental teaching that has been totally perverted by some.”

    Betsy: Is this the same rod that was used to beat slaves? Don’t forget the Old Testament. I think you have been brainwashed by “luvin’ Christians”.

    Exd 21:20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.

    Pro 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

    Pro 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

    Pro 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.

    Isa 9:4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

    Feel free to put those BIBLE quotes in context where it does not mean to strike one with this “rod”.

  65. Tim, I’m not sure if this is how you’d like a response to your Twitter message about the friend with tinea versicolor.

    I’ve been afflicted by it for decades, along with eczema and the occasional bout of psoriasis.

    It’s hard to describe the fierce itch that comes along with it. It’s akin to a burning sensation and is so intense that I’ve actually woken myself up scratching (hands, usually) so hard that I’ve actually torn the skin away and am tearing at muscle tissue… and it’s not enough.

    And I’ve done it all: acupuncture, acupressure, Chinese herbs, a veritable cornucopia of so-called ‘natural’ remedies (horrifically expensive and completely useless – what a racket!), hypnosis, dietary modifications, naturopaths, chiropractors… the list goes on and on.

    In my experience, the only thing that made the slightest difference were strong physician-prescribed steroids (not the muscle-building type), both as topical meds and ingestibles like Prednisone. Topical ones need to be a minimum of 1% cortisone (over-the-counter meds are usually 0.5%, depending on your jurisdiction). Long-term use can present risks, but for me personally, nothing else seems to work.

    For very short-term relief, especially for hands, I run them under extremely hot water for a couple of minutes. Yes, it burns and scorches and makes the skin a lovely shade of scarlet, but at least it manages to quell the itch for an hour or so.

    I wish I had a magic-bullet solution to tell you about, Tim, but it just doesn’t appear that there is one.

  66. i caution you all to not take everything as it seems. i grew up in southern indiana and the amish culture is intertwined with the “english.” this story seems very slanted to me, perhaos embelished for dramatic effect?

    i am sure bad things do happen, as they do in ALL cultures, but don’t blame it all on them being amish. every culture takes certain measures to ensure its continued existence. every culture creates its own carrots.

    in the western capilatist culture we do it with money and power. the amish do it with fear and discipline. who’s life is more peaceful? more worthwhile? who’s is better? who is to say?

    read this for more info.

  67. The Amish are an extremely easy group to critique. They can’t/don’t usually defend against allegations, and especially not in this kind of venue. I mean, how many Amish do you think are reading this *right now* and are thinking, “She doesn’t understand us.”

  68. Tim – Great post. The life lessons here are fantastic.

    Torah – Congrats on your freedom. Your will was stronger than any earthly situation. Which is exactly why I love your story, so far. Need to read part II… 🙂

  69. Tim,

    I always thought the Amish were a peaceful group. I guess I was wrong.

    It is very encouraging to hear of someone like Torah who overcame a tough life and became the person she wanted to be. Her situation is so extreme and sometimes we get so discourage about something so simple. Or simple in comparison to her. This is a good example of how you need to diligently fight for what you want in life.

    Look forward to part 2.

  70. Hi All,

    I have added the below to the end of the post:

    “This post is not intended to generalize all Amish. Rather, it is one person’s experience with the common constraints of the Old Order Amish. Please see Torah’s further explanations in the comments below.”

    Torah elaborates in these comments on some important aspects of her story, which is exactly that: her story. Not all Amish will behave like the abusive Amish she describes, but such people are not uncommon in those particular communities.

    Part 2 coming soon, and thank you for your comments, including criticisms. Be sure to read Torah’s additions in the comments above!

    Pura vida,


  71. Thanks for adding that Tim. My grandfather left the amish community and (lancaster Pa) and this is not a typical thing.

  72. I have tinea, acquired when travelling in southeast asia. once you have it, you have it. period. tea tree oil does not work. it is not a traditional yeast infection, it has to do with sweat and staying sweaty for x period of time. backpackers get it particularly badly. selsun blue shampoo (2.5% concentration) is supposed to work but it never did for me. i have no choice but to head to the derma.

  73. The Amish sound great, where do I sign up?

    a.r. smith, right on! Humanity has the option of either disipline: living a non-individualistic lifestyle where community takes on art, or capitalist materialism and zionism.

    Many Americans wish they had the latter. This Amish girl wants Bushco.

  74. Torah,

    as I said in my original post, and as you try to correct me, rumspringa is a time for reflection before being baptized. in SOME cases children are allowed to leave their community with out fear of reprisal.

    no religion, or society encourages members to leave and not return. weather some one leaves their community or simply takes some time to think about how the teachings apply to them, there is an opportunity in communities that allow for rumspringa for children to explore their faith.

    as I mentioned alluded to before, Rumspringa can be seen as similar in some ways to other rites of passage such as the life long jihad of trying to walk and speak in the light of Allah. some people pervert this to ideological warfare and propaganda, but for a vast majority this is simply a reflection on ones faith, and deciding to follow a pious path.

  75. Thanks for the clarification, Tim. It’ll help take you off the “burner” from this point forward as well. 😉

    Cheers, D

  76. This is in response to ‘Spencer’, ‘Jason’, ‘Chris’, ‘a.r.smith’, ‘Joseph’ and any other readers who have similar opinions:

    The primary image that the general public has of the Amish is that they are a happy, peaceful, gentle group who do no harm (or very little harm) to anyone. The general public is not aware of what really goes on behind the scenes, what really happens behind closed doors. This includes the majority of people who grow up around the Amish.

    The Amish do an excellent job at maintaining a public image of peace, harmony and positive values. (Objectively, I have to admire them for their fantastic marketing abilities.) The general public rarely hears about the negative sides of the Amish and when they do, the incidents (like the case of Mary Byler who was raped several hundred times by her brothers and constantly beaten by her stepfather; see are quickly swept underneath the carpet, quickly forgotten by the media and the general public. No proper investigations to see if any other women and children are suffering such abuse is conducted at all; no one lobbies on behalf of innocent Amish women and children.

    Sexual and physical abuse is not uncommon at all within the Amish. Physical, verbal and psychological/emotional abuse are indeed Amish-wide things. NOTE: My saying that it’s not uncommon is not the same thing as saying that it’s more prevalent than in any other society. I’m simply saying that it’s not an uncommon occurrence–and that something needs to be done to address these problems.

    Human rights are being violated on a regular basis and the general public is very unaware that this is taking place. This is precisely the reason I’m telling my story. If I don’t come forth, who’s going to know the difference? All the general public will know is a one-sided version of the Amish: the peaceful, gentle folk image. The Amish, especially women and children, are going to continue suffering needlessly.

    I know that some people would like to continue to cling to this “pure” image they have of the Amish but it’s not doing any of the Amish who are suffering a service to ignore the facts. If anyone wants to say that my story is false, slanted or an isolated incident, that’s your prerogative. However, the fact is that my story is far from an isolated incident. My experiences are very similar to many, many other Amish teens. What I went through—the physical and psychological abuse, the questions, the struggles–is a quite normal thing for most teens to experience. Some, especially girls, have far worse experiences than I did. Others less.

    Again, my purpose is to create a balanced awareness of the Amish. The general public already knows the good sides of the Amish. I’m here to inform you of the negative sides. That I’m addressing the negative sides should NOT be construed as my presenting a one-sided view or branding an entire culture as only negative. You already know the good stuff. Now it’s time to know the not-so-good so you can help do something positive about it.


  77. To ‘Karl Blessing’ who says:

    “I think it should be clarified that the True/False questions may ONLY apply to the Amish community she lived in, and not of all Amish communities. I fear that many readers will not understand that distinction. It’s like trying to say the FLDS represents what all Mormons are like, or that all followers of Islam are radicals.”

    The true/false questions apply to all Old Order Amish communities.


  78. Here is an interesting critique of “Spare the Rod”

    “There is no authority in the Bible for the corporal punishment of children with rod or otherwise, except in the Proverbs of Solomon. It is only Solomon who recommends child-beating. Never the Lord.

    Solomon’s child-rearing methods worked very badly for his own son, Prince Rehoboam. Solomon has an undeserved reputation for wisdom. In reality, he left his country oppressed and impoverished. In his later years, he turned to idol worship and practiced “the abominations of Chemosh and Moloch”.

    There is no support for he beating of youth outside of Solomon’s Proverbs.”

  79. To ‘grrgle’ who says the following:

    “Lookout Tim she is not human! Cmon dude, gorgeous Ivy Leaguer, boxer, foreign languages, Tibet, “opportunity agent” WAKE UP MAN SHE IS A CYLON PROGRAMMED AND INSERTED TO ATTRACT AND DESTROY YOU”

    Unfortunately, I am indeed human. But I’m very flattered that you think I have super powers.

    Although considering that I’m Amish, I should ask, “What’s a Cylon?” (In case someone doesn’t get it, this is a joke.)

    On a more serious note, that I’ve accomplished what I have considering the particular environment within which I grew up I hope inspires others to believe in themselves, to know that nothing is impossible. Anything you make up your mind to do, you can do. This is one of the key messages I hope that all readers take from my story.


  80. Torah, I can’t wait to read your book. Who would you like to play you in the movie? 😉

    What is your relationship with your family, friends and the Amish community like now? Do you have any contact with them at all?

  81. hello. I am writing a short story. I was wonderig hwether Torah would allow me to include a parphrased version of parts of her story.

  82. This whole story rings false to me.

    The “cold steel” part? Her gun was cold right after target practice? Neat trick, that. So the Amish country isn’t bound by the same laws of thermodynamics as the rest of the universe? Good to know.

    Montana requires residency to file with for emancipation. It also requires that you be financially independent. Not accepting support, not being supported…financially independent.

    As well, the laws in both MI and WI regarding minors retain sovereignty, and so any runaway minor would have been returned. Any minor trying to file paperwork in another state would have to prove they were there legally.

    The scenario of sneaking in and grabbing a convenient packet of papers is just too pat. Especially since the Amish have been exempt from Social Security since 1961.

    Her website pushes the fact that she’s looking for a publisher for her book. This reads like promotional material.

    Her website also says “Built upon 12 years of smart networking, …”, her Columbia GS Student Council profile lists that she was a pilot, so some how, between the ages of 15 and 27, if her story is to believed, she’s fought a constitutional battle to gain emancipation without legal right to address the court, became a pilot, became a global mover and shaker, attended Columbia, and managed to do all of it without leaving a single trace of anything except Columbia anywhere on the web.

    Maybe I’m just a cynic, but I find the entire story to be overwrought melodrama that probably has a pretty pedestrian underpinning.

    And a minor detail; the picture on page two has a boy wearing buttons. The Plain folks don’t use buttons.

  83. I apologize for belaboring the point. But i have never once heard an Amish person call their dialect “Amish”. The only people I have heard call it that were “Englishi leit”. (Phonetic spelling alert! LOL)

    Two nights ago I had a house full of company. I mentioned that I had never heard Amish use that term in reference to their language. 3 out of the 6 ex-Amish there said they had but they all agreed it was rare.

    Best to ya!

  84. So sad that the things that happened to you might take away from the glorious goodness of my Saviour Jesus Christ. Please understand Torah the difference people to the the tares and the wheat in churches. I’m sorry Torah that you experienced the inauthentic believers in Jesus Christ. I hope and pray you experience the real believers in Him and we meet in Heaven or on this earth someday.

  85. It’s truly a small, small world. I mentioned these posts to one of my close friends tonight. Turns out he knows Ruth “Torah” Bontrager quite well. In fact, my friend’s wife worked with “Torah” at a bakery over the time “Torah” left home.

    Not only that, my friend’s wife is married to “Torah’s” sister.

    (Do I call her by her given name or her assumed name? Since she goes by “Torah” I will use that out of respect.)

    Before I go any further, I need to let you know I am a fairly harsh critic of the Amish and even of many of the Mennonites. I consider many of their churches to have many characteristics of a cult. The friend I reference here is of the same persuasion. My motive in posting this is not to defend the Amish, rather to share some balance to this discussion.

    1. “Torah’s” parents are no longer Amish. In fact, they are pretty far from being Amish. So when “Torah” goes home to visit, she is not visiting Amish parents.

    2. Torah’s siblings deny her claims. That is not proof in of itself. But when you consider the fact that they are no longer Amish themselves their denials carry a bit more credibility.

    3. There are lots of other credibility issues going on here. I am not interested in throwing a lot of dirt. But I would give a strong caution to the owner of this blog about “hitching his horse to this buggy”. You operate with a lot of integrity. From what I have learned from various sources, including this friend I mentioned, there may be some credibility issues with “Torah’s” story. It is your choice but it would be worth considering my warning.

    Of course, it’s a free world. I defend “Torah’s” legal right to tell her story how ever she sees fit. And there are many who will blindly rise to her defense by seeking to discredit those of us who cast doubt on her story.

    BTW, here is a recent picture of Torah’s parents and siblings. Notice her father has no beard, does not dress “Amish”, drives a bus, etc.

    Here is another picture of some of her siblings. Her siblings are, from left to right, numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7.

    I grabbed the photos from “Torah’s” brother’s blog.

    Before you dismiss me, I can provide names, dates, etc. to back up my claims. I can be contacted at my user name at gmail dot com.

    Thank you for your time.

    PS. “Torah”, I feel bad for your sake for doing this. I know all too well how badly the rejection hurts and God knows you don’t need more hurt. But the truth must be told, even if it “costs” you credibility.

    1. Which are the parents in the top picture? Not that I don’t believe you, and maybe it is just my age, but all of those people look too young to be the people you claim they are. I notice you say you can produce names, dates etc but you don’t do it.The pictures could be anybody – but I guess that is the point? You want to say that this could be any family. So you post a picture of a random group of young people and say it is the family (with parents…?)

  86. I also grew up Amish in in same order of fellowshipping together and I know that abuse does happen here and there. But Torah’s story has some flaws as some of you have been able to see.

    I personally know her family very well ,and belief me,every coin has 2 sides, and if you look at the one side too long your vision will become distorted.

    I had a hard life too, along with emotional and verbal abuse in the Amish I grew up, but this happens in many homes,not just AMISH.

    Torah, I hope you consider the emotions in your own heart, for the way your story sounds,it is largely a reflection from your heart more than reality of circumstances.

    Remember, often the issue is not the real issue.