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 over 400 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.

209 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. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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 😉

  11. 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.

  12. 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.


  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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–

  17. 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?

  18. 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

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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!


  22. 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!

  23. “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.

  24. 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:)



  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

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

  29. 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.

  30. 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!

  31. 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.

  32. @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.

  33. 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.



  34. 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.


  35. 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.

  36. 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???



  37. 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.

  38. 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.


  39. 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.

  40. @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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.


  45. 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,


  46. 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.

  47. 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?

  48. 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.



  49. 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

  50. 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”

  51. 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.

  52. @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.

  53. 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.”


  54. 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?

  55. 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.

  56. “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”.

  57. 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.

  58. 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.

  59. 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.”

  60. 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… 🙂

  61. 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.

  62. 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,


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

  64. 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.

  65. 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.

  66. 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.

  67. 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.


  68. 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.


  69. 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.”

  70. 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.


  71. 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?

  72. 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.

  73. 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.

  74. 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!

  75. 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.

  76. 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…?)

  77. 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.

  78. @Spencer: You say “This is just not a true story”. I assume that you do not mean that Torah is not speaking the truth as she has experienced it, but rather you mean that the kind of treatment she describes as being common in her community is not in fact common in all Amish communities.

    The fact that Amish communities vary in the amount of abuse they experience does not make the story untrue. Rape, incest, pedophilia, child abuse, spouse abuse, and elder abuse are undoubtedly much more widespread in our own communities than we care to admit, as these are subjects that carry a great deal of fear and shame with them, and therefore are not usually discussed openly.

    I commend Torah for her courage to tell her story.

    @Norman: you overgeneralize when you say that “the problem with religion (and any authoritative ideology) is dogma: the word from above which shall not be challenged. Critical thinking in such environments is despised and faith overly praised”

    I disagree that all religions reject critical thinking, and suggest that you can only make such a statement about a religion you have followed yourself.

  79. Torah,

    Where in Iowa were you born?

    I know a few Bontragers’ from the Lebanon, IA and Drakesville IA group. I live in Douds, IA. In fact my in-laws live right next door to the Amish school house in Lebanon. No I’m not Amish but I have Amish acquaintances. They have all been a blessing in our life. Everything from helping us move to providing good down home hospitality. I must admit I know nothing about the abuse you speak of. If it is the way you say they hide it very, very well from their “English” neighbors.

    I have witnessed a few “new” Amish in the community that seem to be a little more free wheeling if you will. Literally partying on a Saturday night with their English neighbors. I can’t imagine this is well looked upon by the church. They have picnic tables, partable gazebos and tiki tourchses all in the front yard. Looks like a fun bunch. I have not met them yet. I can send you a picture if you like.

    I would love to speak with you more about your career plans and your plans to bridge the Amish/English.

    Thanks for sharing your insight on the Amish. I wish you well in your travels.


    Shawn Frey

    Douds, IA

  80. please, if you’re gonna quote the Bible, make sure about what it says first. spare the rod, spoil the child? not anywhere in there.

    gripping read. thanks.

    1. King James Version of the Bible, Book of Proverbs, 13:24

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

  81. My parents were born Amish and their parents (my grandparents) left the Amish church while my parents were still young. However, I grew up learning how to speak Pennsylvania Dutch.

    As many have already noted, many of Torah’s facts are fishy, from cold gun barrels, to legal questions, to SS numbers (Amish don’t have SS, my parents don’t have SS), and most hilarious of all, calling Pennsylvania Dutch “Amish”.

    I have a funny story to tell about calling PA Dutch Amish. As a kid growing up, I knew PA Dutch was called PA Dutch. But one day I was bragging to somebody how many languages I knew. I was trying, of course, to figure out how to inflate the number. I came up with this: “I know five languages! English, Spanish, Pennsylvania Dutch, German, and Amish!” My audience burst into roars of laughter and my parents still tell that story about how I made up “Amish” as a language! In fact I recently told that story to a group of Amish friends and they laughed, shook their heads, and muttered through their laughter, “Amish!”

    I know lots of Amish folks and I’ve never heard it called “Amish”. Furthermore, your arrogance shines forth in that you so confidently disagree with 95%+ of the people who speak the language and the leading linguistic organization in the world: SIL.In fact, as the SIL ethnologue says, Pennsylvania German is an excellent name for it and no, it’s not a misnomer. I just came (about 2 weeks ago) from the area of Germany that Pennsylvania Dutch (as it known colloquially among the Amish, Old Order Mennonites, Lutherans, etc, which is a perversion of Pennsylvania Deutsch) originated from and I could easily communicate (mutual intelligibility, which you throw around without having anything to back it up) in Pennsylvania Dutch with the older people there.

    I think someone else hit the nail on the head when they said that you are trying to capitalize on your upbringing and make a quick buck by dramatizing and embellishing your story. I’m sure you’ve heard of the way the internet makes overnight phenoms and I’m sure you hoped to use this blog to accomplish that. What you might not have known about the blogging community (of which I’ve been a member for a number of years) is the instant fact-checking and quick networking of people who know what they’re talking about.

    But I’d hate to commit the sin of overgeneralization. Just because your story sounds fishy doesn’t mean that there aren’t some Amish kids out there that get abused–in fact there are. I’ve heard some stories. However, it’s certainly not the norm.

    I’d like to echo what others have said about lumping all Amish into one lump. They range on the conservative-liberal scale from Swartzentruber to New Order. I just got finished hanging out with four New Order Amish girls in Europe for two weeks and we had a blast. They were quite well educated and well read. They had loving parents who taught them well. I have Amish friends in Kansas (my home state) that I hang out with quite a bit. The situation is the same there. Loving parents, extremely well educated, even tech-savvy! Three of them are computer programmers! (So indeed you might see some honest-to-goodness Amish posting on here setting you straight. I’ll have to drop one of them an email with the link.)

    Have a great day!

  82. To ‘littleblackriver’ who says the following:

    “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.”

    The 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.

    See my comments elsewhere in this post for an elaboration on the whole language vs. dialect issue or go this link:


  83. What an eye opener, the general impression one has of the Amish is that they are such gentle people. My heart bleeds for the little ones getting beaten. I will be back for part 2. Thanks for sharing.

  84. I just finished reading all these posts (wow, lots of feedback), including the ones that seem to be looking at the blog entry as a some sort of all-encompassing generalization of Amish culture.

    Torah – it is in people like you that other people find the strength to make changes in their own lives, no matter how subtle. I applaud you, and your courage to come out and tell people about your weakest moments, you are a positive role model for many.

    To the people out there who are arguing the blog was biased – I think we are all intelligent enough to know that this is just one person’s account of how she experienced life in an Amish community. That doesn’t mean she’s the only one who was forced into this experience, nor does it mean there isn’t something genuinely disturbing about the whole ordeal.

    The fact that this particular Amish group is allowed to abuse infants and deny women and children of rights because they hide behind a big word like “religion” is inexcusable. Just because a group of people claim to have an organized religion should not make them immune to the laws our society has put in place.

    We talk about gangs and organized crime as being something entirely different, but they’re really not. The only difference is that they aren’t recognized as a religion, and therefore are punishable by the law that governs their region/state/country of residence. They are still a group of people, with some degree of similarity in their beliefs and behaviour, and they do things their own way. But that doesn’t make it okay for them to steal, abuse, kill, torture, slave, or otherwise.

    I am a firm believer that people should have the right to practice their own faith, but I draw the line when people claim to be practicing their faith when they are hurting other people either, physically, emotionally, or otherwise.

  85. Hello All,

    I tried to read most of the comments regarding this young “escaped” Amish woman.

    I am generally amazed at some of the speculation and distraction from the intended lesson.

    I think the important point to consider, “here,” is NOT the abuse. ABUSE is bad, we all get it. Abuse can occur by warped people anywhere. THIS IS NOT AN ABUSE DISCUSSION FORUM.

    We do not know the extent of her abuse and we should not lose focus from the main point of this forum by trying to speculate on the actual extent or her motivations. WE DO NOT KNOW. SHE DOES.

    The main point is that “environments” exists that may be seemingly beyond our control. We did not ask to be born in a certain environment.

    Therefore, we can look at life experiences of others who have lived in the extremes, away from things we take for granted, and be amazed with the fact that they overcame. This is true for the Amish girl, or ANY socio-economic deprived person throughout the world.

    This does not apply ONLY to this isolated story. I do not believe it was the intent of the site owner to relay this story for a specific discussion of the Amish or this particular young girl’s character.

    The opportunity exists to lift up each other and motivate one another to overcome adversity and limitations.

    Instead, the forum spirals down into a speculative critique of the Amish and of the intentions of this girl who took the time to share her personal story of triumph.

    This site and forum is really about triumph, don’t you think?

    Isn’t that a more worthy and positive discussion to build?

    The fact is that, to use this girl as an example, she followed her DREAMS.

    Desire, Recognition of Purpose, Effort, Ambitions, Motivation, and Self-Confidence. I always like to throw in Faith and the end of this as it is Faith that makes all DREAMS a reality. Faith should not be confused with blind hope and wishing. Faith is based in action, with the expectation that the reward will most certainly follow, even in the face of contrary evidence.

    She had Faith when the “evidence” in her “externally controlled environment” wanted to crush her expectations of high school, college, and a better life. I reiterate: HER PERSPECTIVE.

    Thoughts like this should be what motivates this particular forum.

    We cannot undo the abuse. We cannot retract any lies or embellishments, here.

    We can only attempt to extract the value of the potential lessons to be learned.

    Follow your DREAMS people,

    Dr David D. Thornton

    Raised in a Low Middle Class home (i.e. no silver spoon)

    Sudden Young Widower before 30

    Father of 4 toddlers

    (doctorate earned while raising 4 young children alone without support)

    (doctorate earned on time, without dropping one class or semester)

    P.S. I do not brag. I need no acceptance, appreciation, or approval here. I simply illustrate the theme of this site and forum: Stability and forward motion through uncontrollable adversity.

    We all have this capability in us.

  86. As a side note to my previous post:

    Stories like this should be read as allegory in the absence of verifiable sources.

    In this way, the story does not lose its instructive potential.

    All holy books are full of allegories versus only historical fact.

    Allegories have been used for instructional purposes throughout time.

    So, what is the problem here, if this story is not real? It can still be used as an allegory.


  87. David, I have two very insightful friends. After they read this blog post and story (not including your comment, which was posted later), they told me that this story reminded them of another story they had heard. Your comment put the icing on the cake for that comparison. 🙂


    On Tuesday, the investigative website The Smoking Gun published the six-page report, “A Million Little Lies,” exposing a number of fictional events in James Frey’s supposedly nonfiction memoir “A Million Little Pieces.” TSG reported that the confessional, an Oprah Book Club selection and a memoir of Frey’s struggle with drug and alcohol abuse and eventual recovery, was riddled with exaggerations, embellishments and outright lies, including claims that he’d beat up a cop and spent three months in jail, as well as an extremely suspect incident involving a fatal car accident.


    So of course her rush to defend Frey had an effect that was not just legitimating but sanctifying. She insisted that she stood by the book, by Frey, by the incredible power of his harrowing story, the story of how he became “the man you see before you today.” (A liar, but an inspiring one.)


    Time was up, and so Oprah left us with an assurance that the book was still an “Oprah recommends,” and with soothing words for an earlier caller:

    “You know what? I was really touched by the woman who called, I think it was from Carmel … who said, as an addict, what do I do now? What do I—does this—is this true? … If you’re an addict whose life has been moved by this story and you feel that what James went through was able to—to help you hold on a little bit longer, and you connected to that, that is real.”

    And here Oprah’s voice deepened an octave, and the Significant Capital Letters crept into rhythm, as she repeated “That … Is … Real.”

    So sleep well, Frey fans, because subjectivity trumps all. Another great battle won in the American war on reason. If you feel it, it must be true.

  88. It’s hearbreakin’, the story of Torah. There is no person alive who should have to be subject to abuse, whether Amish or English. But I find it unfortunate that Torah is so negative about her Amish upbringin’. Born and raised Old Order, I cherish my childhood. ‘Twas not always the best of times growin’ up, and granted, some things were difficult, livin’ in a secluded world, for one. But never would I betray my heritage by speakin’ out so negatively about the Amish in general. The Amish like any group of people have found within them some “bad” seeds, but also they have some wonderful-gut ones, too. I left the Old Order for a less restrictive lifestyle, but I incorporate my childhood values into my new life today, as I am proud of my heritage and where I come from. As up-and-comn’ author, I take great pride in educatin’ the English about the Amish and would wish more former Amish would do so. What does it accomplish to stereotype against a people in general and speak only of negative things that simply are not the truth for the whole of the Amish?

    Leah E Mast

  89. To ‘Winifred’ who says the following:

    “For the record, her claims of being a licensed pilot are completely false. See the website linked to my name, or go here:

    “Nobody under the name Torah or Ruth Bontrager has or has ever held a pilot’s license. No female with that name has ever completed the 1500 hours required for the license she claims.”

    I’m a licensed pilot. If you want to fact-check, you can contact the school where I did my training: Hesston College.


  90. To ‘JobSage’:

    Thank you for your kind comments!

    To ‘David’:

    Thank you, Dr David D. Thornton, for your kind comments, encouraging readers to pursues their dreams, and reminding us all to not let ourselves get caught up in unbeneficial arguments. I needed that reminder; it’s always easier to focus on the negative side than to keep my head on straight and pursue the positive. Many congratulations for earning your doctorate’s and under those circumstances!

    To Shawn Frey:

    You can reach me directly via my website if you’d like to know more about my plans or the Amish.



  91. @Spencer: “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.”

    The difference being that in the wider community there is no hiding behind religious exemptions from the law of the land. This view that if you really REALLY believe something means you can ignore the rest of society and its laws is one of the cancers of modern society. This attitude creates sick, fearful communities.

    The only option going forward is to end religious exemption from laws, including government subsidisation of churches through tax exemption.

  92. I knew from the way she insisted on awkwardly using the word “escaped” in numerous times in the first few paragraphs alone where this was heading. When she got to her list of “The biggest negatives” about the Amish, it all became clear:

    A rebellious girl from an Amish background whose antagonistic nature, coupled by abuse, led her to the leftist extremist’s heaven — a university — and is now making it her duty to disparage these people because she was unhappy.

    Congratulations to this angry person for having “escaped” the Amish and thrown herself right into the jaws of a disgusting, degenerate culture. At least she has her muckraking crusade to give her meaning–which makes me think, actually…perhaps she hasn’t escaped at all.

  93. There is nothing “disgusting” about the quote regarding the rod and the child. It may seem that way to softy lefty lemmings who think that so much as playfully spanking your child in the butt is “physical abuse” but, believe it or not, many great men and women who created history came from a time when corporal punishment was a routine part of parenting. It is funny, then, when one reflect on the worthy undertakings of two generations ago and the whiny fools that pass for human beings today.

    The disclaimer at the end of this post about it being just one person’s view of the Amish is pointless and the blog owner KNOWS it. The “damage” is already done–at least in the eyes of any fool who reads this blog like a religious relic.

  94. Hi everyone,

    I’d like to take this opportunity to clear up a few things in case anyone is concerned about it.

    – I’m a licensed pilot. If you want to fact-check, you can contact the school where I did my training: Hesston College.

    – I was emancipated in Montana at the age of 16. If you want to fact-check, you can contact the county clerk’s office. However, if for some reason you’re not successful and it’s crucial that you see evidence, contact me via my website and I’ll help you get the evidence.

    – Old Order Amish people use buttons. But only the men, not the women. So the picture of the boy on Post II isn’t misrepresentative.

    -To anyone who thinks it’s impossible for the steel part of a gun to feel cold after target practice, take into account that it takes x minutes to go from the field where I was practice shooting to the house. I didn’t hold the gun up to my head the instant I got done firing. I don’t know exactly how many minutes it takes for the steel to cool off from that particular kind of gun but by the time I got close to the house, it had certainly cooled off.

    -To anyone who thinks I didn’t have a social security number before I escaped the Amish:

    The Amish are indeed exempt from paying social security taxes but that doesn’t automatically mean that none of the Amish have social security cards, nor is it logical to conclude that there is therefore no reason to have one.

    I don’t know how widely spread the practice of getting a social security card is (this is something I will research) but in my particular family, we all got a social security number at birth. I will have to ask my dad what exactly his reason was for getting that for us but I suspect it might have had something to do with a tax write-off (but I could be wrong).

    -To anyone who thinks that Amish is not a language, please see my comments in either Part 1 or Part 2 in which I argue the reasons for calling it a language. You can also read my argument by going here:

    Please note that “there are two completely different kinds of criteria related to the distinction between dialect and language, linguistic criteria and social or political criteria.”

    I end my argument with “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 [with a solid argument], 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.”

    -To anyone who thinks this story is slanted or an isolated incident or that I’m betraying my Amish heritage or that I’m portraying the Amish as only negative, here’s an excerpt of comments I made earlier addressing this:

    ‘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.’

    For further elaboration, please see

    -It is very normal for Amish kids to get abused. Physical, verbal and emotional/psychological abuse are all very common Amish-wide. Sexual abuse tends to be more common in the stricter communities but it can happen in any community. I don’t know how common it is compared to other societies but that’s not the point. The point is that rape, incest and child molestation happen far too often and regularly and so far, nothing has been done about it to stop it permanently.

    -As previously pointed out in the posts and in my comments, when I refer to the Amish, I’m referring to the Old Order Amish. The New Order Amish and the Swartzentruber Amish are not Old Order Amish. All of my statements about the Amish are statements about the Old Order Amish.

    -It’s possible that some Amish make their own shoes. However, I don’t personally know of any Amish who do.

    -The Old Order Amish don’t have electricity in their houses. Some Amish communities allow gas-powered fridges and stoves in their homes. Some Amish communities allow running water and indoor plumbing.


  95. Torah,

    You mention generalities amongst all Amish, and while I do not question your knowledge per se, I am slightly confused about where you gained all of the knowledge about other Amish communities besides your own since after leaving you too would be an outsider?

  96. I would like to request a quotation for the design of a piece of equipment I would like to have manufactured and proceed to sell.

    I do not have a patent and do not want to file one until I do preliminary testing after the design is complete.

    Question? How do I protect intellectual property.

    Thank you,


  97. I had a foster mother who had been raised mennonnite (but then went off on her own)- for about a year. Then she got married to a guy who didnt want kids and off I went to the next foster home- my main memory of her home was that she was very wed to corporal punishment, could not be bothered to think of anything creative besides a beating with a paddle.

  98. At least one reader comments asked how this post was meant to relate to this blog. I think it fits in very well with the spirit of past posts. This blog is a kind of cult itself, the cult of self-improvement, which is not a bad thing. But I do think there is a nasty tendency to condemn 95% of the human population as passive schmucks stuck in unhappy situations that because they don’t change their lives, deserve their fate. I think that view of society is unhelpful. Success is not about getting back at the world or just recruiting likeminded people and helping a few of them. Success should be about giving back to everyone, even the poor schmucks. There is just a little too much of the myth of rugged individualism in this blog for me to take the author completely seriously.

  99. My Wife and I recently visited Lancaster, PA and she saw their way of life for the first time, and liked it. we both have become more peaceful people. In am Amish community, what would be the proper punishment for a child that steals something from the parents, and then lies about it. (Kids took treats from the refrigerator that were for another family member, then told their mother that I at them, not themselves)

    Mother re-made the treats adding additional costs totally about $30.00

    beating our kids does not seem to to the trick. their ages are 8 and 11

  100. “beating our kids does not seem to to the trick.”

    You’re 100% right and you’ve raised the issue why so many people are against corporal punishment. Simply beating kids will not help matters.

    However, what makes for amazed people when they see how well my siblings and Mennonite peers behave is loving discipline.

    When Mom or Dad would give me a spanking, they never did it because they were angry at me. In fact, several times they gave me no punishment *because* they were angry and didn’t feel it would be right to punish in anger. No, they punished me in love. Sometimes they would have tears in their eyes when they spanked me.After they spanked me and I was crying, they would hold me close, cradle my head, and tell me they loved me. They would tell me that the only reason they were doing this was because they loved me. They told me that it would be far easier to simply let me go and not go through the agony of punishment, but that it would be bad for me when I grew up without discipline in my life. They told me it was the only way I would remember to do right.

    Comparing the behavior of my siblings with those of my non-Mennonite peers, it is clear that they were right.

  101. First, let me say this. My kids are not bad. They are extreamly well behaved must of the time, a little hyper at times, but their kids!. although the 11 year old boy acts much younger when he is around his sister… Good kids, good firm hand shakes, strong confidence in themselves. But the girl, is just sometimes unbarable with sneaking and lying.

    We have new tatics in my house, I wont go into details, but we’ll say it is working great, the kids are talking back much less, leaving fewer lights on in the house (that comes out of thier allowance) and taking better care of their things. What im going to do about the things the snook from the fridge is take the price out of their allowance and make them do extra chores.

    I would however like to know how the Amish would handle this situation, as I no longer believe in “spare the rod spoil the child” They’ve had their fare share of spankings when they were littler, now that they are getting older I am trying to teach the real world punishments.

    Next Question. Is this a good idea.

    8 year old daughter will not keep her room clean. Mother does the laundry hangs it up, and then less than a day later its almost ALL on the floor because shes wants to change her clothes, and throws what she doesn’t want on the floor.

    my Idea. what I see on the floor she has 5 minutes to pick up and put away, or its lost PERMANATLY. This has been a battle withher for over a year now. this kid is 8, but tries to act 20! she reads on a 9th grade level, is extreamly smart, but is extreamly messy. We have picked clothes out for her before, and she throws a blazing fit.

    She we, put a lock on her closet door, pick out an outfit and thats that, or pick out 3 outfits and let her choose. I really dont thing an 8 year old should be making their own decisions, or am I wrong?


  102. THis may be somewhat of a repost. I think one of my messages got lost in the ether…

    Dont get me wrong, my kids are very well behaved. They do have their days when they are someone whiny, but all in all, when I see other people’s kids in the stores, screaming for what they want, giving their parents a fit, I look at mine and say, “Do you want to act like that?” NO!

    My Daughter is a little different. Shes 8, more whiny then the boy (11)

    Shes also very messy. Her Mother will do the laundry and then put it away for her, less than a day later she has is scattered all over her floor. because she could not find anythign she wanted to wear. This is where I have a question…

    Is this a good idea.

    Give her 5 minutes to pick up the mess, and if its not, she loses what ever is left PERMANATLY?

    My kids are very loving and well behaved. Strong firm hand shakes, good ethics, but still kids nontheless.

    As for the Treats from the fridge, I am going to give them both extra chores and take the remainder out of their allowance over the course of a few weeks.

  103. I read nearly evry comment and could not possibly comment on the whole amish thing but I attended the kind of churches that taught about the rapture.Last Summer I met a woman on the beach who told me she had never trained for a career because she believed there was little point if the second coming was imminent and I told her that I had been exactly the same. That is how much I believed what I was taught I only wish I had talked this over with some adult but I never did. There were times too when I wished I was dead because there seemed no way out but I think now that some of this was the helplessness that a teenager feels.

  104. If you actually read through ALL of the posts and read “Torah’s” responses, you will see she makes very valid, legitimate points and even goes so far as to credential herself by proving she has a pilot’s license and a SS #, etc. If you want to criticize her, fine. Free speech, your right and all that jazz, but keep in mind this is HER first person account of what happened to HER, which she has every right to convey in any way she chooses. And for those of you questioning her NAME (Torah or Ruth), get a clue! She is using a psuedonym/penn name. As would I in her shoes.

    For those of you who have lived near Amish communities and claim your view is that of a peaceful and loving people, I’m certain that there ARE Amish communities that are peaceful and loving, but you can’t deny that these horrors are taking place in many of the Amish communities. I’m also 100% confident that just like every other family in America that you aren’t seeing the “real” side of them and only what they want you to see. (Much like the cop/police officer who beats his wife and kids but is seen as an upstanding member of the community until one of them winds up dead.) And yes, I know not EVERY cop/police officer is an abuser or has that problem but my point is that it happens. And of course the men in those communities are going to deny any rape or abuse of women! Now, I must also note that I lived next to an Amish community in Pennsylvania for a couple of years as a child (later raised in Europe) and became friends with an Amish girl. My view of their world was colored by what she and her family told me. As I child, I’ll be honest, I thought they were just plain weird. She was shy, withdrawn and always seemed afraid of her parents and brothers but I thought she was just “skittish.” She was always fun and loving and creative when we played in a field together and others weren’t around. Understandably we lost touch after I moved, but she found me a few years ago (yes, through the Internet) and I was shocked to learn that she had been severely abused mentlaly, physically and sexually as a child by her family members and members of their community. Actually, it made sense after she explained it all. She tried to escape numerous times but was always taken back home where she received even worse punishments for the attempts. Basically she was tortured. She has numerous scars to back up her tales, which I was never able to see because of the clothes they wear. I’m amazed that she didn’t take her own life. Her last attempt was successful only because she was 18 and despite having no one, she has managed to build a wonderful life for herself. She literally walked to the first city she could find and woman at a diner where she might be able to find a spot to rest for the night. The woman directed her to a shelter and after that she lived in shelters and relied on the kindness of strangers and programs through other churches (who truly wanted her to start her life over and didn’t expect her to join them and pledge her life to them in any way). She wasn’t as fortunate as Torah to have a newspaper as a resource or even the reading capabilities to know the laws on how to escape successfully and literally had to start over. My friend never wants to set foot in the state of PA again and struggles with her desire to completely put the past behind her or to go back and help other young girls in those communities. I find Torah’s story VERY inspiring, moving, touching. I encourage her to continue her work to raise awareness of what can and DOES go on in these communities and to reach out to those communities in order to help others “escape.”

  105. People, I can assure you beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the horror that Torah experienced is not an isolated case. Especially in communities like the one I grew up in. ABC News did a series a couple of years back called, ” The Outsiders.” They had kids from the community I grew up in, on the show. I can also tell everyone from hand experience what it feels like to get raped as a child. A couple of my older bros. sodomized me off and on over a five year period. From the time I was 8, until I was 13. That was almost 50 years ago, and I promise you people, that horror is as vivid today as it was 50 years ago.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that this is prevalent in all communities. Not at all. I can tell you though, that when it does happen, it’s almost always swept under the rug. Not only that, often times the victim is made to believe that it was somehow the victim’s fault.

    Where I came from, once you left the community, you were ostricized for good. I finally decided after 17 years of no contact what so ever with my parents, to go pay them a visit. I know they were happy to see me, but they tried their darndest not to be too obvious. Then one year later my mother passed away.

  106. I think it is very wrong that democratically elected governments are perpetrating the isolation of children by not forcing the issue of them getting a education. There is no reason why exemptions should be made for education or social secuty for any religious groups particularly when those practices enable them to imprison their helpless children and force them into a lifestyle not of their choice.

    It would be interesting to see a movement promoting law for the freedom from all religious indoctrination until 18. Imagine the scenario, if adults could only practice themself without forcing their children until they were adult enough to make their own decisions, the stranglehold religion of all kinds have on the community would immediately loosen

  107. Audrieau, you show within your own comment why your idea would never work and is grossly unfair and totalitarian. You tout “freedom from all religious indoctrination”, which is in itself a religious choice. You have obviously chosen the path of atheism or agnosticism or “personal religious” something or other. What you propose is that the all the world’s kids are taken and indoctrinated to believe what you believe. Because you believe it, it must be right. You espouse just another religion. Nope, the government should not mandate a religious or non-religious education. The government should protect freedom of religion and freedom of education. It is the right of the parents to educate their kids as they see fit. This include neo-Nazis, Amish, atheists, FLDS, Quakers, and Muslims, and every other group who you don’t agree with.

    Yes, I agree with you–the values of neo-Nazis, FLDS, etc are awful. But 90+% of Middle Ages Europe agreed that the heretics of the Inquisition were awful too. We are no better than the Inquisition if we follow your path.

    This election has shown how much the people of this country disagree with each other on a lot of fundamental issues. The last thing we need is for the 51% majority to be imposing their religious or non-religious views on the rest of us.

    You claim to be different from the Amish who are “imposing” their views on their kids. Well at least their views forgive their enemies and don’t cause harm to other people in this world. If the whole world were Amish, it would be a lot more peaceable. You claim to be different, but you are no different on this matter. You want to impose your religious ideas too. Actually, you are different. The Amish just want to teach their own kids their values and what they believe. You want to teach everybody’s kids your values and what you believe. In this department, you are worse than the Amish.

  108. one of the best things that my father did for us kids is take us on family vacations every year the day after school got out for the summer. One of the ones that I remember the most is when we visited the Amish while on our way to niagra falls. We took a tour and it was something I couldn’t really wrap my head around as a little kid. However, I did see a little cutie and she saw me. Now as most men will think … “if a girl looks at you then it must be because your are extremly sexy.” Well, I dad took notice and informed me that if i were to be interested in an amish woman then it was expected that I go into her culture rather than she come to mine. Well, here I am in Atlanta and she is not.

  109. Although this may happen in more than one ORDNUNG it IS NOT the way ALL Ordnung handle day-2-day life. My family has several Ordnung as part of its extension (I have uncles who married former Amish girls) off the top of my head I can pick out 8 ordnungs. Most of them are very happy and have a very peaceful way of life and the abuses describbed by this girl WOULD NOT be tolerated. I’m outraged that she would imply that this is the Amish way for all Ordnungs it makes me very angry because I have Amish in my family and they are NOT this way! I’d hate to see that American majority see them as bad because 1 girl decided to call Amish life bad.

  110. This was an insightful and culturally significant article. Sometimes we fail to recognize the great injustices suffered by people in our own country, our own state, our own city. Especially within cultures or subcultures with little documentation or even gossip regarding their habits and practices; to many people, the Amish are considered quirky but harmless, even quaint. The Amish are viewed as a paragon of traditional family values but the dangers of an isolated community protected from the law by their self-imposed seclusion are overwhelming.

    Thank you again for this article.

  111. I know the true Amish, do not use the internet and nor do they corrupt their hearts of todays evils that surround us.. My name is Paul and I do so MUCH Wish, and Want to Be Cleaner and Purer, Ridding Myself of the TV, Computers, Radio and Much Other EVIL of today,, BUT!!,, I’m now in a wheelchair because I broke my neck, and, feel hopeless to ever be allowed to become so plain and as good as they know, in front of GOD!.. I TRUELY KNOW I AM BLESSED to Still Be ALIVE!!,, But, I wish I could contribute and Join With the Goodness, Be Allowed To Become an Amish Person, of the Fellow Amish! Does any person know how to really contact the Amish, so I can ‘ask?’, if I could devote the remainder of my life simple, and productive, for the community and GOD? We are here for GOD’s Pleasure! When I eat a strawberry,, I Before Taste, Talk to You GOD, and Place it on my tounge,(spelling?) and,, MMmmMM!!,,, WOW!! GOD!!!,, 🙂 :-),, Thank You For The Gift Of Taste and LIFE!! 🙂 🙂

  112. Her story sounds like the way I grew up only I am not Amish and since I left and married a man of a different race, I have been shunned by many white people who believe that it is a sin, so churches are a struggle for me and I can not change the way I was raised but I did hear when I was young that Jesus loved the little children of the world no matter what color they were and that we should follow Jesus. She is more successful than I could ever be for having completed her education despite her struggles. What I would like to know is if she is specifically referring to the “Amish” bible having been translated 12 years ago.

  113. This is a very hard story to listen too you would think that the Amish are peaceful people, and I always thought that they we kind and loving to their wives a children to keep the way of life for the Amish.

  114. What I dont get is, she says “The Refridger ator kicked on, and mentioned later it was a gas powered Fridge. yes these do exist, HOWEVER, I have on in my mobile home, and they make basically ZERO SOUND! any why would someone need to sneek out in the middle of the night, go to the market area, catch a cab, bus, anything… have the person picking you up meet in in town. sounds like a bogus story to me, and this in the internet, where almost everything is fake… sounds like a book pitching ploy to me.


  115. I am not saying this is completely false, but i do believe that the wording exagerates what probably actually happened. the word escape is using excessively and i know for a fact that amish teenagers are pressured to join the church, but are not forced to. Furthermore, this one story should hold little weight in the opinions of Amish society to the average person who reads this.

  116. and the fact that it took her this long to brew a good story to tell says a lot to me. sorry to all those “moved” folks out there, but if i was an amish father and my duaghter was talking back and being defiant, i would use the acceptable dicipline methods. these are different for the amish, so it all seems wrong to us. so…I’M CALLING YOUR BLUFF HERE. youre stretching this and if you want my repect, don’t post part 2.

  117. It seems everyone is taken or moved by this story in many different ways. Some want to praise you for your stand, and courage. Some want to correct you on your disipline ideas, or take on an oppurtunity to define whats right and wrong to them. And, some simply find a spot for debate or argument.

    I find your story to be a sincere personal sharing of what you have come to know, and have become, as an adult. And, congratulations for finding you. I know alot of amish personally-and, have heard many ideas of why and how the amish live as they do. But, as it is-it’s simply IDEAS, as individuals have come to know it.

    There is always a grain of fear, doubt and uncertainty in what we may not understand. And, some are challenged -to make sense, and understand that which seems so very different. Even more so, when the amish beliefs appear hush-hush, secretive and uninviting to outsiders.

    No doubt, what you have shared with the world about your life, has been an eye opener for many. I hope writing your story has been an emotionally theraputic experience, I am a writer also ,and find a great comfort in writing. I wish you strength, and that you find love in the world around you.

    With Kindred Spirit, peace

  118. Dear Torah, many people are well aware of cruel Amish/Mennonite puppymills.

    Of course not all Amish people own puppymills but when we speak about treatment of animals by Amish people, don’t they view animals as cash crop, production unit, etc and not as living feeling creatures who deserve humane treatment?

    It is so heart breaking to see atrocities in Amish puppymills and cruel treatment of farm animals by Amish/Mennonite people!

    I am not saying all Amish and Mennonite torture animals but Amish/Mennonite puppymills are well known to Animal Welfare/Animal Rights people.

    I am sure when people see shocking cruely in these puppymills, it is enough for people who dislike animals to get so disgusted.

    Amish/Mennonite are also involved in cruel veal business.

    Do you have contact with Mary Byler who was born in Amish family and raped by her step father and brothers.

    Her mother end up in jail because she did not protect her.

    She has her own website and she speaks about her sad heartbreaking life before she left Amish community.

    Torah, I see you as courageous intelligent lady who never hesitate to speak truth and to be honest, I am little jealous of your accomplishment.


    Sorry for my poor English.

    English is my second language.

  119. This story was well done and I appreciated reading it. I am a bit annoyed by emails from people, who don’t want to believe this story but I understand where they are coming from. They can’t let go of their fantasy about the lovely Amish people living happy lives, being kind and peaceful and all that BS. I was raised Amish and left at age 18 and I have to admit my family wasn’t as terrible as Torah’s but I knew of Amish families like hers. There is a great deal of variation in Amish communities and families and in their Ordnungs. The Ordnungs are the rules like length of hair, kinds of machinery and things that are or aren’t allowed, etc. Some Amish allow electricity now; they are called New Order Amish. Anyhow, there is a great deal of variation like I said and many people suffer terribly in Amish families and communities that are really strict and in the less strict ones too. My family wasn’t so strict and I can still visit them but the visits are very cold and depressing sometimes. So, we may wonder if the Amish have more of the abuse problems Torah mentions than in the “regular” world. I would have to say, yes and here is why. When Amish people commit crimes like rape, physical abuse, incest, ugly things like that, the Amsih people tend to ignore it and the Bishops try to hide it. In cases of murder, they definitely sometimes cover things up so that the Amish don’t look bad or the people who commit the crime get off lightly like maybe they are shunned for a few weeks or months for raping someone! This means they get to do it again and some of them do repeat their action many times. SO, YES, it happens more in the Amish world and you can deny it and believe in your silly fantasy or accept it as the truth. You certainly aren’t helping anyone except yourself when you live in denial.

  120. Wow,

    Very cool to hear this perspective. I grew up in a traditional Mennonite house. No where near as conservative as Amish culture, but would make most people shutter. My grandparents all spoke Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a dialect of high german, very similar to Amish. Fortunately, my family broke off from the very traditional church when I was young, but they always remained ultra-conservative by today’s standard.

    I don’t think most people can understand the strangle hold traditional religion holds over the mind. It permeates every aspect of your thought and behavior, and for someone who was immersed in it, it is very difficult (but possible) to divorce yourself. I know for me, I felt like I was betraying my culture and heritage.

    However, now that I am “out” and living my life I definitely respect and can appreciate some of the value system, etc. despite the fact I no longer practice and my family considers me “heathen.” I guess that is the cost of being free and happy.

    Best of luck Torah,


  121. @George

    Speaking of angry, hateful people, which one of my leftist colleagues and friends raped and abused you so that your cultivated view on “leftys” became so foul?

    Seriously, my friend, chill out and clean your own house of hatred before thrusting similar judgement on others.

    The only person who knows of the validity in Torah’s story is herself. I, as an apparent leftist extremist, can only hope that her account is true, fore placing such harsh words upon a community by a self-proclaimed academic would be indeed a sad, sad day.


  122. Are there any Amish/ ex-Amish/ Mennonite/ ex-Mennonite people in the North Central Indiana area able to meet for coffee/ conversation about Amish life? I know this is obviously a long-shot, but I’d truly enjoy a face-face conversation before I move to GA this coming Friday (the 17th of July).



  123. Teelor, I’m an Amish-Mennonite with lots of friends (Amish, Amish-Mennonite, Mennonite, ex-Amish, etc) in Northern Indiana. Drop your contact info to hansmast at hansmast dot com and I’ll try to arrange a meet.


  124. Hey Torah,

    Sorry for your personal hurts however i will gladly personally differ with you. My husband was Amish-12 siblings-wonderful family. We have left the amish with high respect for many and most.

    Your story may be very true but is it for the hoped for fame? Help? that you have so severely exaggerated the extents. I am a 43 year old mother and sure -there have been isolated incidents-i am also evangelical and am finding some homes, families and hence cultures/churches have them in their midst just as you described. Fallen man to sin is the culprit. Sin wants to hide behind culture, church, money, you name it-so before you or your friends hope to make a quick stardom here-be careful for your own healing sake and the fact there are hundreds of us(you and i) who have left the amish and read blogs like this and become very concerned about the hypocrisy of it and will pursue avenues to correct items intended to approach issues as a testimony of truth.

    But i do know you apparently came from a very sad, unstable environment and i hope you move forward. So have some of my Baptist, Catholic, non-christian friends. They just are not finding it healing to distort or use their pain for gain.

  125. Hey Angela,

    I also grew up amish, and let me tell you that the things that Torah discribed as having happened to her, are not isolated incidents from my perspective. It pretty much depends what community you come from. By the way Angela, if amish life is such a wonderful life to you, why did you leave? If you were never mentally or physically abused like Torah and I were, then you have absolutely no right to judge. Have a wonderful life.

  126. i dont know about other amish communites but there is one 4 miles from where i live. i own my own trucking bussiness and own a skidloader, ppl say that amish do almost everything them selves. alot of amish call me to haul hay with my flat bed and we unload it by hand or pull it off with a team of horses. or they will buy a semi load of hay and will pay me to come unload it and put it away and in the winter time they will hire me to plow snow. and if there in the truck with me going some where to get hay if they need to use my phone they just take it off the dash of my truck and use it like they own them selves. iv become good friends wiht one family just because that family impitiular is about the nicest iv met yet, i was tlakin to there young son one day and i asked him where his older brother was and he told me that he went english, and i was kinda shocked then he told me that he has had other brothers and sisters leave. and when his dad got close he just said i never told u that. i thought it was kinda funny that they keep it that hush hush.

  127. My debut novel, Amish Snow, has been out for a couple of months. An ex-Amish man that I do not know contacted me after seeing the website and story line, and asked if I would be interested in his story. I told him I was interested, and he sent me a most poignant accounting of his tortuous decision to leave the Amish faith, mainly around health issues.

    Other than deleting their names, here is an excerpt of the unedited email. I can almost hear the clipped singsong accent so characteristic of the Amish manner of speaking:

    Hello Roger;

    I was born in Canada. Then we moved to new york state lived there for 10 years

    Then in 1990 we moved to michigan.But threw those years i would get sick all he time.

    I thought after i got married to my wife it would stop it got worse.Be cause the amish life stile of using either kerosene,white gas or like camp fuel,and propane.for lights was the lights mostley. that i got poisend in the brain that i almost shot myself because of all the fumes from the propane to top it all of.We had a freezer fridge 2 lights in the house and then in my wood working shop i had 2 lights a unvented heater and 6 used propane tanks that i used to run my shop tools. it was the fumes that made me sick i got

    letter from my doc to take to the elders that i need electricty for every thing that i use propane for the elders said no.i went to my nees and repented all my sins to God asked him to be my savior. soon after that i asked God if i should put our phone in the house he

    said yes i got three yeses. (the rest of his story is on my website)

  128. Iknow of somethings that she says are true. The strictness I know well. Also the fact that males dominate the families. But ordnung says that you are free to choose until baptism. Its strange for me , I like driving back to see people but feel out of place. I also am out of place in society.

  129. A number of points here: As has been said above by a number of calmer heads above one cannot define a people by one family or by one child in one family. Torah shows little understanding of teen anguish and the frustrated rebellion that is common at that age. It is probably almost as difficult for the parents of a teenager as it is for the teen. To my mind, the main problem with the Amish as a culture and in individuals is ignorance. Ignorance, frankly, is where the crime is.

    One can’t grow up in a closed society such as the Amish, a culture that does not value learning for its own sake and have that person marry and start his or her own family on that same basis and expect much progress, except in exceptional cases.

    I know a lot of Amish who are very bright and who, given a proper education, would no doubt be valuable people in civilization. Those who choose to stay – and again, some are very bright- do so for their own reasons: among them, love of family and tradition, love of God as they understand it, love of the land and its peaceful rhythms and a distrust of those on the outside.

    But if Torah wants us to believe that she is depicting the Amish as a whole she is painting with way too broad a brush. Her family may – MAY, I say – have been that brutal but I frankly doubt it. She is fond of the word ‘beating’; spanking, slapping, even whipping, are common in Amish families but I know of no such thing as an Amish woman or man BEATING a baby. If her parents did so, they are sick and should be brought to court.

    I was Amish until I left home at age 17 and I still have many Amish relatives. I resent Torah’s sensationalized account of being Amish. Even “escape” is sensationalistic; in my day we called it “running away from home.”

    Elva Bontrager

  130. I was never Old Order Amish , but I come from that back ground as well as being a Bontrager. I am a genealogy buff and have read a lot about my Bontrager and European anabaptist history. It is a rich heritage. They suffered a lot for their faith.

    The good Amish will not retaliate when people say things about them, good or bad.

    And, yes there is bad things that happen. When a person does a wrong to another it is right to bring them to account.

    When people have been wronged they most always need a healing. A big part of the healing eventually includes a forgiveness and it may take a lifetime.

    By the good Amish, I’m talking , being a Christian.

    The best example of that is an Amish bishop born in 1868, lived a good share of his life in the Shipshewana-Middlebury area. Toward the end of his life he wrote his life story. He was taught it,he believed it, and he lived it. Eli J. Bontrager .

    If you can find his story , read it. It will make you feel good.

  131. I always thought that the Amish were good, loving, caring people. I live in Iowa and I see the Amish all the time! I cant believe whats behind those sweet innocent eyes! It almost made me sick after I read this. They claim to be holy and righteous but yet they are doing all these bad things that our society claims a wrong doing and evil! Are they hypocrits? What has the world come too? Have the Amish always been like this?

  132. I grew up in a small town in NE OH. The only minority in our town were the Amish. I didn’t realize I was different until I was eight. In our town, non-Amish were called “Yankees”.

    Much of what you’ve said, I’ve seen or suspected. As a baby I had Amish babysitters; I’ve babysat Amish children; my children were babysat by Amish adults and kids. I consider myself pretty “Amish saavy” and just smile when people go on and on about how wonderful the Amish are. It does absolutely no good to try to dissuade them.

    When the news reported (1990’s, I believe) about the mysterious, “Amish Birth Defect” syndrome, or something like that, it was simply imbreeding. Incest produces babies by family and you have children with disabilities. It’s pretty basic, but no one seems to get it.

    I’ve personally loved a few Amish folks as dear friends. So I believe that, like all peoples, there are good and bad Amish. Beverly Lewis has painted a very pretty picture of the Amish culture. I believe that that makes it impossible for anyone to think anything negative. Most people think that the Amish are the best carpenters, bakers, furniture makers, cooks, babysitters, farmers, Christians, and have the most loving families.

    I would normally have said, “let them think what they want”, but when you say that it’s important to educate people for the safety of the women and children, I feel like my head just popped out of the ground! You are absolutely correct.

    Barbara (Borkholder) Keim is a woman who “yanked over” as we would say in my hometown. (That means she left the Amish culture/religion/life.) You can read her blog here:

    You two would make an awesome team!

    Be blessed,


    PS: Please don’t spend too much time responding to the naysayers. People will always be ugly and it’s just a trick to take you off the path you need to focus on. 🙂

  133. Hi Torah,

    I appreciated your story and even though I experienced none of the abuses you did, I certainly know that they diffidently exist in the Old Order Amish community. I was born & raised Old Order Amish in Lancaster County PA, by a very Loving & nurturing Mother, and a Father though not very nurturing never raised his voice or hand against me or My Sisters. But I know that wasn’t so for all the Amish I knew growing up and including some of my relatives, as a matter of fact one of my First Cousins on my Fathers side (He’s around 70 yrs old) is in prison for life because he molested lots of young boys for years before he got caught.

    I’ve thought about writing about my life as an Amish Kid since I was 16-17 and I only started last week on a blog, I’m now 60 yrs old so I guess its about time HUH??/

    Best of Luck Torah & congratulations on what you have already accomplished. BTW I also ended up in Manhattan for a lot of years, & My Wife & I now have a small Diary Farm in the mountains of Central New York, Thanx for listening Ammon K. Fisher

  134. Torah, I am so sorry to hear about these things. I am lds and I think each cultural religion has their flaws, although I have not heard of things like this before, not even in the lds scriptures. I am glad that we have people like you to shed some light on some of these things.

  135. Torah, thanks for your story.

    I can’t believe the people who want to debate the issue of abuse. I work in protective services and we generally adhere to the rule that acceptable spankings are done with the hand. It is harder to really harm a child when spanked with your hand. It will hurt you as it hurts the child.

    Spankings with objects are a different matter. Boards, belts and cords are too easy to get carried away with when you are angry and you have no idea how hard you are striking a child.

    If you were spanked with boards or straps, that is defined as abuse in most states.

    I completely agree with your discussion of religiously Amish versus culturally Amish. You can see that in the “english” world. I have freinds who were raised jewish or catholic and now consisder themselves ex-catholic or ex-jewish. But all you need to do to see the cultural influence, is to visit their homes around the holidays. You can see many examples of how their lives are still influenced by the way they were raised.

    I have an ex-catholic friend who, while serving as a brides maid at a friends wedding, had communion pushed on her by her old grade school priest. Later she was fuming and said, “I told him I’m not Catholic and I didn’t want communion but he just stuck the wafer in my mouth.”

    I said, “Why didn’t you just spit it out in your hand?”

    She said, “No, you can’t touch the ‘host’, that’s a sin.”

    I said, “host, what’s host? It’s a cracker, spit it out.”

    A lifetime of indoctrination in any faith can run deep and be hard to change.

  136. I have lived around the Amish most of my life. The sad thing about this story is that people who don’t know the Amish will assume that this is the norm. This is NOT the norm! This is the story of an abusive family…just like in our “english” culture, we too have our share. But I assure you 90% of the Amish families (that I know WELL) do NOT abuse their children in this way.

    They are people, they have the Good, the Bad and everything every other culture has. There are many, happy, healthy families percentage wise in their communities than in ours.

    I sense in the comments here a dangerous trend of sterotyping by those who have no idea what the true Amish community is like.

  137. Torah, I am sorry you suffered as you did. I am a Christian, raised my daughter in a loving and supportive environment, and only disciplined her with an occasion spanking when she crossed way beyond the line of acceptable behavior, which was rare. She got her BS at 19, her masters at 21, and I think is genuinely a happy, loving, and generous young lady who is very self-reliant, but has a keen sense of community responsibility. Her mother and I have also tried to teach her to be happy with the little and simple things of life. Sorry for this long preface, but it leads into what I guess I would like to ask you, which is if the Amish community is no more abusive than secular and non-secular society, which I suspect is the case (?), then wouldn’t you at least think that they are better off not being wrapped up in the “English” society based on a model that stresses monetary success at all cost, academic status over production (and I mean no offense to you – you should be very proud of what you have attained), and total focus on self to the detriment of anyone who gets in your way? I’m just wondering if you have ever thought that the world that was hidden from you may well be worse in some ways. I’m in no way condoning the abuse you suffered. No daughter, no child, and certainly no baby should be treated as such. But would you agree that there are many good practices of the Amish that should be appreciated by secular culture such as self-reliance and simple lifestyles that don’t require massive nuclear plant energy production and fossil fuel burning to function? And that there must be some Amish communities that are less abusive and more gentle, whose children are happy and loved? Or do you believe that that is very rare? Again, I’m asking you to compare it with modern (let’s say secular for argument’s sake) society. I would be very interested in your thoughts on this.

  138. To all of you who are concerned about the inbalance of the Amish image, think about this; When a totally positive picture of the Amish is presented, why are you not there to demand a balanced picture? If the public believes the propaganda that Amish are all good, moral and upright people, is that balance? Why then do you show up in droves to disparage a story that leans away from the “good” image, yet remain silent when the truth is fudged in the other direction? Balance works both ways! The truth lies somewhere in between the extremes. Something to think about.

  139. @Eli: Actually, it’s far more common for me to have to patiently correct non-Amish folks’ unrealistic views of the perfection of Amish. I cannot tell you how many times I have said, “Amish are people too. They have bad apples just like any other people group. They argue as families, etc, etc.”

    As I mentioned earlier on the thread, I am Amish-Mennonite which are basically Amish with technology and a greater emphasis on evangelism and education, and a lesser emphasis on a pastoral occupation. My parents would have born Amish and I have a bunch of Amish friends and family.

  140. the anabaptist community and religion is not a good one as it is perceived to be. growing up a mennonite i can tell you that it is awful and comparable to a cult. everything you do in life you are taught that you are going to hell. you aren’t allowed to watch tv cause thats a sin. you must be obedient to your husband or else you won’t go to heaven. marriage at 16 is completely all right and encouraged and you must produce kids cause that’s what god wants and what is expected of you. education is a complete no-no cause women shouldnt be educated but should be mothers to like 10 children. the more the better it seems. the saying is “woman and children should be seen and not heard” is the motto in the mennonite church. its not like that in every mennonite community but it definitely is in mexico.

  141. Hi Torah and anyone reading at this point,

    Sorry to butt in to a 3-year old thread/article. Your general assertions about dialects vs. language are correct, but with regard to German dialects, mutual intelligibility is not the best way to make a dialect vs. language distinction since most (uneducated) speakers of a given dialect may not understand a dialect from a distant dialect area, but both are considered German dialects by native speakers and linguists. By German standards, only one German “dialect” is considered a different language – Swiss German – and that is so because of grammar differences, not accent, pronunciation or vocabulary. German dialects can be surprisingly & radically different sounding from one another and can change quickly from one town to the next…probably more so than any other major language on earth. But grammatically they’re still considered similar enough to only merit being called dialects of German even though on a mutual intelligibility scale they’re as close as Spanish vs. Italian. Standard German itself is a bit of a construct and a lingua franca between dialect speakers.

  142. It’s interesting to read about the bravery and spirit of kids who grow in this type of environment. Most of us don’t ever really see this type of adversity at that age and for them to take these life changing decisions. Great post, unbelievable, thanks.

  143. Our group deals with Amish guys who have sexuality concerns -but absolutely do NOT feel comfortable to the “GAY” community. LOTS of Amish guys have MAJOR questions about sexuality & lots have serious Scriptural concerns as well. We have the answers -in fine detail.

    For more general info, -G00GLE g0ys (g0ys is spelled w. a zer0).

  144. I’m currently taking a class on the Amish, and my professor is the leading Amish scholar in the world. I have read almost 3 of his books and 2-3 by others on the Amish. And many of these are written from personal experience with the Amish (i.e., he has lots of local Amish friends). This girl’s experience is saddening but is NOT a generic, standard Amish experience. I’ve talked to people who have left the Amish because it was stifling and those who love the community and are very dedicated to their way of life.

    “Amish” is NOT a dialect. In Pennsylvania and some other states, they speak Pennsylvania Dutch, which evolved from German.

    Amish youth DO have a choice to stick with the Amish or not. They are pressured to remain but there are a good number (although a small proportion overall) who leave.

    Although, as in any culture, you will find Amish who are argumentative or otherwise “non-peaceful,” the Amish are largely a peaceful folk who keep to themselves. Read the book Amish Grace, written about the Nickel Mines shooting. The Amish exhibit an amazing ability to forgive VERY quickly.

    Yes, there are situations where Amish life seems far from ideal or fair. But is modern society perfect? FAR from it. Do not assume that one girl’s experience applies to all Amish.

    1. I dont think you can rely on any book to over look what this young woman has experienced, also at the end it states that this is her experience in one community….

  145. Amish Forever – The Stranger, is my latest release of Amish fiction, co-authored with Crystal Linn. It is a serialized publication, much like the old radio series (for those of us old enough to remember those). We plan to release a new volume on Amazon about once a month, 4,000-6,000 words in length. I’m having a ball writing it, and am trying to get the word out.


  146. Thanks for your story Torah.

    I live in the midst of a large Amish community (Seymour MO) and am thankful for your insight. I do feel for the lack of a worldly education (not a guberment education) that the Amish do not get. My Amish friend sprays Roundup in his garden all the time and had not heard anything about roundup causing cancer or being dangerous. They have no means to learn about many important things. It makes me sad at times. But then again many of my English friends are not educated at all even with all the opportunities they have.

    And as you said there are many wonderful things about the self sufficient life style. I think in the coming hard times I am going to rely on the knowledge of the Amish a lot.

    God Bless


  147. If you think about it the whole idea of no photos can be taken of the. Its a perfect idea for how to keep people outside from evidence. The clothes cover everything up but more than anything what fear does to the mind.

    Its the perfect way to run a cult.

    I’m not say’n that’s how they all are because I don’t know. Each amish villiage is different based on church that group decides onwhats right & wrong.

    I know many mennonites & all but 2 are the best of people. The other 2 were just the really old really grumpy men.

  148. A real eye opener, we had questions about the amish because we were studying them and this link is going straight to my teacher because so far all the facts are written by outsiders who document and its great that you have been able to share your life story with us…. Can I ask a question though, do you keep in contact with you family?

  149. I am so glad u shared ur story. I am a God fearing woman and have always wondered what it would be like to be Amish

    And was looking it up tonight in serious consideration thinking it would bring me closer to the Lord….now I do not

    See how they even call theirself christian!!!! I pray for them and am thankful for your freedom. Rape and incest!!?? I feel so sorry that there are so-called christians that behave in such a manner. I am Baptist that also came from anabaptist, wow, is all i can say and my prayers are there for all who are blinded by man.

  150. Actually the Amish do have a choice whether they would like to continue on with their religion. When they become teenagers they have the option to go on Rumspringa, which is an Amish tradition where the teens leave their society for 6 months in order to go get a taste of the real world. After seeing everything the outer world has to offer they go back to their families and make a decision. Most of them come to the conclusion that the our technological world is extremely corrupt and they decide that they would like to continue on with their much simpler Amish lives.

    1. It seems to me there is too much misinformation in too many of the comments made on this website. A grain of truth makes misinformation more believable, but it does distort the truth.

  151. Many thanks for sharing and publishing this story. I was a taxi driver for an old order community. I fell in love and married an amish man who didn’t like his religion but did want to live simple. Perfect! I don’t like religion either and I also enjoy a simple life style! A few years and a couple children later I asked for marriage counseling and he filed fo

    r divorce. Moving my family forward has been a constant turmoil, which includes a court that has favored him because of his Amishness. If my family can get through this, I want to start a non profit to help others, especially women and children. It seems like the more modern the world becomes,

  152. Great article, thank you.

    I occasionally attend a Mennonite church (for the last 5 or so years, not for religious reasons but because I am very “green,” and was interested in the simple lifestyle options), and there is a free counseling ministry offered by a husband and wife pair with academic backgrounds in counseling. The female of the pair has been holding women only sessions, and has told me about the statistics on incest coming into her practice. About 70% of the women have suffered incest in the past or currently, and half of those are “plain,” ie. Amish or Mennonite. So – 35% of the women in her sessions are plain women who have endured or are enduring incest. That figure stunned me, still does. I am “English,” and had the usual conceptions about the Amish, all the “peaceful, gentle stuff.” But I’m also an animal advocate, and that’s how I learned about the animal abuse and puppy mills. And then the incest. So, to say the least, the last 5 or so years have been a rather traumatic eye-opening on this culture. Also see Good videos, some actually quite funny in a dark sort of way.

  153. I have been researching much about Amish evil behaviour and am so sorry to hear of the pain you suffered. Praise God you had the courage to leave and find a better life.

  154. Reading Torah’s story surprised me. My conclusion is that Amish practices must differ from area to area, because her story does not jive with what I’ve heard from Indiana Amish. I’ve dealt with Indiana Amish from time to time, and all speak perfect English, as well as their own tongue, which is Pennsylvania Dutch, or High German?

    When I lived in Texas, in the 80’s, on a ranch owned by a missionary group Y.W.A.M, There were several ex-Amish there. I was friends with several. Two that I knew well, [R. and J.] [Moderator: full names withheld.], talked extensively about their childhood. Both were from Indiana, and did in fact have a choice to leave the church during their ‘Rumspringa’. Both left, and joined Mennonite churches and ended up at YWAM to work in the mission field. Both were still able to visit their Amish families, and were not shunned. But they did talk about some others being shunned. [J.] told me that Amish people are no different from other Christians, there are drunks, wife beaters, molesters, and just general POS’s like in any group of people, along with all the good people. The difference is simply the way they live and dress.

    When [J.] became engaged to [P.], their wedding was set to be in Nappanee, IN. I was invited as were others of our friends from Texas. A group of us went up for it. The church was a mennonite church, but there were two pastors leading the service, one mennonite, and one Amish. There were lots of Amish there, horse and buggies etc.

    So I think Torah was part of a group that did not practice normal Amish ways. If there is a normal Amish way? I remember in the news a few years back, some Amish group, was angry at another Amish group, and was attacking them and cutting their beards off. Some were arrested by the police and spent time in jail. So, they’re just human. They are not more holy than any other sort of Christian, they just live and dress differently.

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