one-room schoolhouses

Most Amish and Old Order Mennonite schools in Lancaster County are one-room schools.

A new report by Cosmopolitan magazine and Type Investigations alleges widespread child sexual abuse in Amish communities throughout the United States, including Lancaster County.

The year-long investigation by reporter Sarah McClure, published on Tuesday, identified 52 official cases of child sexual assault in communities throughout seven states, including Pennsylvania.

The report comes amid increased scrutiny of sexual abuse within Plain Sect communities.

In a series last year called "Coverings," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looked at the issue of sexual abuse in Lancaster County’s Plain communities from the perspectives of victims, law enforcement and church leadership.

A similar series was published in 2004 in the Intelligencer Journal, a forerunner to LNP | LancasterOnline. “Silenced by Shame” described church leaders silencing the voices of abused women and children, and leaders defending their actions by pointing to biblical mandates and church doctrine.

The 2004 series also described changes that already were underway in Amish and more liberal Mennonite churches.

The report, which appears in the February edition of the national magazine and online here, describes a secretive world where children are sexually abused and knowledge of the abuse is hidden by leadership in the Amish churches.

Click here to read the report.

McClure spoke to dozens of law-enforcement officials, advocates and victims throughout the country, including several from Lancaster County.

Court of Common Pleas Judge Dennis Reinaker, who said he has presided over 30 cases of sexual abuse within the Amish Community in his nearly 20 years on the bench, spoke of the difficulty law enforcement and prosecutors have in getting witnesses who are willing to press charges.

Former Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman, installed as a judge on the county court earlier this month, talked about efforts Lancaster County’s law enforcement agencies have made to build relationships with leaders in the local Amish churches.

During his time as district attorney, Stedman started a task force that connected law enforcement, social services and local Amish leaders several times a year.

Amos Stoltzfoos, a member of the Lancaster County Conservative Crisis Intervention, an Amish initiative to increase cooperation with law enforcement and encourage reporting within the Plain churches, was also interviewed in the story.

According to Stoltzfoos, the Lancaster County Amish are no longer interested in hiding the abuse, saying “a lot of things have changed and forced us to comply and not allow things to be swept under the rug, like they had at one point.”

Type Investigations, formerly The Investigative Fund, funds independent watchdog reporting. Its investigations have appeared in publications ranging from The New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Vice, Harper’s, The Nation and Mother Jones.

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