June 28, 2022

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Clothes bear witness to religious censorship and cruel abuse

Clothes bear witness to religious censorship and cruel abuse

Images of Amish women in traditional rural American costumes have something romantic and exotic about them. But behind this peculiar genre, there are many untold stories.

Children and women are often the ones who sit on these stories. A number of galleries in various locations in the United States are working to highlight it, according to the AP news agency.

strong stories

A series of dresses hanging on a clothesline. Some are for children and some are for adults. Each dress is accompanied by a short story about the owner of the dress:

“Six-year-old survivor: The abuser used the Bible, prayer, and God to control me from the first time he abused me.”

Five years old: This shoe and dress belonged to a five-year-old abuse victim Photo: Jesse Wardarsky

“Survivor – five years: I was not safe at all. I was a child and he was an adult. No one helped me and when I told him he punished me »

“Survivor – 15 years old: My first memories of abuse were when I was about two years old. But I chose to say they started when I was 15, because that was about the time I started treating them »

Of the 13 clothing items on display in Loyola, Pennsylvania, there are 12 girls’ jumpsuits and 1 boy’s clothing. It’s also a kids’ kick pants.

– You get angry when you get such a little dress for exhibition. I didn’t know I could get angry. I also started crying, says Ruth Ann Brubacher of Ohio, one of the organizers from Better Way.

Contributors come from conservative groupings such as the Amish, Mennonites, Brethren, and charities.

Headwear: It is common for conservative groups represented at the fair that women should wear the traditional headdress.  Photo: Jesse Wardarsky

Headwear: It is common for conservative groups represented at the fair that women should wear the traditional headdress. Photo: Jesse Wardarsky

The common denominator between them is that they distance themselves from society in general, have strict discipline within worshippers, focus on tolerance, and require women to wear traditional clothing. Including wearing a head covering.

The organization’s leader, Hope Ann Dweck, says many women feel they are to blame if they come forward with stories of abuse.

They were told that “if you had worn a headscarf, you wouldn’t have been raped” or “you couldn’t have dressed well enough if that had happened.”

victim of abuse

Mary Byler was abused when she was growing up in the Amish community.

Amish: Mary Byler (left) was born into an Amish community.  Here she is in conversation with Hope Anne Dueck who set up the show.  (AP Photo: Jessie Wardarski

Amish: Mary Byler (left) was born into an Amish community. Here she is in conversation with Hope Anne Dueck who set up the show. (AP Photo: Jessie Wardarski

– After all, it’s not about the clothes, she says. Byler works to build a bridge between Amish culture and society at large. She hopes the exhibition will help others understand that they are not alone.

Research is being done on this topic, and all indications are that abuse in such closed societies is an ongoing problem. The organizations claim that the culture of tolerance in male-led gatherings puts victims under pressure to reconcile with the abuser.

Bayler has worked on such subjects for 18 years, and has heard more stories than she can remember.

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