Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

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Update on the Case of Jeriah Mast

In my last blog post, I posed this question on the case of Jeriah Mast:

Will he be prosecuted in the full extent of the law, or will the people around him aid in him taking a slick detour around the laws most people need to abide by?

The latest development suggests that the latter might be the case. News articles have reported that Jeriah Mast, who has been accused of child sexual crimes, is out on bail. According to the report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

“Conditions of release include that his whereabouts be monitored by GPS, that he report to authorities weekly and have no contact with victims. Holmes County Prosecutor Sean Warner said his office is also filing a motion to add the condition of no unsupervised contact with minors.”

I have a difficult time understanding why the condition of no contact (supervised or unsupervised) with minors isn’t already part of the condition of the release.

I echo the statements Trudy Metzger made on her blog:

“This comes as no surprise to me, as I anticipated it. The only thing that is surprising is that they waited this long. For Jeriah’s church and family, this is an answer to much praying and pleading with God. To victims of abuse, this is a nightmare.”

Having been abused myself, I know what it’s like to have the perpetrators go free. It is impossible for me to hold my abusers accountable because one is deceased and the other one was a minor and too many years have passed, so the statute of limitations apply. I live with the uneasy feeling that the person who abused me when he was a minor has access to children in the community, and there is nothing I can do about it. There is a certain kind of guilt that attaches itself to this knowledge. If justice is served it not only alleviates the burden of knowing there is a chance that the abuse continues, it also helps the victims of abuse to move on with the process of healing and to thrive in their lives.

I hope that Jeriah Mast is held accountable for his crimes, both for his sake and for the sake of those he abused. So far no charges have been filed in Haiti where he allegedly has abused dozens of young boys.

I find it appalling that the Amish system can trump the laws of the land that everyone else has to abide by. If we are to remember the victims, this must be changed. I have every confidence that it will. Unfortunately, it will take time. First popular perceptions must change that the Amish are the model of a good society and that they are blameless and innocent. Anyone who tries to hold them accountable according to our laws, is seen by many as turning them into martyrs. For far too long, most researchers of Amish culture have helped perpetuate these perceptions by explaining their culture to the rest of the world. They paint a rosy rendition of Amish life, while glossing over the sins of these seemingly unique and simple people.

I realize that Jeriah Mast is not considered a mainstream Amish person. I don’t know what his church affiliation currently is. But I know that the ways in which he was allowed continued access to young boys in Haiti when he had been “disciplined” in his church community is the typical Amish (or Plain) way of dealing with sin. In every one of these situations, the attention is on the remorse of the perpetrator, while the abused are forgotten, silenced and/or blamed. The sins of the abusers are never treated as crimes.

I have said this before, and I will say it again: This pattern of silencing the abused and pardoning the perpetrators can only be changed from the outside by holding members of the Plain churches to the same standards to which we hold everyone else. Only if the perpetrators among the Amish are held accountable is there any hope of changing the generational patterns of abuse that run through the Plain culture just as they do through all other cultures.

Research has shown that people rarely become abusers without have been abused as children themselves. Psychologists claim there are a number of factors that determine whether a person who has been abused will become an abuser. The most important one has to do with whether the person faces and confronts the pain of their abuse. According to Psychoanalyst Alice Miller, for the abused to have a “helping witness” can make all the difference in finding the courage to face their pain.

A plea goes out to law enforcement, medical professionals, and social workers: Please treat the Plain People like you would anyone else and always remember the innocent children. Every child needs advocates, and they are hard to find in a culture that is used to closing in around those who dare to break the silence. You have a chance to make a difference — won’t you please take that chance?

Jeriah Mast should have to face the same consequences as he would if he didn’t have a Plain background.

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