The faster the counseling intervention into the Post-Traumatic Stress that develops from sexual abductions, the better the outcome. I hope the girls' families will be open to the girls receiving "best practices" treatment, both within and outside of the community. — Julie Melrose, former worker in a child protective agency
Like many people, I have been watching the news and discovering the horrifying details of how Stephen Howells Jr. and his girlfriend, Nicole Vaisey allegedly kidnapped and abused the two Amish girls who were missing from their home for twenty-four hours in upstate New York.
I have read many comments from readers online that vent hatred towards the two perpetrators.
I have also read about the father saying that he feels sorry for the perpetrators because they have ruined their whole lives.
These are two extremes. And they reflect how differently the people in an Amish community think compared to people in the mainstream culture.
In the mainstream culture we tend to wallow in feelings of vengeance. We wish the worst on those who have committed such evil. And we might even compete for who can think up the most horrible names to call them or the ills we wish on them.
What the father said is a very Amish thing to say. I question how he can truly feel empathy for the two people who stole his daughters’ innocence? What about his daughters’ lives having been ruined? How would I feel about my father saying such a thing to the world, only days after something so horrific happened to me? When someone has wronged us to this degree, it is impossible to simultaneously feel our own hurt and feel empathy for those who violated us.
This is called forgiving too soon and it short-circuits the healing process.
Even in the twenty-three years that I lived in the Amish community I was raised in, I did not like when people would say things like that. I felt it wasn’t honest. I would think to myself, “He is just saying that because he thinks he should. I don’t think he really means it.”
The typical Amish way to deal with hardship is to put it behind them and move on with their lives. I can only imagine that if these girls try that, the memories of what happened will be haunting them for a long time. I agree with the comment that Julie Melrose left on my blog several days ago: “The faster the counseling intervention into the Post-Traumatic Stress that develops from sexual abductions, the better the outcome. I hope the girls' families will be open to the girls receiving ‘best practices’ treatment, both within and outside of the community.”
I certainly hope so, too.
But this is not a given. In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the survivors of the school shooting received counseling. But there is a world of difference between these two communities.
Normally the Heuvelton community would not even consider counseling.
I am heartened to hear that the relations between the Amish and the “English” in upstate New York has strengthened through this ordeal. It is ironic that the parents would need to turn to the outside culture for help, should they seek counseling for their daughters, when it was people from the outside who committed these evil deeds. But until the Amish allow their children an education beyond the eighth grade, there likely will be no trained counselors within the community to deal with something like this.
And as far as the perpetrators go: I think it is important that Howells and Vaisey are being brought to justice. Because I know that, I can let go of wishing the worst on them. They were very likely victims of abuse themselves in their childhood. As Julie Melrose wrote:
The vast majority of those who commit child sexual abuse—and child abuse in general, whether physical or emotional—were themselves victims of that abuse in childhood, did not receive proper treatment, and are repeating what they were taught…. They may well be worthy of some measure of radical compassion (a very different concept from blind forgiveness) in terms of the continuing cycles of violence that occur in the absence of appropriate recognition and intervention. All the more reason why the girls should have counseling!
Let us not forget, the two Amish girls were not the only victims. It is important to remember that the other victims deserve our empathy as much as the Amish ones. Let’s hope they, too, will receive counseling and a chance to heal. All of them need to keep hearing, “This was not your fault.”