Restorative justice; Conservative Mennonites; Amish; Forgiveness; Family relationships; Theology and abuse; Coercion


How do biblical beliefs and religious-cultural teachings influence a theology of silence among conservative Anabaptists? This research explores this opening question through qualitative research, by examining the impact of theology on expectations of silence among victims of sexual abuse. Conservative Anabaptists are comprised of a range of Mennonite and Amish groups who adhere to deeply fundamental religious beliefs, various forms of separated attire including some type of head covering for women, as well as social isolation and separation from mainstream society to varying degrees. Some even restrict interactions with other conservative Anabaptists whose beliefs differ from their own. Private messages from abuse victims within conservative Anabaptist communities were used to explore how theological and religious teachings contribute to silencing victims of sexual abuse. These messages were sent to Generations Unleashed or to me directly, over the course of 10 years, beginning in November 2010. Contrasting and comparing findings with the work of various professionals offers depth to the research findings. Analyzing patterns, comparing data, and triangulating data gleaned from testimonies of these victims with existing literature gives credibility to findings in the stories and testimonies of survivors. This paper discusses the findings in these survivor testimonies and cultural beliefs and theology, compares them with existing literature, and offers useful insights for professionals who work with conservative Anabaptist survivors of abuse. [Abstract by author.]