Widespread Abuse and Massive Coverup in Amish Country

Amish Farm

“The Amish are not exempt from an independent investigation, and yet as soon as the CCI gets involved, it is no longer an independent investigation.”

~ Fellow Pennsylvania Advocate

Recently there was a report about an Amish mother reclaiming her children in the York Daily Record after the children had been separated from her for four months. This story is a good example of how some of the leaders in Plain communities are willing to separate children from their mothers and use that separation as a way of pressuring the mother to submit to the demands put upon them. Lydia is one of the lucky ones — she at least was not taken against her will to an Amish or Mennonite run mental health facility and drugged into submission, which happens in many cases in which the Conservative Crises Intervention (CCI) gets involved.

There were details that were not published about Lydia’s story that I have permission to reveal. Her husband, Benuel, has admitted to several individuals that he had been recording Lydia’s phone conversations for more than two years by installing a recording device into the “black box” attached to their home phone. On the day that she was planning to reclaim her children, he called her and said that he knows what she’s planning and knows who she is with, and demanded that she return home right away. She did not comply.

Lydia found out that three of her children had been taken to counseling sessions at the Parochial Medical Center without her permission when her children were living with other families. She went to the Parochial Medical Center and asked Walt Stein, the counselor there, for the records of the sessions with her children. He refused to give them to her. He said he had to check with his supervisor. When she asked who his supervisor is, he said it was Allen Hoover.

Allen Hoover is an Old Order Mennonite man who founded the CCI. He is instrumental in establishing many of the Amish and Mennonite run mental health facilities. (I recently compiled a list of as many of these facilities as I could. So far 62 of them are on that list. This includes facilities in other states.) He is also the creator and benefactor of the Chore Boy Monopoly, self-appointed guru of sexual abuse issues in Plain communities, and co-author of For the Sake of a Child with Jeannette Harder.

But I digress. Lydia’s story is typical of what happens when the CCI gets involved. She found out after she left that the CCI and her church leadership had plans to have her and Benuel go to an Amish-run facility for couples with marital problems, but there is more than a year waiting period in that facility, and it takes eight or nine months to go through that program. Lydia said to this man, “So you were not planning to give back my children.” He said she was right.

Lydia’s case is a typical one. In the guise of helping a couple with marital problems, a “support group” is appointed to them. Oftentimes, these support groups are used to pressure and control the women in families to submit to the husband’s and/or the church’s demands. Women are afraid of the dreaded vanload of leaders, usually with one of the members of the CCI, to arrive at their door demanding that they pack their bags and get in the van. They are then transported to the facility the powerful leaders have chosen for them to go to, often one out of state. Once there, they are drugged and told if they want to see their children, they need to do as they are told. Where the administrators of these facilities are obtaining the drugs they are not licensed to distribute remains a mystery.

The obvious question for most of us is why these women don’t call the police to report these abuses, and it is a great question. The answer is because they know it won’t do any good. It doesn’t matter whether the abuse is reported to the Pennsylvania Childline, Children and Youth Services, or the local police, they loop back around to the CCI, who shows up when the police do. They usually have already removed the perpetrator to another home or to one of the Amish-run facilities and tell the police that it’s taken care of. No independent investigations are conducted.

Those in the mainstream culture who usually are involved in abuse cases — social workers, medical professionals, and law enforcement — have for a long time believed that the Plain People take care of their problems within their communities. The CCI reinforces this notion, which creates a system in which the laws that govern our country do not apply to the Plain communities. In fact, a police officer in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania told Lydia that she had to go through the CCI to get her children back.

What breaks my heart is thinking about what the victims are going through who are feeling trapped and alone in the cycle of violence. If they do reach out for help, they are treated in all the ways that modern psychology has found not to treat victims. If they dare to “tell,” they are pressured to recant their stories, to apologize to their perpetrator(s), and to “forgive and forget.” My heart aches for them because I have been there and I know what it feels like to feel alone, trapped, and forsaken.

What gives me hope is that there are more and more advocates emerging and banding together to help where we can and work towards exposing the widespread abuse and the massive coverup of these abuses. Every day/week I hear more stories of abuse, and every day/week I hear of other individuals who are aware of what is going on and want to help change the system. There are advocates inside the community who are standing up to their leaders and saying, “We don’t want to leave our community. We want you to be better shepherds.” To me that is powerful. They are finding ways to support one another in their determination to stand up against the injustices within their community in ways that I have never heard of. They are supported by just as many outside the community who are in this struggle with them. This is what gives me hope and a reason to face another day.

It is wonderful that Lydia has escaped and is supported. What worries me is that I hear this is making it harder for others to leave. This has scared the leaders involved in the coverup, so they are clamping down harder on those who are in similar situations to Lydia’s. Your thoughts and prayers for their safety and well-being are appreciated.

Lydia Stoltzfus reclaiming her children took so much courage. I am grateful she is supported in her efforts. However, there remains quite a struggle ahead of her. Her sister set up a GoFundMe page to help with the costs of housing and legal fees she is facing. If you feel compelled to enter this struggle with us, and you are able to donate, I encourage you to do so generously. Lydia and her supporters, and all of us who are in this struggle are grateful for your support, thoughts, and prayers.

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Saloma Furlong


  1. Ruthie on February 24, 2024 at 2:13 pm

    Just made a small anonymous donation. I hope it helps a little!

    • Saloma Furlong on February 24, 2024 at 3:50 pm

      I’m sure it does, Ruthie. Besides the monetary support, it shows your moral support. Thank you!

  2. Kathie Kurtz on February 24, 2024 at 2:15 pm

    I am grateful for you and others like you who are working to uncover and address abuse of power in all its guises and iterations. Don’t lose heart–every success is valuable, even though we hope and pray for many more.

    • Saloma Furlong on February 24, 2024 at 3:57 pm

      Thank you, Kathie. Your support means so much. It is amazing to see God at work in bringing together so many advocates who are working towards the common goal of exposing and breaking apart this system of power abuse. It is because of these other courageous individuals that I am lifted up and given the energy to keep moving forward. Blessings to you!

  3. Esther stenson on February 24, 2024 at 2:33 pm

    These situations are truly heartbreaking.
    I hope that besides all the broken people/systems you engage with, you have people around you who are “whole” and a source of encouragement for you.

  4. Saloma Furlong on February 24, 2024 at 4:01 pm

    Oh, indeed I am surrounded by people who are a source of encouragement… not just to me but to one another. This movement is gathering energy, and we feel like we are on the brink of big changes. We keep gathering courage from one another and from our Higher Power. Thank you for your support.

  5. Kensi on February 24, 2024 at 4:31 pm

    Very sadly, it’s not much better here in the “English” world. A friend of mine was recently r#ped by an acquaintance and she did not call NYPD. She knew it would get her nowhere and I had to agree and reassure her that it was perfectly understandable she did not call. Which is very tragic because this man is going to do it to other women. Within any patriarchal society, it’s the man’s needs and wants that are paramount. Things are very slowly changing but in closed-off patriarchal communities like the Amish I just can’t imagine. You were so brave and right to leave, Saloma.

    • Saloma Furlong on February 24, 2024 at 5:27 pm

      Oh Kensi, I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. And you’re right. When someone isn’t held to account for his crimes, he will do it again. And yet why add trauma to an already traumatized person? I understand her decision, and it’s so sad that it had to be that way.

      Yes, the insular nature of the Plain communities adds yet another layer of silence that shrouds all abuses. The perpetrators are using the insular nature of their communities to cover their crimes.

  6. Anne Winslow on February 24, 2024 at 6:22 pm

    Thank you so much for bringing this issue to the world. How can I get involved in helping those looking to make a change? I can’t contribute much financially, but I would like to help. I live in Lancaster, PA. Peace and blessings to you and those you work with to help survivors.

    • Saloma Furlong on February 24, 2024 at 9:12 pm

      Anne, it is wonderful to hear from you. May I email you to explore ways in which we can work together? Peace and blessings to you also. I look forward to connecting.

  7. Celia Crotteau on February 26, 2024 at 6:16 am

    Thank you for presenting this hard truth. I do indeed admire your courage, as well as that of those in the Plain Community who reveal this abuse and support the abused.

    • Saloma Furlong on February 26, 2024 at 11:51 pm

      It takes a lot more courage to be an advocate from within because all the Amish rules still apply to them. Thank you, though, for your support. I feel this is where I am meant to be, and what I am meant to be doing at this time in my life.

      It’s always good to see your here, Celia.

  8. Elizabeth Schneider on February 27, 2024 at 8:17 pm

    I just read your book “Liberating Lomie” over the weekend. I literally couldn’t lay it down. My parents were raised Amish and married Amish but joined the Mennonite church before I was born. There was abuse in our home and my mother was treated poorly by my father and feel it was abuse. Thank you for bringing abuse in the Amish tradition to light. we first have to acknowledge it for what it is and stop the cycle of abuse.

    • Saloma Furlong on February 27, 2024 at 9:25 pm

      Elizabeth, it is wonderful to hear from you. I’m grateful that you found my book helpful. Hearing that from readers is always gratifying.

      I agree. Silence shrouds all abuse, and the first step to confronting it is to break that silence. Only then can it be stopped, and the healing can begin.

      I’m sorry to hear that you have experienced abuse in your home when you were growing up. It stays with us, doesn’t it? I don’t believe I can ever say I’m healed. I can only say I’m healing… likely for the rest of my life.

  9. pamela lakits on March 1, 2024 at 12:51 pm

    Saloma, this is just heartbreaking and scary!!!!! I dont even know what to say, except I will keep them in my prayers.
    I also sent a donation. thank you for sharing this story with us and please keep us updated when you can.

    • Saloma Furlong on March 1, 2024 at 12:56 pm

      Thank you, Pamela. Your support and donation are very much appreciated. Blessings to you and your family!

  10. Aleta on March 1, 2024 at 9:59 pm

    I’m thankful that you’re able to help them find their voice.

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