Amish abuse survivors offer support to Webster County authorities

Women travel from Minnesota to Missouri to spread awareness
Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 9:45 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The child sex case involving the Amish community in Webster County has made news internationally.

Aaron and Petie Schwartz could go to prison if they violated their probation. Both pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 13 year-old girl but avoided prison time.

Abuse survivors turned advocates made their way from Minnesota to Marshfield for Wednesday’s probation hearing.

Lizzie Hershberger and her sister Rachel Hawley left their community decades ago.

Now they’re working with authorities on these types of cases.

They say it’s not easy for any outsider, let alone law enforcement, to get inside what they call a very secret element of society.

“I don’t ever remember not being sexually assaulted,” said Hershberger.

She says she was just 14 years-old when a man she worked for repeatedly raped her.

“I did blame myself. I also didn’t realize that it was wrong, how wrong it was because there is no sex education,” she said.

Hawley says she was also abused.

The pair is working to educate the English community about what they saw in their Amish community.

Hawley said, “They abuse their children in every way and they get away with it. The men who are abusing their daughters will actually fall on their knees in church and beg to be forgiven. They’ll forgive them. Then they’ll turn around and go home and continue to do it.”

“Anybody that is from the outside is considered basically a bad person. You are not supposed to, especially the police, never talk to the police,” said Hershberger.

She says there’s also a language barrier. Most Amish only speak Pennsylvania Dutch. She says this complicates the judicial process.

“Everybody wants justice fast, especially in this world now. It’s much easier to go on social media and plaster your response out there. I choose not to do that. I choose to be proactive and actually try to share awareness,” said Hershberger.

She’s works with authorities in Minnesota and is offering her help to local officials, including those in Webster County.

“I did write a letter to the judge and to the prosecutor. It was not a hate letter,” she said.

That letter, offers support for law enforcement and asks that the court not be lenient towards the brothers.

“I’m not here to ask for the resignation of the prosecutor. That’s not why I’m here. I am here to shed more light on it and be a voice for this victim that I feel has not been heard,” said Hershberger.

Hershberger says she was able to get justice 28 years later. The man she accused of rape admitted it. Under a Minnesota law he was held responsible because he was her employer at the time the crime occurred. He was sentenced to 45 days in prison and 10 years probation.

The statute of limitations in Hawley’s case expired.

A hearing on October 22nd in Webster County could determine if the two Amish brothers could be to sent to prison for 15 years.

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