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residents of Manitoba Colony thought demons were raping the town’s women
August 7, 2013 8:50 AM   Subscribe

"The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia: The perpetrators were caught, but the crimes continue."

[Trigger warning: Extended written descriptions of sexual assault and incest.]

"A Verdict in Bolivia's Shocking Case of the Mennonite Rapes"
"In Bolivia, rape trial pries open closed society of Mennonite 'Old Colonies': A rape scandal inside one of the world's few remaining Mennonite 'Old Colonies' in Bolivia points to much deeper troubles for women in such reclusive sects."
posted by andoatnp (26 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Whoa. What a sad story.
posted by ph00dz at 9:23 AM on August 7, 2013


That's a horribly depressing story.
posted by jeather at 9:25 AM on August 7, 2013


Why is it that, when helpless people are horribly victimized, it's always the image of the community that gets the greatest concern?
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:35 AM on August 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


She didn’t realize it was inappropriate behavior until the age of ten, when she was given a stern beating after her father found her brother fondling her.
i don't even know what to say
posted by Valued Customer at 9:40 AM on August 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think it's because most people can more easily envision themselves as part of a community that gets publicity about its terribleness than they can envision themselves as victims of that terribleness. It's like the Steubenville case, where so many media talking heads and ordinary people were all "Oh those poor boys and their ruined lives!"
posted by rtha at 9:42 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is it that, when helpless people are horribly victimized, it's always the image of the community that gets the greatest concern?

Someone could literally write a book on this. Brilliant point.
posted by MoxieProxy at 10:15 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The saddest part for me is that so many people are reaching out, desperate to offer help, and the leaders are pushing them away because they think it's a plot to bring "the world" into the community. Now, I am not Old Order, but I am a Christian, as are these Mennonites. I can't help but wish that love for one's neighbor, both the victims in the community and the many willing helpers offering aid, would compel these leaders to accept the aid that's being offered and to work with these helpers in order to bring the help to the community in a culturally acceptable way. Just a social worker, having a daydream...
posted by epj at 10:32 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


What the fucking FUCK?

I'm going to say that the demons hypothesis turned out to be more-or-less on the right track...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:32 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


An aerosol spray anesthetic sold to Mennonite rape gangs by a corrupt veterinarian?! The demon hypothesis almost sounds more likely. Truth really is stranger and more horrible than fiction.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:42 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know, right?

At first I thought the whole thing might end up going in a Little-Rascals-esque direction...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:47 AM on August 7, 2013


The saddest part for me is that so many people are reaching out, desperate to offer help, and the leaders are pushing them away because they think it's a plot to bring "the world" into the community.

Thinking more about the issue, it seems to me that this is a serious problem with any group that chooses to isolate itself from the larger society. It puts all its efforts into keeping dangerous things out, and, I suppose, might actually work somewhat as a tactic, but the trade off is absolutely no protection inside the group -- and, given the nature of people, the chances of someone getting up to really bad things is pretty close to certain. And, when that happens, the group has to cover up, because otherwise they have to breach that wall to the outside, and then you have nothing. It's like the sunk cost fallacy with the emotional health of the entire group on the line.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:53 AM on August 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


I was having trouble parsing this headline because of a Mennonite Community in Manitoba that has had their children seized as part of an abuse probe here but that wasn't of a sexual nature...
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:56 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


GenjiandProust, exactly, which is why healthy groups, even Old Order groups, balance isolation with interaction. This kind of extreme denial of the emotional impact of rape, particularly when the police have already been involved, just blows me away.
posted by epj at 11:11 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's like the sunk cost fallacy with the emotional health of the entire group on the line.

This, absolutely. Except that no one in the community can see that, because they're all handicapped by the bizarre world they grew up in. The continuing details in the Vice article are truly chilling. Not only are the rapes still occurring, there is also likely a huge amount of incestuous rape, too.

But among all the horrible things, one fact left me absolutely dumbstruck: this community of people, who are enduring real horrors, self-inflicted horrors (ESPECIALLY THE WOMEN) to preserve their Christian way of life to earn their Christian salvation can't even read the Bible for themselves, not even if they wanted to because all their Bibles are written in High German, which they are only taught a smattering of as children. Which doesn't matter because their priests discourage them from reading the Bible in the first place.

Wow. I am astounded at how well they have preserved the worst parts of the Middle Ages. And people wonder why I'm such a staunch advocate for universal, secular public education.
posted by LooseFilter at 12:06 PM on August 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


Once a religious community retreats into a compound evil is guaranteed to follow. No good has ever come from compounded religions.

The real question is what are the other compounded religions covering up? Look at how long this went on, and is still going on, before any hint got outside the compound. I am ill wondering what future revelations from similarly compounded religions will bring.
posted by sotonohito at 12:55 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


LooseFilter: agree completelu re education. At least public education would get the kids out of the compound so if they are abused it might be found out, and they can learn that the world does not end at their compound's walls.
posted by sotonohito at 12:58 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The horrible sexploitation-y American Apparel ads right above the story are really not helping.
posted by ourobouros at 1:03 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


She didn’t realize it was inappropriate behavior until the age of ten, when she was given a stern beating after her father found her brother fondling her.
i don't even know what to say


Nice work. NOT! I thought I had protected myself from depression by not clicking the article. Wrong.
posted by notreally at 1:31 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


This was a depressing and horrifying read. As a Mennonite living in Canada (Manitoba, coincidentally) I'd like to add for whatever it's worth that our conference is one of those involved in reaching out to the Old Colonies. From the reports we're hearing, the radio ministries in particular seem to be a good way in, because despite the lack of power young people are apparently smuggling in portable crank radios and tuning in. Can't stop the signal!
posted by Monster_Zero at 2:57 PM on August 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


Crank radios are awesome! I think it stinks that these colonies don't even protect their women and children from these horrible attacks.

Yes you do have to wonder what the Hell else is going on.

Stupid and evil stuff can happen in any religious group, but this is really horrible.

It certainly does seem like the more insular and isolated a group is, the worse matters get.

I would not be surprised if the incest was not going on well before these horrible serial rapes.

Maybe the resistance to counseling has more to do with that than any fear of 'the world' coming in.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:08 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


In addition to these sexual horrors, there is also the horror of the stifling or attempted stifling of individuality, and which is likely contributing to the sexual deviancy.

Something else from the article I would like to point out, near the end where one family was excommunicated for of all things buying a motorcycle is really indicative of the mentality. A Mennonite man a know, a retired minister, lost a fifteen year old granddaughter in a tragic car accident, but said that when his son who was the girl's father left their church, that hurt almost more. Keep in mind that the son did not leave the Christian faith but only went to another church, and that church was also Mennonite, only a bit more moderate.
posted by blue shadows at 10:37 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


.
posted by desuetude at 11:04 PM on August 7, 2013


Stupid and evil stuff can happen in any religious group, but this is really horrible.

It certainly does seem like the more insular and isolated a group is, the worse matters get.


In the FPP on "opt-back-in moms", a couple people said something about how, when, in a relationship, one member wants you to be completely financially dependent on them, that is quite likely a warning sign, I suspect that any time an organization (political, religious, whatever) starts trying to separate you from the rest of the world, you probably want to reconsider your affiliation. If leaving the organization requires you to abandon all the friends and contacts within that group, then you should run.

This is not a question of doctrine; this is a question of really unhealthy social dynamics.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:04 AM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Before we jump to the conclusion that all isolated religious minorities are evil child abusers, "sexual deviants" or victims of unhealthy social dynamics", let's remember that these small isolated groups don't want outside involvement 99% of the time - we never hear much of them at all until and unless something horrific like this happens. That means that our view is always biased towards the worst of the worst: disasters like this.
posted by Wylla at 8:53 AM on August 8, 2013


I wouldn't limit it to religious groups. Wide exposure to other people is what keeps our minds supple and our philosophy (whatever that would be) alive. When politicians believe their own cant, when business people only listen to supportive subordinates, when engineers mistake specific skill for universal competence, you get disasters pretty quickly.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:05 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


A disturbing thought occurred to me: this was probably the normal sexual experience for vast majority of the human population the past. Relatively isolated societies with only limited communication with the wider world? That's any village in any nation up until the Industrial Revolution, and often many decades past that. Extreme sexual repression and refusal to even *talk* about sex? That's most human societies until well after the Industrial Revolution.

That's depressing as all get out.

@Wylla: I'm inclined to suspect that isolation + power is going to produce similar conditions in any group that lives on a compound. Actually, assuming that militia groups involve women and children I wouldn't be at all surprised to see similar cases of rape and sexual abuse.
posted by sotonohito at 1:55 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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