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Torah is a recurring rape survivor who escaped––literally––in the middle of the night at age 15. She has always been aware of the positive aspects of her Amish ethnicity and culture, and as such, has never wanted to throw the baby out with the bath water. She believes that her Amish people can serve as a shining model of an evolved society for the global community.
She also believes that abuse in the name of religion is unacceptable and must be openly addressed and stopped. There is too much at stake to make excuses for crime. The Amish are guilty of perpetuating a generational cycle of abuse against women, children, AND men and the non-Amish are guilty of facilitating that abuse by co-opting the Amish narrative in academia, the media, and politics.
Torah envisions a future in which her Amish people genuinely adhere to the values of non-violence and conscientiousness upon which her people of origin were founded. To that end, she advocates for a new generation of Amish leaders who make their voice heard and take back their story in whatever way is true for them as unique individuals. Unity is realized only through personal sovereignty.
As far she knows (after searching for 20+ years), Torah is the first––and so far, only––first-generation Amish graduate of an Ivy League school: Columbia University of New York City. She earned her B.A. in Philosophy, with a degree in Tibetan Buddhism under the auspices of Dr. Robert A.F. Thurman, the foremost expert on Tibetan Buddhism in the USA and personal friend of HH Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan people in exile.
Torah is also the author of the memoir An Amish Girl in Manhattan: Escaping at Age 15, Breaking All the Rules, and Feeling Safe Again and the host of the Amish Entrepreneur Show, a podcast on iTunes + YouTube featuring 1,111 stories of sexual assault survivors from all walks of life. If you’re a survivor, please schedule a chat with her at www.LeverageYourStory.com/podcast to share your story.Torah Bontrager
Mary is the administrator of the Facebook AHF Support Group. This is a safe, nonjudgmental, nonsectarian space for Amish people inside and outside the Church.
****You do not have to be Amish to participate.***** In this group, we offer our assistance and say kind things to each other WITHOUT quoting Bible verses.
Mary Byler is one of less than a dozen cases [we’re still fact-checking this number] of Amish sexual assault on public record.
Excerpts from Legal Affairs article: To the hordes of tourists who travel to Amish country each year to go to quilting bees and shop for crafts, the “gentle, peaceful folk” represent innocence. They are a people apart, removed in place and arrested in time. The myth of the Amish is amplified in movies like Witness and television shows like Amish Mafia. The license the Amish have been granted rests on the trust that the community will police itself, with Amish bishops and ministers acting in lieu of law enforcement.Mary Byler
Brian started working with Torah as an intern several years ago and he appears in three episodes of AES Season 1 where he and Torah discussed the many uncanny similarities of their life stories. They are both the first of their family to graduate from the Ivy League, Brian from Yale and Torah from Columbia. Both of them have a mission to educate the outside about what life is really like inside their respective cultures.
Brian also appears on Real Amish Season 1 where he talks about Navajo sovereignty and educational issues, including how Natives are exploited in film/TV and how Natives suffer the highest rates of suicide and domestic and sexual violence than any other group on this continent. Check out “Navajo Sovereignty, Education, and Sexual Assault Against Indigenous Women” Season 1, Episode 10.
Brian Young is full-blooded Navajo, semi-fluent in Navajo, and an enrolled member of his nation. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in Film Studies and produced the first-ever fitness channel spoken entirely in a Native language (Yeego Nitl’aa’). Currently he’s a candidate for graduation in Columbia University’s MFA Writing Program, where his thesis is The Whimpering Water Monster (a Middle Grade, #OwnVoice, Native American, Urban Fantasy novel, at 76,000 words, currently under revision).
He’s written an article, “Why I Won’t Wear War Paint and Feathers in a Movie Again,” published on Time Magazine’s website and co-directed a short documentary, A Conversation with Native Americans on Race, for the New York Times.Brian Young