By Shannon Lane @Shannonroselane

AN EX-MEMBER of the Amish community has opened up about why she left the religious group

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Videographer / director: Per Lind
Producer: Shannon Lane, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal

Misty Griffin currently happily resides in Pasadena, California with her husband, however she had an incredibly difficult childhood.

She told Barcroft TV: "When I was 4 years old, my mother met a coal miner in Arizona. He was also a wanted child molester, and we started living with him. He was very strict. He and my mother were extremely abusive.

"When I was about 6 or 7 years old, my step father got the idea that we should start dressing Amish and we started dressing in Amish clothes. Gradually by the time I was 10 years old we were dressing in full Amish attire.

"My sister and I were isolated. We were kept away from the rest of the world. We weren’t allowed to talk to each other or to anyone else. We were beaten several times a day and when I was 11 years old, we moved to a mountain ranch in the northwest.

"The ranch was six and a half miles out of town and my sister and I were basically held prisoners there until I was 19 years old. When I was almost 19 years old I tried to escape the ranch and that’s when my stepfather got the idea to send us to an Amish community.”

The Amish are a traditional subgroup of Christianity, they are known for simple living, plain dress and a reluctance to adopt modern day traditions or technologies have strict rules - something Misty soon discovered after integrating with her new community.

She said: “When I got to the Amish community I realised that there was a lot more to being Amish than what you can learn from the outside. You can copy them but you can never fully be Amish without actually being in the Amish and learning all the rules.

“When I went to the community, I learned that there’s basically a rule for every single aspect of your life. Like the width of the hem on your dress, to the length of the dress, to your underwear. For me the Amish way of life was something I had basically only known my whole life. I had grown up on a farm, getting up every morning at 5 o’clock taking care of the farm.”

Unfortunately Misty did not escape abuse by moving to the Amish, and was molested by the bishop of the community.

She said: “When you are in the Amish, you are told that you go to hell for leaving the Amish. So, it takes a lot for an Amish person to finally get in their head that they should leave the Amish.

"In my case, I left the because I knew of several sexual abuse cases that were going on in the Amish and they were not reported to the police. And the perpetrators were allowed to just live among the church like regular people, they had full access to their victims over and over again.

“After I went to the police, the bishop tried to silence me and told me to retract my story from the police. And that is when I just realised there’s something very, very wrong with this church and what they are telling me, I longer believed in it at that point.

"I kind of made the decision in a swift second. I remember the bishop told me to be quite and to behave myself. And I just like reached up. I took my head covering off. I threw it on the ground and I stomped on it. And I told them I am leaving."

When someone leaves an Amish community, they are shunned by the rest of the community - and you are left on your own to discover the modern world.

Misty said: “For one thing, not many Amish leave, I think they have a 98% retention rate a very-very few people leave the Amish cause for one thing leaving the Amish is extremely hard. When I left the Amish I felt that I was being Teleported from 1600s into the 21st century, so that is one reason that very few leave.

“You are basically almost going to a different planet, nothing that I knew or nothing that I had learned seemed helpful in the outside world. The very first day I was in the outside world everything was so foreign and so different from what I knew. I remember that the television hurt my eyes, the lights hurt my eyes. When somebody left the room I turned the lights off and I was sitting on the couch in the dark.

"The Amish believed that the outside world is evil. Basically everybody in it is going to help. You are taught if you are not Amish or if you ever left the Amish you would go to hell. Once you are a baptised member and then leave the Amish there is no absolutely no hope for you. The Amish believe that the outside world is evil and something that should be avoided at all costs."

The Amish community do not consider themselves citizens of the United States of America, and lack passports or social security numbers.

Fortunately a distant relative of Misty helped her integrate herself into the 21st century.

She said: "I had no idea where to start but thankfully my stepdad's sister took me under her wing and we actually went to the congressmen to get something signed so that I could get a passport, that was my first form of identification, and we went to the social security office and I got my social security card.

“There were so many things I didn’t know, like how to use deodorant. I remember the hair dryer scared me to death so the first time I picked up the hair dryer to try to dry my hair with it, it was so loud and I dropped into the sink and I didn’t use it again for a week or two."

Misty believes that many abuse cases go unnoticed as society represent the Amish as law abiding citizens.

She said: “The Amish are sort of idealised in American culture as the perfect way to live and I am really surprised that in 2018 people would think that in a country where we have had the women’s marches, the civil rights march, the women’s right to vote, we are like a democratic society with freedom for everybody, and I am very surprised that they would embrace a culture that is so oppressive.

"Actually it’s quite shocking but Amish tourism Industry is actually a 1.9 billion dollar yearly business. The revenue from this is huge. And I believe that a lot of the people that come against me are actually the people that work in this industry. If the Amish were not the great people that everybody makes them out to be, like the Christian Amish novels make them to be the Amish tourism business would suffer greatly.”

After leaving the Amish community, Misty met her husband - who has been the main person to help her adapt to modern life.

She said: "He introduced me to, basically everything like, how to work on computers. Basically, anything I needed help with. Especially with technology or education or any of that. My husband has been there to help me with. So he’s been My main support.

Misty’s sister is still in an Amish community, and despite being shunned, she hopes to visit her.

She said: ": So my sister is in Amish community in the mid-west and it’s been 12 years since I have seen her. I would just like stay for he day and just visit my sister, but it would be very, very hard to go back."

In 2015 Misty decided to write her memoir, Tears of the Silenced to raise awareness about child abuse and the importance of reporting suspected child abuse.

She said: "I later learned that there were several people in the town below us That suspected that my sister and I were being abused but they never reported it and they later apologized to me and I also wrote my memoire to raise   awareness about sexual abuse among the Amish but I want to stress that it is not only among the Amish, it is among very strict religions that entrap their victims.

Shortly after releasing her book, Misty was inundated with emails from abuse victims, including those of the same bishop that abused her.

She said: "So the book started selling in England then it started selling in the United States and then it sold approximately 100,0000 copies and I put my e-mail in the back of the kindle version of the book and all of a sudden I started getting all of these e-mails from all around the world.

"After I had written my memoir, I was contacted on Good Reads and it was the Bishop’s oldest daughter and she told me that her and her sister had reported their father to the police and that he has being investigated. At that time the detective that was assigned to the case was reading my memoir actually, and he figured out that the bishop was the bishop from the book he was reading. And that’s how the children got in contact with me through Good Reads.

"And today the Bishop is in prison. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for child molestation.”

In between helping abuse victims, Misty is currently studying for her nursing degree, and has learnt to make peace with her past.

She said: "Today life is probably better I ever expected. I had the chance to help a lot of people and that makes me very happy, gives me something to look forward to.”

An updater edition of Misty’s book Tears of the Silenced is available for pre-order on Amazon.