Dark Secrets About Amish Families We Never Knew — Until Now

Not much is really known about the Amish. Other than the fact that they immigrated to the United States from Switzerland and are reluctant to adapt to modern technology, they seem more like a secret society than anything else. But as it turns out, there is way more to this sect than refusing electricity and automobiles. In fact, some things about the Amish are just downright scary. Here are the dark secrets we uncovered.

For starters: Are the stereotypes real?

An Amish woman stands in a field.

Here’s everything you need to know. | Willard/Getty Images

Some of the cliches associated with the Amish community are true. They drive horse-drawn buggies instead of cars and are staunchly religious. They are also very closed off to outsiders — and do not support one of their own leaving. (More on that a little later.) However, these things are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this particular group of people.

Next: How the community was formed.

How does one become Amish anyways?

A hat resting on a wooden board.

They are a very exclusive community. | Willard/Getty Images

The vast majority — and we mean vast — of the Amish community is born into it. Though it is possible for an outsider to adopt the ways and choose to live an Amish lifestyle, very seldom does this group take in newcomers. Because the Amish have spawned from a much smaller group of people, inbreeding and incest are a problem. (We will touch on that much more in just a bit.) This keeps the group even more inclusive.

Next: What do they do all day?

Farming is a dirty business.

A farmer riding on a carriage with horses on a farm.

Their farming methods have been passed down from generations before. | Delmas Lehman/Getty Images

The Amish are known as a farming people. But their tactics aren’t as basic and wholesome as they may seem. Pollution is a huge problem because of outdated farming practices tainting the water. (Erosion and human waste from outhouses adds to the pollution problem.) To make matters worse, many Amish communities refuse to take federal grants to help improve their environmental state.

Next: And it gets even dirtier…

‘Gravedigger’ takes on a new meaning

A row of graves in front of a church.

Modest graves are dug by hand. | SimplyCreativePhotography/Getty Images

The pollution in the soil and water clearly doesn’t phase the Amish. Especially since they continue the ritual of digging graves by hand. “Usually, when a person in the community dies, he is buried 3 days after his death,” Countryfarm Lifestyles explains. “This is because Amish customs are that it takes 3 days to hand-dig the grave.” This, of course, exposes them to the contaminants in the ground.

Next: Here’s the story behind those trademark locks.

The deal with their hair

Farmers and children on a farm.

They don’t do much to their hair. | Delmas Lehman/Getty Images

One of the most well-known trademarks of the Amish is that the women have their hair tucked up on bonnets and that the men have long beards. This is because they don’t cut their hair or beards! Women start growing their hair out at birth and never cut it, while men can trim their beards up until they get married. If you are Amish, cutting your hair or someone else’s is considered a hate crime and is grounds for being shunned by the community.

Next: Man and woman were (not) created equal.

Gender roles…

A mother holds a child's hand.

There are strict rules regarding gender roles. | Stephanie Frey/Getty Images

The Amish view of gender roles is heavily influenced by the Bible, and is incredibly strict. Women are subordinate to men, and are responsible for tending to the house and children while the men work the farms. Men’s needs and demands are to be met without resistance from their wives and daughters.

Next: How the gender roles take a dark turn.

… and how that translates into abuse

An amish woman in front of a carriage.

Women aren’t protected from abusive situations. | Serpeblu/Getty Images

The strict views on gender norms within the Amish community extend to members’ sex lives, with the men being dominant while the women have little to no say. This, sadly, results in a problem with sexual assault and rape within the community. One female former member of the Amish community told ABC News that she was raped by numerous men over the course of her young life, including her older brother.

Next: And it gets darker still…

Inbreeding is an issue

Two women walking together down a street.

A growing problem for the community. | Left_Coast_Photographer/Getty Images

With a high likelihood of incest also comes the subject of inbreeding. While the Amish community has grown past its original 200 members and there are plenty more partners to pick from, inbreeding still remains a problem. (And since the Amish are against seeking medical assistance in weeding out who their closest kin are, the issue never gets solved.) Inbreeding leads to many birth defects in babies, and can manifest into disorders as the children get older.

Next: And then, there are the bizarre courting rituals.

Bundling

A man and women together in a carriage.

Their courting rituals may seem strange to outsiders. | Andrea Izzott/Getty Images

Despite the problem with sexual assault and abuse, the Amish courting practices are still quite strict. One of which, called bundling, requires a man and woman to be wrapped in blankets before they lie in a bed and don’t touch each other. The special bundling bed even comes with a wooden divider to ensure that there is no physical contact.

Next: At least that’s tame compared to how they treat animals.

Their connection to animal cruelty…

A horse drawn carriage riding in the sunset.

A controversial issue in the Amish communities. | David Arment/Getty Images

Poor treatment of livestock among the Amish community has become more apparent in recent years. This includes working animals until they collapse. One man was found guilty of animal cruelty for being caught on video beating his horse in 2016. The man commented that he would “accept the charges if that will make anyone feel better” and that “a passerby is making a lot out of a little…” Clearly, beating livestock is viewed as okay behavior.

Next: Quite possibly the most inhumane behavior of them all.

… and those awful puppy mills

A farm seen with a rooster and carriage on the lawn.

Another instance of animal cruelty among the Amish. | Maksymowicz/Getty Images

Treatment of animals becomes even worse when talking about how dogs are treated. The community has a problem with puppy mills, in which dogs are caged in terrible conditions and eventually exterminated. The Amish are responsible for roughly 20% of the puppy mills in the country.

Next: Their dislike for the rest of the country is extreme.

All-around disgust with modern America…

A white house seen on a field during sunset.

They stray away from modern communities. | DelmasLehman/Getty Images

It isn’t just modern technology that the Amish despise. They have an all-around hateful disposition towards America as a whole. They even refer to Americans outside of their community as English, and to themselves as the real Americans. They do, however, have a fondness for Mexico — there are even a couple communities down south of the border.

Next: All that dislike causes serious problems.

… and all-around disregard for the law

A horse seen pulling a carriage down a street road.

Amish communities often have issues with the law. | Willowpix/Getty Images

By now you have surely noticed that the Amish act by their own laws and code of conduct. Because of this, they have a high tendency to have run-ins with the law. Traffic violations and hate crimes are commonplace when Amish values collide with American justice. Reports of sexual assault have made these clashes with the law even more frequent.

Next: Amish for life?

Choice to leave?

Clothing seen drying on a clothesline.

An opportunity for the youth to socialize. | Bodhichita/Getty Images

Despite their disgust with the world outside of their community, there is a period when Amish youth are given the option to try things more akin to the modern world. Amish teenagers engage in Rumspringa, at which point they are allowed to party and experiment with technology. This period lasts until the teenager gets married — or leaves the community all together.

Next: So what happens if they DO leave?

Shunning

A black carriage seen riding down a road.

If a member chooses to leave the group, they are often shunned for life. | David Arment/Getty Images

If a member of the community leaves are is kicked out, they become shunned by the entire group. The shunning is so extreme, that family won’t even talk to the ex-communicated member. The practice of shunning is meant to reaffirm the member’s commitment to the church, but many Amish themselves think the practice is too harsh.

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