Misty Griffin endured difficulties in her life, but is now an author and a nursing student, married to Vincenzo Piccirillo (pictured together above)
It was supposed to be a new start when Misty Griffin – just shy of 19 – went to live with the strict Amish community.
After an isolated childhood on a remote mountain farm – raised in Amish ways and dress since she was around aged six – Griffin had a balloon of hope that would quickly be punctured. Her new community’s emphasis on forgiveness, she says, meant they allowed a convicted sex offender to live nearby and the way they dealt with molestation and rape was up to six weeks of ‘shunning,’ what they called placed in the Bann.
But it was an early spring night that set Griffin’s life on a different trajectory after the bishop – the head of the church and a leader of the community – allegedly sexually assaulted and physically attacked her.
‘I had nowhere to go. I was going to go to a woman’s shelter because I honestly believed that the bishop was going to kill me. I was so scared. It was so terrifying,’ Griffin tells DailyMail.com.
Despite a lifetime of following restrictive rules and a cloistered childhood, Griffin gathered her courage and took the unusual and brave step to go to the police to report the bishop – and would ultimately leave the Amish. Now 36, Griffin is married and a nursing student working toward her bachelor’s degree on the West Coast, and is the author of the newly updated book, ‘Tears of the Silenced: An Amish True Crime Memoir of Childhood Sexual Abuse, Brutal Betrayal and Ultimate Survival.’
The bishop’s alleged attack on Griffin spurred her to leave the community, but it was her worry for the bishop’s children – she feared he was molesting one of his daughters – that would give her the strength to go to the police that spring night 13 years ago.
DailyMail.com verified through police reports, court documents and interviews that the bishop is currently in prison for molesting his daughter. Two other daughters accused him of molesting them, according to the documents. DailyMail.com contacted the bishop seeking comment, but did not receive a response.
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Misty Griffin (pictured) grew up on an isolated mountain farm and started to learn about Amish ways and dress when she was around aged 6. By the time she was almost 19, she went to live with a strict Amish community where she learned its rules, Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a German dialect, and was eventually baptized. She told DailyMail.com that it was important for her to be a good church member to pave the way for her younger sister. Some Amish refuse to have their picture taken. The photo above was taken after Griffin had left the church but had gone to visit her sister, who is still Amish
Griffin (left) said that she is 16 in this photo, and that it was taken so social services would not do a home visit to the mountain farm she lived on with her family that included her stepfather (middle) and sister (right), who is almost two years younger than Griffin. She was hopeful when she went to live with the Amish community as an older teenager but turmoil within her adopted family eventually led her to move in with the bishop – the head of the church and a leader of the community – and his family to work as a maid
‘When I went to the police in 2005 that is literally the hardest thing I have ever done. I mean I didn’t want to the go to the police. The only reason I went to the police was for the children,’ Griffin recalls.
The shadow of her secluded childhood – Griffin tells DailyMail.com and recounts in her memoir that she and her sister, who is almost two years younger, were ‘severely abused’ – fell over her. (Griffin has a disclaimer at the beginning of the book that names, locations, identifying characteristics and some details have been ‘partially altered, added and or withheld.’)
‘There were people that I intersected with that knew I was being abused and did not help me. I told myself I cannot be that person. I cannot leave these children in this house and not do something about it,’ she says.
Through a public records request, DailyMail.com received one page of a police report that appears to be consistent with Griffin’s allegations against the bishop – it was filed in spring 2005 in what she says was her Amish name, and states a ‘report of rape,’ ‘suspect bishop in Amish community,’ but does not name the bishop, according to the report.
The detective that took the 2005 report told DailyMail.com: ‘I actually remember the incident. I remember her being in my office.’
The detective, now retired, said that he recognized details Griffin described in her
Police reports and sexual assault were the last things on Griffin’s mind when she first joined the community: her goal first and foremost was to be a good church member to pave the way for her younger sister, who was to follow later on. For Griffin, that meant learning the community’s specific rules, for instance, how many inches wide her dress hem could be – four – and what order men and women were to file into church as well as Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a German dialect, and taking baptism classes so she could be baptized.
‘I went to the Amish community first… I’m going to do my best and I’m going to save my sister – that was my thought,’ she says, before becoming emotional and taking a minute to collect herself.
The family she was placed with, however, had its own turmoil. The husband and wife had issues within their marriage, and Griffin says that right away her new Amish mother was jealous of her.
But, ‘the first few months with the children, oh my goodness, it was just amazing, the little kids, I just love children so much. The little kids were adorable and they just adored me,’ she says, adding, ‘It wasn’t until a few months afterwards that I started to realize, you know, this was not what I hoped it was going to be at all.’
It was then, Griffin says that she started to understand how her community handled sexual assault and stressed forgiveness. A man, who was not Amish but dressed as if he was, was a convicted sex offender who was allowed to live near the community, Griffin says, and according to a government document reviewed by DailyMail.com.
After moving in with the bishop’s family, for a period of about six months, the bishop allegedly constantly exposed himself to Griffin, and ‘on other occasions, he would stare at my breasts, push his erection into my back or pretend to hug me when no one was around and run his hands up and down my body. I felt trapped, alone and scared,’ she wrote in her newly updated and recently released memoir, ‘Tears of the Silenced.’ Griffin is left in the above photo, taken when she was 16 on the mountain farm she grew up on, with other members of her family
‘Every night I lay awake, afraid he would come into my room,’ Griffin wrote about the bishop in the book. When asked about what happened the night of the alleged sexual assault, Griffin told DailyMail.com: ‘It seemed like I went in and out of consciousness… What I remember, he came into my room. I believe at some point, he put a pillow over my face and he had his hands under my clothes.’ Griffin (pictured) at aged 16 with one of her favorite cows Tootsie
After leaving the Amish, Griffin had to navigate the outside world that she had little knowledge of, and said that ‘one of the most difficult things was social interactions. I had been taught to not talk to men, to look at the floor when I walked and that was difficult to overcome’
‘This guy was really bad and they knew it and they allowed him into the community, they allowed him to live on this farm, and, of course, he abused one of the girls,’ she says. The young girl, who was 13 or 14 when the sexual abuse happened, was partially blamed by the community for being ‘too friendly,’ Griffin says.
The man left after the incident, but once again he was allowed to return to live near the community, according to Griffin.
The tension that had been building between Griffin and her Amish mother was no longer bearable, and it was decided that she would go live with the bishop, who is the head of the church and a leader of the community, and his wife and children. Griffin would work as a maid for the family.
After moving in with them, for a period of about six months, the bishop allegedly constantly exposed himself to her, and ‘on other occasions, he would stare at my breasts, push his erection into my back or pretend to hug me when no one was around and run his hands up and down my body. I felt trapped, alone and scared,’ she wrote, adding later, ‘every night I lay awake, afraid he would come into my room.’
Her fear came to pass. When asked about what happened, Griffin says, ‘it seemed like I went in and out of consciousness… What I remember, he came into my room. I believe at some point, he put a pillow over my face and he had his hands under my clothes.’
‘I believe that he did some things that were really worse than what I can remember because my body hurt afterwards but I can’t remember it to say for sure what he did.’
What is indelible for her is what she says happened after she tried to leave the house, and escape to the neighbors, who were not Amish: ‘He grabbed my breasts and he just squeezed them so hard. I don’t know what that was. So I had to fight him off,’ she says.
Griffin says she has been asked why she did not shout or yell.
‘In my experience, screaming and making noise would get an adverse effect, I would get beaten… so that’s probably why I didn’t scream,’ she says.
Griffin notes that in reviews of her
‘It’s not as easy as they think it is,’ she says.
Leaving the Amish, she says, was pretty difficult. It meant that Griffin had to engage with an outside world that she knew nothing about, and it took time to transition and adjust. She says she didn’t have a social security card – her Amish family had pushed her to burn it – and an extended family member helped her to get a passport.
‘I found the outside world to be very noisy actually,’ she says. ‘I had grown up on a farm pretty much my whole life and when I lived with the Amish I lived way out of town.’
After the alleged attack, Griffin took the unusual and brave step to go to the police to file a report. In her Amish community, she wrote that going to the police was ‘strictly frowned on and anyone who did so was risking being placed in the Bann or would at least be permanently stigmatized as untrustworthy.’ Being placed under the Bann means that a person is ‘shunned’ by the community, which can mean different things because practices vary dramatically from settlement to settlement. According to Griffin, the above photo was taken at a surprise birthday party for her and she had just passed her GED test seven months after leaving the Amish
After filing the police report, Griffin left the Amish and told DailyMail.com: ‘I had nowhere to go. I was going to go to a woman’s shelter because I honestly believed that the bishop was going to kill me. I was so scared. It was so terrifying.’ An extended family member helped her while she tried to make her way in the outside world after living in the cloistered community. Griffin (pictured) is at a surprise birthday party for her
‘One of the most difficult things was social interactions. I had been taught to not talk to men, to look at the floor when I walked and that was difficult to overcome.’
But it also had its upside, she says: ‘The main thing I liked the most about the outside world was running water. I was really taken by that – to just like turn on the shower and take a shower without having to heat up the water.’
Griffin, who only attended school very briefly, worked hard to get a GED, saying it was the one thing she wanted to prove because growing up she was told she was ‘stupid.’ Griffin, who meet her husband when she went to a missionary group training, is now working on a bachelor’s degree in nursing and says she hopes to finish next May. She says her husband encouraged her to write the book, which would become ‘Tears of the Silenced,’ for a long time.
‘After I left the Amish, I was dealing with severe, I mean severe PSTD,’ she says. ‘I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming, you know, in the bed.’
In around 2012, she started writing the book. Griffin self-published the first version of ‘Tears of the Silenced’ in 2014, hoping, she says, to reach sexual assault survivors and raise awareness about sexual assault and child abuse. Also, she says, that if people suspect child abuse, they should report it.
‘I honestly did not expect anybody to buy it, you know. I mean, I had a third grade education, I was just in community college at that time,’ she says, noting that it has sold well and that she has received a ‘flood of emails’ from sexual assault survivors from all over the world.
The initial version had more graphic details, and Griffin says, ‘a lot of really bad stuff I took it out’ for the recently released updated book.
Griffin has a disclaimer at the beginning of the memoir stating that she changed locations and names, ‘because there are a lot of innocent Amish involved in the community, in the surrounding communities, and I didn’t people who read the book to recognize the people in the book and like do any sort of vigilante justice,’ she says.
‘I wanted to write this book for a long time but I fought with it because, you know, like, what if I’m the cause of somebody getting hurt, I don’t want that to happen so I tried really hard to disguise locations and stuff but… (it’s) hard to disguise a true story.’
She stopped communicating with her sister, who is still Amish, for years, but says they are now back in touch via letters. Griffin sent her sister ‘Tears of the Silenced,’ but her sister has never mentioned it or acknowledged what happened to Griffin, she says.
Griffin (left) is pictured the woman (right) – who is not Amish – that helped her after the alleged attack and took her to the police station to file the report about the bishop. Griffin started writing her memoir, ‘Tears of the Silenced,’ about seven years after leaving the Amish. It was first self-published in 2014, and Griffin said that she got a ‘flood of emails’ from sexual assault survivors from all over the world
Griffin (pictured) holding the new edition of her memoir, ‘Tears of the Silenced,’ which is now published by Mango. Griffin said she wrote the book to reach sexual assault survivors, and to raise awareness about sexual assault and child abuse
Griffin says that in her former Amish community, people who molested or committed sexual abuse were punished by being shunned, what they called under the Bann, for anywhere from two to six weeks, and were then welcomed back into the community.
In her community, she says, this meant that a person mostly stayed at their house and when they attended church they had to sit in a chair – designated for those who were shunned – to the side of the benches where everyone else sat.
‘The idea is that the person is given the cold shoulder by the community for that time. It’s a chance to think about what they’ve done, to be penitent for what they’ve done and to come back and be restored in the fellowship with the understanding that they’re seeking forgiveness,’ explained Dr James A. Cates, a clinical psychologist who has worked with the Amish since the mid-1990s and wrote the book, ‘Serving the Amish.’
He told DailyMail.com that shunning practices vary dramatically from settlement to settlement, and cautioned against thinking of the Amish as a monolith because how the rules of the church are practiced also differ by community.
‘When we think of the Amish, that’s really a misnomer because of so many different affiliations,’ he said.
The Amish population in the United States is a little under 325,000 with 527 geographical settlements – ranging from the quite large, such as 37,000 people, to a small number of families, Dr Steven M. Nolt, who has been researching and writing about the Amish for 25 years, told DailyMail.com. Within those settlements, there are 2,400 church districts – which is akin to a congregation or a parish – and they are self-governing, he said.
Dr Cates, who has worked with both sexual assault survivors and those who have perpetrated in the Amish community, said that ‘it really runs the gamut’ and what Griffin describes is ‘absolutely true in some places.’ There are, however, other communities, he said, such as in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that work with social service agencies to make sure that survivors and perpetrators get the services they need.
‘And then there are other communities as (Griffin) describes where it’s six weeks under the Bann, forgiven and forgotten,’ he said, adding that there are no good statistics about sexual assault within Amish communities ‘anywhere, any way, anyhow.’
Griffin wrote that in her community, going to the police was ‘strictly frowned on and anyone who did so was risking being placed in the Bann or would at least be permanently stigmatized as untrustworthy.’
After leaving the Amish, Griffin worked hard to get her GED and is now pursuing a degree in nursing. She is pictured here at a recent health fair with her school
The detective who took Griffin’s 2005 report said: ‘Normally they would not come forward, they would handle it in house.’
Griffin says that in her community the sin and abuse were not to be mentioned again.
‘You are supposed to basically chin up and never speak about it ever again,’ she says. ‘If you do bring it up you’re considered unforgiving and you can actually get in trouble for that.’
Later, Griffin says she was told the bishop had already been shunned for molesting one of his daughters before she had arrived at the community. He is currently serving time in prison for child molestation, according to police reports and court documents seen by DailyMail.com.
‘The absolute worst thing is these children who’ve been sexually abused by their father… they are not taken out of the home,’ she says.
Since forgiveness is so integral to the Amish community, Griffin says that this contributes to perpetuating abuse. Moreover, if an abuser leaves a community for another one, there is no communication about the person’s past behavior, she says.
‘The bad thing is these guys… they will move from community to community to community,’ Griffin says. ‘It’s very dangerous.’