Lifetime film An Amish Sin aims to shine a light on victims of child sexual abuse: there is always hope

Joanna Yoder hopes the new Lifetime movie will raise awareness of an issue she’s been trying to highlight for years.

On Saturday, the network is airing a script-drama called “An Amish Sin,” a movie in which she worked as a consultant. Inspired by true stories, the film tells the story of an Amish teen who refuses to marry the man who abused her when she was a child. She escapes her isolated community and makes her way to a nearby city. The film stars Dylan Ratzlaff, Kelly Martin, and Rukia Bernard.

“I grew up in a Mennonite, and it’s very similar to the Amish,” Yoder explained to Fox News Digital. “…I was 48 when I finally had the courage to go into law enforcement and report crimes that happened to me as a kid. It took me years to get to a place where I felt I could do it. I wasn’t ready or able. [to do it before]. It took me a while to heal from my trauma and the things that happened. But now I feel like I have a voice. So I wanted to share my story in hopes of raising awareness.”

Lifetime’s “An Amish Sin” is based on true events. Joanna Yoder, who has previously spoken about her past, worked as a consultant for the film.
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Yoder’s story was part of a 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning series in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that explored an unprecedented investigation of child sexual abuse within Amish and Mennonite communities. Yoder, who grew up in the separatist Mennonite community, alleged that three of her relatives abused her when she was a child.

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“You made me angry,” she said, crying. “I resented them. I would usually run or hide, and find ways to dodge them. As I got older, I just learned how to evade them, or at least I tried.”

Yoder said she left her family in 1992 when she was 21, though she didn’t leave the Mennonite community until 2000.

“[Looking back]’I wanted to leave,’ the 51-year-old shared, but I was in a shelter and didn’t realize I could leave at 18. From 18. I thought I was a legal adult at age 21. I was afraid that if I tried to leave, I would be forced to come back…. I didn’t know how, but I knew I was going. I made arrangements with my brother who was going to Pennsylvania. He was older than me…so I rode with him and moved to Pennsylvania. I didn’t have a job or a car. I had less than $100 in my pocket with only my 8th grade education… I had to start my life over because the Mennonite community is all I know. I thought if I left, God would beat me dead… I really believed in that.”

Dylan Ratzlaff plays the role of Rachel in the written drama

Dylan Ratzlaff plays the role of Rachel in the written drama “An Amish Sin”.
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“I didn’t leave in the middle of the night,” she continued. “I told [my parents], ‘I’m leaving.’ They knew as an adult, they couldn’t force me to stay legally.”

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Yoder said that after leaving home, she began therapy to address her past. It wouldn’t be until April 2019 when the 48-year-old traveled south to meet with law enforcement.

The Post-Gazette reported that Yoder filed official police reports in Tennessee and Kentucky, where she described years of abuse. She hoped to raise awareness of the issue of sexual assault in the most isolated communities, such as her own.

“First I had to learn that all the things that happened to me weren’t normal, and they weren’t my fault,” she said. “But it wasn’t overnight.”

Joanna Yoder said she helps make it

Joanna Yoder said helping make “An Amish Sin” was therapy for her.
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Yoder said that by the time she reported the crimes in Tennessee, nothing could have been done due to the statute of limitations. Although there is no statute of limitations in Kentucky, she claimed that her case was recently closed. Commonwealth attorney Jesse Stockton did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

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The Hajj Ministry also did not immediately respond to a Fox News Digital request for comment. Mennonite Church USA, the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States, has published an in-depth report on sexual assault response and prevention, describing how to address allegations of abuse. Certified church leaders are also required to participate in sexual ethics training. It has also partnered with Dove’s Nest, a nonprofit that aims to “empower and equip faith-based communities to keep children and young people safe in their homes, churches, and communities.”

A church-wide statement on sexual abuse from the Mennonite Church in the USA reads: “We are intent on telling the truth about sexual abuse; holding abusers accountable; admitting the sin of their sins; listening carefully to those who have been hurt; and protecting vulnerable people from harm; Work restoratively for justice; hold fast to the hope that wounds will be healed, forgiveness granted, and relationships made or reestablished in healthy ways.”

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“An Amish Sin” from Lifetime is a composite of many stories.
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In July 2019, Post-Gazette reported that Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a bill extending, and in many cases repealing, the statute of limitations to prosecute sexual offenses against children. The outlet reported that Yoder stood at the Capitol in Nashville along with other victims to sign.

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“My goal for Tennessee is to see no statute of limitations for rape as a child or minor,” Yoder said. “Removing that completely would be nice, but it changed and that was huge for me. It was very empowering.”

Yoder said the Lifetime movie has been part of her ongoing therapy — and she remains optimistic.

“Maybe justice will continue for me to share my store and raise awareness through a movie like this,” she said. “Hope has been the most important thing in my entire life… I wish viewers know that there is always hope and they stick to it.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

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