Generations of Pain

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

May 22, 2019

By Shelly Bradbury, Peter Smith, and Stephanie Strasburg

Part 2 in a 6-part series

Plain community sexual abuse victims sometimes pressured to take offenders back

The Old Order Mennonite bishop leveled a finger at the unwed, pregnant teenager who stood before him and jabbed it toward her.

“You,” she remembered him saying, “can’t be a church member until after the baby is born.”

Diane Snyder stood silently beside her boyfriend as the bishop made his declaration. She did not protest when her boyfriend escaped the punishment she was to suffer for the baby growing inside her.

And she stayed silent during the ensuing months, keeping to herself the gnawing fear that she’d die before the baby was born — die and go to hell because she wasn’t a church member.

She married her boyfriend, Jim Burkholder, and for years she never protested when he demanded sex, even when she was pregnant with one child, nursing another. It was her duty to satisfy him, and she couldn’t say no. This was what married women had to do, she believed.

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