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The Demons in the Church: At Least 100 Women Raped by Nine Mennonite Men in Bolivia

First Posted: Nov 08, 2013 06:06 PM EST

The Anabaptist Christian denomination known as the Mennonites hosts teachings founded on the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. This five-century-old religion was named after Menno Simons of Friesland; and the religion, founded by Peaceful Anabaptists, has an international following of 1.7 million individuals. The teachings have reached people in the United States, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Canada, Indonesia, Tanzania, Germany, Zimbabwe, Southeast Asia, Kenya, Paraguay, Mexico, Nigeria, and Bolivia.

And, in Bolivia, 2009, nine "religious" Mennonites were jailed for sedating and raping at least 100 women and girls, in what was being called "the ghost rapes of Bolivia." And, though these men are jailed, the epidemic continues according to

Women woke to semen and blood-soaked sheets, sometimes rope tied around their wrists and ankles, and their bodies smudged with dirty fingerprints, with no recollection of what happened, just a vague memory of men on top of their bodies. Before, the series of sexual assaults were attributed to ghosts or demons. Then the women of Manitoba Colony discovered that they had been victims of night-time rapes, and when they reported this, they were doubted by authorities despite evidence that they had been violated.

An investigation was launched, and the community that lived similarly to the Amish in America, with bans on electricity, streetlights, cameras, cars, and lack of a police force, learned that nine men in their community from ages 19 to 43 were sexually violating women while they slept in their beds at night. The crimes would sometimes take place in bed alongside the husbands, as the entire family was dosed with heavy sedatives. These men raped girls from the age of three all the way to women of 60, sometimes resulting in unwanted pregnancy. Even though these men were caught and jailed, the tragic events cannot be put to bed because the violations continue to occur.

Two of the now jailed men were discovered attempting to break into home, and their flimsy lies regarding the break-in crumbled under questioning. The entire nine-strong band of rapists, in which the two assailants belong, were jailed. Each sentenced to 25 years in prison. And, the vet who supplied the men with the cow tranquilizer sentenced to 12 years in prison. Because the community's lack of proper provisions or security, men have to be "caught in the act" for them to be prosecuted for the heinous crimes, which essentially means that every woman in that community is bait until the villains are caught.

The women and children who were assaulted were repeat victims, and worry that they could be violated again. A woman by the name of Sara Guenter attempted to stay awake and asked a trust worker to guard her home at night, though the attacks continued when no one was watching.

"'It happened so many times, I lost count," Guenter said.

There are some residents in the community who still don't believe these women, they believe that the rapes are elaborate charades to lampshade affairs, and others have called it "wild female imagination." The antiquated colony in eastern Bolivia, which is home to 3,000 people, received offers of assistance from more liberal Mennonite communities in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere, but they rejected the assistance. Also, psychological help has not been provided for the 100-plus women who were repeatedly attacked, or the women who simply live in continue to live in fear, even though, the rapes by drugging continue to happen.

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