An Amish man in Ohio, whose ten year old daughter as molested by another Amish man, asked the judge not to send the perpetrator to prison; the community was getting him help when he was arrested. (Article) Why would a father do that? I’m a Christian, so I believe that repentance and forgiveness are real and powerful and people can change. On the other hand, there should be consequences for wrong done, accountability for the man who has repented, and protection for the victim.
I tried to put myself in the Amish father’s shoes to understand why he would defend his daughter’s molester. Amish communities are tightly knit and prefer to handle their affairs themselves. It would be difficult to turn one of their own over to the outside world, especially to jail. The perpetrator is probably someone the father grew up with and chances are very good that their families are connected either by blood or by marriage. If I believed that the Amish church’s discipline and help from some program would turn him around, I might be merciful too.
I can’t help but think about his daughter. How does she feel about her father’s plea to the judge for mercy? Perhaps she needs closure, needs to see justice done and her molester punished. Perhaps she just wants the situation to go away so she can return to a feeling of normalcy. Perhaps those two things go hand in hand.
The writer in me can’t help but start plotting a novel based on this situation, as perverse as it may sound to want to turn someone’s pain into fiction. But that’s what I love about writing novels; you can get into people’s heads, albeit imaginary versions of them, and see life from a different perspective. The point is not ‘should the father defend his daughter’s molester’ but ‘why is he motivated to do so?’ When you write, you can wrestle with difficult situations, exploring all sides of an issue, and then wrap up the discussion with a satisfying happy ending; an ideal world of your own making.