From animal and religious extremists, to polygamists and the Amish, an ABC News special series examines people who live by their own rules and in their own worlds -- worlds that the average person may find unimaginable. PRIMETIME: THE OUTSIDERS takes viewers behind closed doors to try and understand these bizarre living arrangements, odd obsessions and unusual lives. PRIMETIME: THE OUTSIDERS airs tonight (Tuesday, August 29th, 10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) and will continue to air Tuesday nights through Tuesday, September 12 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
This week, PRIMETIME: THE OUTSIDERS - THE AMISH looks at people who are radical believers. Elizabeth Vargas reports on a disturbing side of the Amish community and interviews Mary Byler, a woman who broke the Amish code by reporting sexual abuse to authorities. Byler became the center of the scandal that rocked her tight-knit Amish home in Wisconsin when she told the Sheriff′s office that she was raped hundreds of times - by eight or nine men, including her own brothers, who did confess to the crime. According to sociologist Donald Kraybill, confessing in the Amish Church for wrongdoings is the key step to forgiveness, and the standard punishment for any infraction is banishment from church activities for six weeks. Byler, on the other hand, felt the punishment was not enough. "You′re being grounded for six weeks," she says. "It′s just really ridiculous punishment. The funny thing is that they view drinking alcohol until you puke as bad a sin as raping somebody." She also speaks out about what brought her to her final decision to go to the authorities and what life after leaving the Amish community is like. This report originally aired in December 2004.
Then: As a boy, Ricky Rodriguez was the poster child for the popular Children of God religious sect, exalted by the group′s leader as its prophet-in-waiting. The sect eventually shrank from the spotlight due to growing scrutiny about its alleged sexual practices, including the encouragement of sexual contact between children and adults and the use of sex to recruit new members. When the now 29-year-old Rodriquez brutally murdered another former member and then committed suicide last year, those decades-old allegations of widespread abuse and exploitation of children came to the fore once again. Children of God has re-emerged with a new name - Family International - and says it has renounced sexual activity between adults and children. But former members tell Jay Schadler they do not believe the sect has ever really paid its debt to the children who were abused.