Two years ago, seven members of an insular, reclusive colony of Mennonite Christians in Bolivia were convicted of raping 130 of their fellow colonists in a scenario that reads like a horror movie screenplay.
But the horror continues today.
For four years, the men would drug entire families by spraying a powerful sedative through the windows. The drug was prepared by a veterinarian who converted a tranquilizer meant to be used on cattle into a spray that could knock out entire households at once.
Once everyone in the house was out, they rapists would sexually assault the women and even the children.
The youngest reported victim was three years old. In at least one instance, one of the men raped his own sister.
Because they were drugged, the victims had no idea what happened. Women woke up with torn pajamas, in sheets covered with blood from severe injuries to their genital areas. Some had memories of terrifying dreams, of being dragged out of the house and attacked. But there were no other clues.
Because the Manitoba Colony is so isolated that there is no electricity at night, the perpetrators were able to operate in cover of total darkness.
Now, despite the convictions and 25-year prison sentences handed down to the men accused of this reign of terror (pictured, behind bars), reports from Bolivia earlier this month say that the crimes continue.
Journalist Jean Friedman-Rudovsky covered the “ghost rapes” for Time Magazine and this month published a longer article in Vice Magazine about the case.
“In addition to lingering psychological trauma, there’s evidence of widespread and ongoing sexual abuse, including rampant molestation and incest, Friedman-Rudovsky wrote. “There’s also evidence that — despite the fact that the initial perpetrators are in jail — the rapes by drugging continue to happen. The demons, it turns out, are still out there.”
The actual number of victims may be many more than 130, both because some women had no memory of the attacks and also, the strong sense of shame in the Mennonite community associated with having been raped.
Manitoba, with 2,000 residents, is considered an “ultraconservative” Mennonite colony where horse-drawn buggies are a primary means of transportation and there is little contact with the outside world.
While men in the colony are subject to strict religious rules, women are faced with even more restrictions. They may not attend school past age 12. They are not allowed to learn Spanish and therefore speak only Low German.
Children do not have it any better. In June of this year, 23 children aged nine months to 15 years we taken out of the Manitoba Colony amid reports that they were repeatedly assaulted by adults with whips, cattle prods and leather straps.