Lee Kaplan, a man claiming to be a “prophet of God”, has been found guilty of 17 counts of sexual assault against children. Kaplan was discovered last year living in his Feasterville, PA home with nine sisters, their mother, and two young girls that he had fathered with the oldest sister.
This story begins in 2002, when Kaplan met Daniel Stoltzfus. Stoltzfus and his family wanted to leave the Amish faith, but they had no money. Kaplan told Soltzfus he was a prophet of God, and offered his help. Kaplan began spending lots of time in the Stoltzfus’ home where Daniel, his wife, Savilla, and their many children lived.
Soon after he began spending nights at the Stoltzfus’s home, he invited the two oldest girls, who were then 7 and 8 years old, to spend the night in bed with him “where he fondled and kissed them”. One of the sisters was promised to Kaplan as a wife. And as time went on he took more of the girls as wives. Over the course of the next several years he ended up with six of the Stoltzfus girls as wives, and another three living with him in his home. As previously mentioned, he fathered two children with the oldest sister. And even Savilla Stoltzfus, the mother of the girls, was gifted to Kaplan as another wife by Daniel Stoltzfus, her own husband.
The girls lived with Kaplan in his house for years, where he did not allow them to use soap or toothbrushes. They ate food they grew in a garden or from supplies of canned goods that Kaplan kept. Most of the windows of the house were kept covered and Kaplan convinced the girls that the outside world would ruin them and to never tell anyone what they did together in the bedroom.
The girls, who are now between the ages of nine and nineteen, testified against Kaplan in court, but they also are adamant that they still love Kaplan. The girls are clearly suffering from Stockholm syndrome. The second oldest Stoltzfus sister even said that living in Kaplan’s house, “worked out for everybody.” And she said that she believed that his having sex with her was a “way of showing affection” and that “I was very happy where we were.”
Kaplan will hopefully be going to prison for a long time, the 17 counts he was convicted of each carry a maximum sentence between 20 and 40 years. Kaplan’s lawyer is planning to investigate options for an appeal, but hopefully Kaplan will spend the rest of his life in a place where he can no longer harm young girls.
This sad situation is an example of the dangers of religious indoctrination. The Stoltzfus family had grown up in the Amish religion, and were unable to cope with life in the outside world. Whatever their reasons for wanting to leave the Amish faith, it seems they longed for the kind of life that religion offered: a lack of critical thinking, reasoning, responsibility, and accountability. They wanted the comfort of an easy (and delusional) solution for their money troubles and so they put their faith in a “prophet of God” instead of considering their options, and working towards goals. The worst part though, is the fact that the young girls are the ones who suffered the most. They were too young to understand what was happening when it started, and have now been more-or-less brainwashed after years spent living with this religious nut-job.
Hopefully the girls will be able to receive the kind of psychological help they need to move forward and they can put this behind them. Additionally, let’s hope they avoid the pitfalls of falling into more religious nonsense.