Post-Gazette Investigation Uncovers Widespread Abuse In Plain Communities

May 28, 2019

On today’s program: Pittsburgh makes a new commitment to equity with a dedicated city office; prosecuting the opioid crisis is sometimes a supply-and-demand challenge; gender-sexuality alliances are evolving in Pittsburgh-area schools; and survivors of sexual assault in local Amish and Mennonite communities share their stories.

City's Office of Equity to replace Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment
(00:00 – 6:18)

Pittsburgh is the fifth city in the U.S. to create an office dedicated to working with national and local organizations addressing gender and racial inequalities. Mayor Bill Peduto signed an executive order this month to create the office, which replaces its Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment. 

Led by Majestic Lane, the new office will be more "people-focused," Peduto says, and produce an annual public report about inequity in Pittsburgh using data collected by the city. A staff of 13 will be charged with prioritizing projects in overlooked neighborhoods and collaborating with local advocacy groups.

According to US Attorney Scott Brady, Pittsburgh is poised to go after opioid sellers on the Darknet with resources like cyber investigators at FBI Pittsburgh and cyber crimes prosecutors at the US Attorney's office for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Credit Toby Talbot / AP

Opioid prosecution in Western PA requires a multi-pronged approach
(6:21 – 12:39)

Traditional opioid targets like drug trafficking rings, dark net operators and doctors who illegally prescribe opioids have yielded successful takedowns for U.S. Attorney Scott Brady's office, and he says more are on the way thanks to fellow cyber investigators at FBI Pittsburgh. 

Gender-Sexuality Alliances still offer community for LGBTQ students 
(13:38 – 17:51)

GSAs, formerly known as Gay-Straight Alliances, give LGBTQ youth a built-in support network, a sense of belonging and higher self-esteem, according to the nonprofit advocacy group GLSEN. 90.5 WESA’s Katie Blackley reports on how some GSAs have impacted students in Western Pennsylvania

Putting a spotlight on the widespread abuse in the Plain communities 
(17:55 – 39:32) 

A six-part series by journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigates accusations of sexual abuse in conservative Amish and Mennonite communties in and around Pennsylvania. Word of the abuses came to reporter Peter Smith during coverage last year of a sweeping grand jury report detailing clergy abuse in the Catholic church.

He joins Shelly Bradbury and Stephanie Strasburg with The Confluence's Megan Harris to talk about the insular, fragmented nature of Plain communities and how a groundswell of activism is emboldening survivors to share their stories and demand accountability from perpetrators and the church, as well as lobby lawmakers for an extension of the statute of limitations for these crimes. Experience their collected works here.

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Hannah Gaskill and Julia Maruca contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.