For Years, Bolivian Mennonite Men Used Cow Tranquilizers To Assault Women

Yes, there are Mennonites in South America, and from 2005 until at least 2009, one Mennonite community in Bolivia, called the Manitoba Colony, experienced a terrifying crime wave. Over the course of four years, nine men went from respected members of the ultra-conservative community to convicted serial rapists. But what makes this story of assault all the scarier is the perpetrators were spraying reformulated cattle anesthetic through people's windows in the middle of the night to incapacitate entire families while they slept.

Originally German in origin, Mennonites have communities and churches around the world, especially throughout North and South America. There are many branches of the Anabaptist faith, but the Old Colony Mennonites, like the group in Bolivia, are some of the most conservative. The conservative nature of the community has made it that much harder for this small community to address what has happened, and they are still struggling to heal and move on from the "ghost rapes."

  • A Veterinarian In The Community Reformulated A Drug For Anesthetizing Cattle

    A veterinarian in the Mennonite community, Peter Weiber, provided the Manitoba rapists with a special spray he had formulated, using a drug meant for anesthetizing cows. He changed the formula and made it sprayable, so as to easily knock out entire families.  

  • Nine Men From The Community Used The Spray To Knock Out Entire Households As They Slept

    Using veterinarian Peter Weiber's spray, a handful of men began committing rapes in the middle of the night. First, they would spray the anesthetic through windows and screens, knocking out anyone inside the room. This not only incapacitating the victims, but also incapacitated any potential witnesses.

    Many of the women were assaulted with their husbands unconscious right beside them.

  • Community Leaders Accused The Victims Of Having 'Wild Female Imagination'

    When the nighttime attacks first began, the initial victims were cautious to speak up about what was happening. They couldn't understand what was going on, which made the experiences that much harder to explain to others. When the women did begin to speak out, they were told that they were lying, with one woman being told she was trying to cover up an affair. Some shrugged it off as a plague from God, or something they couldn't combat. Others simply called it "wild female imagination." 

    Even though women would wake up in pain or even naked, nothing was done. The victims would make their beds and go about their day as if nothing had happened. And this went on for years. 

  • Instead Of Blaming Men, Leaders Decided It Was The Work Of A Demon

    After the leaders of the colony overcame their initial disbelief as to whether these assaults were even taking place, there were still a few roadblocks to understanding what had really happened. The colony leaders were incredibly resistant to believe that men from the community could commit such horrible crimes, so they came up with their own explanation - that this could only be the work of a demon.

    It may sound bizarre, but the intensely spiritual community simply fell back on a religious theory to explain the horrors that were occurring. The physical evidence that remained after the attacks seemed to provide more questions than answers, with no actual witnesses (thanks to the drugs).

    It was, in theory, much easier to say it was the devil than to point a finger at someone in the tight-knit community.

  • The Assaults Continued For Four Years

    Old Colony Mennonites choose to live a life isolated from the rest of the world. Because of this isolation, many of the members of the community didn't know what to do about the "ghost rapes," and didn't know how to handle issues involving sexual assault - at least not in the way much of the modern world does.

    The community essentially ignored the problem, potentially making the psychological effects of the already confusing abuse much worse. With nobody acting to stop the assaults, they continued for four years.

  • Victims Ranged In Age From 3 To 65

    The women that were assaulted ranged in age from 3 to 65. Victims were both single and married. Some of them were also mentally infirm. And though it was not discussed publicly by members of the community (likely due to their conservative views), reports claim some men and boys were raped, as well.