How child abuse happens within the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as the Royal Commission in Australia goes public with what too many growing up in the Society experienced. They will continue to, until the public outcry causes Government to change the law.
From the age of nine to 14, once a week I had an hour bible study with an Elder, or a ministerial servant (one down from an Elder) from the local Jehovah’s Witnesses. We discussed bible stories, and as I neared my teens masturbation, sex before marriage, homosexuality, abortion, wet dreams, morning glories. These discussions happened on a one to one basis.
What should shock you, is that no background checks of the sexual offenders register were carried out by the organisation on people giving such bible studies to children. Nor are they required by law in the UK (I am happy to be proven wrong if it has changed), because they have been “invited” into the family home. As to training, this amounts to theological ministry – that is the art of recruiting, retaining and indoctrinating people in the faith.
The bit that should be making you shout far and wide. Child abuse is only recognised at the congregation level if there are at least two people to witness when the crime takes place. This is based on Deuteronomy 19:15
15 “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.
Further, they might be prepared to hold their own investigation as a spiritual matter, and feel no obligation to report concerns or allegations to the appropriate authorities. For the supreme authority is God, and the number one concern is the spiritual welfare of everyone while maintaining the word of God in this world.
The Royal Commission in Australia into sex abuse highlighted these particular concerns about the Jehovah’s Witnesses:
The two-witness rule. A rule within the religion that states officials cannot accept an accusation of child abuse unless there was a second person who also witnessed the abuse – something that rarely happens.
Women’s role (or lack of) in the congregation and judicial committee process. As a patriarchal religion, women are to view men as their head. They cannot be part of a judicial committee. In practise this means a young female victim must go into graphic details of her abuse alone in front of three older men.
The expectation that the victim confront the perpetrator as part of the process.
Not making it mandatory for elders to report accusation of abuse. While not being obliged to report accusations may be legally acceptable in some states, the Royal Commission identified that the judicial committee process meant that often elders would uncover actual proof of a crime, even a confession, but still not report it. At this stage, where it had moved from an allegation to proof of a crime, there was a legal obligation to report.
Not reporting allegations to the police. This practise was to protect Jehovah’s name, and was due to a general mistrust of people in “the world”. According to Watchtower: “While some contact with worldly people is unavoidable – at work, at school, and otherwise – we must be vigilant so as to keep from being sucked back into the death-dealing atmosphere of this world.”
Fear of psychologists, based on the belief that they may give advice that is not in line with Watchtower principles.
I have written a number of times about my childhood in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mercifully, that does not include being abused. But it so easily could have done. Too many have written about their abuse, and the trauma they went through within the organisation.
They are a cult, one that destroys childhoods and families through abuse of all kinds. My hope, is when reading about our experiences, the cycle can be broken and no one else has to go through what we have.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
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