Home » Coercive Control » Sexual Abuse » Pedophilia

Why Is the Jehovah’s Witness Child Sex Abuse Scandal Different?

Child sexual abuse is absolutely terrible, and the institutional coverup of abuse makes it even worse. From churches to sports organizations, we have seen so many institutions silence abuse scandals to protect the group’s reputation. However, when the group concerned is a high-control, destructive cult, there are extra layers of coercion and lies involved – layers which most lawmakers and justice professionals neither understand nor recognize.

Many people do not even realize that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a high-control group: most members of the public – judges and lawmakers included – think of them only as those “nice people” who go door-to-door offering “Bible studies”; pro-cult sociologists call them a “new religious movement”. When confronted with the covering up of sexual abuse by the Jehovah’s Witnesses (and other high-control organizations), these legal experts often make the mistake of treating the cases as they would one involving the Boy Scouts, the Methodist Church, or a sports club, when in fact, the organization they are dealing with is far less likely to cooperate with law enforcement. Mainstream religious groups have been reluctant to admit to abuse, but once that abuse has been exposed, many have done all that they can to expose the abusers. On his recent visit to Ireland, Pope Francis aligned himself with the victims of abuse, and has promised to do all that he can to root out this evil from the Catholic Church. This is not the attitude of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

We must not minimize cases of abuse in groups that are not destructive cults, but there are many reasons why child sexual abuse coverups are different – and should be treated differently – when involving high-demand groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Shunning

Jehovah’s Witnesses have a doctrine of ostracism or “shunning”, whereby contact and communication can be limited or even completely prohibited. Former members are often shunned by the entire congregation. Although the Watchtower’s lawyer recently managed to convince the Canadian Supreme court that “normal family relations” continue for those who are disfellowshipped, this is a base lie – the Watchtower’s internal propaganda films explicitly direct the faithful to engage in shunning. Anyone who speaks out about abuse risks isolation from their whole social group. They may well be cut off from their families, their friends, and their entire support system. In many cases, simply reporting the abuse to the proper authorities has become a disfellowshipping offence, meaning that parents have the Hobson’s choice of losing their community, or turning their backs on the needs of their children.

Predator-Enabling Policies

The “two witness” rule imposed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses – where a report of abuse is ignored if there is only one accuser – is the best-known, but abusive groups all employ a web of policies designed to keep the leadership and the followers in control – and to deny justice to those victimized by the wolves in the fold. The Mormons have come under fire for the battery of highly sexually charged questions asked of teenagers in closeted one-on-one sessions with bishops, and other groups use similar forms of interrogation designed to shame and confuse youth. Most high-demand groups have policies which explicitly forbid taking legal action of any kind against their fellow believers or the group, making it impossible to seek justice for any wrong done in the community.

Isolation from Society

High-control groups use a variety of methods to isolate their members: in the Jehovah’s Witnesses (as well as other destructive cults), members are conditioned to believe that those outside the group – especially law enforcement and social services – are controlled by Satan. This ensures that faithful members dare not think of reporting abuse to the authorities– or even realize that they have the right to do so. Additionally, those who leave the organization are viewed as apostates, not to be believed, and so past cases are dismissed as lies, even by those currently experiencing the same abuse.

Already Traumatized Children

Like many groups twisting Christian theology to wield control, the Jehovah’s Witnesses focus heavily on Armageddon or the “The Great Tribulation”, the final battle before Jesus returns to earth. Their literature is chock-full of violent images of destruction; children are taught that their schoolfriends, teachers, and even relatives not in good standing with the Watchtower will die in an excruciating holocaust of global chaos and destruction. Children suffering sexual abuse in such groups will have not only the trauma of the abuse, but an array of other phobias and emotional trauma to contend with.

Enculturated Guilt

When you’re a member of an abusive group, everything is your fault. It is not uncommon to hear from survivors of sexual abuse in the confines of a high-control group that they were made to feel as if they were the ones who had initiated the sexual contact, or that it happened because they were inherently sinful, or simply not a devout enough believer. Combined with the “usual” amount of shame experienced in such situations, this contributes to victims’ unwillingness to come forward.

Obedience as a Way of Life

Children raised in high-control groups are taught to obey without question or thought. In groups practicing “male headship”, a girl must obey the men of the group – no matter what is requested of her. Even without gender inequality, members of a destructive religious cult believe that their leaders are the ordained representatives of God, and to disobey them is to go against God’s will. Parents of abused children will be reluctant to act “against God”, and those who do go to the authorities will be wracked by guilt and paralyzed by fear, as they are now acting against everything they have been taught to believe and revere.

Zero Accountability

A predator never apologizes, and a destructive cult will never admit wrongdoing. While dozens of mainstream churches and other organizations are now admitting their guilt, apologizing to the victims, firing those responsible, and working to re-educate their officials, the leaders of abusive groups will never openly accept responsibility for the abuse or the cover-ups. They might pay millions in court costs, but, when talking to their members, they will still maintain that any reports of abuse are “apostate-driven lies,” and that the legal actions against them are the work of Satan.

Lack of Transparency

High-demand groups are notorious for their lack of transparency – recruits are not told what they will be expected to do, to sacrifice, or to believe until they work their way into the “inner circle” of believers. Many abusive groups, such as the Moonies, will claim that those just entering their group are not ready to receive the hidden “knowledge”, and compare telling new members the truth about the group’s more esoteric beliefs (such as Reverend Moon being the new Messiah) to feeding a baby a piece of steak, so they practice “heavenly deception”. Similarly, most destructive cults have a policy of lying to outsiders – particularly judicial and legal authorities – about the realities of group life. Because the “outside world” is controlled by Satan – or a conspiracy bent on destroying them – the leaders of groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses have no problem lying in court – even under oath. They justify this by referring to the Biblical story of Rahab, who lied to protect Israelite spies.

In conclusion, the covering up of child sexual abuse in any setting is despicable. However, in the context of an abusive group, the depth and breadth of the coverup is magnified, with more complex layers of lies, phobia, guilt, and coercion covering any truth. It is imperative that judges, police, lawmakers, and others working to reveal the institutional coverups of sexual abuse understand that they will hear nothing resembling the truth from the representatives of a high-control, destructive cult.

For more information, check out our article on pedophile grooming, and Barbara Anderson’s book, Barbara Anderson Uncensored: Eyewitness To Deceit.

Editor's Note: While we at OMF value all free expression of opinion, the views expressed by our contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OMF, its board members, or trustees.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Do you have a story about covering up child abuse in a high-control group that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

 

Cardinal Accused of Child Sexual Abuse

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington. The Pope has ordered him to retire to a “life of prayer and penance” following allegations that McCarrick sexually abused both minors and adult seminarians over the course of five decades. McCarrick has been ordered to stay in seclusion until the allegations against him have been fully investigated.

Cardinal McCarrick was removed from public ministry on the 20th of June 2018, after allegations that he had sexually abused a teenage altar boy almost 50 years ago in New York. McCarrick protested his innocence. The New York Times reports that the Roman Catholic Church paid settlements amounting to tens of thousands of dollars in 2005 and 2007 to complainants.

McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals is the first since 1927, and the very first to be attached to a sexual abuse scandal. Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh waived his rights as a cardinal in 2013, after accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior with junior clergy, but he remained a cardinal until his death in March 2018.

In April 2018, Cardinal George Pell of Australia, the Vatican’s finance chief, was ordered to stand trial on charges of sexual abuse. A month later, Philip Wilson, the archbishop of Adelaide, was convicted of covering up a sexual abuse claim in the 1970s. Five hundred priests were mentioned by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

In June, Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella, a former Vatican diplomat based in Washington, was sentencd to five years in prison by a Vatican court for possessing and distributing child pornography. It was the first time in modern history that a Vatican court had ruled in an abuse case.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, has said:

These cases require more than apologies. They raise up the fact that when charges are brought regarding a bishop or a cardinal, a major gap still exists in the church’s policies on sexual conduct and sexual abuse.

Since 2002, 6700 Catholic priests have been accused of sexually abusing children. Yet, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has yet to respond to calls for reform made in June.

Extensive information on abuse in the Catholic Church can be found at http://bishopaccountability.org/ The director of the site, Terence McKiernan, told the New York Times, “The officials responsible must be identified and disciplined, and the investigative files must be made public.”

McCarrick and other alleged abusers are often protected because the statute of limitation has expired on their crimes. The Open Minds Foundation is working alongside SCAARS (Stop Child Abuse – Advocates for Reform and Safety) in the US to abolish any statute of limitations on child abuse, and to reform the law. We also want those who have turned a blind eye to child abuse to be removed from office, and publicly named and shamed.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Jon’s new book? Do you have a story about sexual abuse in a church that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

_________________________________________

Drawn from this article in the NY Times

And Reuters.

For a discussion on clericalism and how it enables the sexual abuse of children, see our blogpost here.

 

 

Australia’s National Redress Scheme Offers Help for Survivors of Abuse

“Redress”, as defined by Australia’s National Redress Scheme website, means “acknowledging harm done.” For many survivors of child sexual abuse in institutions worldwide, this acknowledgement is the most important part of recovery. Although many survivors will require – and are certainly entitled to – financial restitution to help rebuild their shattered lives, the simple and all too rare act of an official apology is an important step towards healing the wounds.

However, for many survivors, that apology will never come. One of the primary hallmarks of a coercive, totalist group or abusive person is that they never apologize – any injury is always someone else’s fault – most often the victim is blamed. Abusers are gifted at laying the blame on the shoulders of those they have abused.

Fortunately, in Australia at least, abusive institutions will now have a harder time hiding their crimes; already over 2000 cases of abuse brought to light by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse have been referred to authorities, and thousands of survivors of abuse will be given the financial aid needed to help them access counseling and other services. With this restitution will come the acknowledgement that they were, indeed, innocent victims, and deserve an apology not only from the abusive institution, but from the society which failed to protect them. Those institutions that do apologize will show that they are willing to change, adapt, and learn from past mistakes; those organizations that refuse to accept responsibility will be shown as unwilling to address their mistakes, and, in their unwillingness, can be named and shamed in the public eye.

We hope that more countries will follow Australia’s bold example; in redress for wrongs done, we can both heal the wounds of survivors, and prevent future abuse.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Do you have a story about redress from abuse that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

It’s All About Undue Influence

Why would someone not report allegations of child sexual abuse to the authorities or the police? Unfortunately, it’s all about undue influence*.

Child sexual abuse is a global societal problem, but did you know that many individuals and institutions use undue influence to manipulate and discourage victims or their care-givers from reporting these crimes to the proper authorities? Or, they delay reporting because they’re influenced to report abuse to clergymen first, who then consult with attorneys instead of civil authorities?

California is no exception to the widespread problem of undue influence, and I am no stranger to this problem. Most of my life was spent in a high-control group, subjected to what I’ve learned is undue influence.

I now realize that undue influence is at the root of how institutions handle child sexual abuse cases. I have personally experienced how natural love and common sense can be overwritten by high-control groups. This puts me in a good position to help answer the question, “Why would anyone intentionally fail to report an allegation of pedophilia?”

In addition, my life experiences help me see how anyone can become a member of a high-control group. This is why I am an advocate for practical and beneficial laws, which recognize the negative consequences of undue influence, and specifically, this is why Robert Atkinson, Barbara Anderson, my wife Karin and I started SCAARS.CA**: Stop Child Abuse: Advocates for Reform and Safety.

SCAARS is a metaphor for the healing process. Our scars define us. This is the principal challenge for those of us who have left manipulative, insular groups. Perhaps the most difficult thing we’ll have to address in our life outside these highly-controlling groups.

A significant goal for SCAARS is to promote the process of moving from victim-to-survivor-to-thriver, after a person has been victimized by child abuse. And now teamed with the Open Minds Foundation, we hope to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Changing laws in the State of California by introducing Fact Sheets, which correspond with statutes that need revision. Using California as a template, we hope to spark reform in other states and countries.
  2. Educating legislators about the effect of undue influence by clergymen and mandated reporters, who either fail to report, or defer to a parent organization for reporting purposes.
  3. Strengthening mandatory reporting requirements in California along with enforcing penalties for failure to report.
  4. Educating the public on how current mandatory reporting laws are insufficient and endanger children everywhere. Victims should not be harmed by predators and weak legislation.
  5. Creating a special edition of Barbara Anderson Uncensored with an Introduction to Undue Influence by Jon Atack. The target market will be legislators, attorneys and politicians around the world, and potential volunteers for SCAARS and ambassadors for Open Minds Foundation.

I also want to congratulate Romy Maple, Janja Lalich and Barbara Anderson for their contributions to the Elizabeth Vargas A&E Special on May 29. Raising awareness of negligent child abuse reporting policies will lead to changes in the law to better protect children.

You can access the special here. If your local cable provider subscribes to A&E, you can sign in online using your local access account and watch this episode.

Join us now, and help us change and create laws that better protect children from child sexual abuse!

_______________________________________________

* One definition of undue influence: “Excessive psychological persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming the person’s free will, and results in inequity/lack of justice.”

** SCAARS.CA currently has a Facebook page, with plans for a corresponding website to be launched this summer.

Editor's Note: While we at OMF value all free expression of opinion, the views expressed by our contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OMF, its board members, or trustees.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Barbara’s book? Do you have a story about unreported abuse due to undue influence that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

In Praise of – Barbara Anderson Uncensored

Barbara Anderson is an outspoken critic of groups that attempt to silence victims or parents of victims from reporting child sexual abuse to the authorities.

But she was an unlikely candidate for that role for most of her life, having invested her time in a pseudo-religious group, which had unduly influenced her to believe that their policies were Bible-based and inspired by God: that father knows best.

However, after working ten years at world headquarters for Jehovah’s Witnesses, she discovered the group was not governed by an all-wise God, as she’d been led to believe. While working in the Writing Department, something terrible happened and she experienced a crisis of conscience, which would change her life forever.

Her inspirational story makes Barbara Anderson Uncensored a must-read. But, the book is much more than that. While she compellingly narrates her life story, author Jon Atack and Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed., psychotherapist, take us behind the scenes to give us their insights and unprecedented commentary on the mind manipulation techniques Barbara was subjected to while still a Jehovah’s Witness.

Barbara’s ultimate valor in the face of an epic David vs Goliath battle to protect children against the policies of an international organization demonstrates how the efforts of one person, who stands up for right, truly can affect change. Detroit artist Carl Wilson’s colorful imagery of Barbara says it all:

This book was made possible due to a grant/gift from the Open Minds Foundation. All royalties from the book will be used to safeguard young people, ages 5 to 35, from undue/predatory influence.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Barbara Anderson Uncensored ? Do you have a story about standing up for the right thing that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!

 

Child Abuse Inquiry Considering Separate Investigation of Jehovah’s Witnesses

According to a recent article in The Guardian, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which is examining the problem of institutions in England and Wales failing to protect children from sexual abuse, is considering opening a separate investigation into the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The UK panel has heard reports from a “considerable number” of concerned citizens and members of Parliament about the organization.

The issue which sets the Jehovah’s Witnesses apart from the other institutions the Panel is currently examining is not the number of reports, but the clear picture the reports present: the Jehovah’s Witness organization, despite its protestations of “robust child protection policies,” uses threats of disfellowshipping and shunning to keep victims from reporting abuse.

We hope that the panel, if it does decide to investigate, will shed valuable light on the policies and practices of the organization, and further the protection of children from sexual predators in the Kingdom Halls of Great Britain and worldwide.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Do you have a story about child sexual abuse that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

Beyond Larry Nassar: Changing the Culture to Prevent Future Abuse

Larry Nassar is not the first sexual predator to misuse a position of authority to gain not only access to children, but also years of immunity from complaints, relying upon his status to shield him from his accusers. This institutional enabling and protection of pedophiles is a well-established pattern, and has been found everywhere, from the highest-control destructive cults, to otherwise benign and beneficial social groups. How can an organization hope to protect its children from sexual abuse when its culture seems to be geared to protecting the abuser rather than the child?

The key is a change of culture in the institution itself, according to a recent report by Deborah J. Daniels, J.D., a former federal prosecutor and longtime advocate for children. In 2016, USA Gymnastics asked Daniels to conduct an independent investigation into their policies and procedures, to see what must be done to protect their athletes from predators in their midst – and how the organization can made accountable for its responses to accusations of abuse in the future.

Deborah J. Daniels quote re USGAIn partnership with Praesidium, a team of experts dedicated to helping organizations prevent sexual abuse through better knowledge and training, Daniels has released her report, stating emphatically that: “the entire culture of the competitive gymnastics environment must be focused on protection of athletes from harm, including not only physical harm but also emotional and sexual abuse.” However, she also noted that: “Everything about this environment, while understandable in the context of a highly competitive Olympic sport, tends to suppress reporting of inappropriate activity.”

This environment of suppression, combined with the accounts of Olympic gymnasts who relate how they were taught to regard their bodies as not their own, shows that USA Gymnastics has a long path to tread – and they are not the only organization which has to do so. Churches, schools, businesses and clubs of all sorts are realizing that they must start protecting their children, and stop shielding predators, no matter what level of respect they have gained in their community. We at Open Minds salute the work of such organizations as Praesidium, and hope that USAG will be successful in the implementation of Daniels’ recommendations, and that, some day, pedophiles like Larry Nassar will have no place to hide.

Editor's Note: While we at OMF value all free expression of opinion, the views expressed by our contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OMF, its board members, or trustees.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Do you have a story about changing a culture to prevent abuse that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

Larry Nassar: the Pedophile Who Groomed Hundreds

Larry Nassar, who used his position of authority to sexually abuse over two hundred teenage gymnasts, also used his role of comforter and advocate to lure his victims into a state of compliance. He was the “good guy,” the confidant, the friendly doctor who pretended to speak for the gymnasts’ safety and wellbeing. As a member of the organization responsible for training Olympic gymnasts in the United States, Nassar charmed young athletes and their families, established relationships, gifted his patients with trinkets from his Olympic travels and talked of his prowess as the “body whisperer.”

This camouflage of advocate and healer was part of the plan: in order to molest his victims, Nassar first had to groom them. In order to keep molesting them, he had to groom the families of his victims, as well as his colleagues and his professional network. Granted, no pedophile operates in a vacuum – and USA Gymnastics is only one of many organizations currently engaging in some much-needed cultural self-evaluation: Nassar is not the first offender whose victims had to wait for years for their complaints to be heard, and their stories vindicated. But if the man himself had not been such a skilled manipulator, he would not have been able to work his way into the core of a national Olympic training ground, or have had access to thousands of young girls in a profession requiring close, intimate contact.

Disguising his criminal actions as part of a medical procedure was only part of the gaslighting involved to create an air of confusion and denial; Nassar was able to keep his victims wondering if what they had experienced was indeed abusive or sexual. Even worse, in grooming his professional colleagues, he was able to manipulate Michigan State University officials into believing in his innocence so thoroughly that they compounded his crimes, informing his accusers that they had failed to distinguish the “nuanced difference” between legitimate examination and sexual abuse. The egregious shortcomings in a system disastrously ill-equipped to deal with complaints of sexual assault certainly aided and abetted him, but ultimately, it was because he was so skilled in social manipulation that Nassar was able to accumulate a “stable” of victims numbering in the triple digits.

Pedophile grooming relies on a confidence trick, just like any phone scam or pyramid scheme; it trades on the innocence of children rather than money, but the traps a predator uses to lure victims into danger, and the web of undue influence they weave to keep their victims ensnared, remain the same. If we are to break the cycle of sex abuse scandals rocking even our most venerable institutions, we must educate children, parents, professionals and everyone involved to recognize the patterns of abuse – and not to repeat yesterday’s mistakes in failing to use our healthy skepticism. Only when we face grooming for what it is can we keep our children safe.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Do you have a story about pedophile grooming that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

Australian Royal Commission Report: Clericalism Protects and Enables Pedophiles

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has released its final report; these landmark hearings on the institutional responses to reports of pedophilia have uncovered some shocking insights. One of the most important findings of the Commission has been the existence of clericalism – the belief that clergy are more trustworthy than “ordinary” lay people.

Clericalism is an unfortunate byproduct of religious life, deeply woven into the structure of most religious and spiritual groups. Even in groups claiming to have no clergy, the de facto leaders are automatically trusted above rank-and-file members, their “higher” spiritual status marking them as morally superior. This false perception can lead to the dangerous belief that a member of the clergy would not be capable of abusing a child. The Commission reported:

In devout religious families, parents often had such high regard for people in religious ministry that they naturally trusted them to supervise their children. People in religious ministry were considered to be representatives of God. Many parents were unable to believe they could be capable of sexually abusing a child. In this environment, perpetrators who were people in religious ministry often had unfettered access to children.

This atmosphere of clericalism not only gives pedophiles “unfettered access to children”, it assures that the children who report abuse are often accused of lying, which compounds the damage. Tragically, even the children who are believed are often counseled to forgive their abusers, because the assaults are considered a moral lapse or a sin, rather than a crime.

Whether or not the child’s report of abuse is believed, the Commission found that, more often than not, the abuse is dealt with “in-house,” for the good of the group’s reputation. Those who insist on going to authorities are often reproached for bringing shame on the organization’s “good” name. Many have been ostracized, shunned, and even threatened with damnation for upholding the law.

Most disturbing was the Commission’s discovery on how children are taught clericalism, across multiple religious and spiritual traditions:

We have heard that children were raised to have the utmost respect for the religious organisation their family was a part of, and were often taught that people in religious ministry, such as priests, were God’s representatives on earth. Some perpetrators used this status to facilitate child sexual abuse.

Pedophiles who have gained any kind of spiritual status in their particular organization have free rein to abuse children with impunity. Shielded by clericalism, they are able to keep abusing over decades, even if multiple victims report them. It comes as no surprise that the Commission determined they had “heard more allegations of child sexual abuse in relation to institutions managed by religious organisations than any other management type”.

We at Open Minds salute the sterling work of the Australian Royal Commission, and hope that their extensive study will lead to positive changes around the world. We hope that religious organizations take immediate action to change the attitude towards authority that clericalism breeds. We must teach our children that, no matter how beneficial an organization, there can always be a wolf in the fold – and we must promise them that we will listen, even – and especially – when they accuse a shepherd of abuse.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Do you have a story about clericalism that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

Unduly Influencing Parents to Protect Pedophiles

Reclaimed Voices, a new foundation in the Netherlands, is giving an ear to the survivors of childhood sexual abuse by Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) in Holland.

Frank Huiting, a former victim of abuse, reports that many people feel afraid to come forward. When he was abused at age seven, his parents decided not to go to the authorities, because they were warned by a JW elder that it would create unfavorable publicity for the organization.

Because of the high level of undue influence present, Jehovah’s Witnesses are led to believe that the organization, as the only “true” religion, must be protected – even at the cost of its most vulnerable members.

Many religious groups have been struggling with pedophiles in their midst, and some, such as the Catholic Church, have actively covered up such crimes. But in high-control groups like JWs, this crisis is compounded by their shunning policy. Those who report the crime to the police, rather than to the elders, are most often shunned. This leaves the parents of a child who has been victimized with a terrible choice: go to the authorities and lose their religious community and extended family, or remain silent and risk the abuse happening again, and again.

Another complication to the issue is Watchtower’s “two witness” rule: very often the only witnesses to sexual abuse are the victims themselves. This means that many victims who go to the elders are not believed, and the matter is summarily dropped, because it is viewed as one person’s word against another.

Another factor which protects the perpetrators is the way such reports are handled: a victim of sexual abuse must tell their story to three elders in a private meeting, where they are asked questions which can be almost as traumatizing as the abuse itself. These elders are not given professional training in how to deal with cases of sexual abuse, and, in an isolated community, might be friends of the abuser.

The heavy web of undue influence in such insular high-control groups creates a perfect “hunting ground” for pedophiles: behavior which would ultimately come to light and be punished in a mainstream church, can go undetected for years and even decades in a group like Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Reclaimed Voices hopes to address this damage, by encouraging victims to speak out, get help, and share their stories. Their goal is to get as many cases as they can out in the open, bringing attention to this for both the board of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Netherlands and the government:  “We want to get the government to investigate these abuses. And not to start a fight, but really to focus on the victim.”

For more on this new organization, read the Netherlands Times Article.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Do you have a story about childhood sexual abuse that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

Load More Posts
Go to Top