Candace Conti speaks out at RNA 2013 conference

Candace Conti speaks at the 2013 RNA conference in Texas

Candace Conti speaks at the 2013 RNA conference in Texas

Journalists attending the 2013 Religion Newswriters Association conference in Austin, Texas were given a unique insight into the scourge of childhood sexual abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Candace Conti, a survivor of abuse by a fellow Witness when she was between 9 and 11 years old, was a panelist at the event and spoke bravely – despite breaking down at one point while relating her ordeal.

Candace’s fellow panelists included Bill Bowen of Silentlambs and Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian, an Associate Professor of the Liberty University School of Law. Together the panel was able to field a number of questions from journalists curious about the widespread problem of childhood sex abuse in religion.


To listen to an audio recording of the panel discussion entitled “INVESTIGATING RELIGION: THE CONTINUING STORY OF CLERGY ABUSE BEYOND ROMAN CATHOLICS” – please click here. (Candace is introduced at 27:30)

After being invited to the podium by Laurie Goodstein, National Religion Correspondent for the New York Times, Candace gave reporters a brief summary of her Witness upbringing and the series of events that led to her pursuing Watchtower through the legal system. Candace explained that she had first attempted to appeal to her congregation elders to bring about changes – but when her pleas fell on deaf ears she was left with no other option than to file suit.

Candace told journalists that it was only after reviewing subpoenaed documents that she and Rick Simons understood just how much elders had known of Kendrick’s pedophilia before he began abusing her.

“Through the power of the court we obtained documents,” she explained. “In those documents was a report that was made by the elders of the very congregation I grew up in and sent to the Watchtower. This was a report of my sexual abuser molesting his stepdaughter shortly before turning his eyes to me. They kept this a secret.”

Candace was tearful when relating certain details of her case

Candace was tearful when relating certain details of her case

At this point Candace gave way to tears – the trauma of discovering Watchtower’s fingerprints on her abuse clearly still very raw. But not easily overcome, Candace found the inner strength to continue her speech, giving further details of the case and the events leading up to the landmark damages being awarded.

Watchtower’s October 1st 2012 letter to elders was then mentioned, which reinforces the so-called “two witness rule.” In describing Watchtower’s current policies, Candace coined the term “two-victim rule” to explain the Governing Body’s perverse notion that the abuse of multiple children is somehow tolerable if it leads to the two-witness rule being satisfied and more evidence of sin being gathered.

Candace summarized the October 1st letter with its revised policies by saying: “While my attorney says this is a step in the right direction, I say it’s still not good enough. The policy of secrecy is still in this letter, but our major victory is that it’s not so secret anymore.”

And in a candid moment, Candace revealed her motivations for pursuing the Watchtower so persistently. “For me personally my strength through this case was hoping that through all of this hurt and through all of this struggle we could make a difference that could save one child. And that is a struggle worth fighting for. If we could do that, I would win.”

In her concluding comments, Candace reminded the assembled journalists of their role in making the public more aware of the threat of secrecy surrounding child abuse in numerous organizations.

“The only thing I want to leave you with here today is that through your hard work and your determination reporting these cases, you need to know you empower victims and fellow survivors to come forward. You give them a voice, and through their voice and your hard work you are policy changers. Through your diligence in getting these bad and inadequate policies in the public eye, you force these organizations and institutions to make changes, so please go out and continue to make a difference.”

A number of journalists were clearly moved by Candace’s bravery in speaking out as evidenced by their expressions of appreciation during the questioning session. A few also took to Twitter with their reactions…








It is refreshing to note that there are journalists out there with an interest in helping raise awareness of the problem of child abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is also reassuring that when rare opportunities such as this conference arise, there are victims like Candace brave enough to step up to the microphone, fight through the tears, and tell their story.


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Photographs by Sally Morrow, Religion News Service Photography/Multimedia Editor

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19 Responses to Candace Conti speaks out at RNA 2013 conference

  1. Rowland Nelken says:

    Another most welcome nail in the coffin of that foul organisation. Drained of funds and credibility even amongst its target market of the depressed, lost and lonely, the day should not be far off when the entire JW cult follows the Khlysts and other deluded and damaging apocalyptic sects, and becomes but a grubby little footnote in the history of Christendom.

  2. whatevs says:

    The “two-victim rule.” I love it, how very true. The elders and the Society really have no interest in helping victims or getting rid of pedophiles; they’re only interest is in maintaining their stubborn, self-righteous, “nobody can tell us what to do” stance. Their actions are the spiritual equivalent of giving victims the finger. Kudos to Candace and her whole family for how they’ve taken them on.

  3. Hakizimana Jean de Dieu says:

    I cannot have enough words to say how proud I am of Conti. The Watchtower wrote “Man and woman were not created equal in power and glory; the man came first and was given special prerogatives (w52 4/15 p. 254)!!

    Where is the truth? I can now witness the contrary seeing in Conti more “power and glory” than in the GB (men) of Jehovah’s Witnesses altogether. Unlike the GB (Men), Conti does not need to fool people, tell lies, … What POWER! What GLORY!

  4. John Baptist says:

    How very heart warming to hear her express what many couldn’t because of the damaging effect of Child abuse. May her name and voice be a force in defending all the victims of such a crime. Her well placed determination is towards exposing such a organization and their failed policies on reporting such offenses so that there may be a chance that she could save one victim if not many from such a horrible thing. The more people who know the real “Truth’ about this organization’s flawed policies, the better it will be for all mankind!! My heart goes out to this young lady and i hope through her advocacy of correct reporting that others will be spared from the potential harm of a known abuser. Sometimes really good things come out of a really bad situation. Lets hope and pray this is one of them.

  5. Magusknight1974 says:

    Regardless on any personal or religious view I am excited to see progress in this matter. Crimes against children are considered so bad that inmates often attack and kill those perpetrators of children. Witnesses need not be more than one when examining the victim often physical proof is available. Yes pedophiles are within this organization just like many others. Pedophiles go where they have the most access to children. A pedophile is addicted like a drug to children and the power over them. The point is to consider not just the organizational policy but how to reduce the risk to their children from this harm. The problem is there and will likely always stay present in each Kingdom Hall. I elect they have a delegated Watcher that personally handles any alleged criminal activity by mediating with local law enforcement on a case by case matter. The reform is necessary in order to prevent future matters as serial pedophiles committing these crimes under organizational protection. Nice work as always Cedar. I am personally proud of all the victims standing firm for justice(one of four attributes of God).

  6. Anonymous says:

    While the focus is on Conti’s battle with the Watchtower, it is noteworthy that Catholicism and JW’s are not the only organizations facing the issues of child abuse, and sexual abuse of members, with a lack of protective measures or ability to sanction those with such criminal actions. This is a symptom of the Watchtower’s isolationist stance — at least in voice, while not in legal arena or secular activities — to distance itself from Protestant and other non-denominational religious organizations and Catholicism. In this isolation, JW leadership is mistaken by not contributing to the conversation or taking away lessons learned from other groups. Filing legal documents as friends-of-the-court-plaintiff on occasion does not present a cooperative and neighborly attitude nor problem-solving.

  7. LightFly2013 says:

    Thank you SOOO much for covering this Cedars. This is my 1st post on this website. I have been trolling for 6 months, made a few posts on YouTube. After 24 years a JW, getting baptized when I was 10, this issue is a huge part of me leaving now. I had met wayyy too many sisters who have told me their father, uncle, or a brother at the hall raped me and they sat on it for years. When I began counting how many JWs I knew and the abusers were JWs as well, it was very clear to me that this was a widespread problem. It also exposed that God is NOT using JWs as his only true channel. He is not using any religion on earth. And JWs can say all they want they are dealing with it now, and a few bad men crept in, but the point is IF Jehovah hand is so active, with his holy spirit being involved in each meeting or directing JWs to the door to find deserving ones, why would he not intervene to prevent bad ones (some odd 23K – I beleive that number is double now considering it was taken from the 1990s and with the availablility of child porn on the internet) from coming in? It makes no sense.

    Candace Conti is a beautiful young woman and so brave. I am beyond delighted to see the issue of JW child abuse getting the attention it needs. Cedars you and your team are masterful writers and so humble and objective in your articles – you even offer to have corrections made if your info is incorrect – day and night from the Watchtower which is always right, even when they join the UN, even though they are the only religion with a 2-witness rule, even when they drop “new light” on their adherents all too often. Cedars thank you, thank you, thank you, and I wish Candace and her mother the best!

  8. JBob says:

    The tweet from Ann Rodgers (Communications Director for Archdiocese) is poignant–the leadership’s view was “we are better than the Catholics”. I believe the first lesson I learned after parting ways with Watchtower was how to eat “humble pie.” From learning how wrong and arrogant I was about Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek; scientific theories; other religions; my own religion; orthodox doctrines; and on and on. The other reflections were owning my own stuff covered by ‘grace’ and that JW’s as a group had the same issues as everybody else and were simply very good at hiding and covering.

    End this with something about pride and arrogance before a fall?

  9. Shakeem says:

    Candace Conti is a very courageous woman for standing up to this dictatorial, monarchical, totalitarian organization. She deserves every penny she was awarded in her initial trial against the Watchtower Society. Never have I seen any brother or sister tear up, expressing genuine sorrow and empathy, while delivering a talk at a Kingdom Hall like Candace Conti did at this conference. Such occurrences are quite rare. The organization has no conscience.

  10. Brenda Lee says:

    The Watchtower’s position of “leave it in Jehovah’s hands” means remain silent and don’t do anything about it. In this case, secrecy evolves into an ongoing criminal offense. When neither law enforcement nor the members are informed of an alleged abuse that occurs, guess what happens. More children get abused. It’s a known statistic that the vast majority of pedophiles re-offend.

    Pedophiles exist in all cultures and in all organizations. We can’t avoid them. However, anyone who values the innocence and well-being of child(ren) should seriously consider the moral implications of belonging to any group that PROTECTS pedophiles. Children should never be sacrificed to justify one’s religious beliefs.

    • JBob says:

      @BrendaLee – define sacrifice? Whether it is sexual abuse, or placing the health of children in jeopardy, putting child needs second to ministry/service to the BOrg, etc, it is sacrificing children just as ancient cultures tossed children into volcanoes and fire, or made them endure fiery torture and passing through pits of fire. It could also be a sacrifice if one’s beliefs compelled them to forego child-bearing to serve some “Greater Cause” or created an environment where those who brought forth children and dropped service to the “Greater Cause” and their children are looked upon as ‘less-than’. Note, I did not say ‘failures’ but simply lesser status in an elite and aristocratic society where status means much.

  11. Tiago says:

    Candace was disfellowshiped after persuing the lawsuit against the Tower, or she is still a witness?

    Can someone be disfellowshiped for opening a lawsuit against the Watchtower, even if you suffered real damage from them?

    Tiago, Brazil

    • Cedars says:

      Hi Tiago! Candace has NOT been disfellowshipped to my knowledge. I don’t think she attends meetings any longer. Read into that what you will.

    • JBob says:

      My impression from the lawsuit reply Wt Soc filed, Candace had never been baptized, and thus the WS used it as excuse to skirt any responsibility for its agents’ actions.

      You can be d/f for anything, if the elders context your attitude as being “unbecoming for a Christian [Jehovah’s Witness]”. And, if the hierarchy has a target on you, like the long-ago case with Raymond Franz, they can alter the rules so a committee can convene and “get you”. For example, the recent changes are lining up so that individuals who “pal around” with worldly folks can get booted at the whim of elders.

      This is another factor in why the abuse issue is so draconian and evil because situation is one where all-powerful individual can use that position to abuse individuals and threaten them with emotional harm, or use that position to deny any remedy for harm they inflict.

      The main issue being that the GB refuses to admit that it is possible for their “system of governing” to have corruption since that would undermine their doctrinal interpretation, as well. Once the ruling heads start to believe their own hype, the whole system is set to implode because now the administrators have no guiding logic or reason and are led along by the “magical thinking” they publish.

  12. Tiago says:

    Thanks Cedars

  13. 70wksofyrs says:

    Wonderful comment. Very revealing information about when you were growing up, thanks for letting us know.

    You make some fantastic points. Good for you for wanting to leave, all the best with you exit.

  14. 70wksofyrs says:

    Your work on this site is helping so many. I do hope your family will benefit also.
    Thanks again

  15. Questionall451 says:

    I am seeing more and more of these pedophilia cases involving JW’s in news media. — It is no wonder the organization is trying to steer people away from the media.

  16. Rainbow says:

    Metaphysically speaking these poor excuses for humans who do this to children are literally stealing their victim’s power because they have none of their own. Your sexual CHI energy is everyone’s creative life force and power connected to All That Is/Universal Energy/God/Source/Prime Creator. When you are grounded to the earth with your Red root chakra you can not be swayed by these Schizophrenic Cults that attempt to keep you unbalanced and ungrounded and only in your upper chakras to use your power for their liking. This is religions dirty little secret. Clever marketing Red devil, fear and paranoia on blood. It has been hidden for centuries to keep people under control and in a lower vibration matrix of fear. Everything is energy vibrating at different frequency rates to so we can experience form in lower dimensional realities. Good news is “they” never had the power in the first place it is all an illusion! Smoke and mirrors. Planet wide we are all waking up to that fact as religion is crumbling before are eyes. The irony of it is that we really Are moving into a better place, a higher vibration of love (528hz) as we learn and share our Individual knowledge. Everyone has a piece of the puzzle. Hope this helps anyone who is recovering from abuse to regain their personal Power. Love to all on this journey. 🙂

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