There has been another development in Watchtower’s ongoing child sex abuse scandal; a large number of previously unseen and confidential Watchtower documents have been released online by the non-profit organisation FaithLeaks, which seeks to expose corruption and abuse inside religious organisations.
The 33 documents take the form of a series of letters sent between the Watchtower organisation and individuals in the Palmer Congregation in Massachusetts. They involve a very serious case of child molestation reported in 1999 and then continue to describe events that take place over the next decade.
Reading through these documents (which have been redacted to protect the identities of all involved) one sees a very disturbing tale come to light; firstly that of awful accusations of child sex abuse from three Witness women towards a Ministerial Servant in their congregation (two of the women were the daughters of the abuser), and the subsequent dreadful mishandling of the situation by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Be warned if you decide to read the documents; they contain material you might find upsetting.
The 69 pages of documents detail how Jehovah’s Witnesses authorities and church officials handled allegations of repeated sexual assault by one of its local leaders. The interviews and detailed notes compiled by church authorities about molestation and rape allegations are horrific. The 33 documents also provide a staggering play-by-play of how the Watchtower Tract and Bible Society—the parent corporation and governing body for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, often simply referred to as “the Watchtower”—handled the case internally over the course of nearly a decade—playing therapist, prosecutor, jury, and judge—and the lengths to which they went to keep these accusations away from the “worldly court of law.”
I highly recommend reading Brown’s article to get a detailed breakdown of what the letters tell us (You can find his article here.) but for those of us who have been following this issue for some time, the underlying sequence of events is sadly familiar. The documents show how the same official Watchtower procedures uncovered during the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse made an already terrible situation into something even worse.
For example, the elders were restricted from taking action due to the two witness rule, a Judicial Committee was called off at one point because the victim could not bring herself to “confront” her father in a religious court setting, and ultimately although events led the abuser being disfellowshipped for a time, he was later re-instated not long after, despite having committed appalling acts of sexual assault upon his own children.
Additionally, the letters reveal how Watchtower mishandled the subsequent situation of an abuse survivor having to live in the same religious community as her attacker, and how they appear to side with the abuser in some instances, especially when the actions of the survivor cause “public embarrassment” to Watchtower, and show an overall eagerness on behalf of Watchtower to keep the matter internal to the faith, and away from “worldly” eyes.
This story is clearly developing and we will endeavour to keep you updated with more details as they come to light, but for now I’d like to end by saying this: Watchtower is trying to draw a worldwide vail of secrecy over these events and policies, and is clearly hoping that the storm will blow over soon.
Thankfully, with organisations like FaithLeaks, with the brave efforts of those who are able to leak such documents to them, and most of all the brave efforts of abuse survivors who stand up and tell their story, this is one storm that Watchtower cannot ignore.
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