Once again, Jehovah’s Witnesses hit the headlines regarding the covering up of child sex abuse.
This most recent case concerns Ian Pheasey, who was a member of a congregation in Warwick. The court was told how Pheasey attacked a 7-year-old girl while working as a volunteer librarian at the Kingdom Hall in the 1990s. He was charged with offenses that occurred between 1989 and 1994, and he pleaded guilty to 3 offenses.
Pheasey’s offenses are unusual in nature as he obtained sexual gratification from strangling children. His first victim was a 7-year-old girl who had gone to get a book from the library in the Kingdom Hall. His second victim was a 14-year-old girl who he grabbed around the neck and threw to the floor where he straddled her and squeezed her neck.
The poor girl fell unconscious twice and was crying out, “Jehovah help me.” Pheasey told the girl he would kill her if she told anyone, and he also said if she ever had daughters he would rape them as well.
She ran home screaming and crying to her mother, but sadly her mother told her to clean herself up. She was taken to the hospital for the bruising to her neck, but was told by her parents that she must never say anything about it. Furthermore, the matter was “swept under the carpet” by the congregation, according to the prosecutor.
Pheasey admitted fantasizing about strangling the girl, and that he had lured her over with the intention of strangling her and becoming sexually aroused.
His third victim was only 6 years old when he was carrying out some work at her parents’ house. As the little girl sat in his van, he got in and started tickling her and then moved his hand up her skirt. He only stopped when she kicked out and screamed.
Nicholas Taplow, prosecuting, stated: ”He was a man who had a particular sexual fascination with the act of strangulation. He derived sexual gratification from strangling children, and many children were strangled in this way by him during what he described as horseplay.”
Pheasey was jailed for 5 years after he pleaded guilty to assaulting one girl, causing her actual bodily harm, and indecently assaulting 2 others.
A spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses said the church deplored Pheasey’s behavior and denied it was involved in a cover up of his crimes. The spokesman said, “Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse, and view it as a serious crime and sin. The safety of our children is of the utmost importance. Any suggestion that Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child abuse is absolutely false. We are committed to doing all we can to prevent child abuse and to provide spiritual comfort to any who have suffered from this terrible sin and crime.”
This case is particularly shocking as some of the offenses happened at the Kingdom Hall. Not only is the nature of the crimes particularly disturbing, but also the reactions from the parents and the congregation. Sadly, this is a common occurrence, and one we are becoming all too familiar with. What I found particularly interesting in this case was the statement released by the Jehovah’s Witness spokesman.
In two sentences within the statement, they mention child abuse as a sin and a crime. It baffles me that they still can’t seem to understand that if something can be described as a “crime,” this far outweighs whether or not it is perceived as a “sin.” Have you ever heard Witnesses describing murder, kidnapping or burglary as a sin? Of course not, because they are crimes. As an abuse victim myself, I find it offensive that they effectively minimize the seriousness of the crime of child sex abuse in this way.
The other interesting point is that they claim to provide “spiritual comfort” to any who have suffered child abuse. I would love to know what this comfort consists of. I imagine it to involve three old men sitting with a victim reading scriptures from the bible.
Although in my case, both myself and the other victims didn’t even get that! When will the Governing Body realize that victims don’t want “spiritual comfort.” They want to be believed and supported. They want to know that if they report the matter to police, the elders will be right by their side. They want to know that others in the congregation are going to be protected because of their bravery in coming forward.
Sadly this is not the case. In case after case we are seeing more support for the abuser and their family than for the victim. I don’t know the victims in this case, but in case they read this article I want to just say this:
What you have done has taken great bravery and determination. I know what it’s like to live with something for over 25 years and feel like you will never get justice. I can only imagine what you went through with elders at the time, and maybe even recently, but you are not alone. There is a huge, loving community out there full of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who all understand how you feel. Each brave person who comes forward shines another light on to the organization and its unwillingness to protect children.