On March 1st 2013 a former Jehovah’s Witness elder is due to appear at Heidelberg Magistrate’s Court in Victoria, Australia, charged with indecent assault after apologizing to his alleged victim via Facebook – according to Fairfax Media.
The accused, who has been named as Richard Hill, is said to have admitted to the woman that he abused her when she was only six-years-old, as far back as 1981, even though he seemed at the time to have escaped punishment.
It was only when his victim turned 14 and developed an interest in the opposite sex that she realised what had happened to her. However, as is so often the case in these instances, her parents’ attempts to pursue the matter with the local elders fell on deaf ears. Under the much-maligned “two witness rule” imposed by the Watch Tower Society, elders will routinely disregard accusations of child abuse unless another person happens to have been on hand to witness the incident.
More than three decades on from the attack, with the victim now 38-years-old, justice appears to be finally being served – albeit following an unexpected turn of events. In a chance encounter on Facebook, Hill was confronted by the woman he is said to have abused. He surprised her with an apology for what happened. ”I confronted him on Facebook [in private chat] and questioned him about it, and he turned around and apologised,” the woman said.
Apparently, at the time of this Facebook exchange, Hill was still a serving elder. However, in the wake of his admission, his position became untenable – especially when criminal charges ensued. ”He became an elder within the church and rose quite high up,” his victim explained. “Since he was charged he has stepped down.”
This development comes amidst a whirlwind of damaging publicity surrounding Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia. The Watch Tower Society faces ongoing legal difficulties over their failure to properly comply with working with children laws between 2008 and 2011. They also face potential scrutiny under a wide-ranging Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse that has been launched by the Australian government.
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