Watchtower found itself under siege yesterday as yet another child abuse lawsuit was announced at a press conference in Ohio.
Plaintiff Elizabeth McFarland was between the ages of 9 and 14 when she claims to have suffered molestation at the hands of Ministerial Servant Scott Silvasy, who is said to have committed suicide some time after his abuse of Elizabeth was brought to light.
The timing of this fresh lawsuit could not be worse from Watchtower’s perspective. They continue to grapple with the Candace Conti appeal, which sources tell me is not looking promising for them. Worse still, the Society is still licking its wounds from recent damning media exposure of child abuse cover-ups in the United States and Britain.
In filing her lawsuit, Elizabeth claims to have been “frequently” abused by Silvasy, as much as several times per week. Silvasy is said to have inflicted this abuse on her at various locations including at the Kingdom Hall, at homes where book study meetings were conducted, and even at District Convention venues.
According to Elizabeth’s complaint file, elders at the Lorain West congregation knew that Silvasy had abused another girl, a relative of his, before he had opportunity to turn his attentions to her. Despite having this knowledge, Elizabeth asserts that her elders stood back and did nothing to stop Silvasy spending time with her.
It is also alleged that, when Elizabeth’s parents learned of the abuse and approached the elders to alert them to it, “no apparent action was taken” either to punish Silvasy or report his actions to the authorities. Elders are even said to have dissuaded Elizabeth’s parents from contacting the police themselves.
It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit unfolds, especially since my sources tell me that Elizabeth is in this for the long haul and is seeking justice rather than a settlement.
If successful, Elizabeth’s courageous stand in pursuing Watchtower for the harm inflicted on her could well prove to be yet another crushing blow to the organization. Evidence of Watchtower’s negligent mishandling of child abuse seems to be reaching a critical mass, and can no longer be reasonably ignored by alert and conscientious Witnesses – especially those with children.