Part of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Case Study 29 was an in-depth investigation into Watchtowers policies for dealing with accusations of child sexual abuse amongst its followers.
What came out at the hearing made news headlines, and sadly not for positive reasons. It emerged that, since 1950, over 1000 alleged child molesters had been reported to Watchtower internally, and yet NONE of these molesters had been reported to the police, either by those inside Watchtower who held a position of responsibility, or even by the families and friends of those who had been abused. This included hundreds of cases where the molester had actively confessed to the abuse.
And this shocking statistic was just the start of the revelations.
Over eight days of testimony that included the rare sight of a Governing Body member being cross examined under oath, the Commission dragged more horrifying facts to light about Watchtower’s secretive child abuse policies, resulting in a final report delivered by the Royal Commission that made for damning reading.
However, the response of Watchtower to this final report was not that of co-operation, but rather of outright dismissal. Their official response to the findings of the case study (available for download on the case study 29 website) was to essentially reject them out of hand. On more or less every issue of substance, where the commission had identified a serious problem and proposed a solution, Watchtower dismissed both the solution and the suggestion that there was even a problem in the first place.
However, it was clear that the Commission was not going to let this issue lie. During the hearings, Justice Peter McClellan, the Case Study Chair, informed Watchtower’s legal team that after a period of time had elapsed, Watchtower would be called back before the Commission, and it was made clear in no uncertain terms that the Commission expected to see significant improvements.
The Royal Commission has proved true to its word; It is calling Watchtower back to account for itself. And they are going to do it publicly, not just with a one-off meeting or a quick interview.
The Royal Commission have just announced a whole new in-depth investigation.
March 20th, 2017 – Case Study 54.
That’s the title of the brand new, in-depth investigation that will follow up on the work of Case Study 29. Case Study 54’s is defined as having the following scope:
- The current policies and procedures of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd. in relation to child protection and child-safe standards, including responding to allegations of child sexual abuse.
- Factors that may have contributed to the occurrence of child sexual abuse at Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd institutions.
- Factors that may have affected the institutional response of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd to child sexual abuse.
- The responses of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd to relevant case study report(s) and other Royal Commission reports.
- Any related matters.
The website makes clear the difference between Case Study 29 and 54. Whereas Case study 29 focused on the actual experiences of individual abuse survivors, (referred to as BCG and BCB), Case Study 54 states;
The purpose of this public hearing is not to inquire into individual sets of facts or particular events as has occurred in previous Royal Commission case studies.
In other words, the scale of the abuse itself and the fact that it took place is no longer in question. This Case Study is focused much more on the actual policies that were uncovered, the systemic flaws in those policies that allowed such horrific abuse to take place and subsequently go unreported, and the reasons as to why Watchtower is apparently refusing to act on recommendations. It is quite probable that areas of key concern flagged up in the Case Study 29 final report, such as shunning and the Judicial Committee process, will also come under much tighter scrutiny.
It is also worth noting that, as far as the JW Survey team is aware, no significant changes have been made in Watchtower policy in the areas of most concern to the Commission.
This is going to be a showdown between a highly motivated and skilled legal team, backed by the substantial legal authority granted to a Royal Commission, and a secretive religion with an extremely poor track record in child protection, who have already been caught red handed by the Commission trying to give misleading testimony during Case Study 29.
Remember, all of the evidence submitted will be made public on the commission website. The transcripts of the testimony sessions will be made public on the website. As far as we know, even the video footage of the testimony will be made public via streaming as it was for Case Study 29, and which can still be watched on YouTube:
We will be following these events closely, but would urge as many of our readers as possible to publicize the date and scope of this case study.
Because it is highly unlikely that Watchtower will inform Jehovah’s Witnesses that this case study is underway due to the potentially damaging revelations that will be made.
However the more Witnesses become aware of the proceedings, the greater the chance that some will choose to view it, even if they do so in secret and against the urgings of their indoctrination. Those that choose to inform themselves will get a glimpse into the secret inner workings of their own organisation, and will hopefully come to understand that their children are, as the Case Study 29 report concluded, “at significant risk of sexual abuse.”