A Review of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Public Claims Concerning Child Protection

Editor’s Note: After reviewing this article, you may use the following links to jump directly to the discussion of specific paragraphs.

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“Jehovah God hates all forms of wickedness,” says the opening line of the May 2019 study article of the Watchtower. It bears the title “Love and Justice in the Face of Wickedness.”

This opening sentence reveals the difficulty in examining religious beliefs and practices, and the language used to support such beliefs. Often, it is subjective. What is wickedness? Who is responsible for its definition?

For the vast majority of humanity, wickedness might be identified with genocide, murder, prejudice, homophobia, or even killing animals. Yet for fundamentalist religions, these societal ills somehow become “God’s will” when defined by the men who lead such religions.

This column reviews the carefully scripted language of the Watchtower article discussed in Jehovah’s Witness congregations worldwide on Sunday, July 14, 2019.

The world has changed rapidly in the past 20 years. Social media, technology, and investigative journalism have merged into a powerful and undeniable force for exposing child abuse and the massive global cover-up by religious and other institutions.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently under investigation in multiple countries and jurisdictions for their role in harboring documents which reveal that their elders and senior officials have failed to report child abuse since the inception of their religion.

Paragraph 1

As expected, Watchtower uses its stock child abuse policy claim in the opening paragraph: “Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse.” Largely, aside from the abusers themselves, this statement is true. But it is immediately followed with “[they] do not tolerate it in the Christian Congregation.”

This is where they mislead the public and their own members.

The very nature of the religion’s infamous “Two-Witness” edict mandates that no congregation action be taken against an accused offender unless there are two corroborating witnesses to the abuse. Any individual of modest intelligence would agree that there are almost never witnesses to child abuse.

By declining to take congregational action against an offender, Witness elders “tolerate” child abuse.

Paragraph 2

“Child abuse is a selfish, unjust act that makes a child feel unsafe and unloved”

This statement might appear correct at first glance, but for those who study the psychology of child abuse, it is a dangerous oversimplification of a complex problem, and it is the reason so many victims of abuse take years or even decades to come forward.

Watchtower’s writers have no training or expertise in this area. They are anonymous men, and the criteria for becoming a Watchtower writer does not include education.

An abused child does not always feel “unsafe and unloved.” In many cases, just the opposite. Abusers create a “special” relationship with their victims where they feel exceptional, loved, and worthy of attention from a respected adult. This is confusing for a young mind, but the clever child molester knows just how to make a child feel that their relationship is somehow normal.

A predator knows that a child may have little knowledge of their sexual organs, but he seeks to find a way to elicit the sensation of pleasure in his victims, creating a very dangerous connection between abuser and victim.

Survivors of abuse are often tormented with guilt for having experienced some measure of pleasure at the hands of an adult abuser. They are not equipped to process the complexity of these interactions. Due to the extreme insularity of Jehovah’s Witnesses, coming forward to a school counselor or other non-Witness authority figure is almost always out of the question.

Similar insularity and complexities are associated with the claims made against deceased pop-star Michael Jackson, whose victims have often been maligned for failing to come forward at the time of the abuse.

As reported in the Guardian in 2005,

“At no stage did any witness or victim report Jackson to the police. Or try to stop the alleged abuse. They went to lawyers, tabloid editors and television reporters, but never to social services.”

Jackson’s victims were much like Witness children- they were insulated, showered with love and attention by their abuser, and reminded by the Jackson organization that confidentiality was not to be broken.

Paragraph 3

“Sadly, child sexual abuse is a worldwide plague, and true Christians have been affected by this plague.”

It is noteworthy that after stating the obvious- that abuse is a global plague, the Watchtower makes an odd confession:

“some professing to be a part of the congregation have succumbed to perverted fleshly desires and have sexually abused children.”

The language used implies that the Jehovah’s Witness (JW) congregation is somehow pure, and only those “professing” to be part of the congregation would fall into the practice of abusing children.

The clever use of “professing” implies that the sexual predators who have abused Jehovah’s Witness children over the decades were somehow never part of the religion- that they only professed to be so.

This language is deceptive and disguises the fact that a great number of JW abusers were quite well-respected, dedicated Witnesses of Jehovah, and were given positions of authority which extended over years, even decades- all while they sexually molested Witness children.

JW Survey reported on a recent case brought to light with the arrest of former elder and Service Overseer Roderick Watkins. Watkins was arrested in 2018 following at least four different police reports filed in Heber Springs Arkansas- not by congregation elders – but by the families of the victims.

Upon further investigation, it was discovered that Watkins was a longtime, prominent elder who served at Brooklyn headquarters during the 1980s, and was subsequently sent to serve as Elder-Pioneer in multiple congregations throughout Missouri, Indiana, and Arkansas. Following our Survey article from May 31, 2019, additional victims have come forward from Indiana, with estimates of sexual abuse ranging from dozens of children, up to one hundred. Only time will tell the full extent of damage caused by this elder.

Given the extensive and lengthy history of Watkins inside the Witness organization, it’s clear he was more than just a “professed” Christian.

Paragraph 4

The identification of child abuse as a “grave sin” might be the understatement of the year. While is seems wholly unnecessary to mention this, it is part of Watchtower’s policy and strategy to convince members that elders have little or no obligation to pursue criminal reporting when allegations of abuse are made.

Paragraph 5 – “A sin against the victim”

“Children must be protected from such a wicked deed…”

Such a true statement should be followed up with recommendations for engagement with law enforcement, professional therapists, and other trained and educated individuals who specialize in the investigation and treatment for victims of abuse, but these recommendations are absent.

Does Watchtower Believe the Victims are Innocent?

Witnesses frequently disfellowship abuse victims, contrary to the claim they are innocent.

Among the most disturbing revelations about Jehovah’s Witness mishandling of child abuse reports are the treatment of young, minor children as willing participants in sexual acts with adults.

Police reports, court documents, and civil cases have unmasked the sinister policy whereby young, minor victims of sexual abuse have been harshly disfellowshipped from the Jehovah’s Witness religion following sexual contact with adults 3 or 4 times the victim’s age.

In 2017, NBC Philadelphia reported on the case of Katheryn L. Carmean-White, a Jehovah’s Witness woman who sexually abused a 14-year-old Jehovah’s Witness boy in a Delaware congregation. White was sentenced to 6 years incarceration, while she and her victim were both disfellowshipped from Jehovah’s Witnesses.

JW Survey reported on the outcome of this case in 2018, unveiling the settlement agreement signed between the State of Delaware and the Laurel Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Witness elders Joel Mulchansingh and William Perkins were among the Judicial Committee elders which disfellowshipped the victim of this crime, ostracizing him from the congregation and treating him as a consensual sexual partner of his convicted predator, Ms. White.

Paragraph 6

“When someone who is a part of the congregation becomes guilty of child abuse, he brings reproach on the congregation.”

The word “reproach” has been part of the Jehovah’s Witness lexicon for decades. It is used to inhibit conduct or stigmatize certain behaviors. It reveals the true nature of Watchtower’s reluctance to discuss their epidemic of child abuse: Negative publicity.

It has always been the contention of Jehovah’s Witnesses that “reproach” upon the organization drives interested persons away, and those responsible for such reproach become “bloodguilty” – causing their death at Armageddon. Somehow, God has exited the picture with no control or influence over the lives of “interested” persons.

Paragraph 7

“A sin against the secular authorities.”

Here is where we get to the core of the sexual abuse scandal within the Jehovah’s Witness Church. The Organization’s position is:

‘We know it’s a crime, and we normally obey the law- but in this case, we will collect the data regarding these crimes and use it for our internal parallel judicial courts, and we have no duty to report to the police.’

Or, as this Watchtower subtly states:

“While the elders are not authorized to enforce the law of the land, they do not shield any perpetrator of child abuse from the legal consequences of his sin.” [bold, italics ours]

This is a deceptive and blatant deception, for which the average Witness- even the average elder- has no understanding.

The reality is that the elders are authorized to enforce the law of the land. As members of the clergy in the United States, they are obligated to obey all mandatory child abuse reporting laws in each state where such laws apply.

So Why Don’t They Report?

Witnesses who study this article will walk away believing that elders do comply with civil authorities, but the shocking reality is that they don’t, and here’s how they get away with it:

In the United States, while nearly every state requires members of clergy, teachers and medical professionals to report all allegations of abuse, there is a very clever technique used by Witnesses to avoid contacting authorities. It’s called the clergy-penitent exemption.

This ‘privilege’ was intended to give penitent (guilty) individuals the privacy to confess sins to their priest without fear that his disclosure would be shared with anyone.

What Jehovah’s Witnesses have done is take the clergy privilege exception and applied it not just to the penitent (the abuser) – but to all individuals associated with reports of child abuse within the congregation.

This includes the abused victim, the victim’s family members, and all of the elders who become aware of the reported abuse. The claim is made that every one of these individuals is covered by privilege, and because of this, elders have neither the duty nor the right to report child abuse.

Paragraph 8

“Above all, a sin against God”

It is reasonable to conclude that those who revere Scripture might agree with this statement. The article continues:

“The Law said that a man who robbed or defrauded his neighbor was behaving “unfaithfully toward Jehovah.” (Lev. 6:2-4)”

Evidently, there is no objection from Jehovah’s Witness elders when it comes to reporting fraud or robbery to the authorities. Yet they take extensive measures to circumvent mandatory reporting laws, even when they have been held liable in dozens of civil lawsuits over the past 25 years.

The paragraph concludes: “For that reason, abuse must be condemned for what it is—a gross sin against God.”

For Jehovah’s Witnesses, condemnation does not include calling the police.

Paragraph 9

“Elders have received detailed Scriptural training on how to handle the sin of child abuse.”

This deceptively worded paragraph suggests that Witness elders are well-equipped to handle reports of abuse. They aren’t.

Elders are instructed by fellow Witness elders in an organization comprised of self-appointed men with no secular or civil requirements. This presents a serious dilemma for ill-equipped men bestowed with criminal allegations of child abuse.

Elders are instructed to call Watchtower’s Legal Department, not the Police.

Paragraph 10

“Handling Instances of Serious Wrongdoing”

“The elders are primarily concerned with maintaining the sanctity of God’s name…They are also deeply concerned with the spiritual welfare of their brothers and sisters in the congregation.”

It cannot be overstated that Witnesses sell their procedures as insurance policies to protect God, listing this objective as the first priority. Placed second is the welfare of congregation members, including victims.

The unusual emphasis on the protection of God’s name seems to beg the question: Why does the organization feel its Creator is unable to defend his own reputation?

Paragraph 11

“In addition, if the wrongdoer is a part of the congregation, elders are concerned with trying to restore him if that is possible.”

While it might seem noble to restore troubled individuals to a congregation, the matter is much more dangerous and complex when dealing with child molesters. Elders are not equipped to counsel or “restore” an individual with a sickness which demands professional attention.

Handling such matters internally places many children at risk, particularly when a repeat offender enters a congregation.

“Their Scriptural counsel can help him to restore his relationship with God, but this is only possible if he is genuinely repentant.”

The issues at play with child abuse are extremely serious. These abusers are not persons dealing with issues such as smoking or petty theft. A child molester frequently repeats his crime, and there are no religious sanctions or counsel which can change the nature of this sickness. It must be handled professionally.

Paragraph 12

“Clearly, elders have a weighty responsibility…For that reason, they act promptly when they receive a report of serious wrongdoing, including child abuse.”

Acting “promptly” means launching an internal investigation, and does not include an immediate call to local authorities.

Paragraph 13

“Do elders comply with secular laws about reporting an allegation of child abuse to the secular authorities? Yes.”

This answer should be changed to “No.”

“In places where such laws exist, elders endeavor to comply with secular laws about reporting allegations of abuse.” [italics ours]

The sentence above clearly modifies the opening sentence, revealing that Jehovah’s Witness elders do not comply with laws in any location where there are not clergy mandated reporting laws in place.

Furthermore, in states where such laws do exist, elders still fail to report, citing the clergy-penitent loophole. As stated earlier, when a religion claims it is their accepted practice to keep allegations of child abuse private, they ignore mandatory reporting laws.

“So when they learn of an allegation, elders immediately seek direction on how they can comply with laws about reporting it.”

To be accurate, this statement should read “elders immediately seek direction on whether they can escape mandatory reporting laws and leave it to a family member or concerned citizen to report.”

Paragraph 14

“Elders assure victims and their parents and others with knowledge of the matter that they are free to report an allegation of abuse to the secular authorities.”

Being free to report a matter to the secular authorities and encouraging a person to contact the authorities are two completely different things.

Under no circumstances are elders advised to contact law enforcement, nor do they advise families to report. They are told to take a passive stance in this regard. Reporting has never been encouraged.

Paragraph 15 – The Two Witness Rule

“In the congregation, before the elders take judicial action, why are at least two witnesses required?”

After describing the parallel system of justice practiced within the Witness organization, Watchtower asks:

This is where reality takes a hard-right turn from the publicly stated policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The mere suggestion that elders can theoretically contact law enforcement even when there are not two or more witnesses to child abuse is just that: theoretical.

“Does this mean that before an allegation of abuse can be reported to the authorities, two witnesses are required? No.”

Elders are never permitted to contact law enforcement following allegations of child abuse. Their instructions are very specific: They must call Watchtower’s legal department first.

The legal department of Watchtower then advises elders of two things:

  1. Whether they are in a mandatory reporting state or country
  2. Whether there is a clergy-penitent loophole

In every single case, even when there is a mandatory reporting law, elders are not permitted to contact local authorities when they are told they can use clergy privilege as a way to avoid reporting.

In countries such as the United Kingdom, where clergy mandated reporting laws do not yet exist, reports are never made.

Paragraph 16 – Elders “Endeavor” to Comply

“When they learn that someone in the congregation is accused of child abuse, elders endeavor to comply with any secular laws about reporting the matter….” [bold, italics ours]

The use of the word “endeavor” in this Watchtower article has great significance. The anonymous Watchtower writers are driven, not by the desire for accuracy, but by the necessity for obfuscation.

In other words, Watchtower knows it can’t say “Elders always comply with any secular laws about reporting child abuse.” Instead, they must insert the word “endeavor” to avoid the obvious repercussions from lying to the public. By using this word, they can claim that when they fail to report, at least they “endeavored” to do so.

“In addition, the elders remain alert regarding the alleged abuser to protect the congregation from potential danger.”

Jehovah’s Witness elders are in no position to protect even their own congregation from the crimes committed by a pedophile. These men are ill-equipped and untrained to deal with these crimes.

It is doubtful that any elder would attempt to assume the highly technical role of murder investigator- yet when it comes to the crime of child abuse, Witness elders immediately launch their own isolated investigation, which includes delving into the sexual and intimate details surrounding the abuse of a minor child- matters which should be left to the police.

If a man commits murder, the elders will disfellowship such a man on the basis of his conviction by secular authorities, whom they trust have done a thorough investigation of the murder, arriving at a guilty conviction. This raises the question, if Jehovah’s Witnesses accept the civil authorities’ conviction on a murder charge, why would Witnesses need to launch their own private investigation of child sexual abuse?

Shouldn’t they accept the decision of the civil authorities, who have spent most of their lives studying and executing investigations into child abuse?

The answer to this question should leave the public stunned and shocked:

Jehovah’s Witnesses investigate child abuse allegations to determine whether the child was a willing participant in the sexual acts.

As disturbing as this sounds, it is a solid reality which reveals that Witnesses consider both baptized and unbaptized minors as fully capable of having consensual sexual affairs with grown adults, and they hold these children accountable for their “sins.”

My first experience with disfellowshipping came in the 1980s, when a teenage girl in my congregation was disfellowshipped for having sex with the husband of a local Witness woman. She was treated harshly, as a willing participant in the act of coercing and seducing a minor child, and paid dearly as a victim of this pedophile. She was branded a fornicator, with no consideration for the manner in which she was seduced and abused.

The man was sentenced to a heavy prison term, but only after the victim’s family notified the authorities. The elders had no intention of involving the police, as is their policy to this day.

Paragraph 17

“What is the role of the judicial committee?”

“The elders do not interfere with law enforcement; they leave criminal matters to the secular authorities.”

Jehovah’s Witness elders have been judged guilty of interfering with law enforcement for decades. As recently as 2018, the Attorney General for Delaware imposed a fine of $10,000 per elder for failure to report the abuse of a 14-year-old baptized Witness boy who attended the Laurel Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Watchtower’s legal team attempted to save their reputation by signing an out-of-court settlement agreement with Delaware, hoping that the public would not discover their concession, which took place immediately before the scheduled trial.

JW Survey obtained the settlement agreement with the cooperation of State Government officials.

In September 2018, a Montana jury found Jehovah’s Witnesses guilty of obstructing Montana’s mandatory abuse reporting statutes and awarded the victim 35 million dollars. Four million was awarded for negligence, with the additional 31 million awarded for intentional malice in non-compliance with the law.

To claim that elders do not interfere with law enforcement is a blatant and significant lie.

Paragraph 18

“If he is repentant, he may remain in the congregation. However, the elders will inform him that he may never qualify to receive any congregation privileges or to serve in any position of responsibility in the congregation.” [bold, italics ours]

When elders take on the role of spiritual policemen of the congregation, they tread on very dangerous ground.

First, a child abuser will never be disfellowshipped from any congregation without a second witness to the crime- and there is almost never a second witness.

When accusations are made, they are effectively not taken seriously. Police are never called, and without corroborating evidence, elders tell congregation members and victims to “leave the matter in Jehovah’s hands.”

Abusers remain in the congregation, and at best, a handful of parents might be warned about an individual who was found guilty of child abuse- not by civil authorities, but by congregation elders. Hence, this situation is quite rare.

Another matter of concern is the idea that serial pedophiles can “repent” and may be given responsibility in the congregation at a future time.

The use of the term “may” indicates the reality that elders have little understanding of the psychological sickness of pedophilia, and would consider reappointing a man after their unqualified elders come to a decision that this person is no longer a danger to children.

Pedophiles will always be a danger to children.

Paragraph 19

“Who have the responsibility to protect children from harm? Parents do.”

This statement completely bypasses the issue at hand. The cornerstone issue is obedience to the law, which states that members of clergy have the obligation to report child abuse to the police.

Watchtower is effectively changing the subject, diverting attention from the obligation of elders to comply with mandatory reporting laws.

Child abuse cases are deeply complex, and in some cases involve parents or step-parents, as well as siblings of the victims.

Placing the expectation of reporting on parents completely ignores these complexities. For example, the spouse of an abuser is often frozen in their tracks- unable to report that their spouse has abused a child. Why? Because that spouse may be financially dependent on their mate- or worse, they may fear for their own safety.

This is why members of clergy are generally required to report all allegations of abuse. Their separation from the family should be unbiased, and if they respect “Caesar’s law”- they must report.

Paragraph 20

“First, educate yourself about abuse.”

This is good advice- except that the education should not come from Watchtower publications. Page 12 of this Watchtower article features all of the information deemed by Jehovah’s Witness leaders as “education.”

Sadly, none of these resources have been written by anyone with professional training. It is a hodge-podge collection of Watchtower-only material, much of which is outdated even by Witness standards.

Paragraph 21

“Maintain good communication with your children.”

This is good advice. What should be added to this is “If your child reveals that someone touched them in a sexual manner, contact the authorities immediately”- and not local elders.

Paragraph 22

“Educate your children.”

Again, this is a good suggestion. However, it is followed by:

“Use the information that God’s organization has provided on how to protect your children.”

Not once does this Watchtower article recommend that parents avail themselves of professional resources, counseling, or meeting with law enforcement officials. By placing such devoted trust in the Watchtower organization, parents are trusting an organization found guilty of covering up decades of child abuse.

The cover-up, it is said, is worse than the crime itself.

Paragraph 23

“As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we view child sexual abuse as a gross sin and a wicked deed…our congregations do not shield perpetrators of abuse from the consequences of their sins.”

The final paragraph sums up the emphasis Jehovah’s Witnesses place on sin, as opposed to crime. While we do not deny religious organizations the right to declare certain behaviors as sinful, they do not have the right to obstruct justice by advising elders not to report allegations of child abuse to the authorities.

Love and Justice in the Face of Wickedness

While sexual predation and evil exist in our world, we are a global village with a collective obligation to take action against any who would harm our children.

The complexity and nature of child abuse require that it be investigated by trained professionals – skilled women and men who care deeply for children.

If you or a family member has been abused by someone inside or out of the Jehovah’s Witness organization, please seek immediate assistance from law enforcement and professional counselors, and be sure to obtain legal representation.

While some might feel apprehensive about asking for legal advice, there is nothing to fear. Attorneys have been able to obtain settlements for survivors of abuse, and those funds help pay for the medical bills and counseling which can bring a survivor back to life.

Love requires we protect our children; justice demands it.

Additional resources:

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Secret Elder’s Manual

U.S. Government Child Welfare Website & Resources

The Child Victims Act

The Atlantic Reports: The Secret Database of Child Molesters

**Contact an attorney for support and legal advice

Mark O'Donnell

Mark O'Donnell is a former Jehovah's Witness turned whistleblower after discovering the disturbing child abuse epidemic within the religion. His story, along with the revelation of a secret database of child molesters were featured in the March 2019 online issue of the Atlantic Magazine: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/03/the-secret-jehovahs-witness-database-of-child-molesters/584311/ O'Donnell continues to investigate allegations of child abuse within the Witness organization, and works with law enforcement, attorneys, and survivors of abuse, writing about his findings on jwsurvey.org and other outlets.

34 thoughts on “Love and Justice in the Face of Wickedness

  • July 14, 2019 at 10:55 am
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    Dear Survey,

    I don’t know what you will like to hear but nothing in the article needs to confuse the public. Stop being picky on JW. It’s so annoying to know as there is no need for this.

    For my secular job, I just completed a course on child abuse safeguarding children. Everything in this course is relevant and in need for the society we live now. The only thing is the author never put God’s view on the matter. In Jehovah’s organisation which is JW congregations, child abuse isn’t tolerated. If you think you know otherwise set up your own group and speak with them.

    Could you please stop sending messages to my email address. As everything​about JW upset you, I am one of Jehovah’s witnesses.

    • July 14, 2019 at 12:59 pm
      Permalink

      Dear Taifree12

      You said, “Stop being picky on JW.” Our reply? No. Next question.

      We are happy to hear you completed a child abuse safeguaring course at your work. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have such a program. Also, it appears you did not read the article, nor did you read any of the articles and research related to Jehovah’s Witnesses and child abuse. If you had read them you would not be able to claim that Witnesses do not tolerate child abuse. Please go back and read, and research. If you choose not to, we can’t off you any assistance.

      I think for most Witnesses, ignorance is bliss. Unfortunately, their bliss means breaking mandatory child abuse reporting laws and placing children at risk of sexual abuse. This is why we perform our public service, exposing the flaws and negligence of the Jehovah’s Witness organization.

      Finally, we do not send messages to anyone’s email unless you personally subscribed to our site. If you subscribed in the past and wish to unsubscribe, all it takes is one click.

      Cheers

    • July 14, 2019 at 1:09 pm
      Permalink

      Did you at any point during the safeguarding course that you undertook hear that cases of sexual abuse of children should be dealt with ‘in house’? Were you ever advised to consult your religious advisers before reporting the matter to the secular authorities?
      The phrase ‘there are none so blind as those who refuse to see’ comes to mind.
      This article is not about preventing reproach upon Jehovah’s name it’s about protecting and safeguarding children.
      If you no longer wish to be contacted by JW survey then simply ‘say no’ and unsubscribe…if only it were that easy for the thousands of children that have been abused by JW congregation members.

    • July 18, 2019 at 6:35 am
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      Hi taifree12. I hope you always feel free to comment and share your perspective. There are a lot of different perspectives among former Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some who leave the faith just walk away and don’t have much more to say or do with it. They just move on with their lives. You’ll find some of the most active and outspoken former members were ones who were deeply committed JWs. I was an elder right around the time that William Bowen set up his Silent Lambs website. I was sure he was just an arrogant disgruntled former elder who was simply mad that a case wasn’t handled they way he wished. It also seemed so unbalanced. What about the shattered lives of men falsely accused of such a horrible crime?

      When I left the faith myself it wasn’t over this issue. It is a long story but the root of it is I’m an atheist and could hardly continue as a JW in that state of belief (although I did try for several years!).

      On this issue I eventually decided to read the court transcripts of the Candace Conti case. It was this that finally opened my eyes to the problem. Individual Jehovah’s Witnesses, including elders, by and large love what is right and abhor what is wicked. Actually that’s true of most people. And that is likely why management at your work place facilitated the course on safeguarding children. What the Conti case shows though is certain aspects of the organization really do have impact. One issue is obedience. JWs are obedient folks. “To obey is better than sacrifice.” So when a case is “settled internally” an elder who doesn’t feel justice has been served may conclude he should just obey more senior leaders.

      The second issue revolves around concern about reputation. How something reflects on Jehovah and the congregation gets discussed. Bringing ugly details out into the public is actually a problem for most organizations. Most don’t like it and employ public relations departments to manage this. So this is not unique to JWs. What is unique is how much control the organization has over individual congregations and members. This again ties back to obedience. The desire to follow direction. The sense that such direction, even when it feels wrong, must nonetheless be directed by Jehovah’s holy spirit.

      Mark does a great job of analyzing this Watchtower article. But if you’re concerned that he and other former JWs are being unfair, I recommend reading a court transcript directly. Facts and opinions are openly discussed and expressed by witnesses and lawyers for both the plaintiff and the defense.

      Take care, -Randy

  • July 14, 2019 at 12:03 pm
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    Odd how the JWs simultaneously exalt JHVH as all powerful, yet also make themselves his one and only judge, jury and executive on Earth, thereby making JHVH appear rather powerless without them. For some reason this reminds me of these religious quotes, especially the Coleridge one.

    “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.” Voltaire

    “He who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end by loving himself better than all” Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    “Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.” George Santayana

  • July 14, 2019 at 3:06 pm
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    Elders cannot enter the house of an alleged abuser, and interrogate them under pressure, but the police can. Elders cannot search the house for evidence that the abuser is viewing illegal material or providing this to others, the police can. Elders cannot remove computers or smart phones and get them professionally inspected for child abuse images or other criminal activities, the police can. And speaking as the father of an abused daughter, by an elder, the elders do not come forward and cooperate in giving evidence. When the police did find evidence, they refused to make statements, help the police with their enquiries, or attend court to give evidence….so any professed abhorrence of child abuse is because the religion may suffer, and not to help the victim.

    • July 15, 2019 at 9:50 am
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      Dear John,

      Thank you for the insightful comments. It’s important for the public to know that you were an elder for a very long time and experienced these policies in action first hand. And you can compare them against the help you and your family have received from the civil authorities, who are trained in handling such complex cases with sensitivity and discretion. Thanks for all you do in providing an example for Witnesses today who are waking up to the destructive and dangerous policies of this organization.

    • July 18, 2019 at 12:39 pm
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      “…The elders did not come forward and cooperate in giving evidence. When the police did find evidence, they refused to make statements, help the police with their enquiries, or attend court to give evidence…”

      Gosh, it’s almost as if JW loyalists DON”T WANT to find evidence that it’s a problem.

  • July 14, 2019 at 3:55 pm
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    One of the best articles I have read. Keep it up jwsurvey. I just spoke with my sister about the prevalence of child sexual abuse in the organization. I wish I had seen this before. Cheers.

    As a side note, it seems watchtower is not ready to make a good change.

  • July 14, 2019 at 8:34 pm
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    I feel sick in my stomach about the child sex abuse happening in the world in general, but even more so by that happening in the congregations. I have just received a newspaper article that informed me that an Australian brother who came to my congregation in Asia to serve is now in jail in Perth, serving a 4 year jail term, for molesting his spiritual little brothers. He gave fantastic answers at the meetings and was respected by many in the congregation. He gave me counsel many times, until I bought a T-shirt saying: Get off my back. He was arrested due to the Australian Royal Commission. He was d’fed in 1997 for molesting 2 boys in the Cong, but after counseling from the elders he was reinstated (the newspaper said). Then 20 years later he started molesting again. If the elders had not protected him in the first instance and instead had reported him to the police, other victims may have been spared. Now this pervert is d’fed again, like me. After decades of making sacrifices for the religion, I was kicked out for being appalled by lying elders. Now I am in the same category as this pervert. How does that make sense?

    • July 15, 2019 at 2:31 am
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      Hi Ricardo….this child abuse you’re sick of has always been happening throughout history and it is only now finally being exposed and thats why it appears to be a new phenomenon. It’s in the same league as spousal abuse, once tolerated as “normal so what can you do about it”. A mans right.
      You’ll note that WT draws it’s one witness rule from the bible so where is the root cause of JW child abuse? Where is the root cause of spousal abuse?

      • July 15, 2019 at 11:08 am
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        @outie, I think the two basic rules, love God and love your neighbour, condemn any kind of abuse whatsoever. Similar to what happened with the Pharisees, organizations make their own rules and don’t use these 2 basic rules as their guide. And when groups, even nations, have done that in the past, God has let them self-destruct. Which is what we are seeing with Watchtower.

        • July 15, 2019 at 2:21 pm
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          Everybody in their hearts knows the difference between right and wrong, Ricardo. The bible could be reduced to one line – ‘Be nice to one another’. If you’re a functioning adult, nothing more is required.

          I have rental properties I’m letting out for less than the going rate. I’m not greedy. I go beyond what is required as a landlord and have a pleasant relationship with my tenants and they’ve been in my houses for years with no intention of moving out. There are children in those houses and children need stability. I don’t need God, Jesus, the Bible, a church or anything or anybody to tell me how to be a decent person. And for that I’m gonna burn?
          Ricardo…..why have you broken into the prison and placed yourself among the chains?

          • July 16, 2019 at 11:19 am
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            Lol. I can’t speak for Ricardo, but I must say I love that T-shirt! I might get one. I’m already going to have one made, that says “Cancel My Subscription to Your Issues”. For anyone who’s interested in that sort of mischief, just Google specialty or custom T-shirt stores in your area. They can even print images from the computer. In my area, the cost is about $40.
            Hey, might even get one that says JW.Borg! It may even be covered under the “parody” law which allows logos to be displayed without copyright or fear of suits. But frankly, I would do it anyway. lol

  • July 15, 2019 at 8:38 am
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    Mark,Thanks for your bravery and candor

  • July 15, 2019 at 11:49 am
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    The WT, and other religious groups, child abuse is all about power. The worsy kiddy fiddlers are often those in power, politicians, media stars (influence-power), top clergy, judges, etc etc. Becuase people who seek these positions are often power-seekers, so once they have got all the power they can in their job, they seek it elsewhere too – even over the most vulnerable we have in society. Another reason to keep religion small and informal, once it gets big and moneyed and powerful, the Devil is soon in.

  • July 15, 2019 at 12:08 pm
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    Thanks for uncovering the manipulative language of the Watchtower, yet again!

    When I was a believing JW, I remember feeling varying amounts of uneasiness after reading certain Watchtower sentences and passages, but I’d be swept along with the ensuing sentences full of platitudes and JWspeak and would frequently forget about that initial discomfort.

    These child abuse articles were even worse than I was expecting. I don’t understand how anyone could be reassured by them. I was profoundly shocked when they alluded to the notion of restoring a “wrongdoer” to the congregation. I feel deeply for the child abuse victims who had to sit through that paragraph as it was being discussed at the Watchtower Study.

    Shame on the Watchtower for its willful ignorance and insensitivity in this regard!

  • July 16, 2019 at 11:36 am
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    Thanks for another wonderfully in-depth article. I want to say so much, but I’ll end up going on all day. I just find it mystifying how the WT folks who come up with that drivel manage to actually live with themselves. Really. I’m not exaggerating. I’m not trying to be sarcastic (and y’all know I can be sarcastic). It’s not that I’m naive. I understand evil as well as anyone can. I’ve watched many films/documentaries, read many articles on the likes of Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Chuck Manson, Dave Koresh, Jim Jones, Hitler, and other assorted ne’er-do-wells. But it still amazes me how folks like that can actually look themselves in the mirror each morning. Maybe it’s like the bible itself states: “A man looks at himself in the morning, and then forgets what he saw.” Convenient, I guess.
    The real knee-slapper for me was the part where WT claims that abusers are folks who merely “professed” to be Jehovah’s Witnesses, attempting to distance themselves as well as shirk their own responsibility in the matter. To that, I myself can only respond, A. How low can they go? and B. Exactly how mind-numbingly stupid do they think people are?

  • July 16, 2019 at 1:52 pm
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    Another great in-depth article.
    What mystifies me is how the folks at the Witch Tower can concoct this brew of drivel and still live with themselves. Seriously. How do they do it? How do they look themselves in the mirror every morning? It’s like the bible itself says: “A man looks at his face in the mirror, then goes off and forgets what he just saw.” Convenient, I guess.
    The real knee-slapper for me is the part in P. 3 where they claim that any abuser is / was someone who was merely “professing” to be a Jehovah’s Witness!!! Again, very convenient. A sleazy way to distance themselves and shirk their responsibility in the matter. I have just 2 questions to pose the folks at WT:
    1. How low can you go?
    2. How mind-numbingly stupid do you think the rest of us are?

    • July 18, 2019 at 6:41 am
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      If you extrapolate WT’s “logic” a bit, you can easily conclude that every apostate was also someone who was simply “professing to be a part of the congregation”. So I have a 3rd question for the folks at WT:
      Why do you hate us so much, since, even according to you, we were never really Jehovah’s Witnesses in the first place?

      • July 18, 2019 at 12:42 pm
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        Loyal JWs hate “apostates” because deep down, they’re afraid they’re right.

  • July 17, 2019 at 6:16 am
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    I’m a contracted public school teacher in California. It is a criminal offense for any school administrator, or any school district administrator, no matter how high ranking, to tell a teacher not to report any suspected incident, of any type of child abuse they as a teacher become aware of, not just sexual abuse.

    Administrators cannot legally make that decision. Teachers are LEGALLY obligated to report all suspected incidents of child abuse they become aware of in the course of their work. Even if the abuse happened outside of school. And we can get arrested,serve jail sentences, and fined, if we fail to do that. I imagine that law forbidding administrators from directing subordinates not to report, or censoring them if they do report, applies in most states, maybe within all states inside the USA.

    And because it applies to school administrators, it probably also applies to anyone supervising mandated reporters in any type of organization, e.g. WT’s legal department instructing elders not to report when they are required to. When elders are required to report it is probably a CRIMINAL offense for WT’s legal department to tell them not to do that, just as it is a criminal offense with school administrators. No doubt this must be one of the main reasons WT loses these lawsuits or has to settle them.

    • July 17, 2019 at 6:29 am
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      Every year school teachers in my district are required to take and pass certain online training courses. Child abuse is one of those. That course covers reporting laws for teachers and administrators, as part of the course.

  • July 18, 2019 at 4:12 pm
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    I was born in third generation and was completely unaware of two witness rule when I reported to the elders that their best friend and presiding overseer had sexually assaulted my child. I was quickly made aware that the culture within the organisation was self protection and not the safety and well being of my child or myself. As stated in the article the elders a plumber and electrician with absolutely no training or expertise in child abuse or child safety. In fact the plumber was assigned to be the investigating officer took his mate the abuser camping because my very credible child’s claims had stressed him. I was also victim blamed by being informed that the presiding elders wife was not well (nothing seriously life threatening)and by reporting the allegation I would stress her. The emotional, mental and physical cost of being in a state of hyper vigilance sitting in a hall with the abuser still in a position of authority and waiting for another child to be abused so your child would be believed is traumatic. I survived on industrial strength anti depressants. When I finally reported to the police and submitted to ARC I was shunned.

    • July 18, 2019 at 6:05 pm
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      What a terrible experience. Watchtower is such a hateful cult. I hope your child and you find justice and peace. Kudos to you for finally summoning the courage to report.
      And yes, there are many, many Witnesses on some form of psychiatric medication, due to the soul-sucking nature of that global cult.
      Enjoy your freedom.

    • July 19, 2019 at 7:22 pm
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      Leesa,

      I am going to give you the best advice I can that, I believe, will lessen your stress. But first let me say I know how stressful putting up with actual abuse from elders is. It can be traumatic. I experienced that in three congregations, although the abuse was minor in nature compared to what you describe. You speak about sexual child abuse. I merely experienced a group of them deciding, for no valid reasons, to stop calling on me to answer at meetings. In one congregation they decided to do that to my eight year old son also, in their attempt to hurt me. I say for no valid reasons because the reasons were so minor they didn’t even have nerve to speak to me about those. Except for the first, and they decided to nail me because, and listen to this closely, because it’s a HUGE reason to chastise a brother. The reason is because my wife was too shy to comment at the Watchtower study, though she gave talks on the school, and commented freely at the congregation book study, that we held in private homes back then. In a different congregation here is another reason they decided to penalize me. One that I knew about, but this time they didn’t have nerve to talk to me about it. Are you ready to hear this one, because it was a biggie. Maybe even bigger than the first. Well here it is, and I hope you don’t get a bad impression of my character, because I actually spoke out of turn once at a congregation book study held at a private home. But please don’t think to poorly of me, because I just did that once.

      Now for those terrible offenses: (1) since I didn’t force my wife to comment at the Watchtower study, and (2) because I was bold enough to speak out of turn one time at a private home book study, two or three elders grouped together at two separate congregations, and stopped calling on me at meetings (always the WT meeting, but also during other parts they presided over). How long did I get kicked that way in butt? About a year in each case. That year in the first case ended when I left the congregation. The year in the second case ended after the WT study conductor suffered a motorcycle accident, broke his collarbone, and couldn’t conduct the WT study anymore, and I complained over his head. So, the long and short of this is they would have done it forever, if they could. Oooh, I was such an evil sinner with those offenses. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so bad. Now I don’t know what I did to set off this third time I received such ostracisation in a third congregation. I do know that a week before it started I had whispered to the elder in charge of conduction our Saturday meeting for field service that his meetings were running overtime. I don’t know if it was for that,reason, or because someone’s Bible study spoke to me a couple times in the K Hall about his junior college experience, and at a congregation picnic a young sister spoke to me about her desire to attend college. Anyway, this last time just lasted about six weeks because that time I snuffed it early by speaking to the two elders involved. Later I reported them once I found out the practice was prevalent in my area. know slimmy groups will do that to almost anyone. They do it to publishers, ministerial servants, elders, and kids; it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s not someone with more congregational authority than they have.

      So, why did I tell you all of that? It’s not because I wanted you to know about me. The reason is because of the next two messages I give. First, recognize when elders mistreat most JWs in anyway, that probably will be a very traumatic experience to them. Especially when they gang up on you and do that as a group, even if their group does not include all of elders in your congregation. The reason this is likely to be traumatic is because of what we were taught by WT, taught by the elders, and what we believe or used to believe as Jehovah’s Witnesses. We were taught WT is God’s only organization, it was appointed in that position by Christ, elders are appointed by God, and though both elders and WT are imperfect God requires us to respect them. Most Jehovah’s Witness interpret that as we should not COMPLAIN against them. So they don’t out of fear and become fearful and frustrated because of feeling trapped by that situation. But most of THAT situation is in your mind, so follow what I say below, and I’ll tell you what helps, but it takes time and work to remove the stress. When you first put this advice into practice you might feel quite a bit worse. That’s another reason most Witnesses don’t do it. It’s not just because of what we were taught, we also fear feeling worse.

      So, finally, here is the best advice I believe I can give you to relieve your trauma. But listen to this carefully, this works, but it works like training a muscle, you will get stronger and stronger by doing this over time. Let me give an illustration to help you understand why. Whether or not you’ve ever seen professional boxers fight, imagine what they do to each other in your mind during a professional fight. If you have actually viewed professional fights you would have seen that almost always both contenders display an air of confidence. Even though their opponent is attempting to beat the crap out of them as much as possible. Next, I’m sure you have never seen this but imagine a grown man who had never been in a fight now thrown into fighting a professional boxer. Imagine how uneasy he would feel, how scared. For most men in that circumstance it would be a traumatic experience. But if that same man began to train as a boxer he would get more and more confidence, until fighting no longer traumatized him. That same scared man can become a professional boxer, if he has skills.

      Elders, are not used to fighting in an equal fight. And even though you are a sister and they are appointed over you, the power you have is the ability to speak about their performance to their superiors, including in letters to WT headquarters. I have never met a slimy group of elders or a slimy single elder that didn’t lie about the slimy behavior I caught them in and confronted them with. And like I said, I confronted such groups in two congregations. They all denied their slimy behavior. Now in your case the elders are following WT policy, in my cases the were not. So, how does this apply to you? What I discovered is that most elders first priority is covering their own butts. Which means that even if they are following WT policy they absolutely do not want congregation members writing to bethel or speaking to circuit overseers about complaints against their behavior.

      If you complain about your circumstance WT or the circuit overseer likely will do these things:
      1. If you write a letter to WT, they will send a letter back consoling you, offering a bit of advice to stay strong, and probably tell you to realize they cannot do anything without investigating, or in your case they might cite WT policy which prohibits them from taking action. WT will also will likely inform your elder body (which is what you want) or inform your circuit overseer to speak to your elder body (which is what you want).
      2. If you complain to your circuit overseer, he will like speak to your elders, and if he doesn’t you can write to WT who will get word to them.

      So, even though WT might not discipline the sexual offender how will complaining help you? It will take some of the stress away, because you will reach a point where you no longer believe God requires you to remain a silent helpless victim, with absolutely no recourse against those God put over you. You will know you do have power, and in using it, just like that man who never got in a fight, you will become more confident, and that confidence will relieve much of your stress.

      It’s best to speak to the elders individually first, even if they work against you as a group. Because that’s what WT policy wants you to do, and that’s what any WT servant will expect you to do before complaining to someone else about them. Remember, speak to them INDIVIDUALLY while expressing your complaint first to them. Then only complain to those above your elders not below.

      NOW, YOU SAY YOUR CHILD OFFERED A CREDIBLE COMPLAINT TO YOU THAT HE WAS SEXUALL ABUSED. YOU AS A PARENT SHOULD FILE A POLICE REPORT ABOUT THAT; AND FILE A REPORT WITH PROTECTIVE CHILD SERVICES. I AM A MANDATED REPORTER. IF I LEARNED ABOUT THAT HAPPENING IN TH E COURSE OF MY EMPLOYMENT I WOULD BE LEGALLY REQUIRED TO REPORT THE INCIDENT. BECAUSE I AM NOT WORKING I DON’T HAVE TO. YOU REPORT IT. AND IF THE ELDERS COMMIT THE SLIGHTEST RETALIATORY OFFENSE AGAINST YOU, KICK THEM IN THE PHANNIE BY FOLLOWING THE STEPS I GAVE YOU. AND BELIEVE ME, IF IT COMES TO YOU DOING THAT BECAUSE THEY COME AGAINST YOU, THEY WILL RUN BY DENYING ANYTHING THEY DID. BUT THEN THEY WILL LIKELY LEAVE YOU ALONE. AND IF THEY DON’T KICK THEM AGAIN, IN THE SAME WAY.

      If you do all those things most of your stress about that situation you mention will leave you. The more you do, the stronger you will get. Trust me on this, I did it, and it works for sure. But when you first start it will be stressful, so expect that. But you have to get over that first hump, so don’t give up when you first start to fight back. You fight back enough and you’ll feel as confident as those professional boxer. And you’ll have it easier than those boxers. No matter how much confidence they have they are going to get hit with everything their opponents, have every time they step into a ring. If you fight like I said most elders won’t want to touch you after the first fight.

      Also, I’m pretty sure you consider suing. You might be able to sue WT since you claim that molester is a WT servant. See a lawyer. The Zalkin Law firm in San Diego handles a lot of these cases.

  • July 20, 2019 at 1:27 am
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    Can you please send me more information on this subject to show my wife and her family. Her father was deleted along with another elder for reporting a child abuser to the police. I want to show them this is the organization policy to cover over abuse and punish those who report this.
    Thanks
    T

  • July 21, 2019 at 5:18 pm
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    I have been away & offline so missed a fair bit, including the said WT article, but have been informed that the mood was very low during the Study here, another point that is missed is the ongoing care a victim needs, they just tell them to trust in Jah & all we be ok, no not true, all victims of abuse weather in or out need lifelong counselling, as i have seen on many occasions, the victims that i know of are never the same, & sadly many cases of Suicide, the whole thing disgusts me.

  • July 21, 2019 at 10:01 pm
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    Yep and of you go on the Jw-Borg website to ‘what’s new’ a lot of that is every minor catatstrophe round the world with the general theme ‘but if the bros have suffered then we’ll pray for them and JHVH will take care of them’ (subtext, all we have to do is pray, we don’t need to give any material help, JHVH sees to that all for us). Yet at the same time we have, from the Borg, ‘mustn’t bring reproach on JHVH by exposing any abuse in the Borgers.’. So, errr, JHVH is so powerfrul he can fix any misfortune on this planet without the human need to be helpful, yet He can’t even defend His own name. Hmmm, paradoxical ????

  • July 22, 2019 at 2:48 am
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    A very thorough and well-researched article. I pray that all victims of abuse will find support not only from the law but also through the auspices of a loving Christian organisation.

    • July 28, 2019 at 5:05 am
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      Yeah right… if you can point me in the direction of a ‘Christian Congregation that doesn’t protect the offender, and bully the victim into a nervous breakdown, I’ll scoot along there for some support.

      Still doesn’t explain making victims sit through a public discussion on their deepest wounds.

  • July 28, 2019 at 4:44 am
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    Speaking as a CSA victim.

    The individual was exposed in the media (years ago) and the org went into overdrive to cover it up as either:-

    1. Irrelevant because it happened before she was baptised as a JW (wrong, there were offences AFTER)

    2. All lies

    I spoke to an elder at the time about the level of deceit involved. He said she had suffered enough and I should just forgive.

    That article was a total whitewash and insulting to all CSA victims. It felt like being abused all over again.

    Anyone like to suggest I’m being ‘picky’?

    • July 29, 2019 at 8:53 am
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      Fellow CSA victim here.

      No you are NOT being picky at-all.

      I was molested as a 13/14 year old by a trusted brother in his house, during a ministry break, after being plied with his (strong) home made wine. I didn’t understand what was happening. His wife walked in, started crying and called my parents.

      The outcome – I was called a slut and got a severe physical beating from my parents of ‘good standing’ and told to NEVER speak of it.

      This happened decades ago and still makes me sick to my stomach. Words cannot express my feelings when I learned that ‘dear Brother —— had died. Faithful to Jehovah until the end’. I’ve also discovered I wasn’t his only victim and his wife (also deceased) knew of every one. Scum of the earth people.

      I think Jehovah’s Witnesses fall into 2 categories regarding these vile crimes. 1) They are forbidden to look at all the proof so readily available and, if they obey this ‘rule’, are therefore WILLFULLY ignorant making them wilfully guilty. 2) Are aware of it, do nothing and so are 100% complicit.

      Sickening people. Sickening organisation. I wish I could express the depth of disgust I feel for the blight on my life caused by these low life beings covered up by an evil cult.

  • August 7, 2019 at 2:11 am
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    Thank-you once again for this in-depth article Mark, one of jw surveys finest. The proper gander & outright lies in these 2 study articles has upset & enraged us all, how dare they. The sad thing is, for the most part the poor brain washed gullible sheep will believe it all.
    When the elders do not report the abuser to the authorities – they are protecting him from the law of the land – its as simple as that.

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