Before we start – something needs to be acknowledged. In late December 2018, my husband Sacha and I were invited to join the JW Survey team with myself as the Survey Editor and Sacha as the Support & Aftercare Manager. I don’t think I can adequately describe the honor and privilege we felt in being welcomed on to the team. We were both enthusiastic and keen to get started.
Things, however, don’t always go smoothly. Late December / early January can be a tricky time of year and as we eagerly integrated into the team and settled in to our new roles, time dripped away. Then there was the technical learning curve…
It has to be said that technology is not my strong-point, so I struggled a bit to work out log-ins and other details. I’m a complete novice in the area of website posting and being on the under-side of the planet means that I was usually asleep when help was available from the northern hemisphere.
Still, in late December 2018, I got cracking on drafting my very first article for JW Survey – reviewing and summarizing the results of the 2017 Global Survey. And it truly was mid summer here and very hot and sticky AND the air-conditioner was on the blink…..
So I beg your indulgence and ask that you engage your imaginations as I now give you my inaugural article….
It is summer Down Under and Sydney is sweltering through a heat wave, which is nothing unusual for this time of year in this hemisphere. As I stickily struggle to find a cool and comfortable spot, I cannot help but reflect on Watchtower’s discomfort — enduring the heat in courtrooms and from unfavorable media attention in recent years.
I have been grateful to the JW Survey team for keeping us up to date and well informed with all the latest developments. I can only imagine how challenging it has been to research, collate and present the avalanche of information that comes through. It is my utmost privilege to now join the JW Survey team in the role of Global Survey Editor and do what I can to help support the community.
My inaugural article is to report the results of the 2017 Global Survey, so I have lost myself for a while in reviewing and analyzing what has turned out to be fascinating data. However, before commencing let’s give context to 2017 and look back at the year it was…
2017 was an epic year as media stories and newspaper articles shone a spotlight on Watchtower’s woefully inadequate and unacceptable child safety policies. Early in the year, JW Survey’s John Redwood attended and comprehensively reported on the Fessler Versus Watchtower case in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (articles included here:
Watchtower’s culpability in the matter of Stephanie Fessler’s abuse was shocking and disgusting, revealing an organisation that still does not understand the nature of child sexual abuse or the terrible damage that it does. Within four days it was clear that Watchtower was going to lose the case, so it was not surprising that Watchtower reached a settlement with Ms Fessler.
The arrogant and haughty behavior of Watchtower continued, this time in my hometown Sydney on March 10, 2017 when the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sex Abuse followed up with the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Case Study 54. Unfortunately the commission found that very little had been done by Watchtower to improve protection of children.
In particular, the recommendations of the Commission to abolish the two-witness rule in cases of child sexual abuse, and to involve women in the investigative process undertaken by elders was largely ignored. The letters between the commission and Watchtower make for interesting reading material and they can be found here: https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/exhibits-case-study-54
Meanwhile, Watchtower began 2017 by warning against the inappropriate use of Emojis (reviewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8Y2pq2Np2M) and then in March urged eight million Jehovah’s Witnesses to participate in a letter-writing campaign, protesting the ban of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. The headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, with their office complex near St Petersburg, were placed on a list of bodies banned “in connection with the carrying out of extremist activities”.
While the Russian ban on the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses has prompted expression of varying opinions among the former Jehovah’s Witness community, one cannot help but question whether Watchtower’s energies could have been better used in reforming its policies on the protection of children, for example, instead of sending an avalanche of correspondence to a country not known for tolerance and acceptance of difference.
In April 2017 a conference hosted by Reveal (from the Center of Investigative Reporting) was held in London, aptly titled “Bringing Abuse to Light: A convening to address the Jehovah’s Witness child safety crisis”. The aim of the conference was to raise awareness and to connect survivors, journalists, lawyers and activists — uniting all towards pressuring Watchtower to reform their incredibly poor child protection policies. For more on this event see JW Survey article: https://jwsurvey.org/child-abuse-2/revealing-event-london-conference-highlights-child-abuse-among-jehovahs-witnesses.
The 2017 Jehovah’s Witness Regional Convention series commenced in July with the theme “Don’t Give up!” The Watchtower propaganda machine churned out highly emotive and manipulative videos such as “Remember the Wife of Lot”. Who can forget the overtly homophobic messages, the angry and contentious portrayal of “worldly ones”, and even Watchtower’s micromanagement of hair colour?
Particularly incensing was the talk “Safeguard Your Children From What is Evil” which served as a lackadaisical press statement in response to the growing child sexual abuse scandal being suffered by the organisation. This talk is very well summarised by JW Survey’s Covert Fade: https://jwsurvey.org/child-abuse-2/2017-watchtower-convention-children-must-dress-modestly-avoid-sexual-assault
In September 2017 writer and director Daniel Kokotajlo’s film “Apostasy” premiered and since its launch has received rave reviews, nominations and awards. Most recently, it has just been nominated for a BAFTA 2019! Congratulations to Daniel for a powerful film that captures the essence of day-to-day life as a Jehovah’s Witness and the numerous challenges — even life-threatening choices — that are expected to be made. It left a deep impression on me personally and I have had to re-visit the film several times to process my own connection to it and the stories it tells.
While all of these events swirl around us and we individually live our own lives day to day, the Global Survey provides an opportunity for all to have a voice — a voice that Watchtower silences and denies, arrogant in its indifference to the damage and abuse its organisation inflicts on oftentimes sincere members.
So, without further ado, please see below a downloadable infographic with some stand-out statistics. Additionally, there are some key findings along with the full downloadable PDF survey results:
5,370 total respondents of which 912 are active Jehovah’s Witness respondents
• The fact that young people are not to pursue higher education remains the least popular Watchtower teaching
• 59% say they are agnostic/atheist/have no belief while 38% remain religious
• 90% believe that JWs have a problem with child abuse
• 311 claim to be victims of child sex abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses
• 38% claim to be aware of child sex abuse where they knew the victim personally
• 54% suffered some bullying at school due to being a Witness
• 52% believe they have experienced financial disadvantages due to not pursuing higher education, as per Watchtower’s teachings
• 33% say they have contemplated or attempted suicide as a result of being a part of the Jehovah’s Witness organization (1,113 individuals)
• 29% have self-harmed as a Jehovah’s Witness
• 75% have never helped someone to baptism
• 79% are against tax-exempt/charitable status for the Watchtower organization
• 470 individuals say they donate to Watchtower (exactly half of who said “every now and then”)
• 90% of those who do donate say they are not comfortable with donations being used to pay for sex abuse cases
• 49% believe the organization is in financial difficulty
• 52% consider themselves apostates
• 75% of those who have attended a Judicial Committee meeting feel that they were not dealt with in a fair and reasonable manner
• 91% of ex-JWs are happier for leaving the organization
• 73% of those who are no longer a part of the Watchtower organization have been successful in rebuilding their circle of friends/family
• 93% of disfellowshipped ex-JWs would not seek reinstatement
• 77% are being shunned
• 95% of respondents would not recommend anyone to become a Jehovah’s Witness
• 63% believe that the Governing Body know what they are doing and should be held accountable for their actions
• 71% would like to see the Watchtower society drastically change its damaging policies
• Only 21% became JWs after being preached to
• 99 respondents claimed to be currently serving as elders
• 327 respondents claimed to have been reinstated just to have contact with family
• 1,113 respondents personally knew of someone who has died as a result of refusing a blood transfusion
• 231 individuals would let their child die refusing blood (312 respondents answered that they were unsure)
• 1,071 respondents said they would secretly accept blood
• 82% said they would remove the prohibition on blood
• 4% believe JWs are God’s spirit-directed organization (a further 9% were not sure)
• Only 3% believe that elders are appointed by holy spirit
• Only 8% believe you are free to express a difference of opinion
• 40% voted for Governing Body member Anthony Morris III as the most controversial
• 60% are not comfortable with all non-JWs being murdered at Armageddon (2.1% were comfortable with this idea and 3.25% don’t think this is what JWs teach)
• 90% object to all forms of shunning
• 18% would remain JWs even if their beliefs were disproven
• 62 individuals would take a pill if instructed to do so by Watchtower
• 76% have heard of a Jehovah’s Witness committing or attempting suicide
• 48% claim to suffer from depression
If you would like to download the results in PDF form, you can do so here.
Finally, I would like to thank all of you who participated in the 2017 Survey and for your support of the Global Survey. I will now turn my attention to reporting on the 2018 Survey before releasing the 2019 Survey so that as many voices as possible can be heard.
I look forward to hearing from you!