Victoria Summers leaves a memorial at her local kingdom hall, accompanied by her daughter Holly
Victoria Summers leaves a memorial at her local kingdom hall, accompanied by her daughter Holly

Have you ever seen someone who has been victimized and then gets blamed for it? Perhaps as a current or former Jehovah’s Witness you have experienced this firsthand. Have you ever wondered why people blame victims for suffering they obviously had no choice in experiencing?

Admitting guilt is not something that’s easy to do. It’s much easier to find a way to criticize someone else than to accept responsibility for your own less than palatable actions.

We all have a tendency to feel extremely vulnerable while in the presence of human suffering. It’s simpler to deny, justify or explain away what’s happening than to stop and help out. Yet, throughout history there has invariably been small groups of people who have resisted that human trend and stood against it.

The former Witness community is one of those small groups of people. In a world where Watchtower abuse is largely ignored, they are able to come together for a single purpose when the need arises to help the world see what is truly happening within the Jehovah’s Witness religion.

A fitting memorial

A small number of innovative former Witnesses recently decided to organize a special day of mourning for those affected by the harmful doctrines and policies of the Watchtower religion. The first annual “Watchtower Victims Memorial Day” was held on July 26th and had a very encouraging turnout. The Facebook page contains many beautiful images of people placing flowers and notes outside Kingdom Halls in memory of those who have died, been abused, or are estranged due to Watchtower policies.

Suffering caused at the hands of religion can be like a festering wound that takes a long time to heal. It seems to trigger a unique grieving process that demands creative thinking to attain lasting closure. This memorial day has given the opportunity for people all around the globe to move towards that closure. It also raises awareness that they are true victims that mostly live in silent grief.

Victoria Summers’ participation in this day of mourning got the attention of The Bucks Herald, a weekly newspaper covering Aylesbury, UK and its surrounding villages. She placed a poignant poster on a Kingdom Hall gate spelling out her tragic story as well as a bouquet of flowers.

Victoria told the newspaper she endured a ‘lifetime of unhappiness’ which included a childhood isolated from the outside world. After giving so much of her life to the organization, she decided to leave it behind. Tragically, this resulted in estrangement from her family. The Bucks Herald contacted the Watchtower, but they neglected to comment on her actions nor the memorial day itself.

As in many cases of human rights, throughout history the perpetrators simply turn a blind eye to the suffering they cause. Because there is no official Watchtower response we are forced to use the reactions of everyday Jehovah’s Witnesses as a barometer. Here are two responses in the comments section of the Bucks Herald article:

“…The kid is a crybaby. Sorry. Lets talk about her low morals that got her removed after several times of assisting her..shall we?” – conflamamusic, a Jehovah’s Witness

“The family of this woman is only following what the Bible teaches. This woman made her own decision to be shunned when she turned her back on God and refused to follow the Bible. She could be reinstated anytime she wants to turn around and do the right thing. The problem is in her hands.” – Keikihipa, a Jehovah’s Witness

The harsh, juvenile words of these Jehovah’s Witnesses show a complete blindness to the harm their religion causes. They simply hide behind their personal interpretation of scripture and blame the victim for his or her own suffering.

Blaming victims has been the go-to strategy of perpetrators of human rights violations throughout history. Sadly, these Witnesses are merely parroting the words of their leaders who are the real culprits. Instead of seeing the harm that has been caused, they can only point the finger at the afflicted and bury their head in the sand.

Slow and steady wins the race

Raising awareness for human rights abuse does not happen overnight. There was a time in our western world when it was commonplace for arbitrary traits such as the color of your skin or your gender to put you at a severe societal disadvantage. Only through the tireless efforts of a determined few could their rights come into mainstream consciousness.

I’m sure those folks were called cry babies as well, but they certainly didn’t let that stop them. They valiantly moved forward, slowly and steadily, towards their ultimate goal – and continue doing so to this day.

I am proud to count myself as part of a community who are working towards a better future – one where families are not divided by differing religious beliefs. I also understand that such a world can only be approached one step at a time. Hopefully, this victims memorial day will become one of those steps by continuing to raise awareness of Watchtower abuses for years to come.

See you next July 26th!

 

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76 thoughts on “Former Witnesses come together to mark Watchtower Victims Memorial Day

  • August 3, 2014 at 11:21 am
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    My previous post was in reply to Gem.

  • August 3, 2014 at 1:20 pm
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    Thank you Enlightened, Kat, So Glad to be Out, Excelsior (buddy I relate to You) and of course, Victoria.

    I knew I would draw fire on this one, and I accept the blows from those who just used the opportunity of putting the boot in before they had even read what I put in print.

    There is little point in arguing the Moral High Ground with the WT mentality. It is exactly the same as the Catholic “Guilt” syndrome… it keeps “The Faithful” on some kind of High…like the “Opium of the People” as Karl Marx described.

    I thought it appropriate on Watchtower Victims Memorial Day to give an insight into my own predicament.

    I had nowhere to go when I “walked out”. Over the past few years I have looked at a variety of websites, with a mixture of posters, all with different agendas.

    For those of you who have been sweat and reasoned and those who have been cool and objective: Thank you.

    For those here who just want to continue to be Boot boys.. you are no better than the Spiritual Thugs that bruised me and left me to rot.

    I hope this site becomes a place of healing for those like Victoria… and me, to regain some of the love which we once held so dear.

    All the very best… go in Peace

    • August 8, 2014 at 5:31 pm
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      We need one of these days here in Australia. So many victims that need to be recognised. Well done organisers.

      • August 11, 2014 at 7:41 pm
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        The day was meant to be observed worldwide and we had participants from Australia, Poland, Denmark, Philippines… so many countries. Mark your calendar for next July and participate freely, and encourage others to do the same!

  • August 3, 2014 at 2:42 pm
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    Doesn’t it say in the Bible – “Judge not lest you be judged?”

    Who is entirely free from sin and so can take it upon themselves to sit in judgement of another human being? (Apart from the Justice System and Courts of course). Absolutely no one is free of sin and the Congregations are certainly not kept Clean through the disfellowshipping tactic!

    Often brothers in positions of power within the congregation, who sit on JCs and ultimately wield the axe thus severing a family member from their family are far from free of sin; some guilty of sins far outreaching those whom they are serving judgement upon.

    Yet the so-called “chosen by holy spirit GB” places these ordinary people in an exulted position enabling them to have this power over someone else’s life that can inflict such terrible damage, harm and pain.

    (But then I’ve just seen Cedars tweet about GB member Sam Herd’s opinion of women! – Unbelievable!)

  • August 3, 2014 at 3:31 pm
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    Keeping the congregation clean is another one of those
    repetitious phrases that lead to obsession, causing
    people to go to extremes. Elders taking sandwiches and
    flasks of tea and hiding all night behind bushes to get
    evidence against a brother, yes this bizarre incident was
    told to us on the elders course at Bethel, Brothers tale
    bearing to the elders about all sorts of indiscretions they
    claimed to have seen. It was nearly always the youngsters
    who were the object of these tales.

    A young brother seen having a cigarette, a young sister
    immodestly dressed (according to the tale bearers
    standards), etc, Poor kids, no wonder they leave.
    It’s a pressurised atmosphere unhealthy emotionally.

    Shunning is also unhealthy and grossly unjust, not only
    is the erring one disciplined but sanctions are placed on
    relatives forcing them to keep contact to a minimum.
    Coercion is used to make a person go against their
    natural choice, which in this case would be to maintain
    normal family relations, Not everyone can cope with this
    and mental illness is a real possibility. Never turn your
    back on your own flesh and blood, Isa 58,verse 7 NIV.

  • August 3, 2014 at 4:38 pm
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    Calling shunning and the loss of your family ‘loving discipline’ is like holding a child’s hand on a hot burner and calling that also ‘loving discipline’. Can’t they find another form of discipline that is not so over the top cruel that it has driven some people to suicide? (Which it has!) Also, wanted to comment on the article being very well and sensitively written. Great job!

  • August 4, 2014 at 4:21 am
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    I have the impression that the weapon handed personally by the GB to their princes and dukes (elders and above), by allowing them to shun whoever they want, will very soon turn against them and proclaim their religious dark side to qualified authorities.

    Why not ? Let us wait and see.

  • August 4, 2014 at 5:19 am
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    @Anonymous and Enlightened:

    Thank you both for your encouragement and advice. I have had time to sleep and ponder over your comments.

    Dad, is a victim too. Trying desperately to keep my Parents together was the wrong thing to do. I am going to apologise to him.

    If I had let them drift apart, they would probably have both found happier lives.

    I have to recognise I was at fault… both of their lives could have been happier and more fulfilling if I had let go of the “Apron Strings” even before I left the Watchtower.

    Love is binding… but, it can also be very destructive.

    Please remember that many JWs are victims of these insidious policies too… I am so saddened to read about the effects of shunning on You. Perhaps it would have been better that I was disfellowshipped… that would really have wrenched my family apart. Then I would be writing this Post with a different sense of guilt. I have a “damned if I did and damned if I didn’t situation”.

    Thank you both

  • August 4, 2014 at 5:36 am
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    Hi Gem. I think if it was so really intolerable for you parents, they would have split, no matter whether you tried to keep them together or not. I think that your father stayed with your mother till she died, he can now live with a good conscience that he didn’t leave her. You should not beat yourself up over what might have been because you did what you thought was best at the time. We are all victims of the Watchtower in one way or another and it’s not just us that is affected but all those in our families, both inside the “truth” and outside. There are millions of destroyed lives because of the Watchtower. You can’t blame yourself. It’s the Watchtower that’s at fault, not you.

  • August 4, 2014 at 9:25 am
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    Rosie,

    I just watched the video too! OMG! This is the first time I’ve heard this “Prince” talk. What a stupid, unscientific, immoral load of codswallop!!

    This is what happens, folks, when you take a creation myth seriously.

    Ladies, I’m so sorry that you had to endure such a repulsive and ignorant culture in the WTBTS.

    Still, it could be worse! You could be married to him!!

    Peace be with you

    Excelsior!

  • August 4, 2014 at 11:19 am
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    Excelsior said to Rosie: “Still, it could be worse! You could be married to him!!”

    And do not forget Rosie that one day he may take you up in his flying saucer ! Then your eyes will look like saucers ! I mean like his own eyes.

    Please do stay with us Rosie !

  • August 4, 2014 at 11:48 am
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    You don’t get rid of me that easy!

    My feet are firmly down here on earth with you guys at Cedars – there’s too much work to be done here than joining my JW family with their heads in the clouds, or is that the sand?

  • August 4, 2014 at 5:21 pm
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    I was recently reviewing a ‘Hellfire’ tract, prior to burning it.
    I reasoned on the wording ‘Hellfire is it part of Divine Justice?’ If we replace hellfire with shunning it seems to fit just as well – The wording continues: ‘Have you ever seen someone tortured? We hope not. Deliberate torture is sickening and abhorrent. What though, of torture inflicted by God? Can you imagine such a thing? ……
    The torture goes on and on, hour after hour, day after day – without pause!’
    For some of us shunning is like torture, especially when it involves our family.
    JW’s believe they are doing the ‘will of God’ by shunning. In extreme cases when ones have been murderers or child molesters then it seems like a good idea, but to do it to ones who have left the organisation because of disagreeing with the doctrine, or for giving in to the imperfect flesh, the shunning can be very cruel. A later paragraph in the same tract states, ‘Those believing in a cruel god often become cruel like their god’.
    So it begs the question if God is love, which god is Watchtower really serving?
    Just an interesting point – Did anyone know that Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, and Rose West the killer are both now Jehovah’s Witnesses? Who would want to keep company with them? Yet they would be welcomed into a Kingdom Hall near you if ever they were let out of prison. God forbid! Sick ain’t it?

  • August 5, 2014 at 12:50 am
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    @Rosie: If you are around to read this. I think there is a strong possibility that I was at Bethel with your parents. I would love to communicate with you to have “closure” over a certain matter. Thank you for any consideration to my request. Best wishes

  • August 5, 2014 at 7:40 am
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    Cedars

    I tweeted you but was my first time :-) so no idea if I did it right. Please don’t think I am questioning you……….but I am…….is the Samuel Herd Video For real. I really need to know because I am going to show it to my Mum. Could be my first in road. Also do you know where the Kingdom Hall line dancing took place. I put this question on here because others might be able to help.
    Hoping I haven’t offended you.

  • August 5, 2014 at 9:38 am
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    Hi GEM

    John Cedars has my e-mail address – if you contact him he is kind enough to pass on relevant details.

  • August 5, 2014 at 10:59 am
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    Patrice,

    If I may humbly offer some advice, I would find the original version of this video. I am not doubting its veracity, I am merely concerned that it has an understandably no nonsense message that may be a bit too undiplomatic for a first video.

    I’ve been avidly watching unwitness on YouTube. He has produced some videos that are recordings of live conversations with Bethel reps. They are worth a view.

    As with any advice that I proffer, always feel free to ignore it completely. It is merely one bloke’s ideas and no one is ever always right!!! You know your Mum best and you will come to a good decision.

    I wish you all the best with this, Patrice.

    Peace be with you

    Excelsior!

  • August 5, 2014 at 11:27 am
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    Thank you, Rosie. I am grateful.

  • August 5, 2014 at 12:07 pm
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    Excelsior,
    It’s a shame the elders in the ‘Spiritual Paradise’
    don’t discuss the options and then leave the final
    decision to the other person.

    It tends to be straight to the rule book , and advice
    given on a one size fits all basis and without the
    option of, take it or leave it.

  • August 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm
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    Excelsior
    Thank you for your reply, but I’m confused now. Where would I find the original version?. Are you saying this has probably been edited, because surely Cedars would not use material he was not sure of. I have probably completely misunderstood your reply. help!!!!!!!!!

  • August 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm
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    Patrice, sorry if I’ve confused you. The video I watched had Wonder Woman in it, and was shooting straight from the hip how sexist his comments are.

    It may not be the one you watched. I will have a look now and see.

    Peace be with you

    Excelsior!

  • August 5, 2014 at 3:53 pm
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    Patrice, I followed the link and it is the one I was advising against. I have no doubt that it is Herd speaking, but there is no correlating video of him speaking such utter bilge.

    Now, a JW apologist could say, well, that could be an actor pretending to be Brother Herd. The GB love women….. Do you see what I mean? There is an opportunity to question it.

    I would advise a much more logical and less flamboyant video as a first step. I love DC comics, and I love Wonder Woman, with her cool truth rope and invisible jet, but I think the dialogue is not as sensitive and diplomatic as it should probably be for a first foray into the sexist reality of the WTBTS.

    As I said, I do not know your Mum. If you feel this is the one then go for it. Follow your gut rather than my advice any time.

    I thought it was a great video. Talking truth straight from the hip.

    Good luck with the deprogramming of your Mum. It’s a long road but it’s got to start with that first step.

    Peace be with you

    Excelsior!

  • August 5, 2014 at 4:02 pm
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    Ted,

    The most awful part is that they believe that we “can take it or leave it”! We are supposed to cheerfully wave goodbye to our friends and family and sod off.

    These are the same people who believe that their shoddy, moribund organisation is spirit directed, that the GB or FADS as they are now get more Holy Spirit than any other Christian on earth, even though they acknowledge that every Christian has the Holy Spirit. Just so the FADS can make stuff up as they go along and we either take it or leave it.

    I pity them, Ted, I really do. What a ludicrous thing to believe! It is chilling to remember when that was my first response too, but I never really believed that the WT literature was synonymous with scripture.

    Thank goodness for the internet, where we can exchange encouragement and share facts and opinions.

    Peace be with you

    Excelsior!

  • August 5, 2014 at 5:05 pm
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    Thank you excelsior. I will not show this to my mum. I think the line dancing could do it though. Have you any idea what country it is from.

  • August 6, 2014 at 1:14 am
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    Patrice, sorry buddy, I don’t know which country the line dancing came from. Anyone else out there know?

    Peace be with you

    Excelsior!

  • August 6, 2014 at 2:35 am
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    The line dancing came from the United States.

  • August 6, 2014 at 9:06 am
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    @ Interrogative

    I am very sorry for your loss and abuse. I like you spent 40 years in the WT and know very well what you are talking about. I am very happy to see that you are a good person! I also want to state that I enjoyed many of your other comments.

    Warm regards

  • August 8, 2014 at 2:12 am
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    Folks,

    This is a comment on Samuel Herd’s speech about women.

    He stated that the brain cases of men are larger then women and so women should be lead by men.

    Here’s something to consider.

    The brain cases of Homo Neanderthal were larger even than ours! Should we be led by them? They were obviously more intelligent than us according to Herd’s reasoning!!

    Oh dear! They went extinct! So a larger brain case is no guarantee of higher intellect.

    Ladies, be assured that I do not consider any of you as less intelligent or able to lead than men!!!

    Peace be with you

    Excelsior!

  • August 8, 2014 at 2:28 am
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    Good morning all
    I am still trying to get hold of this video, without wonder woman.

  • August 11, 2014 at 7:54 pm
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    Just to emphasize the one error in the article, Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses (AAWA) did not as a group organize or conceive of this event. Bo Juel, one of their members, was a volunteer behind the scenes but not as a representative of AAWA. I also worked as a volunteer and am not a member of AAWA or associated with them in any way. There were also others who worked hard to put it together and publicize the day.

    This is important because we wouldn’t want anyone to think they could not participate because they don’t want to support a particular group or organization. Even Bo emphasized that no one “owns” the day anymore than someone could “own” Christmas, and the day was created to honor all victims of the Watchtower, including pedophile victims, victims of domestic violence, rape victims who face disfellowshipping because they didn’t scream (or did scream, or didn’t scream enough, or weren’t respectful enough of their rapist, or whatever), and the list goes on.

    Hopefully next year will be even bigger and will get more participants. It also has a website now, WatchtowerVictimsMemorialDay.com. Use the form there to leave suggestions and comments if you want.

  • August 16, 2014 at 5:25 am
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    Folks,

    There is a lot to be said for giving the rank and file Witnesses a human face to the policies that they obey.

    To be confronted by a human being that is suffering psychological abuse forces the rank and file to acknowledge that THEY are participating and perpetuating this cruel, unChristian policy.

    I would urge those who participate in this day to remember that it is possible that THEY TOO shared in this policy in the past. They have awoken to the harm that this policy causes and there is a hope that others will too. So, show compassion to the rank and file Witnesses who are being misled and abused themselves.

    I salute any who took part in this day. It takes courage and compassion to revisit a Kingdom Hall and face those who you used to know in this manner. Well done!

    Peace be with you

    Excelsior!

  • October 13, 2015 at 1:33 pm
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    Personally,
    I am elated i am not bothered by the birth family.
    I dont miss a thing.

    But i found it funny, that i was the one the collection agencies started calling when the birth father passed away. If it had not been for JCP calling to ask where “they” were, i would not have had reason to call a cousin with a demand that “they” pay their own bills.
    She told me he passed..
    My response ? “So” in a cold monotone.
    She asked if my anger was about their shunning me, i replied that iv enjoyed my peace..how can i mourn a man that used me as a punching bag, how can i offer condols to a woman who told an elders wife ” i wish i could have drowned her at birth like the chinese do with their unwanted daughters”
    Their shunning brought me peace.
    She then told me she really shouldnt be talking to me and abruply hung up.
    I smiled that day.
    That was a good day

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