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!