Regular Survey readers will be familiar with the work of Reclaimed Voices – an organisation set up in the Netherlands to support survivors of child sex abuse inside the religion of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The organisation has already accomplished huge strides in supporting nearly 300 victims, and understandably many observers have commented that more such organisations are needed all over the globe, since the JW abuse crisis is also global.
Thankfully it seems that such a global response is starting to take place, and in the UK that response comes in the form of the new organisation Victim’s Voices.
Who are Victim’s Voices?
At present the Victims Voices is comprised of three women and one man, all of them former Jehovah’s Witnesses. Between them they have a background on counselling, media relations and website creation.
The member I was speaking to, who needs to conceal her identity to avoid being completely shunned by her JW family, has a long background in the Jehovah’s Witness religion. She was born into the religion, served as a Pioneer for ten years, and has a father who served as an Elder.
Victims Voices have a deep understanding of the culture and beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and are very much able to relate to the unique challenges and struggles that a person inside the religion will face.
Victim’s Voices- Building a Network
Victim’s Voices began when one of the founder members was in the process of questioning her beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness, became very concerned about the ongoing child abuse issue, and wanted to form an organisation to support JW sex abuse victims. She began researching IICSA and the Charity Commission, then saw an interview on the BBC where journalist Felicity Kvesic interviewed JW Abuse Survivor Louise Palmer (this story is also covered here).
She reached out to Felicity to discuss the story and soon ended up on BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester discussing the issue. From there, Victims Voices expanded and was able to form working relationships with people such as solicitor Kathleen Hallisey who won the first civil case in the UK against Watchtower for its handling of child abuse, and to whom they have been able to refer other survivors to.
Victims Voices have also established a relationship with NAPAC, a UK organisation founded by Peter Sanders who is a survivor of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and that also aims to provide services to abuse survivors. Working with NAPAC, Victim’s Voices have been able to undergo training in how to sensitively interact with survivors, including issues such as being aware of triggers, how to listen when a survivor is telling their story whilst minimising the risks of re-traumatising a survivor or experiencing vicarious trauma themselves.
(Incidentally, It’s worth noting that this makes the members of Victim’s Voices far more extensively trained to interact with survivors than Watchtower’s elders are.)
Victim’s Voices have also reached out to the Reclaimed Voices organisation, and spoke with them in order compare notes and understand they key factors in the success of the Dutch organisation. All of this has put the organisation into an excellent place to assist survivors of sexual abuse inside the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Victim’s Voices -What they offer.
The organisation is able to offer support and assistance to current and former members of the Jehovah’s Witness religion who have experienced child sex abuse.
They can also help refer such survivors to healthcare, legal experts or law enforcement if those survivors so wish.
In addition, the organisation has a number of projects underway including
- Conviction database. In co-operation with other ex-JW organisations, Victim’s Voices is putting together a database of all JW sex abuse convictions in the UK, created from court records and court reference numbers to get a confirmed list of JW abusers that cannot be factually disputed. This database will be available on request. If anyone is aware of a verified JW conviction for child abuse in the UK, Victim’s Voices would be grateful for the information to grow this database.
- Recovery workshops. Victim’s Voices is looking to provide workshops to assist survivors with their recovery and cover topics such as self care and the importance of setting up good, supportive relationships.
- Working to educate therapists. There are many excellent therapists available in the UK, but at present many of them do not understand the specific challenges and struggles that a current or former member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses might face. Via networking and outreach, Victim’s Voices is working to help therapists better understand the specific needs of their JW clients.
If you feel that Victim’s Voices may be able to help you, you can contact them via the following methods.
Speaking for myself, it is extremely heartening to see that the spirit of support and solidarity towards abuse survivors is spreading, and that organisations like Reclaimed Voices and Victim’s Voices are stepping up to the call of helping those who were abused and abandoned, and giving them back their voice.
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