Jehovah’s Witnesses charity, Watch Tower, has dropped its efforts to block investigations into its management of sexual abuse allegations.
The Charity Commission launched an inquiry into safeguarding at the religion’s main UK charity in May 2014 after receiving allegations that survivors of rape and sexual abuse, including people abused as children, were forced to face their attackers in “judicial committees”.
For more than two and a half years Jehovah’s Witnesses have been engaged in a legal fight to resist the investigation into the Watch Tower Bible Tract Society of Great Britain (WTBTS), which oversees the UK’s 1,500 congregations.
Over the past two decades a significant number of abuse cases have emerged in the Jehovah's Witnesses. I am currently representing several clients who allege they have been abused within the organisation and describe a culture that is profoundly collusive with child abuse.
I am currently representing several clients who allege they have been abused within the organisation and describe a culture that is profoundly collusive with child abuse.
The organisation is notorious for its "two witness" rule: anyone who accuses an adult of abuse must have a corroborating witness. Since the vast majority of child abuse occurs in secret, the effect of this rule is to silence abuse victims. Moreover, if there is no corroborating witness, the complainant is often treated as having made a false accusation. This leads to the complainant being "disfellowshipped", or ostracised by other Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is terrifying prospect if, like most children growing up in the Jehovah's Witnesses, your entire family life revolves around them.
In this way, victims say, the culture of the Jehovah's Witnesses facilitates and protects abusers.
Following the Court of Appeal decision, that ultimately the WTBTS had not pursued the correct legal avenue in seeking to challenge the Commission's decision, the Charity Commission urged the Watch Tower Society to "engage constructively" with the inquiry.
Richard Scorer is a principal lawyer and head of the abuse team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
Slater and Gordon have the UK’s most experienced team of abuse lawyers and are currently representing over 800 survivors of abuse.
We offer a free and completely confidential consultation to anyone affected by sexual abuse. Call us anytime 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.