I was privileged to be able to attend a conference on 26 April focusing on the issue of abuse within the Jehovah’s Witness community, its alleged cover up and meet with some incredibly brave abuse survivors and also former Elders of that community who have left in order to tell their stories to the world.
Abuse survivors and former Jehovah’s Witness elders at the conference described how both the process of “disfellowshipping” and shunning someone within the community meant that everyone in the Jehovah’s Witness congregation, including all your family and friends had to completely ignore you and treat you as if you didn’t exist.
In my previous blog I discussed the organisation’s “two witness” rule, which means anyone who accuses an adult of abuse must have a corroborating witness. This makes the incredibly courageous step for a survivor of abuse to speak out even more difficult in this community.
For more information, please see: Two Witness Rule in The Jehovah’s Witness Community: a Hiding Place For Child Abusers
I heard former elders whose own daughters had been sexually abused describe how they were ordered to shun their own daughters and have no contact with them and did so, at great personal cost to both them and their child. This particular elder eventually chose to meet his daughter in private, was then found out and reported and stated he was asked by the organisation to choose either ‘God or his daughters’. He chose his daughters and is now no longer a Jehovah’s Witness, after 50 years of being one.
I heard former elders whose own daughters had been sexually abused describe how they were ordered to shun their own daughters
Survivors also described how they tried to report abuse and were ignored, or that the alleged abuser ended up on a committee of elders who disfellowshipped them as teenagers for dating boys. This resulted in their families shunning them and them being forced to leave home.
Two important legal cases have opened a window into this culture.
The conference was unanimous in concluding that it is essential that the IICSA agrees to investigate the alleged abuse within the organisation, but also the allegations that the organisation has covered up such abuse and protected alleged abusers by failing to report them to the secular criminal authorities. It is essential that this does happen and we wholeheartedly support that call to action.
Slater and Gordon’s expert team of abuse lawyers are currently representing over 800 survivors of abuse and offer a free consultation for anyone affected by child 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.
Kim Harrison is a principal lawyer specialising in child abuse claims at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.