Former elder wants your advice--PART 3

by Confession 10 Replies latest jw friends

  • Confession

    So the next day I phone James and tell him about the accusation. Of course he's upset, and asks if I will arrange a meeting with Dan so he can find out for certain what has been said. I arrrange it at the Kingdom Hall on the next day, a Saturday late afternoon. It did not turn out to be the informal setting I had imagined.

    Even though I had told NO ONE ELSE of this accusation--so as to keep it all from getting out in the unlikely event that it is false, James shows up with Sal, another of our elders, both dressed in suits. It's clear to me that James is not simply trying to find out what has been said; he seemed to be creating a sort of inquisition--almost as if he wanted Dan to think he himself was the subject of a judicial committee. Dan answered all of James' questions.

    I was a bit surprised that Dan revealed Jared's name to James. Again, Jared had made clear he did NOT want this getting out and forbade Dan to provide his name. I made James promise that he would not try to contact Jared.

    JAMES: "Oh, I won't do that, Tom."

    ME: "Do I have your word on that, James?"

    JAMES: "Absolutely."

    Sometime soon thereafter, Dan called to tell me that he though Jared might come forward soon. He just indicated that he needed some time to tell his parents what happened before he spoke with us. Of course, James was calling me daily, trying to find out whatever information he could. From time to time certain friends would call me too, letting me know that James himself had told them about the charges. I couldn't understand it. Here I was, trying my best to conduct this thing honestly--which involves not letting information about the accusation get out before a decision is rendered--and James was calling everyone and their sister about it! It made me worry he would try to contact Jared too.

    ME: "James, why are you telling so many people about this?"

    JAMES: "Well, Tom, I have nothing to hide. These are my friends. I feel I have the right to find out if they have any information about what I'm being accused of."

    ME: "Look, James, if this turns out to be a false accusation, and EVERYONE ends up finding out about the nature of it, you're not going to be able to blame this on the body. You'll only have yourself to blame."

    JAMES: "I'm not worried about that, Tom."

    ME: "Now you're not going to contact Jared, right?"

    JAMES: "Right. I won't do that."

    ME: "Because if you call Jared--"

    JAMES: "That's not gonna happen."

    Perhaps less that a week after this conversation, while at work, I get a call from an irate Dan.

    "James called Jared!!!"

    I can't believe it... Now Jared is so angry at Dan, he tells him he's not coming forward at all. Just great... I phone James and ask what in the heck he'd done?

    ME: "You promised you wouldn't do that, James!!!"

    JAMES: "I felt I had to."

    So now we have to wait longer to see if Jared will soften. He finally does, and agrees for Sal and I to stop by his parents' home to begin the investigation. Remember, Jared is 24 years old and married. He decides he wants to include his parents in this, because they have a lot they want to say.

    When I arrive, of course, I find a family in an emotionally sick state. They had just lost Jared's younger brother to suicide less that a year before. There was some concern on the body that perhaps James had molested this brother too--and maybe it even led to his suicide. But the family knows that there was little if any contact between James and he, so this seems not to be the case. Nonetheless, this family was not at all well. Although this family has not been attending meetings for many years, the father still expresses shock at how something like this could have happened at the Kindgom Hall.

    "You can't trust ANYBODY in this world. NOT ONE PERSON! For this James to do something like this to our little boy is PROOF of that!"

    The tearful mother just doesn't understand why, if there had been investigation five years earlier, no one had thought to question Jared.

    "James and Jared were inseparable. They were always together. Where James would be, there'd be Jared. Why, if they questioned dozens of families, did no one think to question Jared?"

    I only see the reason now. You see the institutional failure of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses is their policy of showing concern for the welfare of those in the congregation, but exempting themselves from regard or responsibility where those outside are concerned. Jared and his family weren't questioned because they had all but ceased meeting attendance so many years ago.

    Jared said he would often stay over James' house and be invited to sleep in his bed. During the night, on approximately twenty to forty occasions (in Jared's memory,) he said that James would fondle his genitals. At that young age, (perhaps ten), he decided that it was just James' way of showing him that he loved him. The bed would then vibrate from James' movement. Jared now thinks this might have been from James' masturbating.

    Recalling these events was obviously difficult for Jared, whose eyse would well up with tears at times. He made it perfectly clear that he bore James no ill will. He recalled how good it felt being with him. Everyone knew James, everyone looked up to him and loved him. Jared said he'd simply like to forget these things ever happened, but knew it was right to come forward.

    During this time we also made contact with the first accuser, Chad. He made his case plainly. His testimony showed that James had not gone as far as he did with Jared, but James was clearly trying to do precisely the same thing. Chad just rejected the advance.

    After the investigation was over, the accusers, James, brothers from the earlier committee having been interviewed, we decided to form the judicial committee. Our C.O., knowing how widespread James' popularity was and how serious this matter was, added two brothers from other congregations to our committee. I was asked to be chairman since I'd been the original elder to whom this information was brought. I accepted. Later I wished I hadn't, but knowing what I know now, it may have been a good thing, since the organization has such a bad track record of covering over such issues. I only wish, now that I understand things better, I could have done more. Maybe I still can.

    During this time a lot of pretty bizarre things happened. When I approached James to tell him that we'd decided to go ahead and form a judicial committee, he became outraged.

    JAMES: "Tom, do you realize what this means??!! When a judicial committee is formed, it means only two outcomes!! One is that I may be disfellowshipped!!"

    He'd get like this from time to time. His nostril-flaring furor was completely apart from any behavior I'd ever seen him exhibit. For awhile James had continued serving as an elder. Once after returning from giving a talk in a congregation where I'd spent some time as a young man, he called me. His tone of voice was so syrupy sweet, I wondered if he were drunk. He wasn't, but his manner was just so completely fake, it was hard to take.

    JAMES: "Hiiii, Tom... I just wanted you to know I put a little feather in your cap with Brother Allesandro todayyyy."

    ME: "Huh? You put a feather in my cap?"

    JAMES: "Yeah, you knowwww, I just told him what a wonderful brother you are, Tom. What a blessing to the congregation you've beeeeeen! And your talks are so byoootifullll! I allllways talk about you like that, Tom. Just a little feather in your cap!"

    ME: (gulping) "Umm.. Okay... Well, thanks, James..."

    I'm not exaggerating this, and it had nothing to do with any sensitivity I had to James during this time. It was just so blatantly artificial, so utterly put-on and false, it gave me a queasy feeling.

    Another bizarre thing. During one of our committee meetings, we decided to open up the file on the investigation of five years earlier--only to find it missing. What the heck?! Ken, one of the elders from another congregation (who was actually in our congregation during the time this earlier investigation had occurred) spoke up with red ears. He thought he knew what happened.

    Sometime after James had been reappointed an elder (perhaps a year or two previous,) he phoned Ken to tell him he'd just been looking through the congregation files for something when he came upon the manila envelope for that five-year-old investigation. He told Ken...

    "That committee never should have even been formed. It was completely against the Society's instructions. That whole matter was dropped. Do you see any reason why this file should remain in here? It was a bogus hearing."

    Ken told him he understood the concern, but wondered why James would be calling him. He suggested James call our P.O. Ken now had the feeling that James may have removed the manila. When we next met with James, I asked what happened to it. He told me he removed it.

    ME: "You what?"

    JAMES: "I removed it. Tom, that whole issue had been dropped. That committee should never have been formed."

    ME: "Are you aware, James, that the manilas remain in congregation files for many years--even when there has been no committee formed--even when there is just counsel given?"

    JAMES: "Yes, Tom."

    ME: "So what did you do with it?"

    JAMES: "I burned it."

    ME: "Burned it?"

    JAMES: "Tom it was full of stuff that was just trash. Trash! It was terrible. I put it in my fireplace and burned it."

    ME: "James, have you ever in your life heard of an elder opening locked congregation files, removing information about himself and destroying it?"

    JAMES: "Well, no."

    During another meeting, a couple of us had been speaking about finding out a number of people to whom James had again spoken about this matter. The number just kept growing! James told sisters from the congregation, brothers from congregations eighty miles away. Sometimes they'd call us to question the veracity of the accusations made. The only information they had, of course, was from James. I remember asking, is there anyone James hasn't told about this. Almost on cue, both of the new elders assigned to the committee said they too had been phoned by James almost immediately after he found out about the accusation!

    Coming: PART 4--The Outcome

  • Buster

    'Bout time. I've been looking for this.

  • luna2

    Wow, Confession...I would have hated to be in your shoes. Institutional failure is right! Its obvious that the Society has done very, very little to prepare congregations for handling serious problems such as this. No proper training for elders and no concern for the victims, only direction on how to keep anything that reflects poorly on the organization as hush, hush as possible.

    "James" sounds like a pretty slippery fellow. I've met a couple guys like this in my time as a JW. I can easily imagine them abusing their positions of authority and destroying files that they found inconveniently condemning too.

  • Confession

    Hi, Luna...

    I believe that there is often genuine concern for the individual. It's just elipsed by the much greater concern (as you indicate): reproach on the organization. Further, as in nearly all large organizations, on the local level, individual elders can show great regard for hurt persons. On the international level? It's primarily lip service. They show by their actions that their ultimate concern is for the Society itself. And when it is the Society that is setting policy, the local elder must be of extraordinary character to act outside of their direction.

  • undercover

    Just wanted to stop in and let you know that I've been reading your experiences closely. I appreciate your openness in telling the story. I don't have any advice or anything. Just wanted to let you know we are reading it, though a lot of us are distracted by other issues at the moment.

  • AuldSoul

    I just don't have words. I'm not used to the feeling.

  • Confession

    Glad to hear, Undercover. I have some work to do today. But I'll make sure to post the Fourth (and, I believe, final) part later today.

  • FairMind

    Looking forward to part four. Since you are PST and I'm EST, today for you may be rather late for those of us back east, darn it!

  • AuldSoul
  • Confession

    Writing now... I'll finish as soon as possible, but I tend to be a bit of a slow-poke. Sorry.

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