Thanks, Odrade. I'll do just that.
Former elder wants your advice--PART 4
Hi, AK Jeff...I enjoyed reading your post--as always.
James is still disfellowshipped--and the nature of his actions is extremely well known among JWs in the area where he lives. Aside from imprisonment, they are probably very well protected from him.
Mostly - this matter is still heavily on you mind. You are bothered about it for some reason... I think you should act on it. You did not spend hours writing this account in detail for no reason.
Honestly, Jeff, it's on my mind because of some of the things I've read on this board. I really think my not acting then was a matter of ignorance. And I think that's the case with lots of people. Consider... So many people know about James' actions.
For instance, these two men (now about 32 and 26) have lots of family who I know for sure are aware of this matter. I don't think any of them are now associated with JWs--many of them were never JWs. For example, Chad's father and other family members weren't--and they knew James personally. Jared has quite a few family members (again, never JWs) who are aware of it too. As far as I know, none of them have ever gone forward to the police. Why do you think? Ignorance is the only answer I can come up with.
The young men themselves--who understand what James did better than any of us--made expressions of relief at the end of the congregation's judicial process. They never brought up the idea of going to the police to me. Shouldn't that have been a natural thought for them?
The truth is, I'm writing all of this because other people had some seriously nasty comments about me in another thread when I told them about having gone through this experience. While I know that many have been very supportive, others have taken the attitude that I should have known to report this to the police. When I explained that I didn't know, it was met with angry disbelief. "What was wrong with you??!!"
I think "what was wrong with me" is apparently "what was wrong with" everybody else--JW, ex-JW and non-JW alike--who didn't call the authorities. Although I think some of the comments directed at me were out of line, in the spirit of honest-heartedness I decided to put this thing to the test. I'll lay out the whole story--no whitewashing--all the details. And then I'll ask some people with more experience on these matters (and more time out of the mind cocoon) than I have to give me their advice. Even though there are probably hundreds of other people who have apparently taken no action on this, perhaps I should.
I tend to think some of the others' advice, namely trying to contact the young men and move them to report the matter is the right course. If indeed the police want to pursue this, they can't simply take the word of some guy who used to be an elder in a religious cult--without going to the victims, right? That said, I should probably speak to them first.
You have a moral obligation to current victims. Put it in the hands of the people who need to deal with it. What's it matter whether the statute of limitations has passed if he's currently hurting other children?
You have met your obligations as an elder, but not as a citizen.
Confession, thank you for sharing your story and for being so candid.
I've come to realize something lately that I never understood when I was a JW. The elders have no right to determine when a crime has been committed. It is not their place and they are not equipped to do such. Crimes are to be investigated by the civil authorities, and judgement and punishment must be handled by their justice system. The only "right" elders have is to decide how they will interact with a suspected pedophile in their midst. They may have "ecclesiastical" authority within their personal congregations, but they do not have civil authority.
Child molestation is a crime, an assault. The fact that sexual manipulation is involved, that persons may be embarrassed or upset or exposed to a discussion they consider taboo does not change that. Jehovah views rape with the same seriousness with which He views murder. (Exodus 22:25-27) If I was an elder and learned from someone that they had been an eyewitness to a murder, I would be wrong to go to the family of the victim and say, "Well, the elders can't do anything because there was only one witness and we have no confession. In our opinion, no wrong has been committed by the accused, even though your relative is dead. While we know murder is illegal, that a murderer running free could murder again, that there's no shred of hope that justice will be served if those who are in the know keep quiet, the elders have decided to not breathe a word. It is entirely up to you whether you go to the police or not; it's a personal decision since you're related to the victim." It doesn't make any sense.
Statute of limitations or no, the truth needs to be told. There may yet be newer, additional victims for whom the countdown has just begun. I think it is common knowledge that sick people rarely recover when left to their own devices. And I think the greatest show of respect we can make toward another is to speak the truth aloud and without blinking.
If I seem passionate, it's because I am. I'm biased. I've worked with children who were sexually abused. I've transcribed by hand their descriptions, in front of the police, of what was done to them, exactly how and how often and where and by whom. I've written down what I saw when the littlest victims, too young to know the words, used dolls and pictures to show what happened to them. I've seen photographs in medical records of the physical injuries these children sustain at the hands of their assailants - and I've seen the way those same children mutilate and abuse themselves in response to what was done to them.
This is a crime. Crimes are handled by the police. I personally could not keep silent without considering myself an accessory after the fact. That is my personal opinion - but you must act based on your own opinion. Your posts on this topic suggest to me that, whatever you believe is right, you will follow-through with your best effort to accomplish that. I don't think any more can be asked of anyone.
You say the victims are now adults. You need to tell them of your intentions. Suppose they don't want to go through the trauma of interviews with strangers asking intimate questions? Suppose they want to move forward with their lives and not even think about the past?
A similar thing happened where I live - after more than 25 years a molester was prosecuted, and his daughters, now in their 30s, were brought in by the police for questioning. One of the girls had completely dismissed the matter from her mind as being in the past. She had not even told her husband.
Dragging the whole affair up put her in the mental hospital, and wrecked her marriage, with the accompanying trauma to her little boys.
By all means do what you believe is right, but remember that you will probably re traumatize the victims too.
Prevention of further crimes is vital, but a motive of revenge, or just you confessing so you feel absolved cannot justify the effect of your actions on the victims.
You made a big mistake in the past. You have to live with that fact.
Hi there I found your posts most interesting as I am adult survivor of repeated molestation by a witness who had become an elder by the time I went public with my story. I can only say from my own point of view that involving external agencies had to be MY decision. I had to do it when I was ready. The only difference is that I was not a witness (my father and brothers are and it was my brothers best friend who abused me) so I was more interested in seeing him face the police than the elders. Before I was ready to "go public" 4 years ago I did make an anonymous call to social services on the understanding that I would never know the outcome of their investigation - but as he later admitted to my dad he had "put them off the scent". It is really up to Jared and Chad what they need to happen to feel that they have had justice - I wanted my abuser to take responsibiliy for his actions but although he admitted it he tried to say that I had led him on (I was 10 he was 21)and that it was my fault. I was let down by the police who let him off with a caution and 3 years on the sex offenders register and by the elders who allowed him to step down "on personal grounds" and covered up for him - it is only because my parents tell people that they know the real truth - however he is still in good standing so I'm not sure what he'd have to do to be publically reproofed (probably something really serious like smoking!!) Anyway - to the point. If you want to go to the police to salve your own concience then that's probably not a good call - you will be forcing Jared and Chad to revisit their pain. If you want to do "something" then I'd suggest asking the two young men how they feel first or just give the authorities an anonymous tip-off (although you may always be wondering if that was enough). Don't beat yourself up about it - 8 years ago it was usual practice to keep it "in house" - it's only since dateline that elders have been under more pressure to involve the secular authorities.
I'm with the Hamster.
I put your dilemma to a friend that works with victims of abuse and she said that for you to report the case to the police without the victims knowledge or consent could be potentially damaging to them. Given poor conviction rates the court experience can be traumatising and she feels the decision to report lies with the victims.
I disagree, and here's why.
If the victims were children when the report was made to elders, it should be reported to police, by law.
If victims are over 18 yoa when report is made to elders, the legal REQUIREMENT to report is moot, altho' anyone who chooses to report may do so without legal ramification.
When police investigate an abuse outcry, they consult existing records of past reports of abuse related to the named perpetrator. A report of past abuse can support probable cause for a search warrant, or basis for the detective or officer to take a subsequent outcry seriously, ESPECIALLY if the subsequent outcry is anonymous. REPORT!
If adult abuse survivors choose not to cooperate with an investigation, so be it.
Most states have strong protections from any liability or legal ramifications for those who report child abuse.
Confession asked for my advice; here it is.
Kimberlee D. Norris
attorney at law
My wife was a victim. This is the phrase that should be first on your list, in my opinion, "prior bad acts."
Allow me to explain: You certainly came to know of "prior bad acts" committed by this man. There is no question he is a repeat offender, in both instances he took advantage of a long-term trust relationship to engage in inappropriate behavior and counted on the trust relationship to prevent his discovery (one of the hardest kind to ever find out about without a witness breaking silence). Typically, escalation is expected in abuse of long-term trust relationships. In such case, the sexual thrill is in getting away with it (power trip), not in the act itself, unless he is also a pedophiliac in which case his behavior may be compulsive.
A report of "prior bad acts" may help an otherwise fruitless case to succeed if he should commit again and be caught, whether or not the statute has run out. My wife is struggling with the decision of whether or not to report her abuser for this same reason, the statute of limitations has long since run out.
Kimberlee, I promise I wasn't biting off your post. I was typing mine when yours hit. I'm suddenly thrown back to my Watchtower Study days, "Same Thought."