When any one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is accused of an act of child abuse, the local congregation elders are expected to investigate. Two elders meet separately with the accused and the accuser to see what each says on the matter. If the accused denies the charge, the two elders may arrange for him and the victim to restate their position in each other’s presence, with elders also there. If during that meeting the accused still denies the charges and there are no others who can substantiate them, the elders cannot take action within the congregation at that time.
This is an absolutely horrible way to handle matters. The abuser will probably know that there are no second witnesses to the accounts and that he can bully the victim into recanting the story. We are supposed to feel better that elders are in the room. The problem is that they are untrained and often want to wrap up the whole thing and make it go away. But imagine some child finally able to say something, knowing there is not another witness to the acts and being told they have to repeat their story in front of their uncle/father/elder abuser.
While everyone deserves to be "innocent until proven guilty," experts could at least determine the victim's mindset and whether they are telling the truth, what kind of help they need. Elders just say "Well, there's no proof."
However, even if the elders cannot take congregational action, they are expected to report the allegation to the branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses in their country, if local privacy laws permit. In addition to making a report to the branch office, the elders may be required by law to report even uncorroborated or unsubstantiated allegations to the authorities. If so, the elders receive proper legal direction to ensure that they comply with the law. Additionally, the victim or anyone else who has knowledge of the allegation may wish to report the matter to the authorities, and it is his or her absolute right to do so.
Don't expect elders to stand by your side if you go on your own to report the matter to authorities. Don't expect elders to even come forward publicly if they are required to report the matter. A real "support" for the victim would be an encouragement to go to authorities and an offer to stand by the victim as they do so. If the law ties the elders' hands about taking sides, they would then be there as a support for the victim and simply can tell the authorities that they are not legally allowed to do more than be there for support. The victim would get the care they need from experts and the organization would be covered legally.
Our procedures have been refined over time. Over the years, as we have noted areas where our policies could be strengthened, we have followed through. We are continuing to refine them.....
....as these items reach the news and make us look bad.