Please send this press release to all goverment officials, news papers and media organization
PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE
For Immediate Release January 23, 2001
More Sexual Abuse Suits Against Jehovah's Witnesses Will Follow, Predicts Ex-Church Elder
Denomination on "The Edge Of A Crisis," Says Long Time Witness
New Support Group for Molestation Victims Forms
A civil sexual abuse lawsuit filed yesterday in Washington State
against the Brooklyn, NY-based Jehovah's Witnesses’ organization is
"just the tip of the iceberg," according to the leader of a new
nationwide support group for church members who have been abused by
Jehovah’s Witness members and officials. Dozens more victims of abusive
church leaders may file similar suits, he predicts.
"Our denomination is now where the Catholic Church was 20 years ago-
right on the edge of a crisis," said William H. Bowen of Calvert City,
Kentucky. A former church elder in his local congregation and a
Jehovah's Witness for 43 years, Bowen now heads "silentlambs, inc" the
only national non-profit self-help group for men and women molested by
Jehovah's Witnesses. (www.silentlambs.org, 1-877-WTABUSE) He resigned
as Presiding Overseer last year and went public with the issue to push
the denomination's leaders to respond more sympathetically to abuse
victims and turn over alleged molesters to the criminal justice system.
"In just a few months, with a shoestring budget and a volunteer staff,
our group has been contacted by nearly 1000 Witnesses and former
Witnesses who have been raped or molested by church members," Bowen
claimed. The alleged victims range in age from 2 to 15, and are located
from Maine to California across the USA and several foreign countries.
Repressive and insular church policies, a rigid hierarchy and a strong
emphasis on obeying church authorities combine to "trap victims in a
cult of silence," Bowen believes. “Members of other faith groups who
are abused are more apt to speak up and consult attorneys or turn to
police,” he feels.
"Both formally and informally, Witnesses are taught to take all
matters, especially controversial matters, to church leaders, and to
avoid bringing shame on the church," said Barbara Anderson, another
leader in the silentlambs organization. Anderson served for 10 years at
“Bethel” the Brooklyn, New York headquarters of the denomination. Like
Bowen, she became disillusioned after being assigned as a researcher on
how church leaders handled abuse accusations.
But that "cult of silence" is slowly changing, she believes. "More and
more Witnesses are realizing that exposing sexual crimes is God's will.
They realize that getting rid of molesters is healthy for the church.."
Witnesses are "encouraged, even inspired by the example of victims in
Catholic and Protestant denominations who have sued their perpetrators
in recent years with increasing success,” she said.
"We find that the more conservative and controlling a church group is,
the harder it is for someone who has been victimized to come forward,"
said attorney Timothy Kosnoff of Bellevue Washington. Kosnoff has
handled multiple abuse claims against church personnel.
"That's why having a support group is so helpful, and that's why
getting the police or a therapist or any outside professional involved
is critical," he said.
While the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain extensive
internal files on accused molesters within the church, they refuse to
make public this information, and, in many cases, do not report the
crime. As a result, no solid figures exist on the number of Jehovah's
Witnesses who have been accused of sexual molestation.
"Whatever that number is, you can be sure it's going to start growing
quickly and dramatically, when victims discover the church can no
longer bully victims into silence," said Bowen.
The denomination has one million members in the United States and six
million around the world.
If you would like to receive more information on this topic, see lead attorneys:
Jeff Anderson 651-227-9990, 612-817-8665 ST Paul, MN.
Timothy Kosnoff 425-837-9692 Bellevue, WA.
Or contact William H. Bowen at: 270-527-5350 Fax: 270-527-5351 www.silentlambs.org