I have a question for you. You are a therapist correct? What is your ethical and legal obligation if a patient of yours comes in and tells you that he has committed a crime, even a crime of child abuse?"
Thanks for your query. I would like to think you are genuinely interested in getting a fuller understanding of the reporting of sexual abuse - not so you can defend JW organization, but so you can comprehend why it has been severely criticised by the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into institutionalized responses to child sexual abuse.
Firstly, I am not a therapist. I am a registered clinical psychologist employed by a hospital.
Secondly, safety is the number one priority, both of clients and others with whom they are in contact.
Thirdly, all clients I see are informed at the beginning of first contact that confidentiality has certain limits and these revolve around safety. Clients disclose to me with full knowledge of what may happen as a result of their disclosures.
If a client discloses to me currently or having sexually abusing a child or children in the recent or distant past, I have a duty to ensure the client is not currently able to have access to children.
As the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry has noted so very clearly: We ought not conclude that the abuses that have come to light are the full story of abuse. Church leaders (priests, minister, elders) may claim they have done their bit by disciplining the offender - even using excommunication. But how does that protect children who are not in the church or religious group? It doesn't. That was the very line taken by the Australian Royal Commission against the Catholic Church and Jehovah's Witnesses: When those religions did act, they did not go far enough to ensure the safety of children outside their respective flocks.
Documentation could show the client has already been convicted of sexual abuse. With the available information I have on hand, I do NOT make decisions alone. I take it to my clinical leader, senior clinical psychologists and my team, which is called a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT). The Team then makes a decision regarding whether the client's disclosure reaches the threshold for reporting to relevant authorities. In some instances, the client and their support people are given the opportunity to report the disclosures themselves (if they have not yet been reported) - provided adequate proof of reporting is provided.
My answer will not cover all contingencies - but I hope it demonstrates to you how clinical psychologists respond to sexual abuse disclosures.