New court case in Australia
Man sues religious organisation for $2.4m over abuse.
Man sues religious organisation for $2.4m over abuse. A FORMER Toowoomba man has taken the Australian organisation that supports Jehovah's Witnesses congregations to court, alleging the charity "turned a blind eye" to sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his father.
The man, now in his late 30s, is suing the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia in the Toowoomba Supreme Court for damages worth more than $2.4 million.
The plaintiff, whose family were members of the North Toowoomba Jehovah Witness Congregation in the late '80s and '90s, alleges his father subjected him to repeated and systematic sexual abuse during his childhood years.
According to the statement of claim, the man said he was forced to masturbate his father in the shower four times a week from the age of nine until he was 16.
The statement also pointed out a congregation member who knew the family and even cared for the children was made aware of the abuse.
"On a number of occasions, the plaintiff during the time which the plaintiff and his sister were being cared for by (a congregation member), the plaintiff disclosed to (the congregation member) the abuse that he was suffering at the hands of his father," the claim said.
Shine Lawyers' Lisa Flynn, who is representing the man in the matter, alleged the abuse was known to the congregation but was never reported to police.
"The church had a responsibility to protect this young innocent boy but they chose to turn a blind eye, allowing our client to continually suffer at the hands of his own father," she told The Chronicle.
"What our client was made to do to his father at bath time on a regular basis could have and should have been stopped.
"As a terrified young boy, he reported the abuse to an elder of the congregation who didn't intervene.
"This disgusting bath time ritual was allowed to continue for many years."
Ms Flynn said the ongoing abuse left her client with severe psychological scars and hypo-arousal disorder, leading to drug and alcohol abuse, social isolation, impaired relationships and struggles with employment.
Church abuse compensation revealed
"Not a day has gone by that our client hasn't suffered because of the abuse he was subjected to while growing up in the family home," she said.
"At 39 years of age our client's mental health has been significantly impacted.
"Twice now we have asked the church to pay for some treatment for our client but they have not responded.
"The Jehovah Witness church needs to be held accountable and our client finally allowed to move forward with his life."
In its defence submitted this month, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia refuted or did not admit to a majority of the claims alleged by the plaintiff.
One of the denials centred around the organisation's culpability, arguing while it oversaw and provided guidance to congregations, it "is not and never was responsible for 'co-ordinating' all of the activities in those congregations".
"Each congregation is an unincorporated association made up of individuals who voluntarily choose to follow the Christian religious beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses as set out in the Bible," the submission read.
"The defendant did not 'establish' the North Toowoomba Congregation of Jehovah's Witness, since the defendant was not incorporated until July 29 1985."
The organisation also said the elder who was alleged to have been told about the abuse by the plaintiff denied he was aware of it.
"(The elder) says that if the plaintiff had disclosed such matters or if he was aware of any suggestion the plaintiff had been abused by his father, he would have take immediate and positive action," the submission said.
The defendant also questioned the damages amount, and called the plaintiff "an unreliable historian in respect of events which occurred during this period of time".
A sealed offer to settle was also presented to the court, which was the mandatory final offer that both parties exchanged to each other at the end of mediation.