Shortly after rising this morning (Monday 20th November 2017), I checked the news on the BBC’s teletext service. In the UK (page 1010) the following had top billing…..
“Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘covered up’ abuse”
“Children who were sexually abused by Jehovah’s Witnesses were allegedly told by the organization not to report it.
Victims from across the UK told the BBC they were routinely abused and that the religion’s own rules protected perpetrators.
One child abuse lawyer believes there could be thousands of victims across the country who have not come forward.
The organization said it did not ‘shield’ abusers and any suggestion of a cover-up was ‘absolutely false’.”
I then turned to the BBC online news to find this more detailed account…..
I know that there are a few individual elders in the UK who are also professionals and who are registered with a professional body as legally required to continue practicing their profession. I have in mind, those who are health professionals. Without exception, there is a moral and ethical expectation that such a health professional will follow established guidelines in reporting any type of child abuse to the requisite department of the local authority – be it social services, or police. An elder who is such a health professional and who yields to the requirements of their esteemed eminences - the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses - to confine their reporting to the legal/service desk will likely be putting their professional registration in jeopardy in consequence. Yet, if such an elder lives up to his professional ethics / code of conduct and involves local authority departments, he will likely be deleted as an elder by the representatives of the Britain Branch of the WTBTS (aka The Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, aka the International Bible Students Association). Such an elder is thus in a “double-bind” (Bateson – 1956) or “loose loose” situation in that he will likely place his professional registration in jeopardy or his position as an elder in jeopardy. The latter scenario is now clearly established following the Britain Branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses having sent three of its sentinels to Eire resulting in two elders being deleted (including the CoBE). That they sent their own sentinels rather than issuing instructions to trusted individuals in Eire is highly significant and demonstrates no tolerance for elders who elect to follow their conscience.
It could be argued that more is now expected of health professionals than formerly in that the safeguarding provisions were, until recently, focused on children and vulnerable adults. Vulnerable has now been removed so that anyone who has been abused can benefit from safeguarding provisions – not just children or those hitherto regarded as vulnerable.
So what can you do?
You can just hope that you are never presented with a situation of abuse. However, you would be well advised to reflect on the response of the Britain Branch to elders in Eire who followed their conscience. Hardly Christlike! Not at all loving!
You could make a tactical withdrawal from the role of being an elder. Family pressures, personal problems perhaps? You will receive a visit if you withdraw from the role however (see your Shepherding the Flock text).
If you feel unable to withdraw, then you could consider obtaining 3rd party indemnity insurance. This will likely not protect you against your professional registration being jeopardised, but might provide you with protection if you are sued for not disclosing abuse to the local authority. This protection is not guaranteed however. You would need to check the provision of the indemnity insurance. Wilful, planned non-disclosure may not be insurable in which case your estate and your profession could be at risk and your only option may be to mitigate risk by withdrawing from the elder role as already mentioned. Inadvertent failure to disclose may be covered by insurance – again, it’s best to check.
Are you reaching out?
If you are, then bear in mind what deep risks you may be facing as a result of your required deference to their esteemed eminences - the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you are a health professional, or other professional which involves registration with an ethical/regulatory body in order to practice, then give reaching out a very wide berth!
Even if you are not a registered professional, your adhering to the requirements of the Governing Body as outlined above, could lead to you placing your estate in jeopardy should you fail to disclose child abuse to the local authority.
PS: More coverage of the "cover up" on BBCs main news.