Jehovah's Witnesses accused of silencing victims of child abuse March 25 2018
Scores of alleged victims come forward and describe culture of cover-up in religious group in UK
More than 100 people have contacted the Guardian with allegations of child sexual abuse and other mistreatment in Jehovah’s Witness communities across the UK.
Former and current members, including 41 alleged victims of child sexual abuse, described a culture of cover-ups and lies, with senior members of the organisation, known as elders, discouraging victims from coming forward for fear of bringing “reproach on Jehovah” and being exiled from the congregation and their families.
A Guardian investigation also heard from 48 people who experienced other forms of abuse, including physical violence when they were children, and 35 who witnessed or heard about others who were victims of child grooming and abuse.
The stories told to the Guardian ranged from events decades ago to more recent, and many of those who came forward have now contacted the police.
They told the Guardian about:
- An organisation that polices itself and teaches members to avoid interaction with outside authorities.
- A rule set by the main governing body of the religion that means for child sexual abuse to be taken seriously there must be two witnesses to it.
- Alleged child sex abuse victims claiming they were forced to recount allegations in front of their abuser.
- Young girls who engage in sexual activity before marriage being forced to describe it in detail in front of male elders.
A solicitor representing some of the alleged victims said she believed there were thousands of complainants in the UK and that the people who have contacted the Guardian were “just the tip of the iceberg”.
One alleged victim, Rachel Evans, who has waived her right to anonymity, claimed there was a paedophile ring active in the 1970s, although details of the case cannot be divulged due to a current investigation.
“Within the Jehovah’s Witnesses there is an actual silencing and also a network where if someone went to the elders and said ‘there is a problem with this’ and they believe you, the whole thing will be dealt with in-house. But often these people are not dealt with, they are either moved to another congregation or told to keep their head down for a few years,” she said.
Another victim, who did not want to be named, said she was abused by a ministerial servant (someone with congregational responsibilities) in the organisation in the 1970s.
I can't believe this is still going on around the world after so many decades of it being news. Deplorable.
Welcome to the forum FrauBernadette feel free to share your experiences once you are comfortable being on this site .
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And here is the scanned copy from today's printed version: two-page spread; nice!
Plus here is the response from The Guardian online article today:
MPs demand action over Jehovah’s Witness abuse allegations
The Guardian (UK), Monday, March 26, 2018
MPs are demanding government action after more than 100 people contacted the Guardian with allegations of child sexual abuse and other mistreatment in Jehovah’s Witness communities in the UK.
“I am extremely concerned, but not surprised, by the allegations of child abuse within the Jehovah’s Witness movement. Whenever there is a closed society with an inherent power imbalance, the potential for abuse is there,” said the Labour MP Sarah Champion.
She said she would be raising the issue in parliament and demanding that the government take action to make sure all children were safe.
Alex Chalk, the Conservative MP for Cheltenham, said he planned to raise the issue in parliament, saying it was not just an historical issue but an ongoing child safety concern.
“My instinctive thoughts are that the sheer numbers and seriousness of the allegations coming forward is
concerning ... if even half the allegations coming to light are true then it’s clear that an entrenched culture of cover-up and flawed in-house investigations continues to this day,” Chalk said.
Champion said she was concerned that victims had to report their abuse to elders, without independent scrutiny.
She also expressed concern that abuse claims can only be taken before a committee for investigation if there were two witnesses to it. “Abuse happens in the shadows, so to ask for a second witness is ludicrous and effectively prevents reporting,” Champion said.
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