I have to say, I joined specifically to comment on this. I know that reading through many of the posts on this site and others that there are people legitimately upset over events that personally happened to them or that they are aware of directly or indirectly.
I was involved in 2 child abuse cases. One was many years ago (early 19990's) when very few inside the organization and outside the organization knew how to deal with a report like that. Let's be honest, in the 1980's and 1990's, Teachers, Ministers, and other responsible adults did not know how to handle a report of child abuse, and right or wrong, many people who grew up in my time frame considered some of this stuff as "playing doctor" - especially if both kids were minors. In the old days, if you caught a 8 to 14 year old boy looking at a girls privates, you beat the snot out of him and told him never to do that again. So it shouldn't be a surprise that at the time, many adults (including the aforementioned teachers, elders, etc.) did not know how to handle a situation like that.
However, in the first instance, once it came to my attention that a young teenager (15 or 16) molested (no sexual penetration, he looked at her genitals) a 4 year old girl, I immediately got as many facts as possible, but with the little training i had at the time, and some research I did on my own, I wound up calling the police to report the crime. I encouraged the parents of the teenage boy to turn himself in and did my best to comfort the parents of the molested girl. The teenage boy wound up going to jail until he was 18 and then had to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
By the time the 2nd case came up, elders received a whole lot more training on this (as did most other adults who dealt with children). In the 2nd case, the girl was much older, she was nearing adulthood (16 or 17) and basically she let a local teenager who was over 18 have sex with her. Once it came to our (or my) attention, I followed the newest instructions at the time and called the branch. The branch in turn asked me several questions such as how long had I known about it, some of the details such as the ages of both involved, etc. Then they told me that immediately following this phone call, I was to call the police to report the crime. I was also told to take extensive notes during this conversation and to follow the instructions of the police officer to the letter. They stressed, that in my locale, I lost precious time as there's a time limit to reporting these events in order for me to avoid committing a crime. I had found out on a Sunday around noon, and it was Monday morning when I called. The clock started when I found out, so I lost about 20 hours due to calling the next morning.
I called the police, told them what happened, gathered as much information as possible and made sure to follow their instructions exactly. In this particular instance, since the girl was approaching adulthood and the alleged molester was 18, it required her parents to call the police and file charges and that I was relieved of the responsibility. (which I happily noted). But it meant we had to meet with the parents, and instruct them that it was their responsibility to call the police and file charges.
Why do I write this (other than it makes me feel better to type it out)? Because at no time did I have to ask for 2 witnesses. In the newer instructions (i haven't been an elder for a few years now - so my instructions are about 3 years old). elders were instructed to do the following:
1. regardless of the 2 witness rule, elders are to immediately protect the child and make sure the child is not harmed in any way. Protecting the child from any current or future harm is the most important thing. even if that means getting the child out of the house until all this is settled.
2. Call the branch to get the latest instructions. Laws change all the time in this regard so they want the elders to be up to date on their particular locations laws.
3. call the police and follow the reporting laws, which do not require 2 witnesses, etc.
All of the above should happen within the first few hours of becoming aware that molestation either might have occurred or actually occurred.
4. Then you can meet with the alleged offender. Now the 2 witness rule comes into affect. If there's not 2 witnesses, it might be difficult to disfellowship the abuser, but that doesn't mean he can't go to jail.
4 a. a little more on the 2 witness rule. Both the victim and the perpetrator can serve as a witness, even if the witness is a child.
4 b. Evidence such as the perpetrator staying overnight alone with the victim, or perhaps the parents recognizing inappropriate behavior like all of a sudden there's a lot of hugs and tickling etc. can also serve as a witness.
4 c. Evidence can be the verbal admission of the perpetrator. So let's say that the perpetrator admits to one person that yes, he did somehow molest the child, the child states it, but then during the elder's meeting the abuser denies it. The admission to one person, plus the statement of the child is enough to satisfy the 2 witness rule. The 2 witness rule can also be satisfied if there are 2 victims to the abuse, even if the victims were abused separately or on different occasions. Its still the same "crime".
4 d. This 2 witness rule is for internal judicial matters involving disfellowshipping or reproof - not for legal matters. So its possible that the abuser could admit it, confess that yes, he did abuse the child, but is tremendously sorry for it, and is genuinely repentant. As a result, he does not get disfellowhipped, just reproved, but that also means he'll most likely have to go to jail.
5. In the event that for some reason, the elders cannot come up with enough evidence to disfellowship the abuser, but the child (or the parents) is absolutely sure he or she was abused, there's another option. The elders can go individually to each parent in the congregation privately and tell them individually to make sure their children are not left alone with the alleged abuser. They would simply say that the parents should be very cautious with letting so and so associate with their children. This could lead to the abuser claiming some type of slander or libel against him, but doing so privately reduces the likelihood. But its still a possibility.
Now I know saying this, some will want to argue or put me down, that's ok. I just wanted to stick my head up out of the hole and mention this. I'm not currently serving in any capacity, I just go to meetings, but I also know that its easy to get caught up in a blanket statement such as the one above that says the 2 witness rule protects the abuser, but there are also ways to work around it and that it only pertains to disfellowhipping. The elders are still trained to call the branch, then call the police, regardless of how many witnesses there are to the abuse.
If by some chance, there are elders who blatantly say that the police shouldn't be called (and I'm talking about the last 10 years or so, not 30 years ago). then they are clearly NOT following the most up to date instructions and could be held liable for not calling the police, and if the branch finds out, those elders will most likely lose their privileges. The modern day branch instructions (the last 10 to 20 years) are clear, the police are notified, regardless of what the victim, the parents, or the abuser might say about it.
The last comment I'll make is the toughest. What if the alleged abuser really is innocent? There are rare occasions when the victim made up the story for whatever reason. 1. Those are very rare instances, few children make up stuff like that. 2. While it sucks to be the alleged abuser in an instance like that and I hope I'm never in that situation. following the most up to date instructions does protect the child until all the facts are found out. There's no perfect solution to this type of situation. Anyone can be wrongly accused and if they find themselves in a situation where they're alone with a child and that's when they say the abuse occurred, its their word against the child's and most places (and modern elders) should take the word of the child until its all figured out. Think about a school teacher who keeps a child after class, then the teacher is accused of abusing that child. Sad, I'm sure its happened, but in the end, its about protecting the children.
The other thing, once a person is determined to be a child molester (even if they never get disfellowshipped for it), they can NEVER serve in any capacity at the Kingdom Hall. About all they can do privilege wise is help clean the hall and go out in service with other adults.
I know not everyone will agree with me, but the fact is, there are many honest men serving as elders who care about children and doing the right thing for them and are not interested in simply protecting their fellow elder or their own position. Just as there are "worldly" people who are upright and honestly care enough to protect children from abusive situations, there are many fine elders who feel the same way. While it does happen, child abuse in the JW's is very rare. it is in no way as rampant or covered over as it was in the Catholic church a few years ago. Once abuse is claimed in the JW organization, its very difficult and most likely impossible for that brother to ever serve in any capacity again.