to be perfectly fair... I don't think the crime of child molestation is "unimportant" to them, and I also don't necessarily think most elders see it in the light of women and children being somehow less than. Any normal person (elders included) would be sickened to learn of accusations against one of their "brothers" (or sisters) in the hall.
BUT, they are untrained clergy. They are largely ignorant of the facts surrounding molestation, and they don't have the resources to deal with it properly. So when someone is accused, the only rulebook they have is the one governing fornication. And when they live in a clergy privilege state, and the WTS advises them to deal with it from within... and the accused denies everything, what can they do and still remain faithful to the WTS rulebook?
The shame that causes families to hide such acts makes similar waves in the elder body. The instinct is to protect from the shame of it, sweep it under the rug. Without such things as mandatory reporting, and encouragement from the WTS legal department to bring in the authorities, what choice do the elders feel they have? Sure, some elders are strong enough to pay attention to their inborn conscience, and instinctively do the right thing... but years of subservience to the WTS has taken the logic out of many of these men. Sad, really.
Of course that's not to say there aren't cover-ups, cause there are... and that's not to say that innocent people haven't been disciplined for trying to protect others even though they lack the requisite "two witnesses." We've seen that too. Even one is too much. And that's not to say that there aren't elders out there suppressing things for the sake of power and ego, under the guise of "not bringing reproach on Jehovah." We know that happens too.
It would be nice to think that the mishandling of child molestation charges in JWs is the rare situation. But the fact is, until the JW "elders" are trained in crisis management, social issues and psychology, as are most clergy (among other training) these mishandlings will occur over and over again. In most cases, they literally don't know what to do.
The abuse case that I've mentioned on here... was only slightly mishandled at the outset. It was reported to the authorities... I'm told immediately. I'm also told that no one they knew had EVER dealt with a case like it. (this was 12-14 years ago.) Yet, if they had paid attention, they would not have been caught unawares. At least in my congregation, there were many abuse survivors (not necessarily abused by JWs) and you'd think someone would have done some research. Granted, research was much harder then, as there wasn't much published on the matter outside of pop-psych self-help books, and serious (and inaccessible) med journals. But in recent years, the internet has rendered the situation such that there are no excuses for even untrained leaders to be ignorant of the facts surrounding sexual abuse.
As I said, the case I've mentioned was only slightly mishandled... AT THE OUTSET. It does continue to be grossly mishandled these many years later, because no one takes precautions against him offending again, and I think most would be truly surprised and shocked if he did. The majority of JWs take the long view that the molester, if strong in the "truth," can overcome his perversity. And barring that, anything he does will come to light and "Jehovah will take care of it." This, in its own way, is certainly protecting the abuser.