Former members coming forward with their experiences
As reported by the BBC and other outlets, former Jehovah’s Witnesses have come forward saying that religious leaders strongly recommended that sex abuse victims remain silent in order to protect the reputation of the organization. In one instance, for example, a young congregant who was raped by her brother was told by church elders to avoid making it public to avoid bringing shame on Jehovah.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently involved in a court case in California, in which a victim alleged the organization failed to warn congregants that there was a child sex abuser who was a part of the congregation.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, best known for going door-to-door to promote their faith, call congregation leaders elders. The lawsuit alleges that one such elder was a known child molester, but that the church failed to warn congregants of the danger he posed to children. In fact, the lawsuit claims, the church gave this elder increased responsibilities within the church.
Church leaders must put children first
Jehovah’s Witnesses, according to former members, have a policy of “self-policing” behavior among congregants. In order to act on reported instances of sexual abuse, it must be corroborated by two other people. The problem with this policy, of course, is that it is highly unusual for two other people to be aware of sexual abuse. The result of this misinformed and misguided policy is that abused children are not adequately protected.
It is likely that more information will become available. A number of victims throughout the U.K. and U.S. are taking the courageous step of coming forward about their experiences.