Jehovah’s Witness Punished For Being Sexually Abused
Now, a woman in her 20s, Stacey* remembers being 17 and riding in the truck with her father. She felt like her father could protect her against anything. Therefore, she reached out to him and told him that a couple in their church had been sexually abusing her for months starting when she was 15. She worked with the couple cleaning foreclosed homes. However, instead of protecting her, her father and the church punished her for the abuse.
Jehovah’s Witness Sexual Abuse
Much like the Catholic Church, recent investigations have begun to uncover the depth and scope of child sexual abuse and the cover-up within the Jehovah’s Witness and Watchtower Society. Last year, the Jehovah’s Witnesses kept telling their Elders to keep child sexual abuse a secret from both law enforcement and their own congregations. Yet, the religion continued to collect detailed information on the sexual abusers.
A victim must produce another witness to the sexual abuse before an elder in the religion will investigate. If the elder dismisses the claim, then the congregation could shun the victim and turn him or her away from the church. However, action against the abuser only happens with a confession. Then, if he or she repents, the elder accepts the abuser back into the church.
Jehovah’s Witness: A Recipe For Child Abuse
Jehovah’s Witnesses created an insular culture. Congregants believe themselves to be separate from the rest of the world. Plus, elders control every aspect of their member’s lives. This includes not going to the authorities when a member reports sexual abuse.
Even if a congregant does go to law enforcement themselves, Jehovah’s Witnesses are reluctant to turn over notes and records of meetings with abuse victims. This makes investigations difficult if not impossible to complete. Then, the elders will repeatedly question church elders along with being punished in front of the entire congregation.
This is what happened to Stacey. After her father told the church elder of the abuse, they “reproofed” her. This means she had to stand in front of the congregation, and they shamed her. They told her she was sinning since she kept the secret of the abuse for two years and for being a victim. Since she was “reproofed”, the congregation shunned her. She could not speak unless spoken to. Plus, the elders forbid her from participating in church activities. They made her invisible.
The elders “disfellowshipped” the couple who abused Stacey. This is similar to excommunication in the Catholic faith. However, the couple could eventually come back to the church by mending their ways and showing spiritual growth. Like in many cases, the elders did not call law enforcement instead said informing them would bring reproach upon Jehovah’s name.
“They made me feel that it was being handled properly,” Stacey said. “My parents supported it. I assumed I was in good hands. I trusted my parents and the elders.”
Unfortunately, Stacey’s story has become common in the religion, and it is important to see help.
Survivors of sexual abuse can file civil suits against perpetrators and other responsible parties, regardless of the outcome or existence of a criminal prosecution. Civil lawsuits can help a survivor seek monetary damages. This compensation can never change the abuse suffered but can help rebuild a life.
When a religious organization takes advantage of you, this is wrong. We will hold these institutions liable.
Plus, a civil suit can deter future abuse. This is why it is important if you or a loved one was the victim of sexual abuse to contact The Michael Brady Lynch Firm. We will provide a free consultation and instruct of any avenues available to you for civil litigation.
*Stacey’s real name has been changed to protect her identity.