It has been reported that more than 100 people have spoken to the Guardian newspaper about allegations of child abuse in the Jehovah Witness church. Many fear that given the size of the organisation, there may be hundreds or even thousands more victims who have not yet come forward.
Those who spoke to the paper described an organisation that:
- encourages members to avoid outsiders and polices its own members
- has a rule that for child abuse to be taken seriously, there must be at least two witnesses to the event
- sexual abuse victims are sometimes forced to recount their ordeal in front of their abuser
- young girls who engaged in sexual activity before marriage were made to describe it in detail in front of male elders
Rachel Evans, one of the alleged victims, waived her right to anonymity and 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.
According to the Guardian, it has heard from 41 victims who claimed they had been sexually abused, who also stated there was a culture of cover-ups and lies and victims being discouraged from going to the police. A further 48 people said they had been the victim of physical violence and/or other forms of abuse and 35 claimed they witnessed or heard about others who were victims of child grooming and abuse.
Founder of abuse victim charity calls for witnesses
Peter Saunders, the founder of the abuse victim charity National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), has called for a “broad investigation” in the Jehovah Witness church.
He told the BBC: “Speaking personally and with my NAPAC hat on, we've had Jehovah's Witness survivors of abuse coming to us for some years so from a personal angle I would love to see such an investigation take place”.
"I know the inquiry (IICSA) is stretched looking at the two biggest established religious institutions, the Anglican and Catholic churches but I would just hope in the future there would be resources available to look at other institutions including the Jehovah's Witnesses because there certainly are serious questions that need answering about that institution".
He added: "At the beginning of the inquiry there were people saying it was too big, too broad”.
"Now three years down the line, we are all recognising it needed to be that broad, and subject to resources, now needs to be even broader".
MPs are also demanding action following the Guardian’s revelation of the 100 or so victims coming forward.
Labour MP Sarah Champion stated: “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”. Alex Chalk, the Conservative MP for Cheltenham, who plans to raise the issue in Parliament said:
“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”.
“I am completely horrified by the Jehovah’s Witnesses…”
Jason Munro, another alleged victim who has chosen to speak out publicly, said the Jehovah Witness Church “horrified” him, stating they know of the abuse he suffered but never gave him the support he needed. His case is currently being investigated.
The Charity Commission launched an investigation into the Manchester New Moston congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses 2013 on the grounds it did not deal adequately with allegations of child abuse made against one of its trustees. An inquiry into the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, the main governing body of the group, is still ongoing.
Claiming compensation for abuse in the Jehovah Witness Church
If you have suffered from sexual abuse within the Jehovah Witness Church, you may be entitled to claim compensation. The first step is to talk with an experienced personal injury solicitor who can advise and represent you. You can do this in parallel with any criminal proceedings concerning your case.
Sexual, emotional and physical abuse against children is unacceptable, wherever it takes place. Those who are responsible for failing to protect young people from exploitation should be made to compensate them, so they can access resources to address their symptoms and to enable them to move on with their lives.
At IBB, our personal injury team has the expertise and knowledge to advise and represent you if you wish to seek compensation for sexual abuse. To talk about how we might be able to help, please phone us on 0333 123 9099, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our contact form. Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence.