Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jehovah's Witnesses sex abuse scandal: Church accused of cover-up toprotect rapists and paedophiles

Jehovah's Witnesses sex abuse scandal: Church accused of cover-up toprotect rapists and paedophiles

The Mirror | October 11, 2014

Elders accused of 'brainwashing' victims or threatening to have them shunned by their families and friends if they report abuse to the police.

Widespread child sex abuse and rape by church members has been covered up by Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is claimed.

Elders have been accused of brainwashing abused women and girls into not going to the police so the church can maintain its squeaky-clean image, reveals the Sunday People.

The Christian religion, known for its door-to-door preachers, is said not to have taken enough action against suspected paedophiles in its ranks.

But now two women who were sexually abused are filing papers with the High Court saying the church failed in its duty of protection.

Karen told the Sunday People: “Being abused is traumatic enough but being betrayed by the church – the very people you trust in life – is even worse. I felt isolated and alone.

“I grew up believing the church was powerful but it didn’t help me.

“My entire world and every thing I had felt about being a Jehovah’s Witness was blown apart. The only way I can describe it is utter devastation.”

One reason elders are said to take no effective action against suspected paedophiles is the church’s “two witness” rule.

Guidelines state elders are not authorised by the Scriptures to take action unless “there is a confession or there are two credible witnesses”. In many cases this would mean a second victim must come forward before anything is done.

An official letter from the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses addressed to All Bodies of Elders in 2012 also states suspected molesters may remain part of the church if they are repentant.

The letter, sent to British elders from head office in New York, also decrees not every child abuser is a predator.

It says: “A predator is one who clearly lacks self-control and by his actions provides reason to believe he will continue to prey on children.

“Not every individual who has sexually abused a child in the past is considered a predator.”

Ex Jehovah’s Witness Merice Marshall, from East Yorkshire, who works with those abused in the church, says she knows of at least 15 women who claim they were sexually attacked as children within the denomination’s 1,382 UK “kingdom halls” but are reluctant to report their experiences to police.

She said there are at least two more cases due to go to court.

She said: “Every week women tell me how they suffer flashbacks and nightmares. Many have dark thoughts of suicide because they’ve never dealt with it.”

She said saving the church from reproach is drilled into everyone from childhood: “When it comes to reporting a fellow witness to police, you are made to feel you are bringing scandal on the congregation. It doesn’t matter that the paedophile has brought shame.

“If the elders consider you have brought shame to Jehovah’s door you can be barred from the church and everyone you have ever known, including family and friends, will shun you.

“They will cross the road to avoid you. Your life as you knew it falls apart.”

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