Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:
Abuse by Jehovah’s Witnesses: ‘They treat us, the victims, as perpetrators‘
Thirty years ago, Hadassah Wiersma first filed a complaint against relatives for sexual abuse. Her uncle and aunt, who are members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses church, were never prosecuted because there was too little evidence. A few years later she tried again, but again without success.
Now Wiersma is more hopeful, because the Public Prosecutor is going to investigate nine cases of sexual violence within the denomination. Wiersma is one of those nine. “I was alone before, we now have a larger group around us, and as a group we hope to achieve the same goal that I wanted to achieve as a small individual thirty years ago”, says Wiersma.
Watch the story of Hadassah in the 16 August 2018 video below:
When Wiersma was 8 years old, she regularly had to sleep with her uncle and aunt in one bed. “Without clothes on, I’ve been through incest for almost ten years.”
But that was not the only thing. Wiersma’s uncle wanted to take pictures of her. “At that moment I was 13, so I thought: ‘nice, I’m going to be a photo model.’ And it started nicely too, my uncle gave me three pictures, but on those pictures you can see the nice clothed version.”
Because the photo shoot was on a hot summer day, her uncle told Wiersma to take off her clothes. “He said: ‘It’s hot, isn’t it, with all those lamps too.’ So the nice photos started to change into nude photos.”
Wiersma herself has never seen the nude photos. “He said that I was too young, when I would be old enough then he would show me them. The elders of the church and a former childhood friend did see the photos.” Later, Wiersma realized that these were pornographic photographs. “I was afraid for years that the photos would turn up somewhere, and I looked in kiosks to see if I saw my photos in books or magazines.”
Investigation into faith community
Although Wiersma is pleased that the Public Prosecution Service is now going to investigate the nine charges, she is also only moderately positive. “The investigation focuses on individual reports, which are therefore investigated and not the faith community of Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization.” Wiersma would have liked that differently. “After our individual investigations will have been completed, it is possible that an investigation into the church will take place, which will take a long time.”
In the previous two reports by Wiersma she asked the elders who saw her nude photos to testify. Both times they did not show up. “That is the way the Jehovah’s Witnesses deal with this: covering it up, not taking it seriously, treating us, the victims, more like perpetrators. I have even been excommunicated from the church, so they won’t have to worry about it anymore. That way, they give the perpetrators free rein to continue.”
Wiersma’s fear is that her nude photos are still around somewhere. “My uncle and aunt are still members of the denomination, so I want a thorough investigation into where those photos are now and I want them to be destroyed.” That’s just one reason why they can be charged. “It’s just child pornography what happened.”
Furthermore, Wiersma hopes that more victims will start reporting. “At the moment we have about 300 reports, but I’m sure that there will be a lot more. I hope they will get the strength to come out with their stories.” My perpetrators are still walking around free and other children should not become victims of it.”