Belgian Jehovah’s Witnesses sexual abuse scandal


This 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

Candace Conti: Former Jehovah’s Witness Takes on Church over Sex Abuse Allegations

Candace Conti says the church failed to protect her from a predatory pedophile, which Jehovah’s Witnesses has denied.

Translated from Belgian daily De Standaard, 3 April 2019:

Already seventy possible victims of abuse report to the Jehovah’s Witnesses hotline

The scandal of abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses first erupted abroad, but has also received attention in Belgium since last week’s Pano [TV show] report. There are seventy possible victims reporting to the “Reclaimed Voices Belgium” hotline.

Since two weeks, “Reclaimed Voices” has also a hotline in our country, and in the aftermath of the Pano broadcast it is receiving “disturbing messages”. “Almost a week after the broadcast, there are more than seventy people involved in sexual abuse or domestic and psychological violence”, according to a press release from Reclaimed Voices Belgium. All reports have so far come from Flanders.

According to the hotline, the victims also talk about the serious psychological damage that the exclusion by Jehovah’s Witnesses from the community entails. “In the conversations we have had so far with victims, the exclusion trauma appears to have a greater impact in certain cases than the abuse itself”, writes Reclaimed Voices Belgium.

Abroad, the scandal started earlier. In the Netherlands, the theme gained momentum in early 2018 after the establishment of the non-profit association “Reclaimed Voices”, which collects testimonies about sexual abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The hotline can always be reached via its website.

This 28 March 2019 video says about itself:

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ child sexual abuse scandal: state intelligence to home in on sects

Belgian justice minister Koen Geens … wants Jehovah’s Witnesses wishing to leave the organisation to receive help from the sects’ watchdog. The minister was speaking after VRT’s Pano programme revealed widespread sexual abuse of children among the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation.

Also from De Standaard, 29 March 2019 (translated):

‘Jehovah’s Witnesses protect criminals

As a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ elder, Kurt De Kerf from Sint-Niklaas town had to support a probable pedophile

“My dedication to Jehovah went very far”, says Kurt De Kerf (55) from Sint-Niklaas. “If my children needed shoes, then I usually didn’t buy them. I gave the money to the organization and believed that Jehovah would take care of the children’s shoes.”

On Wednesday evening, De Kerf testified anonymously in the Pano report on sexual abuse that is said to be covered up by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Today the father of two sons and installer of fire extinguishers choose to leave the anonymity. “Because I have nothing to hide, and because it is important that this finally comes into the open.” …

“Jehovah’s Witnesses have been protecting criminals for years. I know, because I have worked on it myself as an elder.”

No worse than drunkenness

Elders are male Witnesses who lead their congregational pastoral ministry. Kurt De Kerf, whose father and mother are also Jehovah’s Witnesses, took office in the 1980s when he was barely 25 years old. He also became a member of the internal legal committee. “Crimes are rarely reported to secular justice”, says De Kerf. “In the Legal Committee, elders themselves investigate and punish crimes, ranging from intoxication, corruption to adultery.”

In the mid-1990s, Kurt De Kerf, along with other elders, had to consider a case of child abuse. A teenage girl from the community said she was being harassed by her father. “I was very impressed”, says De Kerf. “I knew for myself that I had absolutely no ability to deal with such allegations. I worked professionally as a house painter, so I was not trained at all for situations like that. Just like the other elders aren’t. ”

According to De Kerf, elders have a kind of scenario with procedures to follow in such situations. “The first step was to contact the head office in Kraainem. There they asked me if I had informed the police. I hadn’t done that yet. “Keep it like that. We will discuss internally what the further steps will be”, they said.”

A few days later he was told that he should handle the case in the same way as any other, and not unlike, eg, a case of drunkenness. The father denied that he had abused his daughter. Because there were no other witnesses, we had to leave the matter to Jehovah. Although I was almost certain that the man was guilty, I followed that order.”

According to De Kerf, the man was later excluded, because he was said to also have been guilty of other facts. “Then, against the will of my organization, I advised that girl to go to the police. She did that, but two weeks later she withdrew her statement under pressure by her father.”

Kurt De Kerf then continued to chair other lawsuits. “One day I had to decide to exclude the girl from the community. To escape her father, she had started living together with her boyfriend and that was forbidden.”

He got remorse. Yet it took years before De Kerf decided to turn his back on the Witnesses. “I went through a very tough period. My oldest son went to live alone, because he felt being curtailed by Jehovah. My wife had a hard time with that and undertook a suicide attempt. I was able to save her in the nick of time. But because of our family problems, I had to resign as an elder. My wife was also not allowed to consult a psychologist who was not a Witness. Then I realized that I no longer wanted to be part of this type of organization.”

It was a very tough decision. “We literally ended up in a black hole. I remember how I went to the fair with my youngest son for the very first time. I felt guilty for days. It took me years to build a life without Jehovah.”

This 28 March 2019 Dutch language Belgian Pano TV video shows Mr De Kerf speaking on Belgian Jehovah’s Witnesses sexual abuse.

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3 thoughts on “Belgian Jehovah’s Witnesses sexual abuse scandal

  1. Pingback: Abuse been kept silent by Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation | Belgian Biblestudents - Belgische Bijbelstudenten

  2. Reblogged this on Belgian Biblestudents – Belgische Bijbelstudenten and commented:
    It is a shame the JW are still considered by many a sect. The documentary of Pano at VRT Canvas and the days around it on ‘Terzake’ and ‘De Afspraak’ (both programs of the Flemish state television VRT channel Canvas) tried to bring the religious organisation in the picture with something which can not be allowed in any group (be it religious, sportive or artistic).

    Good for the elder who dared to come out of anonymity in the hope this abuse which could also be found in other religious groups (be them Catholic and/or protestant) would be uncovered and stopped.

    Like

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