Jehovah’s Witnesses’ child abuse report, published?

This 13 March 2015 ABC TV 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 Dutch NOS radio today:

Jehovah’s Abuse Report May Be Published, “Change Is Really Needed”

The leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses sees sexual abuse in their own circle as a limited number of incidents, which can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The organization demands that an “incorrect and unlawful” investigation report on child abuse, prepared by Utrecht University on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and Security, is not published.

The judge will rule on that request later at 4 p.m. If publication is permitted, then the report will probably be public shortly thereafter.

Reports of abuse by Jehovah’s Witnesses are to date preferably handled indoors, with elders – a kind of religious overseers – acting as policemen and judges in one. Victim and former Jehovah’s Witness Frank Huiting hopes the report will lead to a new policy. “A policy that finally puts the victim at the center. But unfortunately: the omens do not indicate that.”

Groninger Huiting was 15 when he told his mother what had happened to him between the ages of six and twelve. He slept badly, his grades at school were getting worse, he couldn’t help it anymore. Now he finally wanted to talk about that much older boy, the son of an elder, who, after studying the Bible, always took him to a locked room to ‘play school’.

Reporting was not an option according to the elders in his congregation. “The consequences would be huge, I was told. There would all be reports in the media about sexual abuse among the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Instead, the headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Emmen issued advice that he afterwards called “very harmful.” “There was a lot of focus on the perpetrator of the abuse. And not on me as a victim. A very nasty time.”

Frank had to talk to the man who had caused him so much damage. That dialogue mainly resulted in powerlessness; the perpetrator dismissed the issue as a relatively innocent experimentation by two sides. And the elders said there was no “proof” as long as there was no confession and no second witness. Frank was asked to forgive and forget.

It did not work. The abuse continued to haunt him in the following years. He met his wife, went to Delfzijl with her for a new start, but became depressed and sick. “I was so touched by my sense of justice. I simply couldn’t live with it. I realized: the healing that I need, it doesn’t work this way.”

“Isn’t that understandable?”

So he decided to fight within his community. When, in the end, that turned out to be ineffective, he felt that he could do nothing but get out. “Especially because I noticed that Jehovah’s Witnesses really had no idea how to deal with sexual abuse. The perpetrator did activities in which he was alone with small children. That is impossible to understand? All sorts of people were aware and yet things like this continue to happen. ”

He shared his experiences, anonymously at first, with Trouw daily. When that newspaper published its first stories, a stream of reactions came from others who turned out to have had similar experiences. Frank Huiting, who had since broken with the community, started the Reclaimed Voices Foundation with other ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is committed to “the right of every child to grow up safely”. Reclaimed Voices now has around 300 cases of sexual abuse.

“Extremely critical report”

The House of Representatives called for an extensive investigation into the broader problem of abuse within the community, which may now be published one and a half years later. It is an extremely critical report, according to the fierce reaction by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who saw the document earlier.

According to Huiting, that response does not bode well for the chance that the Witnesses will adjust their policies. Admittedly, according to a new directive, there is now scope for making a declaration, but in practice members of the community do not feel secure enough for it. “It is said: “If you go to the police, the consequences are for yourself.””

“Would you still feel safe to tell your story to the outside world? Remember: that outside world is by definition a danger anyway, it belongs to the devil. You are told that you must obey God over people. And ‘the people’, that is also the government.”

Yet Huiting continues to hope for change. That professional help is called in with a report. That prevention is done. That you can be open without being excluded from your complete social network.

“I personally celebrate the day that I made my story public as my personal liberation day. Because I no longer participate in this closedness, in the taboo. Freedom has become the most important value in my life.”

UPDATE: Judge has decided the report can be published.

1 thought on “Jehovah’s Witnesses’ child abuse report, published?

  1. Pingback: Women survivors of religious cults, new books | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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