In this post you can read the story of “Troy” and “Valerie,” as related in an Awake magazine, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. In their story, Valerie tells how she was beaten and pistol-whipped by Troy, and that one time he even held a knife to the throat of their son. Troy became even more violent when Valerie began studying the bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, she is commended for putting up with his abuse for many years, as Troy finally became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses himself.
In that same post, there is another experience that Jehovah’s Witnesses share in their literature, about “Selma,” who was chastised and lectured by the JW studying the bible with her because Selma wasn’t loving enough to the husband who was physically beating her. Selma decided to put up with her husband’s abuse and prayed that she could be more loving to him, and 17 years later he became a JW.
In this post you can read about two more examples, one of a man admitting that he acted “like a jerk” to his wife, and another of a man who continuously threatened and harassed his wife, and at one point left for three days with no communication or explanation, simply because she went to a JW religious service.
Interestingly, in all these stories above it doesn’t say that the abuse on the part of the husbands actually stopped after they became Jehovah’s Witnesses, at least not right away. Domestic violence was common in the organization as I bring out in this post, so who knows how long the families needed to continue enduring physical, emotional, and verbal abuse from their violent husbands and fathers, even after they became Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves.
While a few of those experience don’t mention children, Valerie specifically mentions having both a son and a daughter. The experiences all seem to have a big happy ending for the adults, but the potential effects on children when it comes to being raised in homes marked by domestic violence are worth considering.
To me, that is.
Not to Jehovah’s Witnesses, because not once will you ever see a mention in their literature about this violence when it comes to the children. In the stories related above, none of the parents mention how their children felt, or what they wanted, or their opinion about staying in a home with an abusive, violent man, or if they even remained Jehovah’s Witnesses as adults. These stories talk about the men becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses, but say nothing about how things turned out for the children.
You will also never see the literature published by Jehovah’s Witnesses telling women to take their children into consideration when they are being abused, and to think of leaving for the children’s sake. I know this, because I’ve looked. You will not find one article about domestic violence that tells women that they should be concerned for the health, safety, emotional well-being, or even the lives of their own children when in these abusive and violent situations.
Domestic Violence and Children
Some might immediately argue that domestic violence is a personal issue between a husband and a wife, and that it must typically happen behind closed doors, so that the children are not affected. These people are what I like to call “stupid.”
Any man (or woman, of course) who would abuse a grownup adult in their own home is not typically going to stop there; why would anyone think that a man who would hit, slap, beat with a belt, or otherwise torture an adult is not going to take their same violent rage out on a child? An abusive person is usually abusive to every helpless person around them, young and old. As mentioned, Valerie’s story above even says the father held a knife to the son’s throat; this is not an unusual type of behavior for a violent and abusive spouse.
That thought aside, no one needs to guess the effects of domestic violence on children. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services talks about these effects; children are typically antisocial, depressed, anxious, violent themselves, and experience long-term cognitive and developmental problems.
UNICEF published a report that said witnessing domestic violence can affect a child so much that it actually harms the physical development of their brain. They may have trouble learning and sleeping, and are at greater risk later in life for substance abuse, juvenile pregnancy, and criminal behavior. These are just a few of the effects of domestic violence on the children who are victims of abuse, or who simply witness it in the home.
Overstepping Their Bounds Yet Again
As noted above, Jehovah’s Witnesses encourage women to stay in abusive situations in the hopes that the husbands will respond to the wife’s submission, and be impressed enough to begin his own study with JWs. The wives in these situations may agree with this scenario, and may be willing to sacrifice their health and safety for this hoped outcome, but who is to say the children agree?
Many JW wives put on a big self-righteous smile and are happy to show the world how much they’re suffering for the sake of righteousness, but are the children willing to make this same sacrifice for the sake of the abusive husband? Do they even have a say in the matter?
I can’t imagine any other scenario where parents would seem heroic by keeping their children in situations that are outright life-threatening and permanently damaging, for the sake of someone who is abusing that child. “Johnny, I know the coach at school is beating you mercilessly, and once even held a knife to your throat, but I think if you keep going back to school and taking your abuse, he might one day be convinced that our religion is the right one, so off to school you go!” If there was a nanny who was beating and threatening a child or otherwise harming them, would the parent keep them on the payroll in the hopes that they could impress the nanny into joining their religion? A child might even be removed from the home in that type of scenario.
However, when it’s a parent who is being abusive and violent to the spouse in front of the children, or is abusing the children themselves, it’s somehow admirable and righteous for the parent to take that abuse, and to insist the child do the same.
As I bring out in this post, Jehovah’s Witnesses overstep their bounds in not reporting cases of pedophilia in the organization, because these are crimes committed against children who have no choice and no say in the matter. It shouldn’t be up to the adults to say that the children will suffer sexual assaults because of the religious convictions of their parents, and the same is true of children suffering any other form of abuse or violence. As an adult, if you want to remain in an abusive or violent situation for the sake of your religion, that’s your business, but once it begins to affect the children, it is no longer just your business.
As stated in that post mentioned above, only 37% of children raised as JWs remain JWs as adults, so 2 out of every 3 children in JW homes eventually leave the religion. That means that 2 out of every 3 children currently in JW homes don’t agree with their standards or decisions, even if they can’t voice those disagreements. Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses insist the children continue to be abused and live in abusive situations because of the religious beliefs and convictions of parents.
The effects of violence and abuse in the home can be permanent for children; the anxiety, panic, depression, and other emotional problems they face can stay with them for a lifetime. Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses care so little about those effects that they don’t even mention the children in their literature. They are apparently more than willing to risk the health and safety of the children for the sake of the abusive parent.
However, this shouldn’t be their decision to make. That’s not their life they’re risking in that abusive home; it’s the life and emotional well-being of the child. If anything, it should be an obligation on parents to get out of a violent home for the sake of their child’s safety.
Pawns in a Game
Jehovah’s Witnesses will claim that children are very precious and should be treated with love, but this information betrays those claims. Children are pawns in their war of attrition; they feel a sense of accomplishment for every one person who becomes one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but don’t talk about the sacrifices they force on others, even the most innocent among them, in that war.
The bible says at Luke 6:45 that, out of the heart’s abundance, the mouth speaks, but you don’t find children being spoken of in the literature produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, not in the context of violence and abuse. Article after article, experience after experience of the men, and how to win them despite their violence and abuse, but nothing about the children. That tells me how much those children are “in the hearts” of those who produce this literature.
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