Just when I think I’ve heard it all when it comes to how Jehovah’s Witnesses have been handling accusations of child rape in their organization, another story comes out that turns my stomach and causes the rage to bubble over. This latest story is from the Barry congregation in the U.K., where elder Mark Sewell was convicted of a string of sexual crimes including rape (this site). In court, it was revealed that Sewell consistently used his position as an elder to force young women into lurid behavior, including giving them topless massages, rubbing his groin against them, and forcing them to kiss him. He also outright raped one woman who became pregnant with, and later miscarried, his child.
As the women finally came forward as adults, the other elders in the Barry congregation shredded documents about the abuse and did not speak to police about the incident.
Mentally and Emotionally Raped
During one part of Sewell’s trial, the victims recounted, not just their ordeals at the hands of this rapist, but also how they were further traumatized by the meetings they were forced to have with him and other elders. In the Jehovah’s Witness religion, if you make an accusation against someone of child rape, their procedure is that you must confront that person face-to-face with elders present, and the accused will have a chance to deny those charges.¹ This may sound good for some types of accusations, but when talking about child rape, obviously children and young adults should never be put in this position, and certainly not in a meeting overseen by religious elders rather than trained law enforcement agents!
At any of these such meetings with elders, the accused person can question the accuser without restraint, regardless of their age or the circumstances of the ordeal. This is done even knowing that, if the accuser does not have an eyewitness to this crime and the accused person does not confess, and there are no other accusations or second victim to the same type of abuse, the elders drop the matter, feeling they can do nothing further. You might already realize how this type of situation can turn into a traumatizing ordeal for children and teens talking about being raped and molested, having to sit and face their abuser or rapist in front of other adult men, and being forced to relive the event again and again.
Sewell’s case is especially horrendous, as one victim testified in court that during her meeting with Sewell and other elders, the elders forced her to tell them how far apart her legs were during her rape. They did this because Sewell wanted to claim that he could not have raped her in that position, and he attempted to actually demonstrate this with his own wife in the same position.
I don’t know that I need to make many comments about the obscenity of this type of questioning, as any sane and rational person can see that it’s nothing short of sick and disgusting. Asking a young woman to actually physically demonstrate her own rape in front of her rapist and other men is beyond comprehension! These men put this woman through this knowing full well that they would do nothing about her claim since she didn’t have a second witness to her attack and her attacker was not going to confess.
Please Show Me In the Bible
Jehovah’s Witnesses often hide behind their claim that they need to follow the bible’s instructions to speak to someone face-to-face when that person has “sinned” against you, but nowhere in the bible does it say that someone making an accusation should be grilled mercilessly by elders and forced to answer their questions or face sanctions themselves. Never does it say that the accused should be able to ask any question he or she wants, and that the accuser needs to answer them no matter their age, circumstances, or trauma caused to them.
Every story like this reinforces my personal beliefs that there is no “holy spirit” from god guiding these men in their supposed bible-based activities and responsibilities and, if there is, god is a terrible, horrible, nasty, obscene creature.
So … which is it?
I would put that question to Jehovah’s Witnesses directly; if you’re being guided by god, why would anyone worship a god that makes a rape victim demonstrate in front of a room full of men how she was positioned when raped, so that her rapist could argue with her, using his wife as a sexual prop? If you want to protect Jehovah’s reputation and say that this meeting wasn’t being directed by his magic holy spirit, then why would anyone follow you and assume you should be telling them how to worship, since you don’t have god’s holy spirit guiding you?
You can’t have it both ways; either the organization is led by perverted, disgusted, lewd old men, or you’re worshiping a god who is just as disgusting.
Pick one, and get back with me.
¹This procedure was changed in August, 2016. See this post.
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