A pattern I’ve noticed when it comes to Jehovah’s Witnesses and the subject of sexual violence is that they don’t seem to understand what it means to be the victim of this type of crime. As I’ve brought out in the Rape category, Jehovah’s Witnesses threaten rape victims with excommunication if they don’t scream and resist enough during an attack to satisfy a judicial committee, meaning three elders who review the woman’s experience in minute detail. They have said that without screaming and fighting against her rapist, even if he brandished a weapon, a rape victim “would be viewed as consenting to the violation.”
I’ve also brought out how they once referred to a man fondling his stepdaughter’s breasts while she slept as a “minor uncleanness” (see this post) rather than seeing it as a horrific and obscene crime committed against a child, and seemed to imply that the worst thing to happen to a child who is sexually abused is that he or she might grow up to be gay (see this post). Again, they don’t get the concept of what it means to be a victim in these types of cases and fail to adequately address the responsibility of the person committing these crimes.
Sexual Harassment Advice for Teens
This shameful failing of theirs was repeated in a section on their official website, JW.org, meant for teens and young adults. The subject was sexual harassment, and you can see their words in the screen capture below:
In all fairness, their initial advice about being direct and firm with someone sexually harassing you is commendable. However, note the last line, which talks about “maintaining high moral standards.” Let me ask, what do moral standards have to do with the victim of sexual harassment and his or her response?
They’re Not Asking for a Date
This is what Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t seem to grasp; someone who victimizes another person with unwanted sexual behavior of any sort is not asking for a date, but they are inflicting or forcing themselves upon this person without their consent or permission. The moral standards of the victim here have nothing to do with someone else’s crass and obscene behavior, or the victim’s response. This entire implication is that, if you don’t handle sexual harassment the “right way” or do what they instruct, then your morals are in question or you’ve even brought it on yourself. This is like calling into question the driving skills of someone who has been hit by a drunk driver. The person hit was minding the rules of the road, they weren’t hammered and behind the wheel, they didn’t hit anyone, so why counsel them?
This information also betrays their serious lack of understanding of what it means to be a target of unwanted sexual behavior in any form. When a person is sexually harassed at work or school, they’re subject to a form of bullying that may include disgusting comments about their body or about what the person wants to do to them, touching, grabbing, obscene gestures and body language, and constant ridicule. In many cases this type of harassment can come with threats; a coworker may threaten to lie about the person to their boss, or the boss may threaten the person’s job if they don’t give in to unwanted advances. (Yes, threatening your job in exchange for sexual favors is illegal in America and other places, but if you think it doesn’t still happen, you’re incredibly naive.)
The harasser may also threaten to lie about them to friends and family via social media, or may just go through with their lies, telling other people that they’ve already had sex or that their victim is sexually promiscuous. Harassment can also escalate to downright disturbing behavior; a person may find sex toys on their desk at work or pornography planted in their belongings. A harasser may even begin stalking their target after hours. None of this behavior should be confused with someone who is just being persistent in asking someone out for a date!
The Difficulty of Responding
As said, I give credit to the writers of this information for the advice they give on how to respond to sexual harassment, however, by bringing up the subject of one’s “moral standards,” they seem to dismiss the difficulty of formulating a response in these types of cases. When being sexually harassed, a person can feel, not only threatened, but isolated. The harasser may have friends at work or school who support them in their behavior, and the victim may feel as if they’re being “ganged up on,” with little recourse.
A child at school especially may feel that they have no one to help; it’s easy to think they can just talk to a teacher, but how many stories have been reported about bullying and harassment at school that is outright ignored by teachers? A child especially may be afraid of retaliation; if they “tell on” the person harassing them, what if that person or his friends physically assault them after school or in the locker rooms?
These same things can also happen at work for adults, as not all companies have a Human Resources department that supports employees, and harassment claims can be difficult to prove in court. This may leave the victim with few options except to find another job, which can be difficult if not impossible for many people.
It’s also good to remember that many people hate confrontation of any sort. Not to be sexist, but it can be especially difficult for women to be firm with a harasser, as they are often taught to be “soft and sweet,” and especially for Jehovah’s Witness women who are taught to be submissive and silent before men. It can be even more difficult for anyone when the harasser is a person in a position of authority or has friends who support them or laugh at the victim in question; confronting your boss or manager or the captain of the football team when he’s standing with all his football player friends can be an impossibility!
Counsel About Their Moral Standards
Despite all these facts, the writers of this material seem to imply that if you don’t just stand up to your harasser, then you’re somehow flirting with him or her, or enjoying the experience. You’ve become complicit or a willing participant in these scenarios, much like how they say a rape victim may be “consenting to the violation.” (See the Rape category for more information.) Either you do exactly what they say, no matter the repercussions and no matter how overwhelming the scenario or frightened you are, or you’ve consented to their behavior and compromised your own morals. It becomes the responsibility of the victim to stop the other person’s behavior, and if they don’t or can’t, then obviously they enjoy it, give the person permission to continue, and have lowered themselves to that person’s standards. Their implication is that you’re actually tempted to give in to a person’s lewd and disgusting advances! All of this, just by being an innocent victim.
For Jehovah’s Witnesses to somehow confuse being victimized with being romanced or courted is inexcusable. A victim in this matter is overwhelmed, frightened, humiliated, and trapped; they’re not compromising their “moral standards” by any of these feelings, or because of how they handle or can’t handle such a horrific situation. They’re not flirting, giving anyone permission to harass them, or compromising themselves in any way. They’re not just contemplating an offer for a date, and they don’t need to be made to feel bad by going through this horrific experience, especially not teens, the intended audience of the above counsel.
Yet again we’re back to the point that Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot be called a religion based on love of others, if this is how they speak to a victim of sexual harassment. They have no idea what these ones go through and show no empathy for them by counseling them about their moral standards. This is an obscene statement that should never be part of advice on how to handle such a situation, and yet another reason why I cannot believe that this religion is guided by any type of holy spirit from god.
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