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Jehovah’s Witnesses Counsel Sexual Harassment Victims About Their “Moral Standards”

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. Jehovah’s Witnesses 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:

Capture888

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?

Sexual Harassment at work

How dare you compromise your moral standards by simply existing and then being the victim of harassment?

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 the victim’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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4 replies »

  1. On the one hand JW/Watchtower teaches JW women that if they don’t scream, struggle and outright fight their rapists to the utmost of their ability, they are consenting fornicators, rank sinners and that no rape occurred.
    Yet JW/Watchtower teaches that a “Christian” (JW: non-JWs since the founding of the Dawn Bible Students aren’t Christians) must not resist evildoers, if struck must not defend themselves.
    JW sisters, until your rapists are actually beginning to penetrate, you can’t be sure that they intend to rape you, so don’t resist! They may just be robbers stealing your panties and bras. But once all 215# of him is on top of you and has begun to penetrate (vagina only; all other is sodomy), if you don’t instantly explode into blood-curdling screaming violent resistance, you’re consenting fornicators, not rape victims, and you will be hiunded out of the Kingdom Hall and your family will be commanded to shun you.

  2. 12 Ep′a·phras,+ a slave of Christ Jesus who is from among you, sends you his greetings. He is always exerting himself in your behalf in his prayers, so that you may finally stand complete and with firm conviction in all the will of God. NWT (Can see how they slanted it differently by using a different translation)

  3. It is not too unusual for conservative religions to have a distorted and dangerous view of sexuality. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are but one of the religions that treat women as little more than property and do not fully include them into religious life except in narrowly defined roles. The poison comes from biblical exhortations that women should be silent in church and not teach men on ecclesiastical matters. We know today that this is bullshit. Our common social values rooted in the enlightenment and developed through the anti-slavery movement, universal suffrage, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, the sexual revolution and the LGBT rights movement. We have moved way past the draconian ideas about women’s roles and sexuality in our mostly secular understanding of public morality. Shame that groups that claim the ultimate power from god and the moral high ground be utterly powerless and exhibit poorer morals than others.

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