If you haven’t watched the 15-minute video above, you must. A very brave high school student stands in front of her class and talks about the importance of thinking for yourself so that you never become the victim of a controlling, abusive religion that threatens rape victims with shunning and that forbids children from speaking to their own mothers if they should disagree with that religion. Yes, she is talking about Jehovah’s Witnesses.
As of this writing, the YouTube video above has over 600,000 views, and it was even mentioned in a news story by The Independent in the UK (here). Her words and her actions are important to me for many, many reasons, as an ex-JW and as an activist.
Telling the Truth
Everything this girl says in her video is the truth, and unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg. She talks about a woman she knows who was raped while working for an insurance firm, and who needed to report this incident to the elders in her congregation. The elders chastised the woman for how she dressed and demanded she change her wardrobe and even quit her job in order to avoid being disfellowshipped (excommunicated) and subsequently shunned by everyone she knows.
Think seriously about this. The woman worked in an insurance firm of all places; she wasn’t working in an especially dangerous environment, yet the elders said that she needed to make changes in her life or be punished for the horrific crime of being the victim of a horrific crime. She brought it on herself by daring to leave her home in order to go to work in an office and for not draping herself with a bed sheet when in public, according to them. If she didn’t make the changes that they demanded and which had nothing to do with her rape, they would punish her with banishment from her entire family and circle of friends.
Many former elders who are active in the ex-JW community have come forward to note that this is not unusual for how they approach rape victims. There is no help or sympathy for them, but instead their entire approach is that the woman probably sinned herself, and she now needs to prove her case in order to avoid punishment. Pick apart her life and find something questionable or that you can criticize, is what they do.
There is no scripture that says that a rape victim needs to justify her career or wardrobe or otherwise prove to three untrained men that she was really raped by a complete stranger and didn’t somehow “consent” to the violation by working in an office alone or daring to flash a knee. Yet, that’s what JW elders do, as they’re instructed by their governing body (see this post).
It’s so important that this girl told the truth about this situation because far too often, Jehovah’s Witnesses accuse every ex-JW of being some rogue, angry, bitter person who is talking about some isolated incident of pedophilia, domestic violence, grilling of rape victims, and the like. Every time another person comes forward with a story like this, especially from an innocent and sincere young girl, it helps to get the real truth about this religion out to the general public. I would hope it also helps to open the eyes of some JWs as to what really goes on behind the closed doors of their own Kingdom Halls and the sick, twisted, practices that are not only hateful on their own, but which aren’t even supported by scripture.
As an Activist
As an activist against Jehovah’s Witnesses and other such high-control, abusive environments, I found it especially touching that this young girl did nothing but speak from the heart and tell the truth, and her speech was so important that even the media picked up on it. This is important because most activists are not trained public speakers or writers; there really is no school you can go to or degree you can get in activism, and not always a lot of guidance on how to go about it.
This girl shows that none of that is even needed, if you simply speak from the heart and tell the truth about your own story. She spoke with genuine, pure emotion, her voice often shaking and cracking as she related her stories, and as she concluded her speech and encouraged her fellow students to protect themselves from such influence and control. Her sincere, real nature is no doubt what caught the attention of so many, and what makes her a real, incredibly effective activist.
Even at Her Young Age…
One thing that really touched me about this posting was a comment left on YouTube, noting how someone at her young age could see the real truth about this religion and isn’t afraid to speak up about it. So maybe the adults could take a lesson from that? If a teenage girl, under the threat of being cut off and shunned from her religion, is brave enough to speak the truth about its hurtful, hateful policies, what excuse is left for the adults in that same religion?
It’s true that many rank-and-file Jehovah’s Witnesses are left in the dark about how elders grill rape victims and hide pedophiles in the congregation, but what about those elders themselves? What about those who do know that a child molester is sitting right there in the congregation, or that an elder routinely beats his wife and gets away with it because the other elders tell her to be “submissive” and “silent” and blame her for “provoking” her husband? What excuses are you left with as to why you continue to be a part of this religion, silently supporting its horrific and abusive policies rather than speaking up and warning others, or at the very least, leaving and protecting your own children and families? Every person that sits in the audience of the Kingdom Hall validates and enables those horrific policies, whereas every person that leaves is one less endorsement, one less person that can be added to their statistics, one less dollar in their contribution boxes that can be spent defending themselves in court when accused of hiding pedophiles.
If a teenage girl can understand and open her eyes to the obscenities of this religion and refuse to ignore the hurt and pain it causes, and then take a stand against it in front of her peers, what excuse is left for the adults? Good for this girl and what she did, and hopefully her example means as much to others as it did to me.
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