This week, Angus Stewart, senior counsel for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia (see this post), released his initial findings and report regarding his questioning of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In it, he listed dozens of failings he saw in the religion when it comes to how they handle and respond to allegations of child sex abuse in the religion. You can view a PDF of the report here.
I will have many things to say about his initial findings as I have the time to pick them apart, but included in them were the fact that female victims were very uncomfortable in having to talk about sex abuse to a panel of all men, that they were told not to talk about their abuse out of respect for the abuser’s families, and were still required to attend bible studies conducted by, and in the presence of, their abusers. It was also stated that it was grossly inappropriate for elders to take an alleged abuser to the home of the victim and have the victim face the accused in that manner.
Mr. Stewart also asserts that the concern from the elders handling abuse accusations was for the reputation of the congregation, not the victim. At one point, he also states:
“The elders’ treatment of BCG was unsympathetic and unsupportive and left her feeling worthless and helpless.”
The list goes on from there, and none of it is good for Jehovah’s Witnesses. During the inquiry, the chairperson said that he had not seen an organization with as many problems in addressing allegations of abuse as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and it was obvious from the testimony of victims, elders, and even governing body member Geoffrey Jackson that these ones were left traumatized, abandoned, silenced, and feeling even more abused after reporting the molestation than they were before.
Of course Jehovah’s Witnesses, being a religion based on love and guided by holy spirit from god, being concerned with these poor small sheep in god’s congregation, wanting to make amends and protect even more children from being victimized, sprang into action at once. They wasted no time in showing those victims the “love and concern” that Mr. Jackson wanted to express for them during his testimony in the inquiry.
They did this by immediately, even before Mr. Stewart’s findings were released, sending out an urgent, heartfelt, sincere plea for assistance from … lawyers and accountants.
If you can’t quite make out this letter, the Watchtower Society is asking the elders in Australia to send them the names and other info of Witnesses who are “solicitors, barristers, certified practising accountants and chartered accountants.”
I’m guessing the Watchtower Society is preparing for the avalanche of lawsuits they’re about to face from the findings of the Royal Commission. The RC’s work has no doubt empowered many victims to think about coming forward in seeking some sort of recompense for their abuse, as they should. Chances are the Watchtower needs accountants to move their money around and barristers or lawyers to defend them from any liability.
What They Didn’t Call For
That point aside, what I find most distressing is that they did not put out a call for… oh I don’t know… counselors. Therapists. Psychologists. Doctors. Professionals who have experience in dealing with child abuse victims. Persons who could help them better frame their responses when children and adults come forward with allegations of sexual abuse and better assist these victims.
No, pardon my language, but the Watchtower wants to protect their ass and their assets, not their victims. It apparently doesn’t even occur to them that the real problem they need to face in the future is how the elders basically manhandle child sex abuse victims, and these untrained, unqualified, unsympathetic, often angry and misogynistic men have no business even speaking to these victims much less investigating their complaints. They also still don’t seem to grasp the failings of their practices and policies that demand a second witness to child sex abuse before an abuser is put out of the congregation, which allows such a person virtually unfettered access to children he or she may abuse, both inside the congregation and then also in their own family, neighborhood, and so on.
That isn’t the concern of the Watchtower at all. As I bring out in this post, Geoffrey Jackson may have said that he wanted to express his “love and concern” for the victims, but he couldn’t even be bothered to read their statements. The governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has had their own chance to express concern for pedophile victims, but referred to these accusations as “apostate driven lies.”
It seems as if they are once again failing to show any type of concern for the victims. They’re preparing their response to the damage this religion has caused child sex abuse victims, but with an army of lawyers to fight them in court and an army of accountants to hide any money they could use for therapy and other assistance. Their “love and concern” is for themselves, their money, and their reputation. I would say that their victims can apparently go to hell, but I know for a fact that many of them are already there.
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