Jehovah’s Witnesses Use a Parent’s Level of Participation in the Religion in Considering Accusations of Child Molestation

For those outside the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, JWs are required to report their “field service time,” or the number of hours they spend preaching and proselytizing, along with the number of books and magazines they leave with the general public and the number of bible studies they conduct. This report is made each month and is filled out on a slip that looks like this; an older version first and then today’s version:

service report

service report 2

The slip may not look like much, but it’s good for readers to understand the overall judgmental attitude and atmosphere that is created within congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, with much of it resting on the numbers on this slip. Those who put in more time preaching and who leave a greater number of magazines and other pieces of literature are often considered more “spiritual,” or a better example to others in the congregation. Potential elders and ministerial servants (like elders in training) are judged on their cumulative reports, as to whether or not they’re qualified to serve. It’s even encouraged that persons “pioneer,” or put in several times the national average of hours for one month or for an entire year at a time.

This judging according to your “time” was brought out by some other ex-JWs in this video:

One thing to take away from this video is that a person can be doing any number of good works, including caring for elderly ones and even working to provide for their families, but if they don’t meet a certain number of hours each month in the preaching work, they can be looked down on as being less “spiritual” than others. A person’s “spirituality” is also often determined by how much they participate in question-and-answer segments at meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, how strict they are with their entertainment and free time, whether or not they are modest with their money or are a bit flashy, and if the men give nice prayers when called on.

While this judgmental attitude is bad enough in any situation, it may also be used to determine if accusations of child rape and molestation actually follow a person when they change congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. How so?

First note that Jehovah’s Witnesses adhere to a “two witness” rule when it comes to accusations of child molestation. If a child cannot product a second witness or a second victim to this abuse and the accused doesn’t confess, elders “leave the matter in Jehovah’s hands” with no further action, despite any other evidence they may have and no matter the credibility of the child’s claims.¹ If the child victim doesn’t report this to the police, this can leave an accused molester in the congregation; before you assume that the family of a child rape victim would automatically call the police, what if the molester is the child’s own father or mother, or a sibling, and the parents don’t bring the matter to the authorities? It was also brought out during the Australian Royal Commission inquiry that elders have threatened victims with disfellowshipping (excommunication) and subsequent shunning if they were to bring in the authorities in these cases. In turn, an accused child molester is left alone, without a warning given to other parents.

If this process is not bad enough, note the instructions contained in the handbook used by Jehovah’s Witness elders, “Shepherd the Flock of God,” for when an accused molester moves to another congregation. These instructions are to help the elders determine if they should alert the new congregation to those accusations, or not:

Capture shepherd move

A person might note that, in some very rare cases, a child may be coached or coerced into making false allegations of sex abuse, often when a divorce is occurring. (See this website for more information on this subject.) However, these situations are very rare, and you’ll note that this isn’t mentioned in the information above. It doesn’t say anywhere, “Are the parents going through a divorce and do the accusations sound rehearsed or forced?” I would think that the possibility of such false accusations in these circumstances would also be a reason to leave the matter in the hands of the police, as they have trained professionals who can help pinpoint such false allegations, if any, by talking to the child apart from his or her parents and questioning the parents as well.

That point aside, note how Jehovah’s Witness elders, who have no training in psychology, criminology, behavior therapy, or any other related matter, are told to take into account the “reputation” of the parents, including whether or not they’re “spiritually mature,” in determining if child rape accusations should be forwarded when the accused person moves. This begs the question, What does that have to do with anything?

The number of hours put in by a parent when it comes to preaching on behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the number of Watchtower magazines they leave with the general public, the amount of participation they have in their meetings that are question-and-answer segments, and whether or not they read the bible and the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses every day all have nothing to do with whether or not a child was molested! A child’s credibility shouldn’t hinge on the “spiritual maturity” of their parents, as of course child molesters don’t choose their victims according to the spirituality of the parents. Parents can lack motivation in the religion, and their child could still have very well be telling the truth about being molested. What does one have to do with the other?

Imagine a child coming to the elders with a very real, very credible story of being molested by someone in the congregation, and then having that story dismissed or disbelieved, or knowing that people in a new congregation won’t be warned about your molester, simply because your parents don’t comment enough during the meetings. Now imagine the horrific injustice of seeing another child’s accusations being taken more seriously because that child’s mother comments at all the meetings and wears dowdier skirts than the first child’s mother. Consider the message this sends to a child; if your parents are not ambitious about the religion, you weren’t molested and are just lying, but if your mother pioneered three months ago, then you were molested and are telling the truth.

Consider how this would be viewed in any other setting; if a child accuses a teacher of molestation, would it make sense for the school board or police to note how often the parents of that child participate in parent-teacher days, or volunteer for the school, when evaluating that claim? he actions of the parents, especially some vague statements about their “spiritual” maturity, have absolutely nothing to do with the credibility of claims of child sexual molestation.

As said, Jehovah’s Witness elders have no training in psychology or criminology of any sort, which means they have no business evaluating any accusations of child molestation for credibility. They certainly have no business bringing the “spiritual maturity” of the parents into it! By somehow determining that the parents aren’t “spiritually mature” enough to believe otherwise credible claims of child molestation, they allow a molester to move between congregations with no warning to the new congregation about his or her alleged behavior. This also means that if another victim were to come forward in that second (or third, or fourth) congregation, someone they consider that needed “second witness” to the abuse, there would be no way of elders in the new congregation to know that they are indeed a second victim, a second witness, and that they could therefore act on their own requirements and procedures.

Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that they abhor child abuse and that they don’t give any special protection to child molesters. However, from this information alone it seems that they do anything and everything to cast doubt on stories of abuse, even evaluating the activities of the parents of the abuse victims in the religion. If having a parent who isn’t preaching enough or who isn’t commenting at every meeting is excuse enough for elders to ignore otherwise credible allegations of abuse and not even warn other elders of those allegations, how exactly are Jehovah’s Witnesses protecting children versus protecting that molester?

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¹”Shepherd the Flock of God” (2010) page 72, “If the accuser or the accused is unwilling to meet with the elders or if the accused continues to deny the accusation of a single witness and the wrongdoing is not established, the elders will leave matters in Jehovah’s hands.”

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8 replies »

  1. Hi Trapped Wife,

    You could also go to JW Recovery. It’s been helpful for me to. The people there are very understanding & have shared the same experiences.

  2. Hi ‘Alex’ I am an elder’s wife whose served in bethel for 5yrs. We were both asked to leave bethel because of my depression. I am stuck in this cult and need your help. I know that u don’t advise individuals to disassociate because of the tragic consequences which can be even more tragic for me and my emotional and mental issues. But here me out please, i am married to an elder, meaning I have a “family head” I have to “obey” by regulary going to meetings and field service with him.
    I nolonger believe in this cult so I am basically doing it for my husband. One day I brought up an issue on blood transfusions, I ended up being labelled an apostate by my hubby.

    Here is where my real problem lies, my husband is a very loving man he has treated me with love and respect in all the 8 years we have been married and I love him deeply, but recently he thinks I might be an apostate. He told me to go to meetings and regularly share in the religion ‘as long as I am in his house.’ That means I can’t just fade away like many people do, I am constantly reminded to go to the meetings, field service, comment and put in my monthly report. This is draining me as iv said I am very depressed and suicidal sometimes, I have attempted suicide 3 times in the past and have been on several medications.
    I hate those men in Brooklyn, I am a South African in South Africa. I desperately need your help. Life is not easy for me, he tells me to study more. I don’t see the need because ‘studying more’ means Watchtower publications only, I don’t believe what’s in their publications and at the same time I don’t want to lose my hubby.

    • Let me first say that if you’re feeling suicidal or depressed, you want to get good medical and psychological treatment right away. It can be good to be very honest with a therapist, not thinking you’ll “embarrass” the religion or your husband by simply speaking the truth, and then the therapist can give you very personal, practical advice. Please don’t delay in doing that.

      One thing I immediately notice in your comment is that you still refer to your husband as the family head whom you must obey. However, my question is, says who? The Watchtower, right? Jehovah’s Witnesses say that women must obey their husbands, even if it’s hurtful and harmful to them. Do you agree with this? You’re already seeing the cracks in the Watchtower’s teachings on blood and if you visit this site, you probably see the cracks in their practices regarding pedophilia and other very serious matters. Do you see the cracks in their teachings on the family and headship?

      I understand your dilemma, that having your husband comes with this horrible condition of also being part of the religion, and I know the difficult situation you’re in. What I might suggest is considering boundaries for yourself that you can currently manage and that won’t cost you your marriage. For example, you might go to meetings but tell your husband that you aren’t emotionally capable of commenting or being in the school. Maybe tell him that you can go in service but are feeling too overwhelmed and depressed to talk at the doors.

      You might also set some boundaries with your husband that are healthy and manageable for now. For example, if he questions you about your thinking or uses the word “apostate,” tell him that you are doing your best to please Jehovah and you need support right now for your hurt emotional state, not labels, accusations, or an inquiry like a gestapo. I use the term “breathing room” when someone is asking too many questions or trying to force someone to think a particular way.

      If you set these boundaries, you can take a step back from all the demands and get your husband accustomed to respecting your choices and your own thinking. You might then move those boundaries as you need, for instance, some months from now you might tell him that you will go to meetings but will not participate in the family study as you find them too overwhelming and discouraging, and feel like you’re being browbeaten and not loved.

      Remember too that whatever happens, you’re not the only one. If your husband were to leave you, it would be awful and heartbreaking but these stories are way too common because of this religion. There are also probably thousands of people just like you, just going through the motions so they don’t lose their families. It’s absolutely evil how they break up families and marriages, and your story is proof of this.

      • Hi Alex Its me again, I just read your reply and broke down because of appreciation. Thank you it means a lot to my fragile heart. To answer one of your questions, yes I definitely see the cracks in their teachings on the family and headship but I have this tremendous guilt as if I am ‘rebellious’ or something. But now I understand its because of the many years of indoctrination and abuse(by the religion itself).
        On monday the 4th I will make arrangements to see a therapist and will update u from then if thats ok with you. If its ok for me to update you on my improvements, should I do that under this article or under the latest article?

    • Hi Trapped,

      For some reason the site won’t let me reply to your second message below so I’ll post it here … I’m glad you’re going to see a counselor, and remember to be patient with yourself as you go through the process. You’ve been taught one way of thinking for years and years and it can make you feel guilty if you start thinking something else, but learn to examine those guilty feelings and why they’re there. We like to use the phrase, “Who put that thought in you?” The Watchtower is very good at making you feel guilty for just asking questions or thinking for yourself! But you’re not doing anything wrong by asking questions and seeing a religion logically and objectively. If you believe in god, you no doubt believe that he gave you a brain that is meant to think critically and objectively and to ask reasonable questions, and to expect respectful answers, right? So don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with negative feelings and guilt, but be patient with yourself. Remember that you’re not a child who is being rebellious, but a grownup, adult person who deserves to be heard and who deserves respect and consideration.

      If it’s better for you, you might go to the “About” page there at the top menu and use the contact form on that page. It will send a message directly to my email so you don’t need to post things here publicly. I’m glad to help in any way I can and would love to hear about your progress. I’ll be keeping good thoughts for you in the meantime.

  3. The “two witness” rule re sex abuse is nonsensical. There may not be a second J.W. witness, but there may well be a second, third or maybe fourth NON J.W. witness to the abuse. How would the Elders know? Does committing sexual abuse to a child not matter if the child has non J.W. parents?! The “two witness” rule facilitates child sexual abuse. The only decent, civilized action to take on hearing of ANY case of child abuse is to inform the police. End of story.

    • That’s a good point, what if the child is studying with someone in the Kingdom Hall on their own and their parents don’t even attend? I guess those children aren’t ever molested and are just liars, but children of good little pioneers and elders are to be taken seriously. The whole thing is shameful and disgusting.

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