During the first day of the Australian Royal Commission Inquiry into Jehovah’s Witnesses, victim “BCB” spoke very bravely of her sexual abuse at the hands of a local elder, Bill Neill. Click this PDF of the Transcript-(Day-147) of the Inquiry, or you can visit the ARC website here, to read her entire testimony; Barrister Stewart’s summary of her story begins on page 15147.
Recently, “BCB” contacted me through this website and wanted to share more of her story and viewpoint. This is a very powerful statement of how such abuse can so easily happen in the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, one that I hope all readers will share:
If you have never been a victim of child sexual abuse then of course you wouldn’t understand how difficult it is to talk about what is happening to you. Long before the abuse starts the perpetrator begins their grooming campaign. For example, the following circumstances were in place to enable an Elder to abuse me:
First, become an Elder in a religion where young children are taught from birth that it is God’s chosen religion, that God has a personal name of Jehovah whom everyone is encouraged to have a personal relationship with, and that the teachings of the religion are referred to by everyone as “the Truth”. Teach them that the Elders are chosen by Jehovah God’s Holy Spirit and must be deferred to in all matters of spirituality and morality. Find a suitable child whose father is not a Jehovah’s Witness and whose mother has taught to be obedient to adults and especially Elders. The child must be shy, quiet and extremely vulnerable, not used to receiving much attention or affection. It is a bonus if you are appointed as Elder in a remote rural location and the child lives on an isolated farm. Encourage your own child to be friends with her and invite her to stay at your house. Have book study meetings at your own house on Friday nights so the child can stay over the weekend so she can go to the Sunday meetings with your family.
When the girl is staying with your family, discredit and disparage her parents and other friends in order to estrange her relationships with others to minimise the chance of her trusting and confiding in them. You will have already established a routine of kissing your own children on the lips when saying goodnight to them, so treat the girl like one of your kids and kiss her on the lips also, but don’t act like it’s unusual. Keep doing this whenever she stays with your family.
Wait until the girl (or teenager by now) is involved in a situation where she tells a lie. Ask her to meet you in the Library at the Kingdom Hall for a private meeting (you may need to get your own child to tell her to do this). At the private meeting (which the parents have no idea about) manipulate the girl into confessing the truth about the bad thing that happened. After things are sorted out and the dust settles down, the girl will be feeling guilty for lying.
The next time you kiss her goodnight (in a dark corner) stick your tongue in her mouth. When she looks at you in shock, look back with a knowing smirk so that she sort of smiles back. Now you know you’ve trapped your prey. She freezes like a deer in the headlights and wonders what to do. You take off but she is left feeling completely trapped and frightened. Who can she tell? Who would believe her? What would she say? What would happen to her if she did? What would happen to her friend/ Her friend’s Mum? She is completely stunned and traumatised and says nothing. She is now your slave.
To keep her trapped, make sure your kids keep begging her to stay over. Take notice of when she is alone in the shower and unlock the door quietly so you can stand on the basin and perve at her over the shower wall. When she screams, quickly run out. Make sure no one is around to hear her scream or questions will be asked. Keep up the tongue kissing but don’t talk about it. When your conscience starts to bother you, make sure you tell yourself that because she hasn’t told anyone that means she asked for it.
If you are out in the Lord’s preaching work doing return visits, wait til your wife & kids are out of the car and you are alone with the girl. Ask her a question like “What are we going to do about our little problem?” When she says uncertainly “I don’t know,” make sure you frighten her into silence by saying “Would you like me to tell Brother Presiding Overseer? You know, if I do then he’ll need to tell your Mum & Dad.” This will scare her so she’ll say “No.” Now she believes for sure that she is accountable, so that will keep her quiet for fear of what her parents will think of her. It will also make her feel disgusted with herself and devalue her sense of self-worth. But the most important thing is that she won’t tell anyone.
At no stage will the girl ever consider that a crime is being committed against her. Even if she did, you have made sure that the religion teaches its followers not to trust the authorities and their worldly wisdom for fear of being influenced by the advice of worldly experts that may disagree with Bible (Watchtower) principles. They are taught that if you have an issue with someone to go to the Elders, but what if it’s an Elder that you have an issue with? What if you can’t even put into words what the issue is? They are taught to pray for those taking the lead, and that you shouldn’t take your brother to court for fear of bringing reproach on Jehovah’s name. They are also advised strongly against higher education, so you’ve made sure your victim is frightened of going to Uni or College, so there’s less chance she’ll learn to use critical thinking or find out about her personal rights.
As the girl gets older she may start to resist, so make sure that you use enough force and threats to continue to keep her compliant. Shove her against the wall and yell at her to kiss you back and make her strip to her underwear so that she feels frightened and humiliated. To counterbalance the effect of this action on your conscience, make sure you compliment and praise her in front of the family. To keep her feeling accountable, joke about her being a nymphomaniac and encourage seductive behaviour, while also discussing sex openly as often as possible in front of the family.
At the perfect moment when you notice she’s in the shower alone, seize the opportunity to quietly unlock the bathroom door from the outside (using a knife if necessary) and quickly enter the room while she’s naked and trap her inside by blocking the exit. She smiles at you, but it’s a “please don’t hurt me” expression, not a “I’m happy to see you” look. You have total control to command her to do what you want. You molest her and tell yourself you’re doing her a favour, and who knows what else you would have done if your young son hadn’t tried to open the door.
The next day when the girl is lying in bed feeling sick with fear and shame, you wait til the family is not around then sneak into the room. You ask her if she enjoyed it. When she says nothing you point to your crotch and say “it’s better with this in. Would you like to see it?” When she says “go away” you leave the room, you’ve gone too far. She leaves, but you know she won’t say a word. A vulnerable young girl who has been manipulated and controlled by such a cunning predator is too frightened and ashamed by what has happened to her to tell anyone.
She tries to move on; gets married, but can’t tell her husband much about what happened out of fear and shame. Even when a friend manages to get her to confide some of the details to her a few years later, she begs the friend not to tell anyone. She is not able to think rationally and has no idea of her rights, all she believes is that she has to protect that family from something terrible and if the truth comes out she will be responsible.
This is the state of her thinking when another Elder comes to visit her after the friend starts to reveal the secret. When the Elder starts to question her and she realises why he’s there, she breaks down in tears because she believes she’s going to be in serious trouble. The Elder says to her “It’s OK, even if you enjoyed it, it’s not your fault.” She replies “I didn’t enjoy it, but I can understand why he might have thought I did.” She’s remembering that she didn’t stop it and believes that this implies that she must have appeared to have wanted it. She was thinking of herself from the viewpoint of her abuser. She believed she must have asked for it because he had manipulated her to think that she was equally involved. She totally trusted that this Elder who was questioning her knew what he was doing and would sort everything out God’s way.
She didn’t question his authority when he told her the Elder abuser was coming with him for another meeting. She didn’t think for a moment that she could actually choose not to be grilled by her abuser face to face. At that meeting when the Elder mentioned “I believe Brother Abuser asked you if you wanted to see his penis?” Brother Abuser turned to her and asked “Do you think I might have been joking?” She started to question her own sanity. She started to question her own truth. So instead of replying “Are you talking about the morning after you almost raped me in the bathroom?” which is what really happened, she said “I don’t know.” To which he replied “Yes, I was joking.”
Again, he was manipulating the situation. The girl felt totally overpowered and confused and just wanted the meeting to end. Her husband had left the room, so her abuser asked “Does your husband know?” If she was thinking clearly she might have said “Know what?” to get him to admit what he’d done, but she was still under his power and believed she had to protect him and his family, so she said “Yes” to which he replied “I thought so.” This is a strange tactic for which she is still unsure of the reason, but could have been to enable him to implicate her husband if the truth came out. It certainly worked to shut her up when the Circuit Overseer came for the next meeting. Again she had to face her abuser. Again she couldn’t tell the whole story because of fear and shame. Her head was completely screwed up by her beliefs.
Following that meeting the second Elder called to ask her that she “Not tell anymore people out of respect for the family,” to which she obeyed because she loved the kids. She believed everything was sorted out properly in God’s eyes and was glad she didn’t get into too much trouble. Brother Abuser stepped down as an Elder but no reason was given to the congregation.
Fast forward to over 13 years later and the girl is now a mother and is suffering anxiety, depression and has a nervous breakdown after finally revealing a few details to a trusted friend. Although her abuser dies during this time, the fear, shame, feelings of worthlessness, flashbacks and nightmares, suicidal thoughts, psychiatric help and medication continues for another 13 years. She finally gets the courage to go to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, where Justice McLellan, Barrister Angus Stewart, the team of Solicitors and Investigators and her own Lawyer (along with the support of her family) stand up to the Elders and leaders of the Watchtower on her behalf and fight for her to be heard. These worldly authorities believed her, showed respect and compassion to her, supported her and assisted her to report the abuse in a safe, supported way, unlike the Elders and leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who when it was first reported actually retraumatised her.
In conclusion, allegations of child sexual abuse should always be reported to the police ASAP, so that the experts can do their job; forensics, doctors, counsellors; that’s what they’re trained to do. Saying that those with the allegations are the ones who should report, not the Elders, is ignoring the perspective of the victim who’s been mentally, emotionally and sexually abused and doesn’t have the ability to think or reason clearly or even know their rights. Why don’t the Elders just report on their behalf? What are THEY afraid of?
Thank you so much to “BCB” for her bravery in coming forward, both to the ARC and to this site. Everyone in the community of former Jehovah’s Witnesses is grateful for the strength and resilience she, and other victims, have all shown throughout their horrific ordeals.
For victims of child sex abuse in this religion, I hope her story and viewpoint allow you to see that you had everything working against you during this time, absolutely everything. Shame on the perpetrators of this horrific crime, as well as the elders and everyone else complicit in protecting the abusers versus protecting the children.
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