Children

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Not Understand the Dangers and Legalities of Child Porn Possession?

Many countries in the world have laws that expressly prohibit the production, distribution, possession, and viewing of child pornography.¹ In the United States, Title 18 of the United States Code (USC) spells out these laws (see this page), and it has been established in federal court that child pornography is not protected by the First Amendment and “free speech” laws.

The UK also has a Protection of Children Act, “to prevent the exploitation of children by making indecent photographs of them; and to penalise the distribution, showing and advertisement of such indecent photographs.” (See this website.)

Dangers of Child Pornography

One reason that even looking at child pornography is illegal in most countries (among many other reasons, of course) is that many experts believe that viewing child pornography can fuel a pedophile’s desire, and then lead him or her into into an actual act of child molestation. For example, the article “From Fantasy to Reality: The Link Between Viewing Child Pornography and Molesting Children,” published in 2004, stated, “The existence of images that sexually exploit children represents tangible evidence of past, present and, most likely, future abuse.” Also, “…each child pornography case should be viewed as a red flag to the possibility of actual child molestation.”

Also, note that child pornography is often used by a child molester as part of the process of grooming potential victims. That same article stated, “Child pornography is also used to break down the child’s barriers to sexual behavior,… Repeated exposure to both adult and child pornography is intended to diminish the child’s inhibitions and give the impression that sex between adults and children is normal, acceptable and enjoyable.”²

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Child Pornography

An August 1, 2016, letter to all elders worldwide said that elders should call their Legal Department if they discover a congregant has been viewing child pornography. Also, while the letter does say that “one who has engaged in child sexual abuse does not qualify to receive any privileges in the congregation for many years, if ever,” in defining what they mean by “child sexual abuse,” the letter says, “Depending on the circumstances of the case, it may include involvement with child pornography…”³

The key word is “may.” According to this letter, not everyone who has been found with child pornography falls under their definition of someone who is involved with “child sexual abuse.” In turn, that person also may not face these restrictions of privileges, mentioned in this letter.

Grossly Lacking

All of this brings up some important issues. First, there is the question of whether or not police would be called in cases of someone found to be viewing child pornography; I personally could not find mandatory reporting laws regarding child pornography, meaning that a person would be legally obligated to call the police if they know of someone who possesses this material. (This doesn’t mean those laws don’t exist; I simply don’t have access to extensive law libraries.)

That being said, it was testified to during the Australian Royal Commission Inquiry in 2015, of which Jehovah’s Witnesses were a part, that some 1006 alleged pedophiles were reported to elders in that country, and not one case was reported to the police by elders. Not one. Note, these were cases of molestation and child rape; if an act of molestation didn’t warrant a call to police by elders, I highly doubt they would take the initiative to make that call for child porn.

Consider how failing to call the police in cases of child pornography possession can realistically put all children at risk, since persons who view this material are likely to actually molest a child, as said above. Even if elders decide to restrict that person’s access to children in their congregation, he or she may be targeting children who play at a nearby playground, who are friends with their own children, and so on.

Jehovah’s Witness elders are also not qualified to investigate if this person has been using pornography as a way to groom potential victims. I would wonder if they are told to consider if this person has been paying special attention to any one child in the congregation, and if so, to ask that child if this person was sharing pornographic images with him or her. Even if these were their instructions, elders have no qualifications or credentials to handle such an investigation properly.

Homemade and Using Porn at Home

Another unaddressed issue is if the child pornography is homemade. Spy cams and nanny cams can be placed in a variety of places around a person’s home or in public restrooms, changing rooms, and the like, so that it’s somewhat easy for a person with access to children to make their own pornography. Again, elders in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses are in no position to investigate those materials, in order to determine if the person made this pornography themselves, and if the children in those pictures and films can be identified.

Another risk is when a pedophile may turn his or her attention to their own children; this may be to make their own homemade child pornography, or to groom their own children for the purposes of molestation. Are elders given instruction to question the children of the person watching child pornography, to see if they have been purposely exposed to it? Even so, elders would have no legal authority to remove that child from the home, if they are potential victims of molestation.

Leave It to the Police

Also, do elders know if a person has actually destroyed any child pornography they have in their possession? How would elders check a person’s computer to ensure all downloaded movies and photos have been deleted, and that all physical copies of photos and movies are destroyed?

There is, of course, no way to know if any Jehovah’s Witnesses have made a habit of watching child pornography, and certainly anyone who visits such websites or buys the material does run the risk of being caught by law enforcement. However, considering the thousands of cases of actual child molestation that have been discovered within the religion, it does seem possible that at least some cases of child pornography possession and viewing would have been uncovered.

Whatever the number, all of these issues and questions are yet more reasons why this matter should be investigated by the police, each and every time, whether or not the elders are legally required to notify them. When the risk of future child molestation is involved, it should not be considered an internal matter in a religion. No one, least of all elders with no training or qualifications, should be evaluating the “circumstances” to determine if child pornography “may” qualify as child sexual abuse. This entire matter alone is proof positive that Jehovah’s Witnesses still do not understand the dynamics of child sex abuse, are not willing to learn about all the risk factors for this type of abuse, and are not actually willing to take all steps necessary to protect children from the risk of this abuse.

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¹See this website for a chart of countries and their current status regarding child pornography laws.

² Open a PDF of the full article with this link.

³ To see this letter in full, please open the PDF of the attorney handbook on this page; the letter begins on page 183.

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11 replies »

  1. In my opinion one would already have to have an interest in such behaviour. I mean, who in their right mind would find a child sexually attractive?

    I don’t think for one minute that this would encourage a person to commit such acts, it would need to be part of their personality in the first place.

    • The experts don’t agree, as said. Their studies show that it can and does fuel their desires to the point where they act on them. Of course it’s part of their personality, or why else would they even be watching child pornography in the first place? But window shopping can cause impulse purchases, and viewing this material can and does encourage them to act, as the experts have said.

      • So called experts are used for many a situation these days. We only need to look at such fake news media organisations like CNN to see this. A expert can mean a broad range of things.

        Don’t think for one minute I’m justifying anything here, because I’m not. Even looking at such images “out of curiosity” is enough to wonder if the individual looking at said images has a twisted perverse personality in the first place. All I’m saying is, for anyone to even look at such images is sickening in itself. Logically speaking, how can anyone normal suddenly one day say, I know, I’m going to look at child pornography today. Personally, I cannot get my head round this influencing a normal well balanced person. Even thinking about such an act makes me sick, I’m sure it would to anyone else too.

      • Don’t dismiss everyone who has studied a subject and who has credentials as being fake just because you don’t like one news channel. Also, you’re missing a very important point; reports say that child porn can fuel a pedophile’s desire. A pedophile is a person with a sexual attraction to children. My column never said it would fuel the desire of “anyone normal” or a “well balanced person.”

      • Sanctus 2034, you said, “who in their right mind would find a child sexually attractive”? Well, that’s just it, a lot of JW’s are not in their right mind. The elders are given authority and the congregation is ordered to give them respect, no matter! Combine that with some of them having a sick mind and you can see how the situation would put a child in a vulnerable position! Anyone could see that if they wanted to.

  2. “Jehovah’s Witnesses still do not understand the dynamics of “..they think because they are, ie because they exist all is well. The ARC saw this graphically when on the stand the jw elders response was “we would call the branch office” at almost every question. They clearly believed the ARC would just roll over and say “Ok that’s all”. But of course it did not and went on to question those elders to their utter embarrassment. The justice there said the elders had no understanding of procedure and he must have wondered at the absence of ‘basic training’ in meeting procedure that these elders laboured under. Their ignorance was palpable. The last vestiges of feeling or respect imay have had for elders evaporated in watching the ARC.
    Thankyou for another revealing article.

    • Thank you Zeb. Yes, it was interesting to see their nonsensical procedures trying to stand up to the harsh lights of the ARC, where everything came across as ineffective, ridiculous, and even downright cruel to the victims. And JWs have been sitting so pretty for so many years! The elders were bumbling and fumbling and downright embarrassing, and just ignorant schoolboys, especially when compared to the intelligence, compassion, and preparedness of Barrister Stewart and Justice McClellan.

  3. The only point you didn’t make is that child abuse “material” is a record of child abuse that has already occurred. Viewing it is sick enough but it also fuels the production of more such material. Simply viewing it makes the viewer an accomplice to the abuse.
    Great article as usual.

    • Very true, child porn is already a form of child abuse and sexual violence. They just don’t get that a few scriptures during a shepherding call will stop the person from being a danger.

  4. You make a great point! People that join JW’s have complete trust is this organization. I know because I did. Most elders at each KH have keys to the building to go in whenever they want. Who knows if during the week when no one is there, someone doesn’t “plant” video cameras in the restrooms. Now that I know what I know about them, I would not put it past some of them. This is very disturbing. I know of some of the women that have went out on service during the day and still wanted to make the meeting in the evening and so they brought a change of clothes and a washcloth to freshen up and change clothes.

    • Excellent point. And the elders or whomever could also remove those cameras during any meeting or at any time during the week so that they’re never caught. It’s very frightening to think of how they refuse to involve law enforcement and have these things handled properly.

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