The Domestic Violence I Saw With Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses try to present themselves as being against domestic violence, but how can they preach this message to others when it's far too common within their own four walls?

Jehovah’s Witnesses try to present themselves as being against domestic violence, but how can they preach this message to others when it’s far too common within their own four walls?

One major issue I always had with the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses is the domestic violence I saw within the organization. In other posts I’ll discuss the abusive comments and statements made in the pages of the publications put out by Jehovah’s Witnesses, but in this post I want to call out the men I knew personally in the organization, who saw no problem with literally beating their wives, and the elders who openly condoned this practice.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in a patriarchal organization and family, meaning ruled by men. Only men are allowed positions of authority or teaching in the congregation, and men are the head of the house, with absolute authority over their wives and children, who are to be obedient and submissive to him. While there are fleeting attempts made at reminding men that they are to be “loving” to their wives, abuse was very common when I was growing up, including physical abuse, verbal abuse, and mental and emotional abuse.

Along with Jehovah’s Witness men being abusive to their wives, the elders would outright condone this behavior by telling the wives that they were “obviously not submissive enough” to have “provoked” their husbands into hitting them, and those elders would then send the wives off to apologize to their husbands. In one such example I remember, a man who was an elder at the time hit his wife so that she needed to go to the hospital to get her lip stitched up. While she was there, the other elders in the congregation visited her, and told her that she was obviously not submissive to him and needed to apologize to him for provoking him. While she was in the hospital. Getting her lip stitched up. In front of the doctors.

In another instance, a man who was a ministerial servant (like an elder in training) was screaming at his wife for not doing the gardening the way he wanted, and when she went in the house to use the bathroom, he became so enraged that he broke down the door and hit her while she was on the toilet. The elders in her congregation handled it the same way as above, chastising her for “provoking” him, and telling her to apologize.

In other words, these elders actually endorsed and approved of this practice. If your wife was not submissive, then you had every reason to hit her, even so hard that she needed a hospital visit. They made it okay to do this, and put the wife in the position of the person who had done something wrong, like a child who deserved punishment.

Along with physical abuse, verbal, mental and emotional abuse were also very common in the religion, with women being belittled, yelled at, teased, and otherwise humiliated.  During one public discourse in front of an entire congregation, an elder said that if a woman who was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses had a husband who was not a JW, this was “obviously” her own fault for not being submissive and obedient enough, so as to bring him into the organization. He then also shared the story that, at the end of the week, he would often pull out some money to give to his wife, but if she had not been “submissive enough” that week, he would just show it to her, and then put it right back in his wallet.

One elder had a conversation with me and jokingly said, with his wife standing right there, “Yeah, my wife and I always disagree on where to sit in the Kingdom Hall, but she needs to be the obedient and submissive wife and sit where I say.” He then proceeded to laugh at her, in front of me; not only was he being abusive and selfish by deciding where they would sit, but he also thought it would be fine to laugh at the fact that he was so cruel and thoughtless to her.

This abusive behavior toward women wasn’t confined to their own homes, as women in general were openly subjected to various forms of humiliating and degrading treatment.  As an example, one Saturday morning, I was out in the preaching work with another woman, just the two of us, and we stopped for a mid-morning break at a local fast food place, where many Jehovah’s Witnesses would go at that time. We had just gotten coffee, and had barely sat down at a table, when one man started walking around telling everyone that it was time to leave. I kindly reminded him that we hadn’t had a chance to use the bathroom yet (there was a line; we weren’t dawdling), and he got very upset and started bellowing at me, right there in the restaurant, “Well I hope one day you learn to be more submissive when someone tells you what to do!”

Keep in mind, the preaching work is voluntary, you use your own car and gas, and don’t get paid to be out. We weren’t with this man’s group, but were working on our own, so we weren’t delaying anyone. This man didn’t seem to care if we needed to use the restroom, or that our work simply wasn’t his business; his only concern was that he was barking orders, and someone wasn’t falling in line.

These are just a few examples of the domestic violence and abuse toward women I experienced with Jehovah’s Witnesses. None of these men have ever been corrected or counseled about their behavior, and none of the women were ever given apologies for this endorsement of violence toward them.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have published articles on domestic violence and abuse, and in some cases have said that it’s wrong, but as I’ll discuss in other posts, they also encourage women to stay with abusers in the hopes that he’ll see her “fine conduct,” and take an interest in becoming a JW himself. Little is said about the ones who don’t live to see this big happy ending, and nothing is said about the violence and abuse that happens within their own organization.

The literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses often reminds us that “holy spirit” directs their organization. Elders pray for “guidance” all the time when in front of others, so either the religion is bereft of this holy spirit and direction, or the god they worship cares little about domestic violence and abuse. I fail to see how any religion with such a horrible track record such as theirs can claim to have this divine direction, and also fail to see how others can have any interest in a religion that endorses this type of treatment of half their members.

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44 replies »

  1. Excellent article Alexandra. I made a video about a year ago saying that this religion is to run away from ESPECIALLY if you are a woman or a child. Each time a woman finally muster the courage to go to the elders saying that she’s been abused by her husband there’s that automatic denial by the elders, they tend to never believe the woman. I knew of a case myself. So in other words, not only they don’t seem to care, but in their eyes, she’s also a liar. Awful, awful cult.

  2. My mother was disfellowshiped after she slept with another man who was not my father. My father was hastily remarried not even 6 months later to another member of our congregation. The two together were a total nightmare to live with. They screamed, threw things, name called, spewing venomous sarcasm left and right, occasionally waking us kids up in the middle of the night with their screaming. I loved my dad, but he said some asinine things at times that really hurt my step mom, and his stubborn refusal to aknowledge or apologize for hurting her feelings was damaging to the relationship. Feeling distressed and helpless, she went to the elders for help. You know what they told her?
    They informed her that they couldnt help her unless my father went to them seeking help first sense he is the “head of the household.” Somehow she is still in this religion and so is my Dad. Of course, neither of them speak to me now that Ive left the JWs. Little did my step mom know how big of an impact that one statement from the elders had on me. I feel sorry for her weakness to stay and put up with that BS.

  3. Dealt with every kind of abuse possible from my baptized husband. He stopped attending meetings and become a horror to deal with. Went to the elders on three occasions about the abuse. I was told, that i wasnt sumissive and loving enough. The elders never did a sheparding call on my family, nor tried to use the bible to assist my husband.
    Finally, my husband tells me he slept with another woman. I was done. I told the elders, who finally called him. He chose at first not to speak with them, then after sleeping with several other women decides to come back to Jehovah. (after he did his dirt)
    During this time I am given zero encouragement from the elders nor the congregation. After my husband has a judical committee they decide to put him on private reproof, saying that since he wasnt attending the meetings noone knew about the abuse/adultry etc. Well, my family knew about it, and friends whom i confided in knew about it. The police were called to our home too many times to count and arrests went in the paper where we lived. The neighbors knew about it!
    My now ex-husband calls to tell me how the elders encouraged him and he is now free to remarry which was his plan to begin with.
    I call the elders to let them know how horrible this is that a brother can beat his wife, cheat on her, stop being the spiritual head of his family for years, and break-up his family and still go to the hall like nothing happened and remarry.
    I then told the elders that, I the faithful spouse was discouraged and had concerns about how they care about women and children. One of the elders told me that they have over 100 publishers to look after, and its not their job to encourage me. My jaw was to the floor. This is how they view women! I walked out of the kingdom hall so discouraged. Yet the organization is soooooo loving!
    I went to a few meetings after that, then I thought if i am going to be JW I need to know the orgin of this religion well. I started with Charles Taze Russell and was floored by how he abused his wife. That was it for me.

    • OMG. Everything I am reading is HORRID. I am so glad I stumbled on the Site. you have been through HELL. Why would you have stayed in this horrid place. I dont blame you one bit. Hang in there!!!!!!!!! I am an animal activist so I was always too political for them to even deal with. I was born and raised in the Truth but knew something wasnt making sense whatsoever.

  4. There is no black, white or gray in the Watchtower. There is only their way and total damnation. If you ever cross that line and are baptized, it all changes then.

  5. I am not a Jehovah’s Witness but I am involved in a Christian church. I’m struggling to find myself. I married a man I met through our church. Submission. Submission. This word has come to dominate my faith. Various times as a teen I had done bible studies where we had paid lip service to the idea of submission. My fiancé and I even discussed it and I agreed that a wife’s duty was to submit. When did it go from a sort of academic acquiescence to something else I don’t know. Somewhere early after the wedding he started to turn on the pressure. I actually wanted to be submissive if that makes any sense. Inside me I wanted to do it. I wanted to please him. We would even practice submission in various ways. Sex was probably the first way where in bed he would just say he wanted sex and I had to just lie on my back and open my legs and he would push in. Not rough or nasty but mechanical. When it was over he would congratulate me. But he also wanted me to be sexual for him. He had me do strip tease shows in our bedroom. If it had all stayed in the bedroom it would probably have been OK but he started to pressure me outside. It started with him selecting my clothes and I would have to wear them without complaint. Likewise with food at restaurants, he would choose what I was to eat and I had to smile and accept it. Gradually he started to select shorter skirts. He would emphasise that I had to look feminine. High heels, tights, miniskirts. I would be conflicted between trying to be a good wife and being modest. My friends would make comments about my skirt lengths and in the next breath commend me for being such a good wife and mom. I felt alone. There was no one for me to get perspective from. If I raised my concerns within the church I would be accused of having a rebellious heart and if I spoke to friends outside the church they would say how religion was stupid or imply there was something wrong with me. There was no punching or physical abuse and so I have never been to the police. What I would I say. Am I even wrong anyway. Maybe he is right. Maybe a wife’s duty is to dress for her husband. agh. Now I am convincing myself it’s all ok. I’d better go as he will be home from work soon.

    • I don’t know how to tell you this but your husband is abusive. Period. You don’t need to physically assault someone to be abusive. Telling a woman to dress inappropriately or in a way that makes her uncomfortable is abuse, demanding she “perform” in the bedroom with no thought as to her feelings is abuse. Dictating what you eat is abuse. The fact that you’re so unsettled should be a sign; if you weren’t being abused, you wouldn’t be questioning all this. Rather than trying to convince yourself that it’s okay, I would strongly suggest you even consider leaving and seeing a counselor who can help you rebuild your self-esteem so that you don’t feel it’s okay to be treated like an animal or a child. You deserve to be respected as an adult and anything less than that from a relationship is unacceptable.

  6. I can read from the comments on here that these men in religions like JW have really managed to fool allot of women.
    They believe what a ” man” wrote that women were created for men, lol this is too funny . If you you really want to look at procreation well then because we women actually are the ones that have babies and nurture them physically for nine months, then ‘ men were created for women’ , anyway not that I believe in the bible anymore it’s a crock of shit written by some idiot men ……are there any books of the bible written by women after all if God can do anything and if the bible really were God inspired, wouldn’t some of the books have female authors ? –

      • Not many women back then new how to write. God used men because in the context of the day, the majority of the people who knew how to write were men. A Christian saying this.

  7. Never let anyone tell you to do something you know is wrong especially in a marriage it is not their business what goes on in your home tell u how to dress and so on

  8. God made woman for man but he said be submissive you wives but he never said in an abusive manner unlike him we do make mistakes yes that’s true but when you know your being abusive to your wife and getting away with it God would want you to get out quick marriage is sacred but if that’s true then men have to do their parts too and if not then it should be over it should be sacred to them as well just because they’ve been appointed certain rights that’s still wrong so God will set matters straight even including men you should never be confused know the scriptures

    • The Bible also clearly states that a man is to treat his wife “as a treasured jewel” and to “listen to the council of his wife.” I’m never heard that part of the Bible enforced though in the the Watchtower.

  9. Yes and remember God is love not a God of fear or torture it is lethal to be in that kind of danger have to really know what’s really best they can try to help but should never tell you to stay in an abusive relationship

  10. Yes. Sadly, my JW husband gets so angry sometimes
    That he hits me. Then yells really loud saying that I’m ‘touching him’ so the kids can hear. He choked me, punched me all over, leaving black and blue bruises I called the elders, they said he didn’t approve of me talking to them so we must work it out. I am in shock. People really think he is a ‘god’. I screamed the children to call the brother and they did not call. My daughter later told me that she didn’t think I was really hurt because he never hurt me before. I thought about suicide. I’m taking photos this time. No need in telling the brother that he beat me up because they will say, ‘you have to listen’. Things said are not things done.

    • My husband as gone to a jw meeting tonight how can he go there when he’s already been dis fellowshipped for immorality but no he wants to be in some cult he verbally abuses me mentally abuses me cheats with other women in our bed yet he can sit there and preach it’s all rubbish

    • Denise, you first need to take pictures and write a diary (a secrete one) of all those physical assaults (because that’s what they are) and call the police. FILE CHARGES AND STICK TO IT……DO NOT DROP THEM. Then RUN, don’t walk, to the nearest divorce lawyer. Take the house, take the kids and get spousal support and funds for school. Make sure you have some money aside (so you better have a plan). He’s going to kill you. By what you wrote above, he’s a liar too……so your going to be set up and sold down the river in the Watchtower no matter what. Might as well be safe and raise your kids as Godly children (which means RUN AWAY FROM HIM AND THE WATCHTOWER……it almost cost me my life).

    • Go to the police and document everything. In some states if the police are called one or both parties will be taken mandatorily to jail in a domestic situation though. If you have marks on you, use the authorities not “elders”. Romans 13:1-4 ( scriptural basis for using government authority) This action places control out of the elders’ hands.

  11. Yes this is the typical bahaviour, I was subjected to an idiot elder who was giving a talk on Rebellion and he used the example of a wife who lay-bys a pair of shoes against the wishes of her husband who wants her to stick to a budget that he outlined and the act of rebellion is that she sneaks them home without her husbands knowledge. Another time is when the theocratic school talked about the times where a sister might have to wear a head covering in the presence of a brother, and at the end of the talk the brother states” I see you Sisters have got the Point”

  12. I agree with everything said. I also experienced the ‘stay-with-your-abusive-husband- because- you’re- a- woman bullshit until i decided on an ‘unscriptural’ divorce. The amount of hypocrisy, judgmental atmosphere and favoritism that goes on is absolutly mind- boggling

    • I also filed for an ” unscriptural” divorce after our children and I had suffered 16 years old what the courts declared as, ” severe, chronic, heinous acts of abuse.” The result: the elders told members of the congregation including one of my sons they could now consider me a ” bad associate”. A ministerial servant later testified in a hearing that my son should not have to live with me because I was considered a “bad associate” by Jehovah’s Witness standards. After the brothers emotionally abused my children this way, the court determined one of my sons may injure me if placed in my custody. He went in state custody, then was placed with his father, whom he shortly after left because the abuse resumed. Who did my son then live with. The brother who testified I was a ” bad associate”, finished raising him. When he turned 18 they then took him to change his last name to theirs. He has not spoken with me since.

      • Dude that’s sad I’m sorry
        I’m 15 and being dragged into this religion. My mom is having a ruff time and probably wants me to be a JW . I just want to live my life. Not be controlled by a controlling man.

      • I know the faith of jw but in not baptized I think it’s wrong no matter what anyone says that God would never want you to stay in an abusive marriage period.

      • Anna, the JWs want a woman to stay and “serve her master” until the bitter end……which might be the graveyard for her. That’s not what the Bible teaches about faith. It’s a perversion of the Bible’s teaching.

  13. Hi Alex and Mary.
    Sometime last year we had a circuit assembly and our circuit overseer was giving a talk about…er..I don’t remember. But what I remember like it was yesterday was an experience he shared about a rape victim, a sister ofcourse. This sister apparently in his distorted mind was raped because she was wearing “rapist attracting clothing,” he even went as far as to say, “our dear sister now is raising a product of rape only because she didn’t listen to the “loving” advise of the elders to dress appropriately.” I was so disturbed by this I told my elder husband that I didn’t appreciate what this asshole has just said about this woman, but u know my hubby is still fast ‘asleep’ so he just dismissed “me” as being too critical.
    Jesus Christ respected women and still do. I wanda why an organization that claims to be directed by holly spirit just can’t get it right when it comes to God’s precious female beings?….mmh

    • Because they don’t teach God’s word the Bible as Jesus did and cannot be bothered with patterning their lives after Jesus Christ as God’s word commands.

  14. I live in Northern Europe where I guess the situation is not this bad, but anyway I can see a bit of the same attitudes. When husband watches porn and a wife tells to elders, guess who’s fault it is. 🙂

    Also here most of the women go to work and support for family and many times even earn more than husbands. And what do we hear in conventions: “…women take care of home and prepare children for meetings…” Eeeh, if both wife and husband go to work as much, how it is wife’s work to do all homework? I am glad most of the men are doing their part in homes and it’s fully normal, the problem is only in the public talks in JW conventions where attitudes are very old-fashioned, no connection to reality.

    • Yes I agree, what seems to be in their publications is all generic answers but life has got many gray areas. The JWs have very black and white thinking

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