Children, who were sexually abused by Jehovah’s Witnesses, from across the UK, have told the BBC that they were told by the organisation not to report their allegations to the Police.
Victims have said that the “religion’s own rules protect perpetrators”. The organisation has a “two witness” rule. This is a rule set by the organisation’s governing body which states that for an action to be a “sin” it must be witnessed by two elders of the congregation. Interaction with other authorities or taking a member of the religion to Court could also lead to them being ostracised from the organisation.
BBC Hereford and Worcester have spoken to victims. One victim who has alleged rape has stated that she was told not to report her allegations. “I asked [the organisation], ‘what should I do? Do you report it to the police, [or] do I report it to the police’? “And their words were that they strongly advised me not to go to the police because it would bring reproach on Jehovah.”
Another victim, who has also alleged sexual abuse, has also told of how she was told not to report what had happened to her. She said, “she told her parents and elders in the congregation what happened and they advised her not to report it. It started off just being very cuddly and I was always a very tactile little girl, but it gradually got worse and worse. It escalated until… he started raping me.”
A statement issued by the organisation denies “shielding” members and states, “any suggestion that Jehovah’s Witnesses covered up child abuse was absolutely false .Victims and their parents had the absolute right to report the matter to the governmental authorities and reporting so was not contingent on the number of witnesses to the offence”.
The statement continued to describe child abuse as a “heinous crime and sin” and “Loving and protective parents were the best deterrent to child abuse and elders provided abuse victims and their families with spiritual comfort from the Bible”.
The Charity Commission launched an inquiry into the safeguarding policy of the “Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Great Britain”, which is the umbrella charity which overseas Jehovah’s Witness Congregations in 2014. It is believed that it is this society which decides how claims of abuse are handled by the congregation.
The inquiry is ongoing but it has improved the religion’s safeguarding policy by implementing changes that victims can no longer be forced to recount their allegations in front of the alleged abuser.
Jordans Solicitors are currently representing a large number of clients who have suffered sexual abuse by participating in religious organisations. Where a person abuses their position of trust and commits an act of assault a claim may be possible. We would encourage anyone affected to contact Jordans to pursue a civil claim.