JW Bulletin

Jehovah's Witnesses in the Media

Translation: GVA & Nieuwsblad 21st December 2018

GVA & Nieuwsblad (same article published in both) – 21st December 2018


Ex-member reveals abuse by Jehovah’s witnesses: “I was eight. I thought it was normal what that man did to me.”

There needs to be a parliamentary investigation into sexual abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses. That is the recommendation of the IACSSO, the institution that monitors the sects in our country. At least ten people would have already testified about cases of child abuse that were denounced in our country. “Everyone is silent, even the victims. For whoever speaks will be cast out,” says a victim.

“I was barely eight years old, and I thought it was completely normal what that man did to me,” says Els, an East-Flemish Ex-JW. As a child, she became a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses when her mother joined some family members. “Everything changed, we were not allowed to celebrate birthdays, Christmas and New Year’s from the one day to the next, but you’re so absorbed in the community that you do not ask any more questions.”

Els – Ex-Jehovah’s Witness: “He was a family member, and it started very subtly, as a child you have no such thing, until one day he went too far.”

“He was a family member, and it started very subtly. As a child you do not have such a thing, until one day he went too far, I was too ashamed to respond immediately.”

The abuse has never been raised with the court. Not even after Els reported the abuse to the ‘Elders’ of Jehovah’s Witnesses as an adult woman.

According to IACSSO, the advisory center that investigates sects, there are more victims like Els. In November 2017, the center started an investigation after, among other things, in the US, in Great Britain, in Australia and in the Netherlands it turned out that child abuse was covered within the Witnesses. “We have been bombarded with Belgian witnesses”, says director Kerstine Vanderput.

How much there is already, she does not want to lose. “But in the Netherlands, where there are almost as many members as in Belgium, there are already 286 testimonies.”

Silence

“The procedures within Jehovah’s Witnesses encourage death,” says Olivier Faelens of the Study and Advisory Group of Sects. In their own words they gathered about ten testimonies from victims.

According to the report that IACSSO handed over to the parliament, abuse is not systematically reported to the court. The organization requires two witnesses to the abuse before it is accepted as true. She bases herself on the Bible for that.

Then an internal judicial committee of the Witnesses turns over the perpetrator. “That takes measures that aim to ensure the purity of the community,” says IACSSO.

“I did not have two witnesses,” says Els. “Where would I have to get it?” Afterwards I got the advice to keep quiet about the matter, because the organization wants to solve this problem internally, for fear of a negative image: everyone is silent, for fear of being rejected. ”

A judicial investigation comes too late for her: the man is dead.

Painful

“These accusations of IACSSO are very painful, and not true,” says David Vandendriessche, spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “We see child abuse as a terrible crime against the victims, and against God, why should we cover it?” It concerns our own children. ”

The Witnesses feel misunderstood. “An investigation by a judicial committee is only to check whether someone is repentant, and therefore can remain a member of our community, and we will never substitute ourselves for the court.”

According to the spokesperson, the organization has already often gone to court with cases of child abuse. “For years, the organization has condemned pedophilia as a despicable act in numerous publications”, writes IACSSO again in her report. In April 2018 the rules themselves would be stricter. “In practice it is clear that the competent authorities are not systematically informed.” IACSSO has also informed the federal public prosecutor. Jehovah’s Witnesses promise that they will cooperate when it comes to a parliamentary inquiry.

(*) Because of the privacy, this woman testifies under a pseudonym.

* all translations provided on JWBulletin.com are for information purposes only and are sourced from automated translation services.  These are not checked for accuracy.  To ensure accuracy, please refer to the original language text.

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