The Washington Post, along with other major newspapers, reported on November 28, 2016, that during the past sixty years in Australia not one of hundreds of alleged child abusers identified as Jehovah’s Witnesses were reported to police or civil authorities.
According to the report, even when those accused of sexually abusing Australian children admitted to committing their crimes, their victims and family members were ordered or intimidated to keep quiet.
The Australian Royal Commission found that local congregation elders and Watchtower’s headquarter’s leadership were guilty of consistent “serious failure” to protect Jehovah’s Witness children from the risk of sexual abuse. Instead, all levels of JW leadership at local and national levels relied on outdated policies and practices to respond to such allegations. Essentially, Witness children were left unprotected from even clearly identified “admitted abusers” and pedophiles attending their local or regional Kingdom Halls.
The Australian Royal Commission released a 107-page report on Monday, November 28, 2016. That document outlines and details a number of “ancient policies” that exhibit what the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse identified as a “serious lack of understanding of the nature of child sexual abuse.”
One such practice “based on Biblical references” requires church elders responsible for investigating incidents of abuse or sexual misconduct to secure a confession from the person accused. If a confession is not forthcoming, then the testimony of two “credible” witnesses to the same incident, or two witnesses to separate incidents of the same kind, or other strong circumstantial evidence must be testified to by at least two witnesses.
That is not all: The accuser (often a minor child) also has to justify his or her allegations to church elders – often in the presence of the alleged perpetrator.
The commission’s findings were based on a close examination of the allegations — which averaged one a month for 65 years and were recorded in sealed files along with the church’s responses — along with the findings of a 2015 public hearing.
The report also found that the Jehovah’s Witness organization’s internal system for responding to complaints of child sexual abuse was not child or survivor-focused, “in that it is presided over by males and offers a survivor little or no choice about how their complaint is addressed.”