New Watchtower Sex Abuse Documents Begin to Leak

Trey Bundy

[Trey Bundy : January 10, 2018]
Dozens of confidential documents apparently leaked from Jehovah’s Witnesses archives appeared online Tuesday, providing a rare window into how the religion’s child abuse policies favor accused sexual predators at the expense of the victims.

FaithLeaks, a group pushing for more transparency in religious organizations, posted the documents in tandem with a story published by Gizmodo.

The documents detail the accusations of two sisters who say they were sexually assaulted by their father when they were growing up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion. One says her father tied her down and molested her. The other says her father raped her repeatedly over a period of years.

Most of the 33 documents are letters between local leaders and the religion’s global headquarters in New York, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. They show how the alleged perpetrator was able to attend a congregation with one of his alleged victims, in violation of a restraining order, while leaders admonished a member for reporting the violation to police.

The Watchtower’s written policies direct leaders to keep sexual abuse allegations away from authorities and handle them internally, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found 

While Reveal could not independently verify the new documents immediately, the details found in them are consistent with dozens of other documented cases. For example:

Face your accuser: Jehovah’s Witnesses elders establish their own tribunals to determine whether members accused of wrongdoing are guilty. Historically, accusers – even those who were still kids – had to confront their abusers face-to-face or else the elders would drop the matter. After being admonished in public hearings into their child abuse policies in Australia in 2015, Jehovah’s Witnesses officials say they have changed that policy. The new letters, which span the late 1990s and 2000s, indicate that elders held off disciplinary proceedings with the alleged abuser because one of his accusers did not want to face him.

The “two-witness rule”: Watchtower policy dictates that without a confession by the abuser or two witnesses to the crime, the elders in the congregation can not take action against the accused. The FaithLeaks documents show that the congregation’s response to the accusations against the alleged abuser was stalled because the accusers did not have two witnesses to the crimes against them.

Child abuse is a confidential matter: The Watchtower does not instruct elders to report child sexual abuse to police. A 2014 memo to elders in all U.S. congregations directs elders to maintain “strict confidentiality” and “avoid unnecessary entanglement with secular authorities” in matters of assault, rape, child abuse and murder. The new documents provide no indication that the Watchtower reported abuse to police.

Repentance goes a long way:  According to internal Watchtower documents obtained by Reveal, if a confessed child sexual abuser convinces elders that he feels remorse, he can remain in the congregation, even if that means weekly contact with his victim. Abusers who are removed from congregations for their crimes are sometimes eligible for reinstatement years, or even months, later. According to the new documents, the alleged perpetrator was eventually kicked out of the religion but was later reinstated.

The Watchtower has gone to great lengths to keep its documents on child sexual abuse private. It has spent millions of dollars in recent years fighting, and in some cases violating, court orders to produce a database of known child abusers in its U.S. congregations. Those cases are ongoing.

The database is made up of questionnaires that elders are required to submit to the Watchtower anytime they report child sexual abusers to headquarters. The documents posted by FaithLeaks do not include any such questionnaires.

FaithLeaks redacted all of the names contained in the letters.

Trey Bundy can be reached at tbundy@revealnews.org. Follow him on Twitter:@TreyBundy.

[NOTE: Watchtower Documents has also archived the aforementioned letters and documents for future further reference and review.]


Comments

New Watchtower Sex Abuse Documents Begin to Leak — 6 Comments

  1. Thankyou to all who are diggin deeper into the flith that GB of Jw.org covers up…feel for all who have had to suffer the effects of sex abuse, or any other abuse this corrupt religion promotes and condones like their shunning policy…feel for Debbie Maclean and any others who suffered before and now that they have spoken out are being targeted…you all are brave and your example will help others to speak out…Thankyou again.

  2. There is a further level of victims.
    We are the parents and grandparents of actual victims who learned of the abuse only years later.

  3. How many of you commenters ACTUALLY READ the ENTIRE thread of correspondences?

    I just spent the past hour and half reading and understanding every entry.

    The claims made in this article are twisted and false.

    The specific church members did not hide or cover up anything, but instead sought to substantiate any and all claims made against this person, exactly as the bible commands to be done. Some claims were substantiated, but the others were not substantiated, and even LEGAL COURTS found them inadmissible, so the alleged VICTIMS, likely under direction on legal council, used restraining orders to try to entrap the alleged PERPETRATOR.

    As far as making authorities aware of any potential wrongdoing, the thread shows that local authorities were already investigating claims in regards to the alleged perpetrator, and had disclosed any information they had, even seeking to find out other information FOR THE AUTHORITIES!

    This article is RIDICULOUS, but everyone will believe it because they will not take their time to actually investigate it themselves.

    I was once associated with the Witnesses, and I left for personal reasons, but still maintain contact with many congregation members.

    despite what is spread about them on these types of sites, the Witnesses are good and genuine people, and having read the entire thread of correspondences, I’m find them to be beyond reproach in this particular matter.

    and while i cant deny that somewhere in the world there are some members of jehovah’s witnesses who may be involved in wrongdoing, it certainly is not a systemic, fundamental corruption that articles like this would claim, or that is present in many other world religions.

    • Jon N,

      You’re missing the big picture here. Whether the elders made the extra effort to verify the facts of the case – or not – is not the most important issue. They can still do their own investigation to determine whether the accused should be disfellowshipped and banned from the congregation – or given another chance. That’s part of their duties as elders. The point we are making (and the legal systems in the United States and most western countries agree with us) is that civil authorities (police, law enforcement, courts and criminal justice in general) must be notified whenever there is a suspicion that a child (or any person) has been molested, sexually abused, beaten or physically injured in any way. It is not up to unqualified religious “elders” to determine if “a crime has been committed.” The laws in most countries specify very clearly that suspected injury or potential for injury to a child [and by extension, anyone of any age or sex when threatened] must be reported to the proper authorities for investigation and processing by and through the legal system. The truth is that most JW elders do not want to deal with reports of physical injury or threats to members or their children. My father was an elder for much of his later life – and he all but refused to participate in any judicial hearings that involved sexual or physical abuse because he felt that he and the other elders were simply not up to that task.

      All criminal activity should be treated the same way: protect the injured or potential victims, comfort them and give them shelter, and notify the police that a crime may have been committed. If the Watchtower leaders would instruct their congregations to follow those guidelines, then we would have far fewer issues with what they teach or how they manage the needs of their members. But so far they have resisted in using the legal system and want to take on that task for themselves – a task that they have proven themselves to be totally unqualified for.

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