For Jehovah’s Witnesses, an insular culture and archaic rules have created a “recipe for child abuse.”
A second was all it took. A second was all he needed.
The little girl was 4, round-faced and freckled and dressed in her Sunday best. She was fidgeting next to her father inside the Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall in Red Lion, York County — a safe, familiar space for a family that spent nearly all of its free time preaching and praying.
Martin Haugh was momentarily preoccupied, doling out assignments to his fellow Witnesses for their door-to-door ministry work. When he looked down for his daughter, she was gone. Haugh plunged into the slow-motion panic of every parent’s worst nightmare.
He scrambled through the one-story brick building, calling her name, the anxiety piling up like concrete blocks on his chest with each passing moment. She wasn’t in the bathrooms, she wasn’t in the lobby. He tried a coatroom next, and found her there. But she wasn’t alone.
Haugh’s daughter was perched on the lap of a teenage boy who had quietly lured her away. He was molesting her. “He wanted to give me a special hug,” the girl told her father.