Woman Says Church Covering Up Sexual Abuse – WSMV

Jehovah’s Witnesses Just Settled 9 Lawsuits

The church of Jehovah’s Witnesses has settled nine lawsuits accusing clergy of sexually abusing children.

A gag order has forced victims to stay quiet, but a midstate woman who was on the inside said instead of stopping it, the church tried to cover it up.

Barbara Anderson helped blow the whistle on the church. She said she’s collected more than 5,000 pages of court and church documents.

She said it started in the early 80s when she went to work for the church’s headquarters in New York and came across some disturbing letters.

“Many of the letters discussed their own abuse and accused men of prominent position in their organization of being their molester,” she said.

Anderson said the church’s policies protected abusers. Victims said they have to have a witness to back up their claims.

“If the victim couldn’t prove their accusation, they were threatened with ex-communication. That’s what kept this secret in this group for all these many, many years,” she said.

That meant losing touch with family and friends.

“I knew that children here in Tennessee were being molested. I knew of many right here in the area that I live, in Tullahoma, but nothing was being done about it,” she said.

Anderson said years of frustration caused her and her husband to leave the church. She said she hopes speaking out about the issue now will help protect other children.

“They left dangerous men in their position who could then go on and molest more. I read letters and evidence that some congregations who had as many as 30 or 40 children molested,” she said.

The Andersons said they no longer have a relationship with their son, who is an elder in the church.

They haven’t seen their 8-year-old grandson in five years.

The church released a statement saying that it does not condone or protect child molesters and that cases within the church are rare.

Copyright 2008 by WSMV.com.

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