PRESS RELEASE –
AAWA: UK Child abuse inquiry “Should include Jehovah’s Witnesses”
Advocates for the Awareness of Watchtower Abuses (AAWA) welcomes the UK’s wide-ranging public inquiry into historic child abuse in public institutions. We welcome the news that the overarching inquiry, led by an expert panel, will try to bring together the “institutional lessons” not only from the Home Office, but also from the NHS, the BBC, social services and churches for future child protection work.
We have taken note of the comments of Peter Wanless, the Chief Executive of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), who is leading a review into the Home Office’s handling of abuse allegations:
“If someone consciously knows that there is a crime committed against a child and does nothing about it because they put the reputation of the organisation above the safety of that child, that should be a criminal offence.”
We welcome this concept and ask the inquiry to include an investigation into Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have documented policies that are designed to protect the organization at the expense of their child abuse victims.
While the terms of reference of this inquiry have not yet fully been shared, we trust that the following commitment given by Home Secretary, Theresa May, will ensure Jehovah’s Witnesses are included and put under the spotlight.
“We will adopt a presumption of maximum transparency. And that where there has been a failure to protect children from abuse, we will expose it, and we will learn from it.”
As the courts deal with more Jehovah’s Witnesses who are unreported perpetrators and have been able to hide behind the protection provided them by Watchtower Society rules, more victims of historical child abuse are speaking out. They are exposing the flawed policies and patriarchal tactics that originally silenced them.
It should be noted by the Child Abuse Inquiry, that David Clohessy, the Director of SNAP, (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) said of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ “two witness rule” for child abuse:
“I can’t recall ever seeing a policy anywhere that is more predator-friendly and self-serving than the Watchtower’s ‘two witnesses’ rule. On its face, it is dangerous and callous. If any crime is likely to have no witnesses, it is child sexual abuse. If the law enforcement community adopted this rule only a handful of child predators would be charged, convicted and imprisoned every year.”
In early July 2014, a Welsh court convicted Mark Sewell, yet another Jehovah’s Witness perpetrator. This single case revealed how 19 Jehovah’s Witness leaders were aware of crimes – but made no report to the authorities.
Such cover-ups within Jehovah’s Witness congregations are prompted by internal courts known as “Judicial Committees” that consider and decide criminal matters. The procedures, written instructions, and qualifications of the elders involved all need to be investigated. The records and decisions of Judicial Committees, past and present, need to be uncovered and reviewed. Lessons learned from these investigations should be shared and publicized.
Internal reports made by Judicial Committees to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ UK’s Head Office in Mill Hill, London, must become a part the evidence reviewed by this inquiry.
In this context we welcome the statement of the UK’s Prime Minister when he said:
“And it’s also important that the police feel that they can go wherever the evidence leads, and they can make all the appropriate arrangements to investigate these things properly.”
Other areas for investigation
Currently, convicted and unreported perpetrators can move freely from one Jehovah’s Witness congregation to another. Their crimes and activities are not revealed to the “faithful” – who unknowingly might allow these criminal pedophiles access to their children.
The crime of child molestation – and even rape – are considered “forgivable sins” due to “spiritual weakness” on the part of the criminal. This enables a conspiracy of silence to be perpetuated within the congregations and allows for convicted and unreported perpetrators to continue abusing.
Congregation members, abuse survivors and their families need to know exactly who these convicted and unreported perpetrators are and how they are monitored. This should be the case, not only for the affected congregations, but also others nearby that criminals might visit or transfer into.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are required to preach their message from door to door. Currently, convicted and unreported perpetrators also go from door to door preaching and offering the Watchtower Society publications to the public. Some convicted and unreported perpetrators may be accompanied by an elder within the congregation during scheduled field service meetings. And yet there is nothing to prevent them going from door to door alone or returning to someone’s home unaccompanied at a later date.
Because of their reputation for preaching from door to door, Jehovah’s Witnesses are frequently invited into many homes that have children. They often do so out of good faith and general reputation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but be totally unaware that the person knocking on their door has a criminal record or reputation of being a sexual abuser or deviant.
This activity must be investigated and stopped
The Charity Commission has also opened a statutory inquiry into the operations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the UK. The specific concerns of the Charity Commission relate to the matters already outlined by this statement.
Trustees should be called to account for policy failures. This in turn could make sure that the worldwide organization known as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society changes their flawed policies and are forced to make significant policy modifications that will ultimately and significantly protect children.
Help for abuse survivors
AAWA also asks that counselling, therapy, support and compensation will be made available to the survivors of abuse. As more historical cases come to the fore, a broader range of support will be needed. The costs of this support should be paid for by those responsible, the International Bible Students Association, the UK branch of the Watchtower Society. They arrogantly continue to hold onto and enforce policies that perpetuate abuse and silence within their congregations.
AAWA is not only willing to speak out and be involved, but will be eager to aid the inquiry in any investigation into the International Bible Students Association known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Advocates for the Awareness of Watchtower Abuses (AAWA) is an international organization committed to raising awareness of these continuing human rights abuses, has extended an open offer to the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses to meet and discuss ways in which the organization can remedy these distressing issues. So far, this offer has gone unanswered.
More Information Links:
- Shunning Policy Explained
- Child Molestation Information
- Domestic Abuse
- Refusal of Blood Transfusions
Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses (AAWA)
Background: AAWA is a religiously neutral organization, a not-for-profit corporation with 260 volunteers from over twenty countries committed to objectively and respectfully raise awareness and to help victims of abusive Watchtower (Jehovah’s Witnesses) policies.
AAWA.co is the official website of Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses, a legally incorporated educational organization. While its members and volunteers have their own opinions, they do not proselytize their personal religious or secular beliefs while representing AAWA.
AAWA’s founders include men and women living in five countries on three continents. All AAWA officers and board members have declared their commitment to presenting responsible and well-informed reporting focused on five of the Watchtower Society’s harmful policies. [AAWA Mission Statement]
AAWA also freely offers support for those who are struggling mentally and emotionally as a result of their leaving the Watchtower – an organization that many experts consider an “unethical mind-controlling religion” that has established and maintained undue influence over its members. URL: http://www.aawa.co
Press & Media Contact: Sue Hall at Media@aawa.co