How the Jehovah’s Witnesses Handle Claims of Sexual Abuse

WatchtowerAs a sexual abuse lawyer, I’ve witnessed how institutions of public trust handle allegations of sexual abuse. While the institutions’ doctrines differ, their manner of dealing with such claims is sadly similar.

Like the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church, it looks like the Jehovah’s Witnesses have a systematized manner of handling these abuse claims with a goal to protect the institution and discourage other victims from coming forward.

A recent article took a hard look at the practices of the Witnesses and found five strategies the church employs when dealing with sexual abuse survivors. They include 1) ignoring the claim, if that’s possible; 2) ”disfellowshipping” the accuser, which is similar to the Catholic Church’s excommunication; 3) forcing the accuser to confront the offender; 4) forcing the survivor to beg for reinstatement; and 5) attacking the credibility of the abuse victim. All of these strategies are designed to protect the institution and denigrate the one abused.

In one way, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are consistent in the way they handle sex abuse claims – they do not call the police. They handle abuse claims internally and avoid involving law enforcement. Failing to report abuse may violate mandatory reporting laws in many states and, in some circumstances, could constitute aiding and abetting felony crimes. In any circumstances, we believe it is immoral, protects child molesters, and damages victims.

Jehovah’s Witnesses operate in a shroud of secrecy. Their methods of dealing with child abuse within their organization need a complete overhaul. For starters, Jehovah’s Witnesses need to start calling the police any time someone within their church is accused of inappropriate conduct with a child. After that, the interests of the child should come first, before the interests of the accused perpetrator and the institution.

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, California, and other states.

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