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Jeudi Investigation -Canal +

 

October 2007

 

Cults: Children under Control

 

A Stéphane Haussy investigation produced by StoryBox Press

 

(Note: This report devoted equal time to the community of Tabitha's Place. The following transcript only covers what was said about the Jehovah Witnesses.)

 

(two journalists present the topic)

 

(female journalist)In the course of our investigation we ran across Jehovah Witnesses, you know, this is one of France's most proselyte communities. We were able to attend public meetings and family gatherings but we also met former members, those for whom we can say the light once faded out. What they are denouncing today is purely and simply prosecutable and punishable with prison time.

 

(male journalist)So we wanted to talk to the Jehovah Witnesses who unfortunately denied us an interview. On the other hand they wrote us several letters, as every cult does when they are attacked. There are letters from members recanting on their testimony, attorneys threatening us with lawsuits if we broadcast anything as well as the Jehovah Witnesses themselves who are denying everything that was said in the report. Obviously we kept every bit of information when it was verified. 

 

(female journalist) and even confirmed.

 

(30 minute report on Tabitha's Place)

 

(journalist)One of these religious groups is especially troubling for the MPs. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, amongst who approximately live 45,000 children.

 

We met them in a small southern France village. The community only had 12,000 inhabitants, but far from the center in the curve of a small trail was a brand new building. It was in fact a church. What the JWs would refer to as the "Kingdom Hall".

.

(a group of worshippers outside) We introduce ourselves to them as journalists.

 

That night was the only celebration of the year for the believers: The Memorial is meant to celebrate the death of Jesus. The Jehovah Witnesses more than likely have knocked on your door once in a while. They are always polite and well dressed. There are no short dresses or well grown beards here and the children attend school as any other child does.

 

(in the room)

 

3 year old child: Hello sir, sir.

 

Woman: Come here Nicolas, he is deaf on top of that.

 

Man: Ah children... Do you have any?

 

Journalist: No, not yet.

 

Man: We have them at every age.

 

(journalist)After negotiating for a few minutes we are invited for a visit.

 

Male JW: Here we are in the Kingdom Hall. It's a meeting place where we all gather 2 or 3 times a week. As you can see it's a very simple, but practical room that allows the listener to hear the word of God being read. The primary teaching usually takes place twice a week.   

 

(journalist) Here again, in the dogma, is the scheduled end times and the advent of paradise on Earth for the great day of Jehovah and his followers.

 

(The text of the year is shown)

 

Male JW: The great day of Jehovah is when the creator of the heaven's, we call him Jehovah, since it's his name in the Bible, will put things back in order on this planet.    

 

Journalist: Meaning?

 

Male JW: Meaning he'll do a big clean up and take things back in hand. We must say that that is greatly needed nowadays, as we can clearly see the warning signs. Especially since 1914, we saw WWI, WWII, hunger, earthquakes in proportions never seen before. All the events we see nowadays clearly show that we are living the end times, as announced by Jesus. 

 

(hymn)

 

150 people had gathered for the occasion. It was a 30 minute ceremony. A third of the crowd was formed by children, even babies. A room in the back was reserved for children. The congregation devotes a lot of attention to them as they are already devoted to Jehovah, so the interviews are done in the presence of adults. 

 

(journalist) What happened in that room tonight?

 

(10 year old girl) That's for celebrating the death of Jesus.

 

(Journalist) So this is a special day?

 

(girl) For uh.... (she hesitates a few seconds)

 

(journalist) If there's someone in the back, she'll look in the back let's get back to it, so how long have you been a JW for instance?

 

(girl) Since I was born, I am 12 and a half.

 

(journalist) If you had to convince someone to become a Jehovah Witness what would you tell them? (silence) Why would you like to become a JW?

 

(girl) Because I love Jehovah and after all we can get eternal life.

 

(voice over) Peace and eternal life in the Jehovah Witnesses was what Joel believed in for a very long time as a child. Nowadays he wants to teach very different values to his daughter.

 

Joel is helping his daughter with her homework.

 

(journalist) Why are you devoting so much attention to your daughter's homework?

 

(Joel) Let's say my parents never helped me the way I am doing with my daughter right now. They were never behind me for my homework because they preferred I study the books or the JW Bible. I just don't want her to be in the same situation I am in. I want her to have a good education that I didn't have so I think it's normal for me to be supportive of her.

 

(voice over) Joel quit school after the 6th grade. He's now 39 and has no professional qualification whatsoever. He just keeps doing odd jobs one after the other. He thinks his childhood was messed up.

 

(journalist) Do you think you were a normal child like any other?

 

(Joel) Yes, up until I was 8 or 10 and my mother came in contact with the Jehovah Witnesses and they took us all in, my father, my brother an me...

 

(journalist) and then?

 

(Joel) Then no, my life changed. I couldn't leave the house and play with my friends in the street. Every activity I was involved in from then on was JW related. When I came back from school on Monday I had to prepare Tuesday's meeting. Tuesday night was the meeting. On Wednesday we had to prepare Thursday's meeting, Thursday night was mainly dedicated to studying the book. Friday and Saturday were devoted to prepare for Sunday, so on and so forth...

 

(journalist) That makes a lot of hours in a week devoted to religion, doesn't it?

 

(Joel) Yes, a lot, only religion in fact

 

(journalist) Do you think it's a suitable way of life for a child?

 

(Joel) I don't think so. I think the most important things are education, and then there's play, not brain conditioning. It was constantly, "Jehovah will come soon, if you are not on his side you will die." When you hear that as a child (frown)... If I wanted to live eternally I had to do what Jehovah requested.

 

(voice over) Joel willingly came back with us to the south of France where he grew up. When he left the Jehovah Witnesses he wanted to test the things that were forbidden by the movement, alcohol, drugs, petty crimes. He wanted to go back to living his lost childhood.

 

(Joel) So you see, I was living on the fourth floor of that building you see here. Every Thursday with my parents, I was probably 14 at the time, I had to put my suit on, with the tie and everything, and go to the room in the back for the book study. What I thought was humiliating was to wear the same suit I had to wear every Sunday to go to the Kingdom Hall. What I found most humiliating though was to see all those kids from outside of the religion laughing at me, my parents and my brother as we went our way with Bibles in our hands. At that age I really thought it was humiliating.

 

(voice over) The Bible and the daily prayer, only the Jehovah Witnesses as a role model and the authority of his parents to coerce him, and as the dogma dictates, no birthday parties, no Christmas but only a weekly meetings at the Kingdom Hall to go door to door, this is in fact, a very well tuned organization that uses the innocence of children to attract new members.

 

(Joel near the Kingdom Hall) We got prepared and came here, wearing our suits. We did a small prayer before leaving. We always had a map to tell us which houses to go to, and off we went. I was about 10 when we started doing this, so I was with two adults trying to attract the most people possible to the Kingdom Hall.

 

(voice over) In 15 years, Joel never came back to see his parents. With us that morning he decided to go knock on their door, unannounced.

 

(intercom) Hello?

 

(intercom) What is it?

 

(Joel) Mom?

 

(intercom) What is it?

 

(Joel) It's Joel, your son, Joel.

 

(Intercom) Joel?

 

(Joel) Yes, your son, Joel

 

(Intercom) Come in.

 

(Joel) Here I come.

 

(on the steps, Joel and his mother kiss each other)

 

(voice over) For the first time, Joel and his parents will discuss his childhood.

 

(Joel) I brought you a picture of your granddaughter. It's the last one we took at her dance pageant. She even wrote something on it for you.

 

(Mother) I hope she's not as naughty as you were, huh?

 

(Joel) No, she has a normal childhood so she's not naughty.

 

(Mother) Why? Didn't you have a normal childhood?

 

(Joel) I don't think so. I think that religion or "The truth", as you say...

 

(Mother, a bit angry) That's it. Now that's why you are blaming us?

 

(Joel) Mom, I didn't come here to blame anyone but I am just trying to understand because this religion has broken our family.

 

(Father) You think so? I don't know.

 

(Mother) No.

 

(Joel) You know, as a child when you are constantly told that God will intervene and that the end times is coming it's traumatizing. It's scary when you are a kid.

 

(Mother) Traumatized about what?

 

(Joel) Don't you think it's humiliating to cross “Les Cévennes” (street on the district) in a suit and tie compared to all the other kids around?

 

(Mother) If it made you so sick why didn't you talk? Why didn't you say anything?

 

(Joel) You usually have to listen to your parents when you are a kid, no? It's not a matter of choice.

 

(Mother) When you work for a boss you usually have to execute orders. Our boss is Jehovah...

 

(Journalist) and orders are more important then the well being of your son?

 

(Mother) The fact that our son is not in "the truth" doesn't mean we don't love him.

 

(Joel) That has nothing to do with love...

 

(Journalist) The truth is that of Jehovah?

 

(Mother) It's the only one. It's the only religion that (inaudible), I am talking about cults. There are only the Jehovah Witnesses. It's the one and only...

 

(Journalist) So today you are not thinking, ah if I had known better I'd have left the cult so that my son avoids suffering.

 

(Mother) No... no,no,no. I love my son, I love him dearly but it's out of the question for me to leave "the truth", It's never been a question of me leaving "the truth".

 

(Voice over) Contact was established but it's just like talking to a brick wall. Joel doesn't know if he'll ever be understood by his parents and tell them that their religious convictions messed up his childhood...

 

(Joel) Obviously, I feel like I missed the opportunity to live my life.

 

(Journalist) Did you suffer because of that?

 

(Joel) Yes, I did suffer and I still suffer because only at 40 years old am I starting to be more psychologically stable. It's rather obvious that I suffered.

 

(Voice over) Just like Joel, Nakela Zegrir Fouquet is rebuilding herself. She also lived her childhood in the Jehovah Witnesses. The community she lived in forced her to keep to herself a terrifying secret for years.

 

Standing in front of cardboard boxes

 

(Journalist) What are those boxes for?

 

(Nakela) It's my past.

 

(Voice over) Years of pain and suffering Nakela still has trouble dealing with.

 

(Nakela) I hadn't opened this one for quite a while.

 

(Journalist) Why?

 

(Nakela) My photo album is in there with pictures of me as a kid but I won't open it.

 

(Voice over) Her story begins at 9 years old. Nakela Zegrir is a Muslim who was beaten up by her natural mother. CPS eventually placed her in a foster home in the valley. The family she was introduced to was one of Jehovah Witnesses. They brought her to the Kingdom Hall. The very same Kingdom Hall where we attended the Memorial.

 

(Journalist) Do you think you chose to be a Jehovah Witness?

 

(Nakela) No, I didn't choose, no.

 

(Journalist) Why?

 

(Nakela) I thought CPS was well aware they were Jehovah Witnesses. I just thought there was nothing unusual about being a JW.

 

(Voice over) Very dramatic events will happen in the foster home in the valley however. After only a few weeks it becomes a nightmare. The man whose name she won't mention anymore is the head of the family.

 

(Nakela, hesitating) He raped me. I had to have oral sex with him in the living room.

 

(Journalist) How old were you?

 

(Nakela) I was 5 and a half. I was blindfolded. Here, I'll tell you everything. I can talk about it in front of the camera today. I was blindfolded and I had to do a blow job.

 

(Voice over) Nakela's nightmare will last for years. As a teenager, fed up with the situation, she went to the only authority she trusted, the Jehovah Witness elders, and talked about the assaults.

 

(Nakela) I told them everything but they didn't believe me...

 

(Journalist) What did they tell you back then?

 

(Nakela shrugs) There was nothing to do.

 

(Voice over) Nakela feels humiliated and will even trys to commit suicide. Years later, after she quit the congregation, she filed a complaint to the police. The man acknowledged most of the facts.

 

(The police report is read)

 

" Still today I don't know why I did that. I just got my penis out of my pants."

 

(Voice over) He will never be prosecuted. The complaint was filed too long a time after the events and the statue of limitations had expired. A trial could have taken place had the Jehovah Witness elders reported them to authorities.

 

(Journalist) Do you think it was their duty?

 

(Nakela) Yes

 

(Journalist) to go to the cops?

 

(Nakela) Yes.

 

(Journalist) or to tell you to go to the police ?

 

(Nakela) Yes.

 

(Journalist) Why didn't they do that?

 

(Nakela) I am still wondering why myself today.

 

(Voice over) Why didn't the Jehovah Witnesses go to the police and tell them about Nakela and the assaults? We went to ask one of the elders at the time. The very same men she went to talk to.

 

(Journalist, gets closer to the car) Hi, I am looking for Mr ___

 

(Man) That's me.

 

(Journalist, enters the house with the man) Hello sir. I am glad to see you. Sorry to bother you. I have an issue I want to talk to you about. It's a bit confidential. I wanted to discuss the Nakela Fouquet case.

 

(man, abruptly turns around) Yes.

 

(Journalist) Do you remember?

 

(man, nervous) vaguely, yes. That was a long time ago...

 

(Journalist) I just wanted to know why you didn't report the abuse to authorities?

 

(man, backs up and raises his hand) I will not discuss the issue.

 

(Journalist) I am just trying to understand why?

 

(Man, firm voice) No, End of story.

 

(Journalist) Oh yeah ?

 

(man) Yes sir

 

(Journalist) Why won't you still talk about it? It's been years since.

 

(man) Go to the ___Police station. I gave them everything they wanted. It's over now. Over and out!

 

(Journalist) What I don't understand is...

 

(man) Over and out, sir!

 

(Journalist) OK But...

 

(man) Please, sir, it's over.

 

(Journalist) You still don't want to discuss it 20 years later?

 

(man) Please sir. I am done... Thank you very much (man leaves)

 

(Journalist) And you? You were a elder sir?

 

(voice over) During his hearing however that elder said:

 

(The minutes are read)

 

"We organized a meeting between both parties. Nakela blamed Mr X without any witnesses to establish serious accusations so we ignored the case"

 

(man) Welcome ladies and gentlemen, and thank you......

 

(voice over) It's undeniable. For the Jehovah Witnesses pedophilia and incest are very serious sins, however, the congregation organized the confrontation on it's own and didn't deem appropriate to report the facts. The only possibility for Nakela Fouquet was to sue the State that placed her in that family. The administrative tribunal acknowledged the failure of public authorities and sentenced the State to award Nakela a 22,000 Euro indemnity.

 

(Nakela's attorney) Nowadays, all the agencies involved are subject to the obligation of making sure that children placed in families are not submitted to prosecutable abuses by cults, such as sexual assault or rape and that their convictions are respected. The only problem is that those cases don't surface due to the proper logic of cults and the techniques they use on their members and their environment. We therefore very seldom see such cases reported. We must add that Ms Fouquet needed several years to become aware of the rights she had and request compensation from the state for what is considered to be the prejudices she sustained.  

 

(voice over) This young woman hesitated for a very long time before testifying in our report. Just like Nakela she wants to denounce what she went through and is still wondering why her case was swept under the rug.

 

(Emmanuelle) I almost jumped from that cliff. Of course I wanted to kill myself because of my difficult past amongst the JWs.

 

(voice over) Emmanuelle was born 39 years ago in a family entirely devoted to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. For many years her brothers sexually abused her when she was still a child.

 

(Emmanuelle) That wound is not yet healed.

 

(journalist) How old were you?

 

(Emmanuelle) It started when I was 8 and ended at around 12.

 

(journalist) Were they adults?

 

(Emmanuelle) When they started no, but they were adults when it ended.

 

(voice over) Back then, the teenaged girl instinctively went to tell her story to her spiritual leader, what the JWs call an elder.

 

(Emmanuelle) He told my brothers to ask for my forgiveness and my brothers did. He then asked me to forgive my brothers and I did. That's all there was to it, then he told me he never wanted to hear about it again.

 

(journaliste) The authorities never heard of it?

 

(Emmanuelle) It was not reported to the authorities. I never filed any complaint. The people who ordered me to remain silent also told me that the reputation of the congregation needed to be preserved otherwise the media would use the case to bring reproach on the congregation. The congregation needed to be protected at all cost. The cost to me personally was not important as well as the cost of my life and my dignity. 

 

(voice over) Ironically, Emmanuelle was disfellowshiped from the Jehovah Witnesses at 24 years old because she had sex with a man before marriage. Her brothers, however, were never disfellowshiped. So who are those elders making decisions in the Jehovah Witnesses? In Lille we met Alain Berrou. He lived 11 years amongst the JWs. He was one of those elders.

 

(Alain) Being an elder in the Jehovah Witnesses meant being a Shepard. It meant to teach others in other words to oversee. The word “Elder” to JWs is synonymous with guardian.

 

(journalist) So you were an elder?

 

(Alain) Yes, I became an elder even though I was fairly young.

 

(voice over) Alain Berrou entered the congregation at 17 encouraged by one of his classmates. Years later he now believes he was brainwashed.

 

(Alain) Every year in September and October there was a proselytizing campaign in schools. The cult was training pupils and had them proselytize to their friends at school. What I thought was commonplace chit chat wasn't really that odd.

 

(voice over) It's extremely rare for an ex elder to talk and Alain Berrou had a secret to reveal. There really exists a collective of men in congregations to deal with “sins” that is described as “judicial matters”. It is called a “judicial committee.”

 

(Alain) That committee is formed by three exclusively male elders. They are supposed to interrogate and investigate. It's some sort of internal justice system that operates alongside the goverments justice system. You see this book? It's the secret manual provided by the French branch of the Jehovah Witnesses to all the elders. It contains instructions on how to behave, how to form a judicial committee, how to make a member repent or excommunicate them. All those instructions are very troubling. So when I left the movement I was considerably pressured into giving them back their manual. I was informed the book was not the property of the elders but was only “loaned” to them as long as they were elders. So, you see, some of those instructions are rather troubling. What's handwritten in the margins is the most important. The areas that could cause them problems legally are dictated verbally for elders to write in the margins as opposed to being provided with a typed memo that could be traced directly back to headquarters. Each and every word is dictated in a very formal manner. These type of dictations were used to give elders directions on how to proceed when, for example, dealing with a sexual assault on a minor and what to do in such a case. Here, I remember how it was dictated that elders are required to use “ecclesial privilege” and not report cases of sexual assault on children to authorities. We are instructed to inform the home office legal department, start an internal investigation, if mandated, form a judicial committee, and eventually, the home office will determine what the best solution is for the congregation and its reputation. We are then explained the articles of the penal code we can use to protect ourselves from legal problems.

 

(Journalist) So the priority is not to protect the child?

 

(alain) The priority is to protect the organization of the Jehovah Witnesses.

 

(voice over) And the book specifically states:

 

"Elders forming a judicial committee have to seriously consider the interest of the sinner but also that of the congregation as a whole".

 

(Journalist) What would you have done if confronted to a case involving rape or pedophilia?

 

(Alain)  I'd have acted as a member of the judicial committee so I wouldn't have been alone. I'd have followed the instructions.

 

(Journalist) You wouldn't have reported it to authorities?

 

(Alain) I don't know, hard to tell. I guess in the logic I was living back then, at least at first, I'd have obeyed.

 

(voice over) We wanted to talk to the French home office division of the Jehovah Witnesses. They replied to us with this letter.

 

"You certainly understand that we will not participate to a program that uses unfounded and serious allegations we strongly deny."

 

(voice over) As a parallel justice system does exist in JWs we decided to ask public authorities about it.

 

(journaliste) There exists a parallel justice system in some of those organizations but nothing is done?

 

(Jean Michel Roulet, president of Miviludes) if we do

 

(journalist) What do we do?

 

(Roulet) When the facts are known and if the law applies, it does apply, if the perpetrator is covered by the legalities there's not much we can do.

 

(journalist) Forgive me sir but we tolerate a parallel justice system?

 

(Roulet) Of course not, we don't. On the contrary we denounce that on a regular basis. In order to prosecute however we need to be able to prove the accusations. We'd have to attend one of those judicial committee meetings or one of those disciplinary committee meetings, which is obviously impossible because they are closed organizations. The state however has to defend the victims because no one in the cults will defend them. When the victim is a child the parents will not report because they are consenting parties.

 

(voice over) In order to find an elder who refused to cooperate with the parallel justice system of JWs we crossed the Atlantic over to Kentucky in the southern United States. Freedom of religion here is total and there is no list of rogue cults or religious communities. The man who resisted is William H. Bowen. His story starts here. Bowen was the Presiding Overseer of a small Kingdom Hall and was very well liked by worshippers until he browsed through the congregation files and discovered cases of pedophilia that had been swept under the rug.

 

(Bill Bowen) I have something to show you. It's in a secret place.

 

(voice over) What Bill Bowen will show us is very well protected in a safe. That's his protection against pressure and threats.

 

(Bill Bowen) I called the Legal and Service Departments at the JW headquarters eight times. I recorded the last conversation because I wanted evidence of what they were instructing me to do. I had a victim that described physical evidence a child had been abused sexually. After telling them what I had as evidence this is what they told me to do:

 

(tape recorder) Ask him again if he had anything to do with that. If he says no then forget it. Just leave it to Jehovah.  Don't get yourself in a jam.

 

(Bill) So basically, they told me not to call the authorities and to leave it in the hands of Jehovah. God will solve the problem. That's why I resigned as an elder. When the Jehovah Witnesses say there's no pedophiles in their congregation that's evidence that they ask the elders not to report cases when they are approached by victims.

 

(voice over) After that phone call, Bill Bowen resigned and abandoned all activity in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. From now on it's a struggle of one small man in his garage with few resources against the silence of a powerful organization.

 

(Bill) This is what we call the Headquarters. This is where everything happens for Silentlambs. This is where we get the emails and do everything we do to help the victims.

 

(voice over) He created this organization seven years ago to help the victims of sexual abuse in JW congregations. Silentlambs, les agneaux silencieux (French translation of the name). And, surprise, surprise, he receives testimonies on a daily basis.  

 

(Bill) This is where we get all the alerts. Today alone we received two reports of sexual abuse on children. In the last seven years we've had about 7000. After checking the facts we estimate at least 300 current cases involving JW molesters have been reported to the police.

 

(voice over) Lead by Bill Bowen, hundreds of victims gathered for a  march to the front of the JW's international headquarters in New York City

 

(Bill, during the march) Today is your day, the day when lambs are no longer silent.

 

(voice over) Bill is convinced. According to him, the higher ranks of the Jehovah Witnesses organization are perfectly aware of the abuse cases.

 

(Bill) We were contacted by three individuals from the JW headquarters. They didn't know one another and basically gave us the same data of a number of JW child molesters registered in a file: 23720. We posted it on our website. We were able to establish that the headquarters acknowledged the existence of that file. The only thing they disagreed with was the number of pedophiles mentioned in the file. They said that the number, in and of itself was not important. As a former elder I knew there was a file because I reported a case myself, so I know what they'll ask you in those cases. All the data on the victim, the perpetrator and the number of incidents are entered into a computer. 

 

(voice over) In this internal letter, JW higher leaders state that abuse on children is indeed a crime but adds:

 

"The decision to report the facts to authorities remains personal. There will be no repercussion whatever the choice of the individual may be."

 

(voice over) This other letter from the international headquarters is confidential. It is addressed to all the United States elders. It specifically states that no copy of it should be made. It says:

 

"If a case of sexual abuse on a child is reported to elders the legal department at the headquarters should first be contacted. Elders should never allow a Kingdom Hall to be searched or any other location where confidential files are kept."

 

(voice over) The struggle lead by Bill Bowen and others is very bad publicity for the church and a good reputation is paramount in attracting new worshippers.

 

New York City, the Jehovah Witnesses opened their international headquarters here, in Brooklyn. The compound is called the Watchtower, la tour de guarde, (French translation of the name). Under heavy security, it's a city in a city with about ten buildings linked to one another with foot bridges and tunnels. Behind those windows is where all the dogma is elaborated. In this propaganda DVD Jehovah witnesses are showing off their wealth. A giant printing shop produces magazines in every language. More worshippers mean more donations. Over six million members worldwide is roughly the equivalent of the population of Switzerland. Lots of money is spent to encourage baptisms and spread Jehovah's good news. In the magazine there's no hesitation in making kids actors (Excerpt, JW DVD "Un peuple pour son nom".

 

(JW man to girl) "you have to look very sad, ok sweety?"

 

(voice over) A few clicks later the strategy worked. The little girl looks like she bears all the pains and misery of the world. She'll make the front page of the magazine which will be distributed door to door.

 

(JW lady preaching)"I feel the same thing you do. This nice magazine tells us why all those sad things happen."

 

(voice over) We wanted to meet someone in charge of the headquarters and ask them a few questions. We had already sent them several faxes to tell them we were coming.

 

(Journalist) Hi, I'd like to talk to someone from the public relations' department.

 

(voice over) After waiting for a few minutes, two people from the public relations department politely greeted us. Just as in France however, it was impossible to get an interview.

 

(journalist) Can we interview someone this morning?

 

(JW from communications) Oh, sorry. There must be a mistake.

 

(journalist) Yes, but it would be nice to meet someone.

 

(JW) It seems you don't have a very good relationship with our branch in France.

 

(journalist) I don't think so.

 

(JW) Do you have a problem with the JWs in France?

 

(journalist) No, no I don't know.

 

(JW) I am not talking about you personally but your network has a bad reputation in our office in France.

 

(journalist) We are one of the most credible networks. What do you mean by bad reputation?

 

(voice ovrt) Off the record she told us that only 30 cases of pedophilia were registered in all congregations. We were never told if the police got involved or not.

 

(journalist) If you want your truth to be told you have to say it, otherwise no one will know.

 

(JW) You are right, I agree.

 

(Journalist) Those 30 cases you are talking about are only in the US or worldwide?

 

(JW) They are those that were received at our headquarters.

 

(voice over) Listening to her one would think that the issue was exaggerated and that the Watchtower is not that worried at all about its image. Thirty cases is very far from the 7,000 collected by Bill Bowen. Back to the southern US: Nashville, the cradle of country music. That day, Bill Bowen was a busy man. Being late is out of question and he has important news to tell at a press conference.

 

(Bill) We will tell the entire world what they did to those kids.

 

(voice over) He mobilized journalists as well as members of his group. Angelina is one of those victims. She also sustained a sexual assault when she was young. She came from St-Louis, Missouri with her two children, a five hour trip, especially for her daughter.

 

(Angelina Taylor) I went through a sexual assault so when I look at my daughter I see myself and I want people to see her. I want them to look at her face and say: "How can someone rape her?" How can we sweep that under the rug, as I understand how a child suffers with abuse. The only thing they'll (JWs) tell us is "don't go to the cops." And then their solution is to tell that wonderful child to just forget everything.

 

(voice over) What Bill will tell us this day will go in total contradiction with the reassuring stance of the Watchtower.

 

(Bill) A month ago we were informed that out of court settlements were reached in over forty sexual assault civil trials involving JW defendants. Sixteen were granted the largest settlements in church history but the agreement stated that the victims should never talk about the assaults again.

 

(voice over) Sixteen settlements with huge amounts of money, as is allowed in American law with a promise from the victim to stop the lawsuits and remain silent.

 

(Bill) Why did they pay? They didn't want to go to trial. Last autumn a court decision ordered them to open all the records of pedophiles in congregations who were never reported, so they decided to negotiate. They paid the victims to reduce them to silence. It's undeniable evidence that their practices put children in danger.

 

(voice over) Bill Bowen put his words into action. He is asking these settlements be posted on every Kingdom Hall and also leaves a lamb to give a voice to the victims. At one delivery in the Nashville area, all of the sudden a JW in charge of security arrives and the presence of the camera really makes him mad.

 

(security JW) Who called you?

 

(Bill) They are with me. I am with an organization..

 

(journalist) Will you give us any comments?

 

(JW) No, just turn off the camera.

 

(journalist) Any comments?

 

(JW) No, you, turn off that camera.

 

(voice over) Bill Bowen encourages victims to claim damages.

 

(Bill) It's some sort of healing campaign for the victims, just so they know that this church has to pay for damages if they were abused. It's also a signal for the church.  "Change your practices or you'll go bankrupt."

 

(voice over) In Lille, France, Alain Berrou crossed that bridge. The former elder now wishes that children be better informed about abusive cults. He's now an activist in this association for the rights of individuals.

 

(Alain) A few years ago I'd have never thought of being in an organization that provides information about rogue wayward cults because back then I believed this type of information came from the devil so it wouldn't have crossed my mind, no...

 

(Journalist) So, there you have it. We received an email from the Jehovah Witnesses this morning; "The Jehovah Witnesses never substitute themselves from the justice system, nor do we not report or discourage prosecutable behaviors."

 

We'd have preferred them to tell us in front of the camera.

 

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