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silentlambs, inc.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE
For Release August 8, 2001
Jehovah’s Witnesses Child Molestation Victims Seek Justice


Victims of child molestation have served a lawsuit against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the corporate entity that controls the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The law firm of Reinhardt and Anderson, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is filing the first of several lawsuits in behalf of victims who have been injured by the Watchtower's policy of ignoring reported child sexual abuse.
The organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a closed society that requires its members to turn inward to the organization with any problems, rather than seek outside help. This practice conflicts with laws requiring the reporting of suspected child abuse. Victims’ attorney Jeff Anderson states: “Child sexual abuse is not tolerated anywhere else. With the onset of the laws protecting children such as neighborhood notification laws and mandatory reporting statutes, the days when child molesters enjoyed a cloak of silence are past, except within the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This church seems to think they are above the law the rules do not apply to them. This case is simply about making Jehovah’s Witnesses understand they have the same rules as everyone else when it comes to protecting our children.”


Jehovah’s Witnesses are accused of creating an organizational policy that, in the opinion of victims, has shielded child molesters, while continuing to harm victims. It is alleged that when a victim comes to the church elders to report child sexual abuse by a church member, Watchtower has instructed the elders to require the victim to present proof of the sexual abuse before the victim is to be believed. According to church policy, the proof can include two eyewitnesses to each act of abuse. Failure to present such proof can result in the victim being ostracized and shunned by elders and the congregation for false accusations against a member.
Anderson states: “The very nature of child sexual abuse is that it rarely happens in the presence of others. Child victims of sexual abuse are especially traumatized as the perpetrators often threaten them into silence. Jehovah’s Witnesses policy is no different. The victims do what they are supposed to do, go to the church, and the church turns against them.” Victims claim that elders often do nothing to prevent known child molesters from having contact with children, including requiring all church members to solicit Watchtower literature on the doorsteps of unsuspecting residents.

The first lawsuit will be filed in Nashua, N. H., where Jehovah’s Witness church member, Paul Berry is alleged to have repeatedly sexually molested his stepdaughter and his daughter, starting when they were three years old. When the girls’ mother went to the church elders with her suspicions of abuse, the elders told her she should be a better wife, and to pray more about the situation, ignoring New Hampshire’s mandatory child abuse reporting statute. The abuse continued and Berry was ultimately criminally convicted for the abuse of his stepdaughter and was sentenced to 56 years in prison. The same church elders who initially received the mother’s reports of abuse several years earlier, spoke to the judge at Berry’s sentencing hearing and maintained their belief in his innocence.

The stories of many victims can be found at www.silentlambs.org ran by the non-profit organization silentlambs, inc. Founded by one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, William H. Bowen of Calvert City, Kentucky, the organization offers resources, healing and closure to victims of child molestation. Bowen states, “I felt compelled to resign as pastor of my local congregation in protest of internal policies that shield sex offenders and hurt children. When the church promotes child molesters to positions of leadership and requires them to call at the homes of the unknowing public that is bad policy.”

If you would like to receive more information on this topic, see our website at www.silentlambs.org or contact William H. Bowen at (270) 527-xxxx.
silentlambs, inc, PO Box 311, Calvert City, Kentucky 42029 USA.
Telephone: 270-527-xxxx Fax: 270-527-xxxx
For further legal information: Jeff Anderson, 651-227-xxxx
Hotline for Jehovah’s Witness victims of abuse
1-877-WTABUSE

 

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