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2-13-02

 

Former Jehovah's elder starts abuse Web site

 

By Bobbie Foust   

Tribune-Courier Editor   

William Bowen of Calvert City is continuing a campaign he started last year over policies within Congregation of the Jehovah's Witness church regarding alleged sexual abuse of children.

 

Bowen, a former church elder, resigned last year. Now he has started a support group called silentlambs Inc., a network for abuse victims. Its Web site, www.silentlambs.org , allows victims to share their stories.

 

James Bonnell, leader of the local Jehovah's Witness congregation in Draffenville, wouldn't comment on the issue. "This issue was brought up over a year ago, and Mr. Bowen has tried to keep it in the public eye," he said.

 

Bowen also has traveled to Washington State to support a victim, who he says was harassed, during two criminal trials of her abuser .

 

On Jan. 22, the woman, Erica Rodriguez, filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of

Washington, against Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Othello Spanish Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Manuel Beliz—the man convicted of abusing her as a child.

 

Bowen calls the lawsuit “just the tip of the iceberg.” He claims the church discourages victims from reporting abuse to authorities telling them instead to report it to church leaders.

 

“Our denomination is now where the Catholic Church was 20 years ago—right on the edge of a crisis," Bowen said.

 

Bowen recommends three things to stop abuse:

 

# Victims should go to the police first.

 

# The church should not put a known molester in a position of responsibility.

 

# Stop child molesters from going door to door.

 

After resigning last year as presiding overseer of the local congregation, Bowen made accusations to "push the denomination's leaders to respond more sympathetically" to abuse victims, a release said. He claims that "on a shoestring budget" in only few months he has contacted more than 1,000 victims.

 

 

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