The End of Silence
Sexual abuse in the Jehovah's Witness faith
0.11 - 0.30 (off screen/original sound) Teda
"I was eight, he was grown-up, an adult man, a Jehovah's Witness, and we went from door to door here. And then he went up there with me, and then he assaulted me. I was merely frightened."
0.35 - 0.57 (off screen/original sound) Ewelina
"My family belongs to Jehovah's Witnesses, and my father abused me sexually for several years, beginning when I was three, as far as I can remember. My father was not called to account. He is still a Jehovah's Witness in good standing."
1.00 - 1.21 (off screen) Ruth
"Things were such that I was abused and raped by my father for years. It began when I was nine, and continued until I was 16 or 17. My mother tried to get help from the elders. She called them in. Nothing was done. It was swept under the carpet."
The men who abused Teda, Ewelina, and Ruth, were members of the same denomination: Jehovah's Witnesses. Sexual abuse - a societal problem world-wide. But the way Jehovah's Witnesses handle it is unique.
1.49 - 2.54 (original sound) Teda
"I had to go from door to door like other Witness children. That was mandatory. And there was always an adult accompanying, whether man or women did not matter. And I was assigned to an adult man. And he did everything so that I might always accompany him. It began quite harmless, that sexual abuse. I got more and more frightened since it happened more and more often, and sometime I told it my mother, and that I did not want to go from door to door any longer. And she believed me. And then the body of elders was summoned. And my mother and me and that man who had assaulted me - we sat, as far as I remember, in a small room, and it was discussed and he confessed. His punishment was that he need not go from door to door with me any longer."
Three times a week Jehovah's Witnesses gather in their Kingdom Halls. Each meeting is led by men, so-called elders. According to the Bible, women must be subordinate. They cannot hold service positions. Conflicts and moral wrongdoing are dealt with internally by the elders in judicial committees. Lay judges without psychological training would interrogate children and pass sentences.
"Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock" is the title of the internal handbook for elders. It reads:
"Certain disputes between brothers should not be carried before worldly courts."
3.34 (original sound) Teda
Question: "Was there ever some talk of reporting the man?"
Answer: "No, it wasn't. It would have come to public attention in that case."
There had to be kept silence about the abuse even within their own ranks.
3.50 - 4.45 (original sound) Teda
"Every Thursday and Sunday we had our meeting in the Kingdom Hall, as it is called, and I had to shake hands with that man. And it was not merely on Thursdays and Sundays, but we met in a small group on Sunday morning, and persons were assigned there to each other. And he was no longer allowed to go from door to door with me, but each time I had to see him. My mother continued to visit his family, and he even tried to do it at his home, saying, "Little Teda, come onto my lap!" Or when he accompanied us to the doorsteps, at night when it was dark, he kept me back, and when you are eight or nine you do not know how to resist."
Question: "How should the elders have reacted?"
Answer: "I would have wanted that this man was punished."
Watchtower and Awake! - advertising brochures for non-members, mandatory reading for Jehovah's Witnesses. They show how the members are expected to behave. The guidelines are valid world-wide along the same lines and are pre-determined by the headquarters in the USA.
The Witnesses believe that we are living in the last days; Armageddon, doomsday is just ahead. Only he who follows the strict Biblical rules is a good Witness, will not be destroyed, will enter Paradise.
Ewelina is eighteen years old and a Jehovah's Witness, she was raised in that faith. Her father destroyed her childhood.
5.35 - 6.16 (off screen/original sound) Ewelina
"As a small child, I used to sleep in my father"s bed, and he abused me sexually. He gave me booze. The abuse continued since I was three, so far I can still remember anyway. And when I was eight we moved. After some time I told my mother what he had done to me. My mother was shocked and believed me at that moment. My mother turned to the elders, they didn't believe it and demanded that we keep silent, that my mother doesn't take the case to court, no reporting, no involvement of the public, and that my mother forgives him - on behalf of God, that is."
Ewelina"s mother always stood by her daughter. She fought within the organization, she didn't want to be silent. But report the own husband" She doesn't want to say anything in front of the cameras. When she learned that her other daughter was abused, too, she did not turn to the police, but to the elders. Ewelina sought their help, too.
6.40 - 7.21 (original sound) Ewelina