After the Mission/Investigate report about the sexual abuse among Jehovah's Witnesses (which was aired 08.04.03) it first became silent, even though the reporter Janne Josefsson on several occations asked the leader of Jehovah's Witnesses for a commentary. Then came the answer - in the form of an advertisement which denied the accusations and claimed that the report was spreading lies. But it turned out that the whole advertisement builds entirely upon the story told by the abuser.
A few weeks ago Mission/Investigate revealed that the congregations within Jehovah's Witnesses protect child abusers which have abused children in their own congregation. One of the victims which came forward was Anders who told how his congregation had dissuaded him from reporting the abuse to the police, and that he didn't receive any support and the abuser was still an active Witness going from house to house Witnessing.
Anders and his sister was the only ones who dared coming forward with their faces and names in the report, but there was also several other people who told similar stories from other congregations. In the report there is even a person in a congregation that admits to abusing a young girl.
The leaders of Jehovah's Witnesses branch office in Sweden refused to be interviewed, unless they could formulate the questions that were going to be asked themselves, they also hid from the reporter. Instead the spokesman Bengt Hansson chose to respond to the report a few weeks later in the form of buying space in several newspapers, with money from their members. It was published in among others, Expressen, Göteborgsposten, Svenska Dagbladet and Kvällsposten. In this ad he claims that the report was misleading and unfair.
The ad claims that Anders lied in the report, because "both of the involved were children (about 8 respectively 4 years) when the sexual abuse between them started - and that they were still minors (14 and 10) when the abuse stopped in 1987."
It also claimed that at the time during which the sexual acts had taken place none of the involved or their parents had been members of Jehovah's Witnesses. According to the ad Anders and his parents had also made a deal with the elders in the congregation not to report the abuse to the police or social authorities after the abuse was discovered.
"I am astonished that no one from the Watchtower Society has contacted me or my parents before the ad was published," says a disappointed Anders to Mission/Investigate.
Instead Anders received a letter from the branch office in Arboga, telling him that the facts in the ad build on information given by the person identified as the abuser in the report.
"This is horrible. It isn't true. The abuse did not stop when I was 10 years old and we were Jehovah's Witnesses when it happened. It isn't true that we made a deal not to report anything to the police," says Anders
Since the report was aired Anders and his family has received much support but also a lot of indignant reactions from members of Jehovah's Witnesses. Many of their friends have severed contact and they are being accused of running "satan's errand". The congregation that Anders belong to has reacted with silence - a behaviour that further enhances the impression that Jehovah's Witnesses don't support victims of sexual abuse but instead protect the perpetrator.
Together with Janne Josefsson Anders decide to call the branch office in Arboga to ask the leaders why they chose to believe the abuser and not Anders. He gets Lars-Erik Eriksson on the phone, he refuse to answer Anders question and ask him to formulate his questions in a letter. When Janne Josefsson ask permission to ask some questions Lars-Erik Eriksson hang up the phone.
One of the Newspapers which were asked to provide space for the ad but refused was Dagens Nyheter. The newspapers publisher and chief editor Jan Wifstrand chose this course after he himself was denied an ordinary interview with the Jehovah's Witness leaders.
"If they don't want to talk to us about what really is going on, they should not be able to buy ad space to do it," he adds.
The advertisement published by Jehovah's Witnesses as an answer deals with only one of the examples of abuse and do not mention the other examples which were raised in the report.
REPORTER: Jan Josefsson
RESEARCH: Lars-Göran Svensson
PHOTO: Rune Bergström
EDITING: Åke Toresson