Statement by Bill Bowen of Paducah Kentucky, founder of SilentLambs.org, a support group for those molested by Jehovah’s Witnesses. . .270-703-2257
Sex abuse survivors through litigation have forced Jehovah’s Witnesses to admit their policy on child abuse is not working. Watchtower policy has silenced thousands of victims and continues to strangle their ability to cry for justice and healing.
One month ago, we were informed about settlements in some of the more than forty recent civil sex abuse lawsuits against the Jehovah's Witnesses. We learned that 16 victims were paid the largest settlement in history of Jehovah’s Witnesses but forced to sign a gag order that forbids them from speaking about their abuse. We find this bittersweet. On one hand, we're glad a few victims are finally getting some financial help. On the other hand, we're sad and worried because they've essentially been forced to give up their right to protect others by speaking out about their abuse to the public.
In 2002, US Catholic bishops publicly promised that the church would never ask for gag orders when compensating abuse survivors. Five years later, Jehovah’s Witnesses do just the reverse. They keep putting innocent kids and unsuspecting families at risk of horrible crimes because they value their secrecy and reputations more than they value children's safety. We consider this bad policy and call on the second largest denomination in the USA to follow the example of Catholic Church and not require their members to sign gag orders. Southern Baptist and Jehovah’s Witness kids that experience abuse need to have freedom to speak. It is time to step up and do the right thing instead of protecting the reputation of the church.
Watchtower's secrecy and recklessness gives dangerous men like Rick McLean continued access to youngsters. McLean was recently featured on America's Most Wanted as one of the 15 most wanted fugitives in this country. Four of his victims were part of the sixteen lawsuits recently settled and silenced by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Because Watchtower officials never reported McLean and his crimes to law enforcement, he remains on the run and in fact might be molesting kids right now. Watchtower has a long-standing and ridiculous policy of not reporting molesters to police, requiring two eye witnesses before an abused child is believed and insisting that untrained individuals do internal investigations. This keeps kids vulnerable and predators free.
Watchtower has attacked and ousted members of conscience who have spoken out on to protect kids. They have protected child molesters by maintaining a secret database of more that 25,000 molesters that they do not shared with law enforcement. Finally, when a few victims find the courage and strength to speak up, get help, warn others, and seek justice in court, church officials silence them with hurtful gag orders.
Why did they settle? Last fall, a California court ruling would have required Watchtower to open their pedophile database. To prevent this information from becoming public, church officials chose to settle these 16 cases. They do not want anyone to know how much damaging information the database contains.
This is an international problem that needs to be addressed by one of the wealthiest religious groups in the world. At silentlambs.org, we want victims to know that, now more than ever, they can speak out, get help, expose molesters and protect others. Now more than ever, the legal climate has changed and is changing, so they have a better chance to get justice in court and deter others from hiding sex crimes.
We are announcing a worldwide campaign to reach Jehovah’s Witness sex abuse victims. We are asking that this downloadable “Service Bulletin” be placed in every Kingdom Hall (JW CHURCH) around the world and delivered to any Jehovah’s Witness that you may come in contact with. By doing so you can help victims find healing and protect children.