Children not protected by Jehovah's: RC

9 News
November 27, 2016

Children are not adequately protected from sexual abuse in the Jehovah's Witnesses, an organisation that wrongly relies on a rule with 2000-year-old biblical origins when handling complaints, the royal commission says.

It also says victims may face an impossible choice between staying in an organisation that protects their abuser or being "shunned" and cut off from family and friends.

"We do not consider the Jehovah's Witness organisation to be an organisation which responds adequately to child sexual abuse," the sex abuse royal commission said in a report released on Monday.

"We do not believe that children are adequately protected from the risk of sexual abuse."

The commission said the Jehovah's Witness organisation's scripturally-based policies and practices were outdated and, by and large, wholly inappropriate and unsuitable in child sex abuse cases.

It applied a two-witness rule for complaints of wrongdoing that had not been revised or improved since the Jehovah's Witnesses was founded in the late 19th century.

"The Jehovah's Witness organisation relies on, and applies inflexibly even in the context of child sexual abuse, a rule which was devised more than 2000 years ago," the report said.

"A complainant of child sexual abuse whose allegation has not been corroborated by confession by their abuser or a second 'credible' eyewitness is necessarily disempowered and subjected to ongoing traumatisation."

To put a victim of child sex abuse in such a position was unacceptable and wrong, the commission said.

The commission found the organisation's internal sanctions are weak and leave perpetrators of child sexual abuse at large in the organisation and the community.

The organisation deals with offenders through assessing how repentant they are, with inadequate regard to the risk of reoffending, the commission said.

That showed a serious lack of understanding of the nature and impact of child sex abuse and and placed children within the organisation at significant risk of sexual abuse, it said.

The commission said the practice of shunning those who leave the Jehovah's Witnesses could put victims in the untenable position of having to choose between constant re-traumatisation through sharing a community with their abuser or losing their entire family and social network.

The commission found the Jehovah's Witnesses' general practice was not to report child sex abuse allegations to police or authorities unless required to do so by law, saying there was no evidence they reported a single one of 1006 alleged abusers.

However, the Jehovah's Witnesses said they comply with mandatory reporting laws and will report abuse allegations to the authorities if the child is in danger, regardless of reporting requirements.

"In addition to whatever action is taken by the authorities, Jehovah's Witnesses document and act upon any allegation of child abuse received, and provide pastoral care to a victim and their family," the organisation told AAP.

It said the commission's recommendations related to responses from decades ago and the Jehovah's Witnesses continued to refine and improve their responses.

"Although the commission questioned certain Bible-based beliefs and standards, senior Jehovah's Witnesses testified that the organisation will continue to review its responses."

The religion never takes custody of children and does not sponsor any activities or programs that separate children from their parents or guardians at any time, it said.



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