One day in the mid 1980s the members of my congregation were shocked and appalled to read an article in the local newspaper stating that the Police had investigated a paedophile ring and the names of those who were involved were listed. One of these names was of a local brother. For ease of reference I shall name him Brother Brown*.
Brother Brown was an older man probably in his late 60s (actually early 70s – please see the UPDATE HERE). As a teenager anyone over the age of 35 seems ancient, so my estimation may not be perfectly accurate. However, I know that he was older than certain family members of mine due to the way they talked about him.
My parents brought the newspaper article to my attention. They said that we must remain cautious about believing the information in the newspaper as it may be false. All current and former Jehovah’s Witnesses must be aware of the extreme paranoia that the organisation fosters with regard to external news sources (actually the paranoia extends to anything or anyone not part of the Watchtower organisation). We were taught that “Satan” was in charge of the world and because of this we must never trust information given by anyone other than the Watchtower organisation. My parents never warned me to avoid contact with Brother Brown. They didn’t tell me that I must be careful. I was just told that I mustn’t believe what had been written because it came from a source outside of the organisation.
I was a good and faithful Jehovah’s Witness. I was obedient and I believed what I was told. I didn’t believe the newspaper article although it had made me uncomfortable. I “trusted in Jehovah” that this would be sorted out. Brother Brown had been very particular in his attention to me. He had given me gifts. I was an artistic child and he had encouraged me to keep drawing. One day when he had visited I mentioned that I had done a self portrait. He asked to see it. I explained that it was framed and hanging on my bedroom wall. I took him to see it. Now I think about who this person was and I am shocked that he was allowed in my bedroom.
A few days later when we were at the Kingdom Hall an announcement was made regarding the newspaper article. We were told the following:
- The elders were aware of the allegations made in the newspaper.
- The elders understood that there were no pending criminal charges.
- The elders had talked to the individual involved who was repentant.
- The elders were satisfied that no further action was required.
- The congregation should treat Brother Brown the same as they did prior to hearing this information as it had been dealt with and they were repentant.
- The congregation should not discuss this amongst themselves because this would be gossip and would bring reproach upon Jehovah’s name.
At this point, I now knew that what had been written in the newspaper article was true. Firstly, I felt physically sick. This person had been in my bedroom. He had given me gifts. He had put his arm around me at times. I was in shock. I was very confused. I didn’t understand why he was allowed to remain in the congregation. I still trusted the organisation and the elders so very implicitly, but I had questions that I needed answering and I needed to be reassured. But I had just been instructed not to question, to accept what I had been told and not to talk about it because I could bring reproach upon Jehovah’s name. There was no-one to whom I could turn.
I threw out the gifts that I had been given. However, I felt guilty about doing this. Yes folks, I felt guilty for throwing out gifts that a paedophile had given me. Why? Because I had been conditioned to believe that I should do everything and anything that “Jehovah’s organisation” told me without question and not to do so was a sin and I could die at Armageddon. This included me treating Brother Brown in exactly the same way that he had been treated prior to finding out about his paedophilia. Ergo, I should have gratefully kept the gifts. I never talked to him again. I avoided him like the plague. Even though my family members still spoke to him and one particular family member who lived abroad corresponded with him for many years after this.
It was from this moment on that I started to feel intensely uncomfortable about some of the things that I was expected to believe. However, because of my conditioning, I thought that questioning anything was just because I was spiritually weak and not faithful enough. Nothing to do with the fact that I was a child and a pedo had been trying to be my friend! Ugh!
I am so grateful that I was never molested by this person. But I don’t know if they had victims within the congregation. I don’t know if they went onto molest others after this. I feel sick and disgusted just thinking how I was instructed to treat this person and that I should shut up and never discuss it. Now, as a parent I am horrified. I am so glad that I chose not to bring my children up in this religion. I can’t understand how parents could choose to trust an organisation over the instinct and duty to protect their children. The indoctrination ensures that parents are impotent to truly protect their children as they completely believe that “Jehovah” will take care of everything. But as has been shown time and time again in cases in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, etc, that their “god” either chooses not to protect children, or is incapable of doing so.
It is very important that people realise that I’m not telling this particular story to make it about “me”. I do not claim to have been sexually abused as a child. I’m not trying to “jump on the bandwagon”. All I’m trying to show is that this was and is a dangerous culture within this organisation. The more of us that tell our experiences and show that it wasn’t a few isolated cases, it is the entire system within these congregations and the Watchtower organisation as a whole the allows for this to happen and continue.
The protection of children comes way down the list of priorities for the Watchtower organisation. The sad and frustrating thing is that all of these people are sincere that they are doing the right thing and being faithful to “god”. However, from my perspective as a human being and a parent, if that deity allows children to be so systematically abused, ignored, not believed and unprotected, I’m sure as hell not willing to worship such a deity. My morals refuse to allow me to behave in this way.
Thank you for reading my latest blog.
* I am not naming him here because I was not personally molested by this person and I am mindful that others who may have been affected by him directly might be triggered by my directly referring to his name. If you suspect that this person was known by you and you wish to contact me, please do so via the contact page here. If you are an activist and would like more details, please contact me.