Brunella’s shock accusation: “My niece raped when she was 9 years by Jehovah’s Witnesses”
Brunella speaking, the grandmother of a sexually abused girl when she was 9 years old by a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses. After thirty years in the organization, the woman has found the courage to denounce pedophilia within the “JW cult” and the silence with which the leaders deal with cases of sexual violence against minors.
“My niece was sexually abused when she was 9 years old by a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The child spoke of the violence against the elders of the congregation but was not believed. They buried everything “. Brunella is Maria’s grandmother (fancy name), a girl who is now 17 years old. The woman has been part of the religious organization for 30 years but, after having learned of the abuses to her niece, has decided to denounce the pedophilia within the “JW cult” and, above all, the silence with which the leaders deal with cases of sexual violence against minors. It is painful for Brunella to tell her harrowing experience after decades of believing in what she now calls a “deception”. We are in Piedmont, in a town in the province of Cuneo, and Brunella becomes a follower after a visit by the “ministers in charge of teaching the Bible”, as the preachers of the religious movement are called. Once she became a JW, she also goes out to proselytize too, every day and is so integrated that she persuades her daughter to join the congregation. “I forced her to join the ‘cult’- he recalls – she was 25 and was pregnant with his second child”.
Brunella learns of her niece’s abuses only two years ago, almost by accident. “In 2016, Maria was going out with a “worldly boyfriend”(people who are not part of the congregation, editor’s note). I supported her because I did not want her to be with one of JW,” says her grandmother. However, the girl runs away with her boyfriend and leaves a letter to her parents explaining the reasons for her escape. “She wanted to abandon the cult – continues Brunella – after telling the boy about the sexual violence suffered when she was only a child”. When she returns with her parents, the teenager finds the courage to reveal everything to her grandmother too. “His torturer is called Francesco, at the time he was 55 with a daughter of my niece’s age. As often happens among us, she invited Maria to spend the night at her house to be with her friend. While his wife slept, she went to my niece’s bed and abused her. ” “Thinking back to that period, I remember that Mary, when she was 9, lost all her hair. She was restless when she had to face her pedophile executioner at the Kingdom Hall meeting. “
“Of course, now I explain some attitudes, especially from the elder, towards my niece but also to other children. But at the time I could not imagine that there were any cases of pedophilia in Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sexual violence against minors was discussed only to highlight and denounce the events concerning the Catholic Church “, says the former follower. The procedure by which the case of Mary was dealt with came to light with the abuses. “When the girl denounced the violence – Brunella continues – she was brought before the judicial committee chaired by the elders of the congregation. They told her that his were all lies and was not believed because there were not at least two witnesses “.
The Pedophilia cases judged by the internal tribunals
“Unlike most religious denominations, Jehovah’s Witnesses have internal justice tribunals, which takes precedence over the secular one,” writes Roberto Di Stefano, a former elder who abandoned the cult to Jehovah after 30 years and now proposes to unmask the true identity of the religious organization. Internal tribunals that privilege theocratic justice based on the interpretation of the Bible. “The ‘internal rules’ of the movement – Di Stefano said – are an obstacle to the identification of cases, to physical, emotional and psychological rescue of victims and, finally, prevent punish pedophiles and put them in a position to no longer harm children” . In a document released in 2012 and reserved only for elders of the congregations, the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses gave instructions on how child abuse should be treated, defined as “wrong sexual conduct”, “sin” and even “weakness” . The text reaffirmed the need for cases of pedophilia to be judged within the organization. “The elders are not authorized by the Scriptures to take any action at the congregation level until there is a confession or testimony of two credible witnesses,” reads.
Repentance of the pedophile is sufficient
The document also gives the pedophile a chance to repent and continue to be a follower of Jehovah. “A judicial committee establishes that an individual who has sexually abused a minor is repentant, and that he will be allowed to continue being a member of the Christian congregation.” At the end, there is a great discretionary power even in the face of the “predator”, that is, the person who clearly lacks self-control and who with “his actions gives reason to think that he will continue to lure children”. “We detest child sexual abuse and will not protect any person who makes such repugnant acts of the consequences of his grave sin.” To immediately report the abuse to police in cases of pedophilia, however, there is no trace in the document.
Silence to avoid being shunned
“Parents do not believe sexual violence is possible for their children. And even in the face of confessions of abuse there is silence. We could not report to the judicial authorities – Brunella points out – in order to not shame the good name of the congregation “. “Jehovah sees everything, you do not have to say anything. They are like puppets “. The risk is to end up ostracized, removed from their family, isolated from the rest of the community. In short: shunned by everyone. “Whoever joins Jehovah’s Witnesses must believe that he reserves all the doctrines, even the most irrational ones. Because those who do not follow the advice of the leaders of religion will be disfollowshipped”, admits the woman. “The faithful and discreet slave is responsible and puts the interests of the kingdom in first place”, announced in one video one of the eight members of the Watch Tower, the highest executive organ of the religious organization. But despite this iron discipline, sexual violence among Jehovah’s Witnesses has come to light all over the world. From Australia to the United States, through Great Britain and many other countries, the stories of abused children and missing complaints arrived before the courts. In Australia, a commission of inquiry has identified 1006 cases not reported to the judiciary. And even Geoffrey Jackson, one of the seven “popes” of Jehovah’s Witnesses, during the deposition before the Royal Commission on pedophilia instituted in Sydney, admitted that the procedures adopted up to then had proved inadequate.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses have ruined my life”
After learning of her niece’s abuse, Brunella is in shock and decides to abandon Jehovah’s Witnesses forever. She returns to her native land, Sardinia, where he is summoned by the authorities. In fact, Maria’s fiancé has filed a complaint and wants her to confirm the story of the sexual violence suffered by her niece. “But after my deposition I did not know anything. They told me to be patient because the investigations have to take their course, “she says. “I tried to talk to my daughter about what happened but told me to be silent, not to tell anything, especially to my son-in-law”. Since then she is not allowed to see her daughter, much less her niece. “They put her against me. ‘You broke the commandments and I can no longer contact you,’ was her last reply when I called her, “she says bitterly. “My daughter no longer answered my phone calls. I know that Maria no longer goes to school because her parents forced her to retire in the seventh grade. They pushed me away from my dearest loved ones and, after what happened to my niece, I also thought about suicide. Jehovah’s Witnesses have ruined my life, “concludes Brunella.