Frank broke the ‘holy’ silence about sexual abuse at the Jehovah’s Witnesses
Frank Huiting from Groningen broke the silence of victims of sexual abuse at Jehovah’s Witnesses. Thanks to his courage, 301 abuse cases have become known. The House of Representatives demands investigation into abuse within the church, which has its head office in Emmen. But the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not cooperate.
The full House of Representatives demands investigation into sexual abuse at the Jehovah’s Witnesses. All the political groups support a proposal to this end from SP Member of Parliament Michiel van Nispen. Minister Sander Dekker indicated earlier that he would feel for such an investigation.
Dekker hoped for a long time that the church itself would get the broom through its own organization, just like in the Catholic church. But the Jehovah’s Witnesses say they do not find research necessary, because only a few victims would have reported.
But at the foundation ‘ Reclaimed Voices ‘, the reporting center for victims of abuse within the denomination, no fewer than 301 reports have been received in recent months.
The story of Frank Huiting: ‘Liberating’
All thanks to ex-Jehovah’s Witness Frank Huiting (40) from Groningen. Last year he told his abuse story in Dagblad Trouw, first anonymously and later under his own name. It was liberating for the Groninger, who suffered from the trauma of years of abuse by an older boy within the religious community.
Through the story, he got in touch with many other victims. Together with Raymond Hintjes and Aswin Suierveld he founded the foundation ‘ Reclaimed Voices ‘, to address the policies of the church and to support victims.
“It was a very scary step,” says Huiting, who was known as a jovial boy, who liked to joke, but was a victim of abuse, who had sought it after him? “First I did my story anonymously, but then there were reports from other victims, really an eye-opener, I did not expect such an enormous impact”, he says, this week if the House unanimously asked the minister to investigate .
The 301 victims who have reported have been largely ignored by the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, says Huiting. “There is, of course, a small group that has never talked before, but the largest group did the internal call. And found no hearing. They were stuck internally. ”
According to Huiting there is a common thread running through all these matters: “All abuse issues have identical elements. The people were not heard, things were covered up, or it was said that it could be better ‘left in God’s hands’. Also, elders found the abuse cases complex, they made a jar of it in their ‘own wisdom’. But elders are not independent researchers, let alone detectives, psychologists or judges. Formally everyone is free to make a declaration, but the tone and the context are of vital importance. Because at the same time they say, if you file a report, the consequences are for your account. ”
“With that, they insist that you can be excluded as soon as you tell your story publicly. They do not want publicity in the media, for fear of reputational damage. The whole internal process is aimed at protecting the organization, not to protect the victim. They do not threaten, that would not be the right word, but if you search the media as active Jehovah’s Witness, then that may have the consequence that you no longer have any ties with your family members. ”
Huiting: “In the most extreme case, parents no longer have contact with their children, they no longer eat jointly and no longer greet each other. But that social network is just as important for the processing of a trauma through sexual abuse. That network is being destroyed. “Of the 302 reporters of sexual abuse, the” majority “is no longer a member of the church.
He never expected his anonymous story to trigger a nationwide movement. “No absolutely not. There is also a tremendous healing effect. It gave me a lot of strength and insight. It always gives me goose bumps. I have to continue this, doing nothing is not an option. ”
His employer -Huiting works with Vegro Zorehulpmiddelen as account manager- fully behind him. Also behind his public appearances. The fact that he has lost time never leads to problems. “It is sometimes difficult to combine. You are sometimes lived through the developments. The management of the company supports me, thinks this is extremely important. That is of course absolutely great. ”
“I am really pleased with the fact that the House requires unanimous research. It is a sign that these kinds of abuse cases – and their cover-up – are no longer of this time, not only with Jehovah’s Witnesses, but also with other churches. The difference is only that Jehovah’s Witnesses are such a super-oiled machine. ”
Are these all matters?
301 abuse cases now, is that the maximum number? “I am convinced that this is certainly not the max, we also hear from retired elders: 30, 40 incidents per year that become known to the board. I think that over the period of the past 30-40 years probably three times as many cases have played, nine hundred to one thousand, so. ”
The hotline does not carry out legal proceedings itself, but there are individual lawsuits against offenders, such as in Breda. But no criminal cases against the Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization. However, six declarations have been made against the church organization. The National Public Prosecution Service will soon take a prosecution decision on this, says Huiting. “The problem is that nothing criminal offense has been done by the organization. Withdrawal of problems is not punishable per se. In addition, they rely on their right of non-disclosure. ”
The reporting center holds piles of internal documents, including how Jehovah’s witnesses deal with sexual abuse internally according to strict protocols, but this has not yet resulted in a ‘smoking gun’, on the basis of which the organization can be held liable or can be dealt with under criminal law.
“We consulted with the Public Prosecution Service in The Hague, with our lawyer. This shows that declarations against the organization are essential. Six of these have now been done. But the threshold for reporting is huge. Out of fear, because of the emotion of the subject and out of fear of victims to get the lid on the nose again. We are struggling with that. ”
Church: ‘Shooting with a cannon on a mosquito’
Disproportionate, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses calls the research of sexual abuse within the church desired by the entire Second Chamber. “The Reclaimed Voices foundation says that this is a structural problem within our church. We do not recognize ourselves at all “, says spokesman Michel van Hilten. According to him, the extent of the problem is not greater than elsewhere in society.
They therefore refuse to cooperate with such research. “Did you read that motion? The first three paragraphs are ridiculous assumptions. We will certainly not cooperate on the basis of assumptions. There are many stories about us, that we have a closed structure and that there are many cases of child abuse. But we know a handful of incidents and reports per year of abuse. Reclaimed Voices can only arrive with 301 cases if these issues have been taken out of context, by double counting or other types of issues are counted as abuse. ”
Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse contact with Reclaimed Voices. “No, we do not go with that. They have hired a lawyer, work through the media, the phase of constructive consultation is long gone. ”
For internal research the church does not see any reason:” We have seriously considered it. We are not an apathetic organization without any self-reflection. We have set up a very sound protocol for this. Our protocol is a compilation of our efforts to protect children within our denomination. Because our protocol is placed on our website, everyone now has access to our working method. Again: a lot is called, without knowledge of facts. Such a research is shooting with a cannon on a mosquito. “