Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to respond to child abuse within church
Photo: Hollandse Hoogte
Published: 02 May 2018 16:44 Last update: 02 May 2018 18:57
The Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to respond on Wednesday to requests for clarification about alleged child abuse within the Church. The religious denomination says that it does not recognize itself in the number of abuse cases reported by a foundation of former members, but lets in the middle how many cases it is.
On NU.nl’s question whether the Jehovah’s Witnesses are prepared to enter into a dialogue with the foundation, Reclaimed Voices, a request from a spokesman for the denomination followed Wednesday in order to “formulate” that question differently. Asked how this could be set in a way that would lead to an answer, the spokesman had to owe the answer.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses also refuse to explain how many abuse cases are known within the church. No statements are made about the number of members who have been excommunicated or expelled from the denomination because of child abuse.
Earlier, the board of the Jehovah’s Witnesses already announced that they would like to speak with individual victims. The church approves the manner of communication of Reclaimed Voices – via an open letter in the media.
Minister for legal protection Sander Dekker has instructed the board of Jehovah’s Witnesses to enter into discussions with the victims who have reported to the foundation.
Stichting Reclaimed Voices told Wednesday to newspaper Trouw that the number of reports of abuse increased to 276. The foundation was founded last year after publications in that newspaper about sexual abuse at the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the first month after the founding fifty reports were received by Reclaimed Voices and thirty by Trouw .
Chairman Raymond Hintjes of the Reclaimed Voices foundation says in a comment to NU.nl that in the first instance it was not chosen to make the letter public. “We first sent this directly to Jehovah’s Witnesses by registered mail.”
“We ultimately opted for openness and transparency and this was also the only way to get a reaction from Jehovah’s Witnesses, although that reaction is still not substantive,” Hintjes notes.
Reclaimed Voices finds it a regrettable state of affairs. Both parties have held discussions with the Public Prosecution Service about an independent investigation into the issue. “But then Jehovah’s Witnesses only reacts through our lawyer and there is a complaint that a third party is involved,” says Hintjes. “But there is no third party at all.”
“We are the only party with whom they are dealing and we have received the request from the victims to act on their behalf.”
Hintjes notices that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not want to acknowledge that there is a problem. “They are mainly concerned with questioning the credibility of the reports about abuse, but if they do not recognize themselves in the number of reports, this is all the more reason to start an investigation into whether there is a problem and if so what the size is then. ”
In the lurch
The victims who have united in the foundation feel let down by the council of the denomination. They write in an open letter that they have still not been invited to an interview, despite the request they made six months ago and the commitment of the board that was willing to do so.
Research conducted by Trouw last year into the religious system of the denomination revealed that victims who report abuse are at risk of being expelled from Jehovah’s Witnesses for spreading “slander or defamation” against other members.
Two witnesses are always required for a conviction for child abuse within the Church. Moreover, ‘repentant child abusers’ are not expelled from church, although they are subject to restrictions, according to an internal document from the church.