With Jehovah’s, the group always comes before the individual
She spun through books, surf the internet and read everything she could find about cults, manipulation and group pressure. After Frances Peters (58) was kicked out of the community of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2004, she wanted to understand how she could have been influenced all these years. How had she become such a ‘faithful witness’?
Slowly she began to understand how a compelling religious group like the Jehovah’s Witnesses works and trained as a coach. In her own practice Free Choice, Peters now uses her knowledge and experience to help people who have been in these sects.
Trouw’s research into sexual abuse at the Watchtower Society – the official name of the Jehovah’s Witnesses – showed that the way in which they handle abuse cases in-house has traumatic consequences for victims. In recent days, this newspaper published several articles about it .
The victims, members and ex-members with whom Trouw spoke, say that there is too little eye for the victim and that perpetrators are kept out of the wind. This creates a very unsafe situation for children. Peters recognizes that from her own practice. She knows as no other how the culture works at the Jehovas.
“An important factor is to put the group first: your own preferences, thoughts and ideas are subordinate.The unity between the brothers and sisters is more important than your hobbies or desires, so your own identity development is suppressed.” Children who grow up in this way ” n high demand group , as it is called, do not learn to rely on their own intuition. They often get confused about their own feelings and needs. In addition, there is the strong hierarchy. If God is the Father, the organization is the mother. That makes the believers children and they just have to listen. No matter how old you are. “
“They screen with biblical texts that are pulled out of context.” The heart is treacherous, “writes the prophet Jeremiah, which is used to say,” Do not trust yourself, trust us, our interpretation is the only correct one. ” do you think it knows better than the organization, God’s communication channel on earth? ‘
That is how you get talked into and that’s going to be in your head. So there is punishment for thought, also from within. “The worst punishment is exclusion, then all contact with the organization and its members is broken, someone is made completely dependent on the organization, and if you are bombarded from childhood with this kind of interpretations of the Bible, what chance do you have? you then have to grow up to an adult with a healthy critical mind? You can not assess opposing opinions that you hear, but you do not have time to think about that. “
“The routine in which you take part as a witness is pretty intense, it is difficult to keep it busy next to work or school Twice a week to the Kingdom Hall (as the church building is called by Jehovah’s Witnesses, ed.), Prepare the meetings and Studying the literature, then there is going to be the doors, you do all of that, because your reputation is important to be accepted by the group, so you have little time and energy to think about what you are doing are. “
“If you leave the group, you are a child of satan, so the people who stay behind should not have contact with you, because you have left God themselves and that is their biggest specter, and many witnesses have hardly any contacts outside the organization. a means of heavy emotional blackmail and hanging over their heads like a sword of Damocles, I wonder how many people would stay if that exclusion rule did not exist. “
“It makes me angry when people say so, it shows so little insight into how group dynamics work.” Look at ‘The big racism experiment’ that BNN broadcast in 2013. A group of young, critically thinking people turned out to be influenced within three hours that they found other people inferior based on their eye color, knowing they were participating in an experiment, there were only two participants leaving, one of them coming back after being talked into. “The situation you’re in, affects the choices you make. Jehovah’s Witnesses are really convinced that the world is satan, or that they are getting God’s judgment on their neck when they go to college. And the organization has a very passive-aggressive way of reasonableness.
They say, “Well, it’s in the Bible, so we have to join it. We can not help it either, but this is how God wants it. ” “The problem is not that they think that, but that they impose it on other people through influencing techniques, saying that their members have the freedom to go wherever they want, but if they go beyond personal limits, how are you really free? “
“The authority of the organization is greater than that of the” satanic “society for Jehovah’s Witnesses, they have their own legal system in which three elders judge sin as they call it, and they have not received any training for it. God’s spirit, so what more do you want? “The victim, often a child, has to tell the three male elders aloud the most awful details of the abuse. Without professional guidance. The elders are only concerned with the question of whether someone is guilty and not the damage to the victim. In addition, in cases with only one witness they ensure that the perpetrator can make new victims. Because according to their rules they can only condemn someone if there are at least two witnesses, may they not publicly warn parents until that time someone is suspected of child abuse. They see that as slander and you can be excluded for that. “
“The elders take no responsibility for how they handle the case, they say,” This is how it is in the Bible, there must be two witnesses. ” The victim therefore gets the feeling that God wants it and the elders can not do anything about it, they know nothing else than that that vision is the only correct interpretation of the Bible, and they are often told: “This is a very serious accusation you do, do you know what that means? Your dad will go to jail soon, so think carefully about what you say. ‘”
“Unfortunately, I can endorse this, yes, because of the two-man rule and because perpetrators are often not reported to the police, which is a matter of negligence on the part of the organization.”
Trouw has published a series of articles about abuse by Jehovah’s Witnesses in recent days. The series was created on the basis of a large number of documents, correspondences and interviews with twenty people, including four victims of sexual abuse, four ex-elders, three leaders in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, five ex-members, perpetrators of abuse and experts. The stories of victims follow the same patterns and are supported by (personal) documents, testimonials from third parties and sound recordings that are in the possession of Trouw.
The policy described in this article is based on the secret elder’s book of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and thousands of letters from the Governing Body (the highest body within the organization) to the local congregations and is confirmed by those involved.
In 2014 ‘On good ground’ appeared, about the approach to sexual violence against children. The report by Corinne Dettmeijer, National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children, describes how to respond to sexual abuse in close religious communities. For victims from closed orthodox Protestant groups, it is extra difficult to address abuse. Fear of the reactions of the environment plays a big role, because talking about abuse can cause the victim to call shame on himself or even the whole family. ‘Within these closed communities it is often assumed that office bearers can not be perpetrators of sexual violence’, writes Dettmeijer. ‘In some cases, the blame of the family’s upsetting is placed on the victim. Publicizing sexual violence can lead to expulsion of the perpetrator and in some cases even to the victim. ‘ According to the National Rapporteur, it is plausible that this also applies to other close religious communities.
Also read the other stories about abuse with Jehovah’s Witnesses