In 2001 the Silentlambs website was started to give a voice to Jehovah’s Witness victims of abuse. Silentlambs was the first voice to speak out on a public forum to help educate and let abuse survivors know they were not alone. The mission of Silentlambs is simply stated,
“We at Silentlambs welcome all persons regardless of race, religious affiliation or lack of religious affiliation, culture, economic background, gender or disability. Silentlambs remains neutral on religious issues and seeks to break down barriers that lead to the segregation of abuse survivors from different faiths and backgrounds. “
“We wish to provide assistance to victims who have been molested as children and silenced from speaking out or seeking proper assistance as directed by religious authority. Silentlambs believes education is the key to uniting people together. We wish to impart knowledge and understanding to survivors of abuse and let them know it was not their fault, we believe them, it is their right to stand up to those who hurt them, while providing a forum for interaction, which will help other abuse survivors know they are not alone. Silentlambs stands up for and will defend the right of any abuse survivor to tell their story. We believe when those hurt by molestation speak out, it lays a basis for providing mental and emotional healing. Silentlambs holds that, in part, when victims learn they are not alone this helps them to reach out to others, and helps them take back the power that was lost through abuse. “
“In expanding its mission of unity and positive societal actions, Silentlambs realizes that there is a large contingency of individuals who historically have been left alienated from traditional religious institutions and doctrines. Traditionally, all aspects of life for molestation victims have been seriously undermined by the lack of assistance provided by misguided religious organizations, the injured are silenced. Our purpose is to give them a voice and a place to unite with others and find healing. Silentlambs seeks a fuller life for everyone with the encouragement of beliefs to assist the well-being of the mind and body. “
Since that time Silentlambs has supported over twenty four documentaries in thirteen different countries to help abuse survivors have a voice and to provide the basis to change the wrong policy of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was the intention of Silentlambs to expose the danger and provide the basis for victims to be compensated for the crimes against children committed by the organization. Media and money was the only way to get their attention. It is interesting that for twelve years nothing significant has changed about the policy. The only meaningful change Silentlambs created was in the Spring of 2002 when an issue was made about molesters working door to door alone, the Governing Body made a new policy that they must work with an adult in field ministry. This really accomplished nothing as has been shown time and again the ‘partner’ often had no idea the person was an abuser or was their spouse who knew of the abuse already and in certain instances allowed it to happen. With the recent litigation in which Watchtower lawyers showed themselves to be the buffoons they were, Candace Conti won a judgment of twenty eight million dollars on the basis of the policy that put her in danger. Well there is a saying that money talks, so on October 1, 2012 the Service at the direction of the governing Body issued a new letter to distance themselves from previous policy letters. In the beginning it states that all other letters were to be destroyed and “No one should keep originals or copies of any of those letters.” Why? For the purpose of trying to destroy information about how bad their policy was and how it hurt children as well as lay a new framework with not other purpose but to protect them legally.
I was stunned as I read through the information. The pure arrogance and lack of empathy for children oozed from the paragraphs as the material was read. The following is a review of the information and how the new policy has changed.
As stated earlier this negates all previous letters written on abuse and tries to distance the Governing Body from policies that has cost the Word Wide Work fund millions in donated money to defend child molesters. It basically asks that they all be destroyed.
This reviews the key purpose of this letter and that is legal concerns ‘AKA’ MONEY and how they can basically create new ways to make it more difficult for abuse survivors to get help when they are abused and seek compensation. The second concern was congregation, funny how this was mentioned second. When I was and elder the congregation was always put before everything else. Now we see an adjustment… LEGAL apparently comes first.
Here it is restated again first, “Legal Concerns Regarding Accusations of Child Abuse”. This is interesting as it appears they have a clear definition of what ‘abuse’ and ‘sexual abuse’ of a child involves. This also includes ‘sexting’ a term created in the last few years involving cell phones. It is important to note as the destruction of a child is clearly understood and how it occurs by the organization.
After stating that most states mandate reporting of accusations of abuse, they then take two steps back and say call the Legal Department to get instructions. The question is why? As was stated “report the accusation of abuse”, why call the Legal Department? The answer is to look for any loophole not to report the abuse. There is no other reason to call Legal before calling police. This costs valuable time and in any instance if Legal can wrangle a way not to report they will find it and so advise the elders to comply. Also it appears that several frustrated elders have asked parents to call Legal after they response they have gotten, as a result we have clear instruction to not let this happen any more. This puts elders on the hook and protects Legal from possible litigation and gives them deniability when elders follow their instructions. A list of situations is included and a new change in policy is noted here. “The alleged abuse occurred before the alleged perpetrator or victim was baptized”. In the past this was not the case, if you will note the ‘Murder Letter’ from 1992 it was clearly stated that a murderer would not be reported to authorities due to this crimes being committed before baptism. The change means that the Legal Department must now be informed of past crimes, yet there is no instruction to report to authorities clearly given. This shows it is more to protect the legal aspect than the congregation.
We see here that the Legal Department is taking precedent over the Service Department in these matters. You will only contact Service if you are advised to do so. In addition, elders are clearly advised to only do what Legal tells them to comply with what they have to regarding ‘applicable law’.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have a large prison ministry in which many times pedophiles are found and brought into the organization. This is the first attempt to address this horrific problem. Recently Silentlambs was contacted with a case involving a sister marrying a newly converted convict whose conviction was for child molestation. He molested her child after he was baptized. In my opinion, this has happened on numerous occasions so now finally something is being done to address this. Again there is a problem, instead of being given direction to inform the congregation elders are advised to call the Legal Department to cover themselves legally.
It is curious why the Legal Department is contacted when two minors are sexting and not when two adults are sexting. It appears to Watchtower if you are eighteen it is non of Legal Departments business.
The definition offered here is most disturbing and will no doubt cause many problems legally. The part that is disturbing is, “We are not discussing a situation wherein a minor who is a willing participant and who is approaching adulthood has sexual relations with an adult who is a few years older that the minor nor, generally speaking, are we discussing situations which only minors are involved.” Children or young adults are often groomed for trust and the act of molestation is seldom met with a large amount of resistance. Elders will not be clear when the child or young adult does not act like an adult being raped. In addition, molestation of a child by another older child is still child molestation, but not in Watchtowers definition. The determination of what “willing participant” would be is not defined and will be unimaginable what elders will come up with to determine this.
It took this far into the letter to finally identify protecting the congregation as a priority, yet note this statement, “…the congregation will be safeguarded from any valid accusation of neglect in protecting children from sexual abuse.” What is a “valid” accusation and how do you determine that? Have there been a huge amount of invalid accusations? Well if you think about it yes there have been. When there is only one “eye witness” that is an invalid accusation and there is thousands of those each year.
After giving elders all the instructions on how to cover up abuse then they clearly put all responsibility on the parents. While it is true parents do need to do this, it is not the parents that create the environment where confidentiality allows molesters to be around their children as a brother or a sister and the parent not be informed. That is Watchtower policy. That is not the parents fault as is the policy of requiring two eye witnesses before the child is believed. So as they create a situation that puts children in danger the Governing Body then blame parents instead of taking responsibility for policy.
This paragraph provides the meat of the child abuse policy and that fact that things are unchanged and if anything worse. First the point of two elders that has no experience on how to investigate the criminal act of sexual abuse are required to investigate. As we have repeatedly pointed out this often taints a criminal investigation by law enforcement and can result in obstruction of justice. Next the point of two “credible” eye witnesses being required before action can be taken at the congregation level. Credible witnesses are to be determined by the local elders, often children are discredited which makes it even more difficult to establish wrongdoing and in turn silences the child. Then the issue of two witnesses to separate incidents is once again given the term, “can be deemed sufficient” which gives the indication that it is not as strong as two people (apparently adults) watching a child being sexually abused. Once again this gives elders an option to deem testimony as un credible or unacceptable based on what? Their uneducated opinions of the matter? This leaves dangerous loopholes that will in most cases protect child molesters. Finally the note to notify the Circuit Overseer is a clear direct that is highlighted. In past litigation it has been stated that Circuit Overseers were never involved in abuse cases which any elder knows is an outright fabrication. It is good to see that they are finally putting it in writing the direct involvement of the Circuit Overseer and will be very helpful in future litigation to assist in having their testimony in abuse cases. Also we can see now there is such a rampant issue with abuse in the organization that now in each Circuit there is a designated elder or elders that is going to be assigned to handle and chair abuse cases no doubt with special training to follow policy.
This is basically the extent of “training” from the organization on how to monitor a child molester. Would you really need to tell a “repentant” child molester to not hold children in your lap? Have sleepovers? Work alone in Service? Have special friendships with children? Displaying affection? Or what about being alone with there own children they molested? All these actions would be of a person seeking to molest again and to have to be told not to do these things basically at meetings or in Field Service would do little to stop them from grooming children for abuse. As you will note the reason stated is to help the molester avoid temptation or to be subjected to an unfounded accusation as in the case of one eye witness. As we can see here a great effort is being expended to protect pedophiles from being caught.
This is a totally new addition to the Child Abuse Policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It basically states the Service Department can now make a special designation for child molesters that seek to actively molest future children. The can be designated as “Predators”. A predator is a person that actively seeks to engage children for sexual abuse and in this instance parents can be warned only if you tell the predator first you are going to warn them. The determination is not made by elders watching the person locally but instead it can only be made by the Service Department. Once again this is great news for litigation as it ties everything to New York as making the final decision on who is a predator. What if they choose not to make the designation and a child is molested? Who is liable? New York of course... What if the make the designation and some parents are not informed and their child is molested? Again this becomes another liability issue that is in writing with this letter. Lawyers should make copies of this letter and keep it in a safe place for Jehovah’s Witness abuse cases in the future.
Child pornography is a crime in all states, yet the directive is to call Legal Department to look for any loop hole to not report and then contact the Service Department for further instructions. When a person views child porn they are a pedophile in my opinion and should face criminal charges. We again see the Home office taking charge of crime. What if a person views porn and they are dealt with by Legal and Service, not reported to authorities and then at a later time they go on to molest a child? The liability ramifications to Watchtower are mind boggling.
This is the provision to appoint child molesters to privileges in the congregation. They use the term “Known” molester. The definition is one that is ‘known’ either in the community or the congregation to be a known molester. This I why most molesters like to move and get a fresh start as they are now “unknown” and thus can have privileges again if their victims do not make a big deal about it. Once again all matters are directly tied to New York for the final decision and this is fantastic for litigation issues.
If you are “known” then a letter follows you to the elders, but they are the only ones that know what you did so they can protect their children. The congregation is not informed due to confidentiality unless you are an active predator, if that is the case and it is authorized by the Service Department after you inform the predator you can then warn other families with children of the danger. Bear in mind an ‘unknown’ molester gets complete anonymity with no one being informed. Does anyone see a problem here?
Quote from “Shepherding” book on this matter:
“20. When a known child molester moves to another congregation, the Congregation Service Committees should send a letter of introduction with full and complete information about his background and current situation. Any letter from the branch office concerning the child molester should not be photocopied or sent to the new congregation. However the new congregation should be clearly informed of any restrictions imposed by the branch office. A copy of the letter of introduction should be sent to the branch office.”
This is completely new and a policy that should have been done years ago. Sexual predators are now finally going to be identified and put on the do not call list for each congregation. Of course sexual predators within the organization will be required to call at all other doors in the territory as part of their requirement as Jehovah’s Witnesses. In most cases they will be accompanied by an uninformed person or in the best case scenario someone that has no education on how to recognize improper behavior.
A very disturbing paragraph as now anyone under the age of eighteen is not classified as a ‘minor’. If a seventeen year old molests a four year old they are not considered a child molester by the Watchtower definition. In this definition a four year old will be required to face their molester in a meeting involving the parents. This is extremely traumatic and should never be required for any child that has been molested. It in most cases will cause the victim to not be a ‘credible’ witness and leave the molester free to re molest.
Sexting has been defined only with ‘baptized minors’ so if a child is not baptized then there is a question as to what action can be taken. The new definition given to ‘brazen’ conduct in 2006 is brought to the table and used with children that are baptized in order to provide a foundation to disfellowship them. In this case a child that exchanges pornographic images is not even subject to the Legal Department but instead directed to the Service Department on how to deal with them. This shows that it is a Biblical edit they are more concerned about than the criminal act of child pornography irregardless of age.
Here this is confirmed by the further instructions for elders to review articles and work with parents for a solution. So consider if a seventeen year old sends naked pictures to an eight year old it is a congregation matter that the elders deal with. Parents will be directed to the back room instead of authorities for assistance.
We have a six page letter on how to deal with sexual abuse. In 1992 four pages were devoted on how to help victims in Body of Elder letters. This letter has one paragraph and five sentences. The directives follow the instructions given in the early nineties. You give victims little time, about five minutes, a scripture and a prayer and send them on their way. The material from the “Shepherding’ book basically follows this directive in not being a counselor and not spending a lot of time with abuse survivors.
Paragraph twenty-two -five:
The policy of reappointing child molesters to positions of authority is confirmed by this paragraph. Who determines whether he re qualifies? It is accomplished by the recommendation of the local elders if they like him, the Circuit Overseer, and with final approval by the Service Department. The 1997 Watchtower on abuse plainly stated they would never have position of authority, yet this clearly shows behind the scenes molesters can and will have positions within the organization. Special approval to work on quick builds and conduct meetings once again puts the Service and Legal Departments in the headlights of any litigation involving abuse. Also we see notes made in elder book to state the basis of this long time policy, they are finally making it a matter of record.
Paragraph twenty – six:
So as you can see a clear policy has been adopted for the massive abuse problem within the organization. This letter will help lawyers and victims to establish the chain of command but at the same time elders will be covering up abuse by that same direction.
If you would like to have a personal copy of the letter you may do so, CLICK HERE