In the media, Minister Dekker of Legal Protection has repeatedly called on persons with experiences of sexual abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses to report this fact. Reporting would be the best way to ensure that an investigation can be started. In a letter to the minister, one of the victims of abuse wondered about the importance and added value of reporting a crime. The letter below is during a conversation Reclaimed Voices on May 4, 2018, had handed over with officials from the Ministry of Justice and Security.
This letter was published with permission from the writer (*) to provide insight into why making a declaration is not always a realistic option.
(*) The identity of the author of this letter is with the foundation Reclaimed Voices known
3 May 2018,
Dear Minister Dekker,
You have repeatedly summoned victims of sexual abuse within the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses to report these crimes. You have also indicated that you believe that (too) few declarations are coming in (my free translation).
I too am one of the many victims of sexual abuse within this organization. I am also a victim of serious physical and emotional abuse, forced prostitution and all the consequences this has had, all happened and carried out by members within this organization. Even by an elder and a pioneer, who are highly respected within the organization.
The reason for my writing is that I want to ask you whether you would like my story to sink in, to let you work on it, to let it penetrate and then give me an answer which for you, being Minister, is the interest (but especially the added value) of reporting the victims.
If you can give me a motivating answer that is decisive, I will seriously consider submitting a report again. If you can not do that, would you then like to consider whether you might and may want to adjust your call for reporting?
When I was not yet 4 years old, my parents became Jehovah's Witnesses. Already for my 4e sex abuse began.
My parents developed into a highly-looking family within the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. My father became an elder (and later he entered higher positions), my mother was the contact person for all sick and weak within the organization and also an auxiliary pioneer (60 hour per month preaching work). I became on my 14e baptized as a Witness and on my 15e I went pioneering, 90 hours per month. My 2 sisters were also active within the organization. An example family.
The sexual abuse that often took place within this family, by both parents, was kept very well hidden. Also the mistreatment and forced prostitution. By my mother I was sold for sex to fellow brothers of the (faith) community, between my 8e 12 e. My father did not know anything about this. From my 12e my father took over the baton and took me to his private home, a sex club. This took, intermittently, to 2013. I was then 37.
My sisters have also been abused, several times it happened to me and my oldest sister together, but they refuse to acknowledge both in words. However, their past suffices due to unspoken confessions, such as running away from home, injuring themselves, anorexia, admissions within youth care, problem behavior, etc.
My father threatened to kill my sisters or to hurt them if I opened my mouth, the same thing he undoubtedly said to my sisters. He told us that Jehovah hates liars and that you will not come to paradise.
How should you say something as a little girl, but later as an adolescent or an adult? Because within the organization you were taught very well that you should not utter a slander. You were also frightened with the consequences. Given what my father was capable of with assault and rape, would he not dare murdering my sisters?
My parents were unfortunately not the only ones who were guilty of sexual abuse. 2 brothers from the (religious) congregation where I was at the time also abused me during the preaching work. That happened between my 15e 18 e. I mentioned that to the elders.
Who were the 2 elders who treated this? My father and his best friend.
The 2 perpetrators were only told that they were no longer allowed to preach with me. That was it. Whether this has ever been reported to the Watchtower Society? No idea. I had to forgive and forget and I was forbidden to go to the police. The one perpetrator is no longer alive, the other is also at such an advanced age, that I am not sure if he is still alive.
Another member of the organization, a young boy at the time, raped me. I told my parents, but was not believed. Going to the elders did not make any sense. After all, my father would have to deal with this case again.
When I was on my 17e pregnant by rape, I have an illegal abortion committed in Germany (murder according to the organization and strictly forbidden and "punishable" according to their internal legal system). Not long after I wanted to flee, even though I should leave my sisters behind. Through the circuit overseer of the organization I was sent to a (faith) municipality where they could use a pioneer well. Accommodation was arranged with a family that was also Jehovah's Witnesses. This was in 1994.
In this family I soon witnessed the sexual abuse of the father with his 2 daughters from 4 and 5. I immediately wanted to call the police. This prevented the father by rape me. Furthermore, terrible other things about sexual abuse have also taken place, which I do not want to dedicate to now.
This broke me. I did go to the elders and this became a freakish (internal) Committee case. To put it briefly: I was stamped as perpetrator, the perpetrator as a victim. I was forbidden to make a declaration.
Not soon afterwards I ended up in a psychiatric institution, mostly forced admissions through IBS and RM, usually in a closed ward without freedoms and a lot of stay in isolation.
I received the diagnoses Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder. In the worst of times I took 24 pills one day, also under duress.
In the meantime, I was approached by the wife of the man who had interfered with his 2 daughters and me with the question of whether I wanted to witness for their daughters in a lawsuit. They were already in a Stay-of-my-Lijf-Huis. I promised this and also I have made a declaration against this man. This case was handled by prosecutor MRA (Michiel) van Ijzendoorn.
It concerned 8 victims, Minister Dekker. The whole process was debilitating for us as victims. Mainly because the perpetrator regularly got up during the court session and exclaimed: 'she is lying!'.
Is this man condemned for his actions? Yes and no. The requirement was 4 year with TBS. He got 2 years without TBS. And not entirely unimportant, only for the case concerning 2 youngest daughters. Why not for the other 6 victims? Because there was no legal evidence for this and no witness statements. Prosecutor Mr. van Ijzendoorn has personally addressed me after the verdict and impressed upon me that he believed me 100%, but that these were moments that he regretted that the legal system is as it is. He told me that I could always approach him if I thought he needed his help. I sometimes consider doing this. This case against Mr. T. played around 1996.
Mr. T., the perpetrator, happily walked outside again after 1,5 years in prison. He attended JG meetings again and was reinstated. No one within that (religious) congregation has ever been informed of his actions, not during this case, nor afterwards. During the time that the Trial was taking place off the stage during a meeting within the organization, the newspapers were warned not to read about this 'matter' because there were 'sisters within the organization' who had spread slander.
Mr. T. is still walking around today, goes by the doors and can do whatever he wants inside and outside the organization. Nobody knows what he has done and perhaps does again and children walk around unprotected. And that while a declaration was made, Minister Dekker.
He was sentenced to 2 years, walked out again after 1,5 years, but only because there was sufficient legal evidence for these 2 girls and a testimony from me for them. For the other 6 victims (including myself), it did 'nothing' except for added emotional damage because the sexual abuse is not legally recognized. And of the 2 young girls, for which the perpetrator was convicted, I know that they have been on the run for years.
I had been admitted all that time and many years afterwards (in total more than 15 years) so often forcibly through an RM within psychiatry. Many times I was in isolation for a long time, even for several weeks. Not because I had done something to others, but because I wanted to harm myself because of the serious consequences of what others had done to me. Mr. T. was only 'locked up' for 1,5 years and was then able to resume his life. Did he have to stay in isolation for harming others?
Still, I still had the courage to also file a complaint against my father. This was dropped after some time. The police found it too all-encompassing, too big and it cost me my health.
In addition, there was too little evidence and they thought they could not make a case of it anyway. They also made a serious mistake, so that the confidence in them on my part was completely damaged.
I reported to the elders concerning my father. The only thing I heard was: "You must forgive and forget, because Jehovah is love."
This played in 1994-1998.
Much later I tried to report again, this time mainly regarding the forced prostitution by my father and the people he used for it, around the early 2000s. At the time I was very ill with my Dissociative Disorder and often with IBS in crisis included. During the interrogations at the police, 'parts / alters' of me were often speaking, instead of myself. This eventually resulted in a lawsuit against me! I was accused by the police of making a false report and in the process I received a large fine. My psychiatrist and therapist had to turn half the world upside down to have this revoked. Which ultimately succeeded.
Trust in the police is actually no longer there. If they had studied my situation and disorder, they could have understood why my story was different, because it was told by various personalities. Just ask several witnesses of an accident to tell their story. Will 1 story be the same? No, because everyone tells it from his experience, field of vision, experience, emotion, etc. So it was with me when filing a report. My 12 personalities all told their side of the story. And suddenly I was no longer a victim, but I was indicted! That is reality, Minister Dekker. You can request the documents from RZ police.
In 2013, the abuse and forced prostitution finally stopped. However, I have been followed for a while by perpetrators. This was also the year I was told that arists and therapists can do nothing for me anymore. So it is every day but see my head above water and the euthanasia procedure that I almost 2013 had completed has restarted again recently.
The town of Reclaimed Voices I have had my file retrieved, in vain, from the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. Before I had already requested it myself from the organization with 0 on the record. I myself have no interest in bringing everything to the surface, but I want this to protect the children in our society. So my misery didn't have to be for nothing.
I'm through Reclaimed Voices approached to make a declaration (whatever I would do), but time pressure was imposed, partly because of your stated statement that declarations are needed and that were still not there at that time.
How do you think I get 30 years of sexual abuse on paper in a week and the influence of the organization as a key point? You know for yourself how extensive a case can be regarding sexual abuse. For me it is about 30 years and several perpetrators. In addition, the influence of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses and their internal legal system.
But suppose I would get more time (what Reclaimed Voices finally gave me), what do you think will be of added value? For the children in this society, for me as a victim, for you as a minister, for the Netherlands itself?
Would there now suddenly be legal evidence in my case? What do I have to do without my file, what lies with the organization of the Jehovah's Witnesses, if that has not already been destroyed? Is the covert and obscured evidence suddenly being surfaced by the perpetrators? Can you (or actually the Court) summon the perpetrators, including my father and Mr T., to the same case again?
In short: can it ever come to a conviction, where the police have failed, where there is no legal evidence (the word of the perpetrators against mine) and where the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses does not cooperate and perhaps my dossier and any evidence already destroyed?
If so, what will that have for results?
Suppose it will come to a conviction ... what does that yield?
It is clear to me and that is not the point. My motivation is not myself. Consider about 1,5 years in prison against 15 years of forced admission without freedoms, stuffed with medication, no quality of life or future prospects. So it has no added value for me personally, or do you think so?
But for the children who are still victims within the organization or at risk of becoming a victim, inside or outside the organization? Because that would be my motive and motivation! What could my report be for them, bearing in mind how the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses has presented itself so far?
But also taking into account the reality: would once again make a declaration to a conviction, given how things are going now and have gone in the past?
With all due respect, Minister Dekker. I am already happy and very grateful that there are people like you from the Ministry and the people from Reclaimed Voices, who take these matters seriously and give them their attention. But is it feasible what you want from victims (with all the consequences of what it unleashes for them) and will it have an effect?
I am no longer a member of the organization since my 25e, my parents and sisters are. I no longer have contact with them. What do you think will happen to them if a case comes up and what consequences does that have? Do you have any idea how complex everything is?
And in addition to maintaining my own daily struggle of myself, keeping alive, do you have any idea what the media attention of the past six months, which is not entirely positive about the progress of the process, does to my psychological and physical health? Do you have any idea what it brings to the surface? Do you have any idea how much bigger my daily struggle is than it already was?
However, you request me to file a complaint.
In a motivating answer, please let me know what your added value is in making a declaration, what the use will be and what the effect will be according to you. But above all, how realistic it is.
If you can convince me of this, I will reconsider filing a report, with all the consequences.
But if you do not have a motivating and clear answer to this, are you prepared to reconsider your appeal and give different form?
For you believe me, my story is not the only one that is so all-encompassing and great within the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. I do not have much more to lose ... other people maybe ... especially those who are still inside that organization.
Thank you for taking the trouble to read this letter. I await a reaction from you,