- by the Speaking Witness (*)
Years before I came into contact with Jehovah's Witnesses, I volunteered for a while at Vluchtelingenwerk. In that capacity I regularly assisted asylum seekers when they told the IND official and interpreter why they had fled their country. Often there were also juvenile and heavily traumatized people in between. A number of women whom I was allowed to assist were confronted with years of sexual humiliation, both by rebel groups and by their own family members. Some boys and men also appeared to have been abused, a fact they often felt very ashamed of. Of course it was a heavy emotional task for them to tell their story.
I remember that time when a female asylum seeker was completely blocked and broke through completely when the official had hinted that she would not believe her story. I was reminded of the latter then Stichting Reclaimed Voices recently to an article in Awake! from April 1993. The article had the title: Victims of pedophile priests make their voices heard. This article talks about two forms of abuse: (1) the sexual abuse, (2) the spiritual aspect if you are not believed by the church, for example.
To my shame, I must admit that I, too, have for years believed in the myth that it "hardly happened to us". Sexual abuse belongs to the Catholic Church and other false religious churches. At least I thought so. Nevertheless, despite my generally critical attitude, a number of events had escaped my attention. For example, in July 2012 a California court summoned the Watchtower 28 to pay $ 1 million in damages in the illustrious case of Candace Conti. Even then in 2015 from Australia a state committee it was established that the Jehovah's Witnesses had systematically concealed more than a thousand abuse cases from the police, I did not pay too much attention to them.
Only at the end of 2017 a series of articles in Trouw and the foundation of Stichting Reclaimed Voices, things became clear to me. Only then! Maybe because it all got a bit closer to home? Whatever the case, the necessary quarters finally started falling to me at that moment.
Although I am still an active Jehovah's Witness and believe in their most important teachings, I have been preparing many things since that moment. How on earth can it be that even progressive and intelligent brothers and sisters, even my best friends, remain silent? How can it ever exist that an organization that claims time and time again to proclaim the truth is not able to admit that they have seriously failed, as in the Conti case, for example? That voluntary contributions from brothers and sisters have been used to arrange things like this?
"You better concentrate on the coming kingdom and on our spiritual paradise", you will hear. "Jehovah sees everything, leaves it in his hands". Or worse: "You let yourself be influenced too much by all the apostate media that Satan is using to deceive us in these last days!"
Yes, I certainly believe that Jehovah sees everything. And there are undoubtedly opponents of Jehovah's Witnesses who enjoy all this negative attention. But the average brother and sister remain in a passive denial or otherwise in their comfort zone of their spiritual paradise. Meanwhile, many victims 24 hours a day are fighting against depression, anxiety disorders, feelings of inferiority, insomnia and nightmares.
These victims, where the stigmatizing picture inactivated or excluded is stuck, know like no other zij in any case not meant to be, as brothers and sisters, almost thoughtlessly in their silent truth, during the meetings song 102 to sing:
Recently I comforted a friend,
his faith was weak.
He got back through my words
courage that was missing him.
God also heard his voice,
yes, he had an eye for him.
By being a real friend,
you stop someone's pain.
If someone is weaker,
then be loyal.
Do not judge, but live in,
ask for his story
Listen and be a friend,
he has earned your support.
You trust him well
and it gives him courage.
* The Speaking Witness is an active Jehovah's witness who is connected to one of the local congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Netherlands. He is critical of how Jehovah's Witnesses react to the media reports about sexual abuse and shows that there are also people in the organization who believe that the subject of sexual abuse should be dealt with differently.
Blogs from the Speaking Witness articulate the personal opinion of the author. This personal opinion does not automatically correspond with the opinion of the Board of the Foundation Reclaimed Voices.