The hidden power of an (abused) woman (*)

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- by the Speaking Witness (+)

Although the complete world of believers suggests otherwise, the Bible makes it clear in the first chapter that God is just as much like a man as a woman. Of course the Bible as a whole is a particularly patriarchal book, mainly written for and by men. Notorious, for example, are the misogynic passages attributed to Paul about women who must remain silent within the Christian congregations and are not allowed to teach themselves. Nevertheless, the actual founder of Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth was an exceptionally woman-friendly person. For example, he saved a woman from an early death by stoning (John 8-1-11), condemning in front of a group of Jewish fundamentalists the abuse of the unilateral right of men to send their wives away (Matth 19-3 -8) and he regularly appeared before them in the presence of men. (Marcus 14-1-9). Furthermore, many other passages prove to be Jesus' life high appreciation for women.

As already written, the world of believers has never fully understood this message of Jesus. Jehovah's Witnesses are unfortunately no exception!

This is particularly evident in the nature of the problem of the sexual abuse policy of the organization. Although in an estimated 94 percent of the cases there is a male perpetrator and the victim 90 percent Of the cases a woman is, policymakers and those who handle an abuse case are still men without exception.

Two questions arise. How can (abused) women exert their influence in the congregation? What resources do they have available for this?

In the first place, it seems essential to me that women realize that they do not have to be impotent spectators and that feelings of inferiority have been talked to in the course of the years! Sometimes a long awareness process precedes this fact to realize that fact. An honest self-analysis therefore seems indispensable in this process.

For example, most women will be able to confirm that their brothers enjoyed more freedom than their sisters or themselves, they will see that domestic tasks and the care of younger brothers or sisters was quickly made their own at the expense of their own ambitions. Then, in many cases, it will also become apparent that women are often masters in the right to speak and defend crooked power relations within the family through their upbringing. Finally, the safeguarding of harmonious family relationships has also become a feminine task in our society.

In the - otherwise excellent written - book 'Incest and Religion' the writers show, among other things, how in many families the legislature lies with the men and the makes uitvoerende with the women. They also point out that the executive power of women is completely scorched in a masculine way and manner and thus gives women a kind of apparent power. In reality, she is merely executing what is required by her husband and the congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Too often mothers are the people who are put under pressure to understand the abuse of power of male perpetrators. Daughters in turn are victims of this. Research also shows that female victims of abuse sometimes think of all sorts of reasons to blame their mother more than their father (she either sexually fails him or she does not give him the attention he wants). Of course, there are also enough cases of female perpetrators, but they are statistically nice in the minority.

The second step is by far the most difficult, but certainly not impossible. We have already seen that in all cases Jehovah's Witnesses are policymakers and judges. Moreover, they are often perpetrators, just like in the rest of society. But where the Jehovah's Witnesses certainly do not lack policymakers, judges and perpetrators, the accusers of abuse are still too thinly sown.

The most direct and sometimes the most efficient method of accusation is to file a declaration in case of abuse. In almost every victim story it is clear how scared men actually are for reporting. Yes, scared, even terrified. Men hide this fear through ordinary threats of violence and / or threaten with exclusion towards their victim. Actual panic reactions, but often effective enough! Nevertheless, last weekend we were able to see how bad one declaration can help to increase the pressure on politicians in The Hague and at the same time, in addition to the perpetrators, to defend their protectors even more.

Many abused women will undoubtedly point to the, in their view, limited utility of declaration. After all, many cases would be difficult to prove. In addition, with an appeal to the legal privilege, elders can refuse to pay any proof of proof to the judicial authorities. With all this, the heavy psychological burden comes to those who report, the bureaucratic burden and opposition they may experience, the burden on their family and the danger of exclusion.

Still…. still…. I think there is no alternative. Silence has taken too long for many. In my view, in the aforementioned considerations, perpetrators and their protectors are once again being served. The circle will and must so be broken. Although the word will have to be loaded for some, it is a must in both personal and social interest.

In a way it has Candace Conti, the woman who in America with her controversial case in one blow put the crooked abuse policy of the Jehovah's Witnesses on the map, already made a nice start with.

Dear sisters: I sincerely hope that you will find the strength and the courage to break this spiral of power. The Bible says the women are a great army within Jehovah's organization! Your inner resilience is not to be underestimated. What matters now is that girls and women can show themselves and raise their voices. After all, how many perpetrators do not secretly count that your women will never have the courage to indicate to them?

In the meantime appear to be partly due to Foundation Reclaimed Voices very slowly the nets close to people like Samet G. and their protectors. More and more declarations are being prepared behind the scenes and more and more women are coming out and dare to tell their story. Let's all send a signal to those men who still feel unassailable and who can now walk into the Kingdom Halls in all anonymity in search of defenseless children!

Candace has recorded that her own case hopes to encourage other victims of abuse within the circles of Jehovah's Witnesses to come out. What would it be nice if every abused woman in the week of the protest in Emmen declare. I pray for you that you can have the strength for it.

I am convinced of one thing: Candace is a heroine, but in every woman there is a same heroine deep inside. There will come a day when that heroine will become visible to everyone!

* Accountability to all boys and males who have been abused: Of course, I always thought about you during the writing process. It is certainly not my intention to trivialize or ignore your problems, nevertheless I have chosen to describe precisely the group of victims who suffer the most from the current policy of the YG and the patriarchal culture that in my eyes is partly responsible for the large number of abuse victims. Naturally, my 'Candace-like' message also applies to you.
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+ De 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 express the personal opinion of the author. This personal opinion does not automatically correspond with the opinion of the board of Stichting Reclaimed Voices.