by the Speaking Witness (*)
'I send you like sheep among wolves. So be as careful as a snake and as innocent as a dove. ' Jesus spoke this words against his twelve disciples on the occasion of what I might call the first field service meeting. Indeed, the apostles could expect the necessary resistance, both from their own people and from the Roman occupiers.
The words of Jesus have sounded regularly in my mind over the last few months, especially when I visit the meetings (nowadays called meetings) and field service meetings, now that I have decided to make that what is actually unspeakable impossible to discuss.
Sexual (child) abuse is a heinous crime. Sadly, although the most organizational sister or brother will agree, it is still not evident from the culture within the Jehovah community. Despite a flood of media reports of sexual abuse within the organization of Jehovah's witnesses, there is also a deafening silence in our congregation. Nevertheless, I know that several brothers and sisters there alone have been victims of abuse in the past. In many cases, the perpetrator turned out to be someone from their own religious community. I often wonder what goes on in the minds of those victims when the media reports once again how the Jehovah's witnesses' deal with sexual abuse. Would they really feel that the organization is adequately addressing this problem? I really don't know, but I suspect so. One of them is an elder. None of them wants to say anything about that piece of the past. The latter is of course understandable given their problems. However, the systematic avoidance strategy may give victims some rest in the short term, but backfire in the long term. Especially those victims who, as a result of the abuse, still suffer from complaints resulting from a post traumatic stress syndrome (PTTS) will benefit greatly from trauma-oriented therapies. Clinical psychologist Agnes van Minnen explains in her recent book 'Paralyzed with fear' about the success of EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) and cognitive behavioral therapy such as exposure. Of course, every victim of sexual abuse has to contend with her or his own problems, but 'trying to forget as best as possible' without professional guidance never seems to be a serious option. Yet I see several abused sisters and brothers in me own municipality is still visibly struggling with it. Many Jehovah's witnesses who have been abused in his or her life fail to seek timely professional help. It does not help, of course, that very few elders will be willing to send their abused sheep to a 'worldly' counselor, especially when the abuse has taken place within their own faith community.
This fear and culture must stop. Although I am only an ant on the highway, I feel that Jehovah wants to use me to contribute my part. Perhaps precisely because I am not an excluded or inactive person. I also believe that I am not alone in this. I see and notice that some elders come into conflict with their conscience and come out critically behind the scenes and in some cases sometimes secretly leak out secret guidelines.
Although I live in a very different context and time, I see many parallels between myself and those twelve men against whom Jesus addressed his message. As a vulnerable sheep, I feel myself always and everywhere sent to wolves.
Responses to my previous blogs have shown that some do not understand why I am still an active Jehovah's witness. The answer is simple: I have made a dedication to Jehovah and not to an organization, and moreover, I see many similarities in the Bible in the way people got off with God back then and how unfortunately that still happens today. More importantly, the Bible shows me exactly how to deal with this. However, for me that does not mean being passive under the guise of 'obedience and trust in Jehovah's organization. In practice, that seems too much in my opinion Mattheus 25: 42-45. Activating love to the most vulnerable groups in this society, that is all about me in faith.
I made all this promise to Jehovah years ago and I still want to keep it. I want to obey his voice more than people's. This assignment includes that I try to be a preacher of righteousness and not let opposition silence me. Of course I try to play that innocent pigeon as much as possible. Fortunately, I have been able to achieve that most witnesses in my congregation are now at least aware of the fact that the organization is not playing open cards when it comes to the policy on sexual child abuse and that the two-witness arrangement is absurd. is applied in the handling of abuse cases. I am deeply grateful to Jehovah that I happily have sisters and brothers within and especially outside the congregation who share my concerns about this. A hungry wolf within a trusted pack will not hesitate to devour me if I am not paying enough attention. They will call that exclusion for apostasy. In any case, it will not be me. To the article Elders --Treat God's Flock With Tenderness! in The Watchtower from 15 September 1989 neither. It is clear to me that every Christian must be willing to enter the kingdom of God through much tribulation. Fortunately we don't have to do that alone, the circle of friends all around Reclaimed Voices is good proof of that. We can all experience that ourselves on 6 October. Be there!
* 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 express the personal opinion of the author. This personal opinion does not automatically correspond with the opinion of the board of Stichting Reclaimed Voices.