A group of Jehovah’s Witness Church elders ignored their own strict religious standards in neglecting to punish or report a self-confessed child abuser in their ranks, an Australian royal commission has heard. A government investigation into child sexual abuse and its aftermath uncovered that the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church failed to report to police more than 1,000 cases of abuse and sexual assaults going back more than 60 years to 1950.
The Sidney Morning Herald reports that, “A Jehovah’s Witness elder involved in the investigation, Dino Ali, wrote in his statement tendered to the commission: “The judicial committee did not feel it had clear proof of the allegations of child sexual abuse from either party as it was one person’s word against another’s.”
Counsel assisting the commission Angus Stewart, SC, told Mr. Ali he had “ample proof” of the child sexual assault, which Mr. Ali denied.” Commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan asked how church elders failed to draw a conclusion – “You had an account of what happened … you also had a confession … and you tell me that the rules of the Jehovah’s Witnesses didn’t allow you to make a finding based on that material,” he asked.
A sex predator admitted to molesting his daughter to a committee of church elders, who also heard corroborating statements from the victim, her sister and mother. Under Jehovah’s Witness rules of evidence, an allegation of child sexual abuse can be proven if there is a confession from the accused or there is testimony from at least two witnesses.
Shocking evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, a woman detailed how her father repeatedly sexually abused her and her three sisters. “I couldn’t bear the judgment of those around me, the public vilification and ostracism. I wanted to dig a hole and die.”
The Sidney Morning Herold reports, “The father, given the pseudonym BCH, was a respected figure in the church who would conduct door-to-door preaching and deliver talks from an elevated platform at his congregation’s kingdom hall in Queensland.
At home the man became a tyrant, with the commission hearing that he would beat his daughter so hard with a leather belt she would bleed from the welts. The woman, now 43 and using the pseudonym BCG, told the commission that her father repeatedly molested her.”
She was also threatened with disfellowship if she reported the abuse to the secular authorities or police because it “would bring reproach on Jehovah’s name. BCG told the commission she voluntarily left the church and contacted police. After three trials, BCH was convicted of multiple sexual offences and jailed for three years in 2004.
When one Jehovah’s Witness Elder was giving testimony, he was asked by Justice Peter Mcclellan, “”Would you do the same thing today if someone came and reported to you a serious allegation of sexual assault, would you destroy any notes?” Jehovah’s Witness Elder, Max Horley replied, “Yes, that’s our practice.”
JW Elder, Kevin Bowditch, under oath at the Commission was asked about sex offenders reoffending – if he would advise people about a child sex abuse offender in the church? He answered, “If they were a close friend of mine, I would tell them.”
In the YouTube video, the Commission asked the Elder, “What about others who are outside of the Church – not friends of yours?” There was a long, deliberate pause before the Elder answered, “My concern is with the Congregation.”
When pressed, the Elder stated: “We take consideration of them [the children] but what ability have we got to protect every child in Australia.” The Commission responded, saying, “What you can do is report to the child protection authorities, “– but the Elder admitted it was not done unless there was a legal requirement to do so.
In the other YouTube video of SENIOR COUNCIL ASSISTING THE COMMISSION, ANGUS STEWART, he states: “”Evidence will be put before the Royal Commission that of the 1,006 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse identified by the Jehovah’s Witness Church since 1950, not one was reported by the church to secular authorities.”
The Elder said the Church would continue to destroy notes concerning serious sexual assault cases they knew about, stating to the Commission: “We don’t want our wives knowing what our stuff, what sort of things we’re dealing with. We don’t want other people in the congregation coming across that information.”
The Child Wise National Child Abuse Helpline is a toll-free number providing Australians with access to expert advice from trained counsellors and an opportunity to speak up about child abuse.
Many people contact Child Wise with concerns about children they know, or if they have concerns about child abuse but are unsure what to do. Child Wise has also found that the majority of people do not know who to turn to if they have a concern about a child. Often people are reluctant to contact the authorities with their concerns and require some guidance, which demonstrates why the continuation and growth of the Helpline is so important to Child Wise’s mission to prevent child abuse, especially child sexual abuse.
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