Friday, May 24, 2013

Child Abuse & Jehovah's Witnesses

If you found out that a man you trusted had molested your child, how would you feel? What would you do? A natural reaction would be anger, devastation, pain, and anguish. Most parents say they would need an act of God to prevent them from physically castrating the violator. Others say they would immediately call the police and have the man put away for the rest of his natural life. These reactions make sense, considering the disgusting, cruel act committed against a child—a child who depends on his or her parents to protect them and come to their aid in situations too abysmal to comprehend.

 Now, what if you were told it was more acceptable not to call the police? Instead, what if you were instructed to tell a member of your church clergy first, and let him handle it? And what if you actually followed this instruction, and nothing was done to punish the perpetrator? What if the clergy members stated that there had to be two witnesses who physically saw the man touch your child in order for them to act? Would you let the matter go? Could you? 

The second scenario may seem outrageous to most people—no one could ever really follow through with that ridiculous mandate, could they? The sad truth is this: Every day, over 7 million Jehovah's Witnesses follow this exact commandment. There have been thousands upon thousands of cases of child molestation in the organization, and still no policy has been established to protect these innocent children. As a matter of fact, in reality, the policies protect sexual offenders. 

Consider a portion of my story:

The phone in my office rang. I looked at the caller ID—a strange area code.
I don't know anyone in that area, I thought to myself. I looked at the phone hesitantly, and then answered. I regretted it immediately.

The man spoke. “Hi Stephanie,” he said.

I froze. I know that voice, I thought.

“This is N,” he stated.

Yes. I definitely knew that voice. My stomach tightened. “How did you get this number?” I challenged.

He took a breath. “I ran into your mother at the last district convention [annual 3-day meeting of Jehovah's Witnesses], and she gave it to me. I had a long conversation with her and told her how sorry I was for everything that...” he cleared his throat nervously, “happened.” 

Everything that happened, I thought. Everything, like taking advantage of me when I was an innocent, completely untouched teenager? I could feel the anger rising in my chest. My pulse quickened. I could feel beads of sweat forming on my forehead, and heat filling my cheeks.

“So why are you calling me? I don't get it.” I said rigidly. My body was stiff. Indignant.

“Well, I wanted to apologize to you too.” He paused as if waiting for an answer. None came, so he continued, “I didn't realize the pain I caused you. And, you know, I have children of my own...” he trailed off, and cleared his throat again nervously. “Well, I guess I just would never want anyone to do what I did, you know, to my kids.”

My mind was reeling. My mother ran into him? She had been well aware what this man had done. Yet, she gave him my phone number, knowing full well his intentions to contact me, and didn't even bother to tell me. And after all of these years--after all of the pain, guilt and sadness I had carried around—He dared to invade my existence now? I was furious.

I took a deep breath, and willed my composure to return.

“N, if you're calling me in hopes of my absolving you of the guilt you feel over taking the innocence of a fourteen-year-old girl, then I am sorry to disappoint you.” I stated--still in shock. 

“I just...” he paused, “Your mom... she told me that you're not really doing well in the truth*, and I thought, you know... Somehow that was related to what I did.” So he feels guilty, I thought. I didn't care. He should be guilty. I felt no sympathy for him. 

At the same time I felt the hot anger rise into my face at the thought of my mother discussing my lackluster involvement in her religion with this defiler.

I pressed my lips together as if to trap the rage that was pooling in my mouth, primed to spew out at any moment in the form of expletives. I sat in silence for a moment, and allowed my breathing to temporarily sedate my indignation.

“Whether I'm in the organization or not is really none of your concern,” I finally replied, “And furthermore, what you did affected my entire life. Not just my stance on 'the truth', as you put it.”

He was unaffected. “Well, I just wanted to say I'm sorry. What you do with that is up to you.” He said quietly.

I refused to allow him to see how troubled I was by his bold intrusion in my life.

“Again, I have nothing else to say to you.” I stated. I told him goodbye, and hung up the phone.

I stared at the receiver while my thoughts clouded my vision. In that instant, I was 14 again—violated, helpless, and numb.

I picked up the phone again, quickly and furiously pressing the numeric combination that would eventually reach my mother. 

Each ring felt like an eternity. I was livid. How could she have even spoken to this man, let alone given him a way to reach me? What could she possibly have been thinking?

She picked up.

“Mom.” I said, and without waiting for her to reply, I continued, “Please tell me why I got a phone call from N. Tell me why you thought it would be appropriate to give him my contact information!” I was so incensed, I was shaking. Whose side was she on here? I would soon get my answer.

“Stephanie. Calm down.” She said passively, “I saw him at the last district convention, and he approached me. He told me how sorry he was for what he did to you all those years ago.”

I felt a pang in my stomach. He apologized to her? She wasn't even there. And when I told her about what he did to me, she essentially did nothing. She told the elders in the congregation, and reported back to me that we should just leave it in Jehovah's hands. He would correct it.

She went on.“The man I saw before me that day was broken. He was plagued with guilt over what he had done. I felt moved to embrace him and tell him that I forgive him, and I think you should too.” She said. She was so matter-of-fact about it. It infuriated me.

“You what?!” I cried, my voice was raised. I could feel tears welling in my eyes, and bile rising in my throat as it tightened. “You hugged him? You saw he was broken?” I was dizzy with rage, and confusion. “What about your daughter? I was broken 15 years ago when he molested me and you did nothing!” My voice cracked.

“I went to the elders, Stephanie. It was your word against his. And you know just as well as I do, without two witnesses—”

“Who cares about the elders!” I interrupted, “Why didn't you go to the police?” Tears had finally made their escape from my eyes and were journeying down my cheeks.

She sighed, seemingly annoyed,“Look Stephanie, we did it Jehovah's way. The elders handled it. They didn't let him attain to any higher privileges [rankings] in the congregation for a while. Jehovah dispenses discipline in his own time.”

I hung up the phone. Disgusted. Hurt. That day, I resolved to have nothing further to do with the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I would eventually be disowned and shunned by my mother and nearly my entire family because of it. 

Because I had been raised in the high-control cult of Jehovah's Witnesses, I had always known the policy that said “There must be two or three eyewitnesses... no action can be taken if there is only one witness.” (Shepherd the Flock of God, pp. 72) My mother advised me of this rule after I had told her about what had happened to me. Although my gut reaction told me this wasn't normal, I didn't question it. I accepted that my mother knew what was best. It wasn't until I was an adult, and started really doing my research that I realized just how wrong it was, and how common child abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual) is in this cult.  

There are no champions for children inside the organization. These are not people who are genuinely looking out for the safety of your progeny. This a group that is so preoccupied with not bringing public reproach on itself and its leaders, that the members essentially cover up the horrific acts being committed against innocents. And because this group is so controlled, its members truly do not believe there is anything wrong, or out of the ordinary happening. That, perhaps, is the most alarming part of it all.

This is why I was so excited when I found out about the work the group of Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses (AAWA) is doing. This group is really taking action to expose the harmful policies the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society is disseminating through Jehovah's Witnesses. These policies are destroying childhoods, lives, and families. It must be stopped. For more information on AAWA, visit their website: www.aawa.co

Silver Lining:
I am a relatively new ex-Jehovah's Witness, and find myself still struggling with the events that eventually led to my disassociation. But, I consistently remind myself that if those things had never occurred,  I would have never met and married the love of my life, nor have the beautiful family we created with our three exquisite children.  I would have never found my "voice" through writing, nor the courage to speak out about the things that are clearly amiss, and even perverse in the organization. I might still be inside the organization, accepting the illusions, and relinquishing total control over my life to a group of men.

I choose not to see myself as a victim of the Watch Tower. Each step toward taking my power back has been a small, but delicious victory.  There is a whole new life outside the cult and I am truly grateful for being able to grasp my freedom!



 
*Jehovah's Witnesses use the term “the truth” to signify their organization. This term is only used between members and promotes the belief that it, alone, is the only true religion.

7 comments:

  1. Stephanie,

    There are tears in my eyes now. Your story moved me, not only for the pain you went through, but also for the courage you have shown in seeking that silver lining. Thank you so much for sharing your story with the world.

    To JW parents everywhere: please look into your heart and recognize that your first duty is to protect your children, not to protect the reputation of some old farts in Brooklyn who have long ago lost touch with reality.

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    1. Thank you so much for the kind words! It means a lot coming from such an excellent writer. I really appreciate the read.

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  2. I have dealing with J W's for almost 6 years and they have tried to show me their truth according to them, and I have used the Bible to try to find a common ground, but every time there is a Bible truth they disagree with, they change the topic. They rather use their magazine written by man as truth, than the Bible which was inspired by God. Every time we meet they bring a new person, supposedly more acquainted with their version of Scriptures, and more knowledgeable; however, their "truth" does not represent the Bible truth.

    I feel sorry for what you went through as a young girl, but I am glad that you have transformed those horrid moments as step blocks for your deliverance and awakening into a new life.(Rom 8:28)
    What can you suggest for little girls and adolescents to prevent what you lived?
    May the grace of God continues regenerating your life and your mind until you reach the perfection which is in Christ, our Lord.

    U.V.A.

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  3. Hopefully this outlet of writing will heal some of the pain caused by this cult.

    you said it best: "This a group that is so preoccupied with not bringing public reproach on itself and its leaders, that the members essentially cover up" (anything, including child abuse).

    I was a JW when they read this two witness rule from the podium during the Service Meeting. I looked over at my Dad with anger an astonished eyes that they would even say anything like that in public. That was the beginning of the end of it for me. I still have trouble calling them a cult, but the more stories I hear like yours, the more cult-like the religion seems.

    I know it must be hard, but thank you for sharing.

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  4. Does anyone ever discuss the other forms of abuse? Other than sexual? Just curious, as I am a survivor too, but of physical, mental, and emotional abuse.

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  5. Much love to you, as I am sorry this had happened to you. I am glad you got out, and I am very happy you are bravely sharing your story with others,

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  6. So Sorry, this happened to you. I am a victim of child molestation also, but not at the KH. I do know the pain you went through. I remember my father said to me that maybe I was asking for it. Our parents can be so ignorant. I am an Ex JW and I really enjoy your videos on You Tube!! Keep up the good work. By the way your hair is gorgeous!!!

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