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Cults: Children Under Influence

Read transcript of the documentary here  


The cameras penetrate the secrecy of many sects established in France. The authorities estimate that more than 8,000 children under the influence of these religious groups would be in danger. Despite the secrecy demanded by these organizations, the journalist Stephane Haussy was able to investigate many situations. He visited top officials among Jehovah's Witnesses.


Nearly 50,000 children are involved in the Jehovah's Witnesses, a community open to the world.

During our investigation, we also found cases of alleged pedophiles that have not been reported to the authorities and would be managed by committees of church elders that determine justice. The victims, minors at the time, tell what they have suffered, but again, former leaders of Jehovah's Witnesses in France and the United States discuss how the hierarchy of the Jehovah's Witnesses would have required them to not to mention abuse cases.


One post regarding the content of the program translated from a French forum:

As to the part regarding the JWs, the investigation was good.

A former JW who grew up in a JW family explained that he didn't feel he had a normal childhood, especially as to the difference with his peers and the schedule of activities enforced by the WT. He declared that his parents didn't pay much attention to his school activities and would rather be interested in his spiritual progress. His parents, filmed with their faces blurred (or masked?), said they felt they had raised their child correctly and did not regret anything. They hadn't seen their son for the last 15 years.

Then two young women explained how they were raped within the organisation. In both cases they were silenced. The first one had been placed in a JW foster home where the father abused her for years, from the age of 5. She spoke to the elders, but the accused man denied everything, so the case was dropped. An elder who had been part of the committee in this case categorically refused to talk before the cameras. After many years, as a grown-up woman, she eventually left the JWs and tried to file a complaint. Her foster father confessed and admitted to many of the charges against him. Unfortunately, the case was under investigation. So the woman sued the state which had placed her in this foster family and obtained 22,000 euros as a compensation for the lack of control during her placement (! How could the state know that the father would rape the girl? The the WT gets away easily...)

Another woman was sexually molested during her childhood (from 8 to 12 yo) by her brothers. She told she had tried to commit suicide as a consequence. The elders, alerted about the situation, arranged for a confrontation, asking this then minor woman to forgive her abusers and to keep silent. They convinced her that the organisation's image was more important that the damage she had suffered. Ironically, that woman was later disfellowshipped because she had sexual intercourse with a man prior to marrying him -- whereas her brothers were never disfellowshipped.

Then Alain Berrou explained that the procedure for sexual abuse on minors was never put in print in the elders' handbook Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, but every overseer had to write word-to-word the organisation's instructions in the margins of the book during elders' meetings. He said he had been pressured many times, when he disassociated from the organisation, to give that book, which had of necessity become very embarrassing, back. It was recommended to contact the internal legal service first, then to lead an enquiry and last to form a judicial committee. They had to resort to the confession secret. Bottom line, the elders would deal with the situation for the best interests of the organisation.

Bill Bowen, founder of "Silentlambs", recorded a conversation with the Watchtower headquarters, which counseled not to alert the police in cases of pedophilia without evidence, and to "let the case rest in Jehovah's hands". He stated that his association SilentLambs received 7,000 complaints of pedophile abuse during the last seven years, and that only 300 of them were then reported to the police. A protest march in Brooklyn against the WT abuse policy was shown. Internal documents for the elders were also displayed. Bowen explained that, the previous month, amicable settlements were concluded between the WT and 16 victims who received compensation in exchange of theiir agreement to keep silent and withdraw their complaints. In Brooklyn, no member of the Governing body agreed to meet the journalists, but a JW spokeswoman claimed that there had been only 30 cases of pedophilia known to the organisation.

The presenters of course mentioned a mail by the JW headquarters stating that the enquiry was false and slanderous.

Two of my JW relatives saw the program and were troubled by it. Another said that it was only slander.



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