KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT ABOUT ABUSE
THE CHILDREN JUST FANTASIZE Old cases about sex-abuse is only "hallucinations"
In a secret letter to the local leaders all over Denmark Jehovah's Witnesses top leaders enforced the rule that sexual abuse of children which surface many years later are to be killed by silence. In the secret letter, a so-called "action plan" from May 2003 advised the local elders in the 200 congregations across the country on how to handle cases of sexual abuse of children.
The problem for the Jehovah-sect was that new laws threatened to make the sects long practice of secrecy and silence in connection with sex-abuse directly illegal and punishable.
A duty to report abuse
According to paragraph 36, in Law Regarding Social Service from 1997 everybody has a duty to go to the authorities if they have knowledge about abuse of children. Six years later the Jehovah-leaders instructed the elders to encourage parents and victims to report sexual abuse of children. In the event the parents and the victim's don't do anything the elders should "consider" doing it. But not so regarding sex-abuse in the past. The letter also emphasizes that the local leaders, the so-called "elders" must never advise parents and victims against going to the Social Authorities to report about "recent" abuse.
Must "consider" reporting to the police
"If parents or the victim do not report the abuse, the elders can consider if they should make contact with the social authorities," writes the Headquarters - but at the same time instructs the local elders to maintain strong secrecy. Parents and victims now have something new in the Jehovah-sect - they are now allowed to go to the authorities, even before a judicial Jehovah-committee has spoken. But regardless of the outcome the ab user will not be expelled from the sect if he denies the allegations and there aren't two witnesses to the crime. Then one has to put the "case into the hands of Jehovah" the letter, which is so secret it can't be copied, says. Sexual abuse which has occurred in the more distant past will not be dealt with, but regarded as pure "hallucinations" if the alleged abusers do not confess.
Let old cases be forgotten
Point five in the secret letter refers to the old rules in the Watchtower magazine from November 1995. As Ekstra Bladet has reported several times, that article advised against going reporting sex abuse to the authorities, if the abuse happened some time in the past and is the result of so-called "recovered memories". Then it is dismissed as "hallucinations" and "false memories", which is to be held strictly confidential.
Only if the alleged abuser confesses, will the elders take action. If the abuser denies the charges there has to be two or three witnesses for the elders to do anything. Even though another victim comes forward accusing the same ab user , it will be best to let it all be forgotten, states the Watchtower rules.
Published in the paper issue 11/5-2004
(On the same page a huge picture from an assembly. Picture caption: "In Jehovah's Hands" - "If a sex-abused child among the 20,000 Danish Jehovah's Witnesses is
unable to produce two or three witnesses to the abuse and the abuser doesn't confess, the victims has to console themselves that Jehovah himself will put it right")
(Interview with Jehovah's Witness spokesman Erik Joergensen)
The orders are now withdrawn
It took Jehovah's Witnesses leaders six years to make an action plan. But it took only five months for it to be revised. The sects headquarters in Brooklyn , New York , USA promptly decreed rewriting the text when they discovered that their rules violated Constitutional Law regarding Social Service. Spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses in Denmark , Erik Joergensen says to Ekstra Bladet: "The expression "consider" emphasize that the elders should show consideration if the special circumstance should arise that parents/victims don't report the abuse."
"After deliberations with our headquarters in Brooklyn , we became aware that this expression could be misunderstood. That's why the action plan was immediately withdrawn and replaced by a new one the 20th of October, which instructs the elders plainly to report all accusations to the authorities."
Reporter- The law from 1997. Why did it take until May 2003, before you issued an action plan?
Erik Joergensen- We have done a lot during those six years. We have given direction to people that have contacted us.
Reporter- Why did you bend the law in the first action plan?
Erik Joergensen- That wasn't our intention and it is now corrected.
Reporter- Are Jehovah's Witnesses above the Law?
Erik Joergensen- Not at all - we are to follow the Law as everybody else. Sexual abuse of children is detestable.
Reporter- What consequences does violating confidentiality have?
Erik Joergensen-Godýs Will - I have no comment.
Reporter- What does "Leaving it in Jehovah's hand" mean?
Erik Joergensen- If adults have problems with recovered memories - it usually means that there is doubt whether something has really happened or if it is only fantasy. Then it is very difficult for the committee to find out what is right or wrong. Therefore Jehovah - God that is, will have to decide in such matters.
As far as he knows all cases of abuse that has occurred since the Law was changed has been reported to the authorities.
Erick Joergensen- We encourage parents/victims to report the abuse themselves to the Social authorities, the number of cases are "relatively few."
BY KIM AHRENTZEN
(Box on the same page)
THE CASE IN SHORT
Ekstra Bladet has the latest weeks described how Jehovah's Witnesses has omitted to report sexual abuse of children. Instead of adhering to the Law of the land the religious sect has preferred to handle the cases with manipulations and internal justice. Usually with reference to selected Bible texts.
Sexual abuse of children is often referred to as "hallucinations" or "recovered memories". The victims find themselves accused, and choose to keep silent about the humiliations. Jehovah's Witnesses are an extremely closed organization with about 20,000 members in Denmark .
They receive extensive subsidies in the form of tax exemption because it is a registered church. The economy is secret - the financial statements are known by but a few.