The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has sanctioned a public insult. It’s an insult made against child abuse survivors and others who have experienced sexual abuse and domestic abuse.
In an outrageous presentation on JW-TV, Stephen Lett (a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses Governing Body) calls the abuse survivors – “liars.”
Unlike the Catholic Pope, this “great leader” Stephen Lett refuses to apologize or acknowledge any of the pain experienced by abuse survivors. He compounds the abuse with his denial and refusal to change damaging policies. His calling abuse survivors “liars” is secondary abuse.
The very brave adults and children watching as their perpetrators are sentenced in court – did not want to be victims. They did not want to be interviewed by police or put through court procedures. They did not want to describe what happened to them to a group of elders. They did not want to tell their parents or friends. In fact, many cannot even talk at all about their abuse and have yet to go to the police because they are afraid of losing contact and relationships with their parents and friends.
It is not easy to sit across from a person that has violated a sacred trust. For some victims, the details they’ve shared in open court are too horrific even for the newspapers to report.
Bravely, and with the support of trained professionals, abuse survivors are beginning to speak out. They do this to stop the perpetrators. They do this to find healing. When the children and adults step forward to tell their stories they still carry with them the guilt and shame heaped upon them by both the abuser and a religious organization in denial.
Victims have to attend courts where elders ignore them – and yet try to show love and consideration to the person who stole their innocence. They have to sit for days in court while being ignored by their own JW family members. They sit near the elders who questioned them while still children about the abuse, but then failed to accompany them to the police or make supporting statements.
For some survivors it takes years to find the courage to even whisper a name or stand against their abusers in a court of law.
Today, a group of abuse survivors want to speak directly to the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and say: “When you call us liars, you also call the police, the courts and the jury ‘liars’ – even when the perpetrators were found guilty in court.”
“We demand an apology for this ridiculous statement.”
“The video by the GB member Stephen Lett will be shared with Governments, child abuse agencies, child abuse inquiries, UN departments for the protection of the child and lawyers.
“This kind of statement does nothing for the credibility of the JW organisation. It provides evidence to humble witnesses that the Governing Body has no compassion, has no intention of changing poor policies and is prepared to allow children to suffer.”
Rachel Robbins who was abused as a child and whose daughter was sexually abused by her grandfather (a Jehovah’s Witness elder for eight years) said today:
“Sometimes the emptiness and hurt I feel consumes me.
“I smile – I put a brave face on – but sometimes the thought of quiet and darkness is so comforting that I find myself wishing to go to sleep and never wake up.
“It is difficult to live knowing I was abused.
“Being called a liar is very painful when I know I am telling the truth.
“Obeying the elders, my parents swept it under the carpet. I received no help.
“Sometimes, I had to ask myself if it happened because no one would discuss it with me. But I know it did. I was only 6 when it started, and it went on for years. I know I wasn’t the only one he abused.
“We were all called liars, but I know they knew.
“Fast forward to adulthood/parenthood and because of what happened to me, I was always fearful of it happening to my children. I tried so hard to keep them safe to the point of paranoia at times.
“We are vilified. We are called liars. We have been shunned.
For what? For exposing child molesters and getting some form of justice.
But still we are made to feel like nothing. Like our suffering doesn’t matter.”
Wendy, who was raped by Jehovah’s Witness elder Mark Sewell, said:
“When I see these ridiculous remarks calling us ‘apostates’ for telling the truth, I feel complete and utter rage inside. I get that anxious butterfly feeling. How dare they say these things. In my case, the elders shredded all the evidence.”
Another abuse survivor said:
“I still cannot talk about what happened to me as a child of 10. I went to the police as an adult, and they were kind, and they believed me. I found out through them that my abuser was dead, but they still wanted to know who he was and what he did.
“They interviewed my JW family. My family admitted they knew and had said nothing as that is what was expected because the elders felt nothing more should be done. It is painful to know my family went along with this. The policies allowed this to happen, and the Governing Body should be called to account.
“Calling people liars for having courage to name a child molester is despicable.”
Karen Morgan was abused as a child by Mark Sewell (who is now serving 14 years – and not disfellowshipped) said simply, “I would like to see a statement from Bethel that outlines EXACTLY what support they offer victims and their families. They keep saying they do so let’s hear exactly what they do.”
The outrage by abuse survivors is understandable.
Lee Marsh, President of AAWA (Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses), states:
“Mr. Lett’s comments about victims lying about their abuse serves one purpose: to intimidate Jehovah’s Witnesses from finding out the real truth. It is an attempt to make victims scared to talk. It may have worked when victims thought they were the only one but now they are reading stories of hundreds of other victims from around the world with similar stories of sexual abuse by Jehovah’s Witnesses and how they were all silenced by threats of expulsion for talking about it.
“They refuse to be silenced again.
“AAWA supports all victims who were abused by the very people they were told they could trust the most – their fellow Witnesses.”
Lee Marsh has written an article that explains why it is so important for abuse survivors to be believed and why they should tell their stories. Lee’s article “Why do we tell our stories can be found” here.
A comprehensive list of articles about JW’s and child abuse can be found on JW-survey.
A link to the Stephen Lett’s talk can be found here
Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses (AAWA) Link
Stephen Lett on JW-TV tells Jehovah’s Witnesses to reject “false stories that are designed to separate us from Jehovah’s organization.” He then said, “think about the apostate-driven lies and dishonesties that Jehovah’s organization is permissive toward pedophiles. I mean, that is ridiculous, isn’t it? If anybody takes action against someone who would threaten our young ones, and takes action to protect our young ones, it’s Jehovah’s organization. We reject outright such lies.”