The Christian Post has picked up and reported the ongoing scandals of cover up and child abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses in two articles this week. Both pose the question – is this “problem part of a nationwide situation?”
Some people may wonder why the articles have not made the link to the global “situation” of child molestation within Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a silent epidemic of child abuse that was recently brought to public attention again after four alleged victims filed lawsuits against the organization.”
In this latest case, the Zalkin law firm, is representing two sisters and a man who were allegedly sexually abused as children by Orlando Afandor, a registered sex offender and at the time of the abuse an ordained ministerial servant of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Afandor was convicted of the sexual assault of a child in Omaha, Nebraska, in 2010 and released from prison in 2013.
At a press conference held in Connecticut, USA, Zalkin said, “This is an insidious problem, an epidemic problem with child sex abuse within this organization that so far seems more concerned about protecting its reputation from scandal than about the children.”
Sybelle Almodovar, Ferdinand Almodovar and Evelyn Selimaj intend to sue the East Spanish Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, New Haven and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. A fourth case alleging similar claims of sexual abuse by Afanador will be filed for Bianca Martinez.
Hartford Courant, co-attorney Thomas McNamara will be filing the case on behalf of Bianca Martinez. Martinez lived in the same building as Afanador and claims he molested her multiple times in New Haven.
Added to these revelations is the report in the UK’s Daily Mail that not far away, in Vermont, Zalkin is representing another set of siblings who say they were also sexually assaulted by church ‘ministerial servants’ as children.
Miranda Lewis, 23, and Annessa Lewis, 27, say in their lawsuits that they were abused in the 1990s at ages 4 and 5 by Norton True, who they said the church knew had a history of sexually assaulting minors.
The Courant.com adds further details and reports that the first set of lawsuits “allege that the accused Afanador started abusing Sybelle when she was 8 while he was babysitting. Her lawsuit alleges he would enter her room in the middle of the night and abuse her. Her sister Evelyn, who was 6 at the time, was also in the room and could see and hear what he was doing.”
It is alleged that “Afanador abused Ferdinand on more than 25 occasions by forcing the boy to peform oral sex on him.”
The filed documents state that Bianca Martinez and her family lived in the same apartment building as Afanador and she was friends with his son. “The lawsuit alleges when she was 9 she was abused on the family’s couch numerous times.”
At the press conference, Evelyn Almodovar Selimaj said that after the family moved to the Dominican Republic the siblings told the Elders in the Jehovah’s Witness congregation about the abuse, but nothing was done.
The same modus operandi of silence and cover-up has been noted in other cases. In one landmark case, Candace Conti was awarded $28 million in damages after she alleged that Jehovah’s Witness, Jonathan Kendrick molested her from 1995-1996. Her mother, Kathleen Conti, also a survivor of molestation by a Jehovah’s Witness now works with SNAP, Survivors Network for those abused by Priests, to raise awareness of the continuing scandals of abuse and in-action.
In the Christian Post, October 3, 2014 article the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society make no comment, but in the October 8, 2014 article, Jim McCabe the lawyer representing Jehovah’s Witnesses, makes this statement:
“You can disagree with our religion all you like, but we are a Bible-based organization, and we stand for upholding the Bible. What we are doing is simply being consistent with the Bible laws and principles, and as much as you dislike the outcome, we have told everyone of our stand, and you can’t fault us for being consistent.”
Zalkin in response to the inaction of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses to make policy changes said “At least when the scandal broke in the Catholic Church they took some action. These guys are just the opposite.”
Evelyn Almodovar Selimaj commented, “We are not the first and we are not the last ones that he abused. Whilst we cannot get our childhood back, one thing we hope this lawsuit will do is prevent another child from the devastation we faced.”
Children and adults who have been abused and who are now living with the trauma and every right thinking person will no doubt be asking – why is this being allowed to continue and when was consistency ever a defense for child molestation?
The Christian Post article October 3, 2014 – Siblings sue Jehovah’s Witnesses for alleged sexual abuse: Problem part of a Nationwide situation? Link
The Christian Post article October 8, 2014 – Siblings sue Jehovah’s Witnesses for alleged sexual abuse: Problem part of a Nationwide situation? Link
The Courant – Siblings sue Jehovah’s Witnesses over alleged child abuse Link
Daily Mail – Lawsuits allege widespread sex abuse in Jehovah’s Witnesses Link
Zalkin Law Firm Link
JWsurvey Child Abuse Link
Child friendly – What the Governing Body needs to learn Link
More cases of JW historic child abuse Link
Named, Shamed and Culpable – Karen Morgan speaks out Link
SNAP – Survivors Network for those abused by Priests Link
Child Friendly Faith Project Link