One of the many bizarre aspects of surviving Jehovah’s Witness child abuse is the lack of support, compassion, and kindness the non-JW family receives from their JW family and the wider JW community.
This lack of care is profoundly illustrated in what happened to Courtney Parker and her mother, Rachel Robbins. Courtney was sexually molested by her Jehovah’s Witness elder grandfather from the age of 5 till she was 13.
She has waived her right to anonymity and wants to be publicly heard she says, because “My relatives came to court to support my grandfather because he is a Jehovah’s Witness. I have done nothing wrong, and I am treated like a bad guy and I want people to know I am not the bad guy here.”
In November 2014, she sat in a courtroom with her mother for three days as 25 charges were read out. Four charges relate to penetration. Across from them sat Jehovah’s Witness elder, Paul White, her grandmother, two uncles and an aunt all there to support the confessed pedophile, David Dennis.
Rachel Robbins sat next to Courtney, supporting her daughter knowing that she had been silenced by this family’s beliefs when she was sexually molested as a child of 6 by a Jehovah’s Witness Ministerial Servant. Nothing was reported in her case, and the alleged perpetrator is now dead.
She said, “I guess I have always felt devalued by them, but I was determined not to allow this to happen to my children. Not for a second did I think my father would do this to his granddaughter. What really hurts is that my mother believes his lies and defends him and has nothing to do with me or any of her grandchildren or even her great grandchild. She said at first she would leave him, but instead of caring for us she perfects the role of the narcissistic mother. Her response to finding out her grandchild was molested was to say ‘Please do not say anything. The shame will kill me.’ “
Rachel said, “At first my sister and her husband said they would support us even though they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. But then they stopped answering the phone. The family all changed their telephone numbers. We soon discovered that my father, David Dennis knowing that he would be going to jail had handed over his business to my sister and her husband. It was like he had bought their silence and loyalty, while all the time Courtney was feeling anxious, devastated and sobbing and asking why would any of them do this. I just did not know what to say to her other than that is what Jehovah’s Witnesses do to a family. They shut down their feelings and pretend you do not exist. It is cruel. It is not your fault. I believe you, and you have done nothing wrong.”
Courtney says one of the factors that upset her after making the first video statement to the police was that her grandfather tried to take away what dignity she had left.
She said, “I really wanted to regain some control of how and when I would have to speak again to the police. Especially as he used to tell me I wouldn’t make it into the paradise if I ‘wasn’t a good girl. I wanted to do this so that I was heard first and believed first and not have his voice in my head.”
But this was not to be. When confronted by Rachel he took an overdose of pills and was admitted to hospital.
Rachel said, “Can you imagine the guilt and sadness on top of the abuse that Courtney would have felt if her grandfather had committed suicide? But his attempt was hollow, and he was discharged from hospital the next day. My mother called me, and I wanted to support her at this dreadful time. Even with all the conflicting emotions I had with what he had done to Courtney, I went to help her, and we picked him up from the hospital to bring him home. At this point, he only admitted that the abuse had happened once, and my mother believed him. It was later he admitted that Courtney was first molested in her bunk bed while he read children’s stories starting when she was just five years old. He also later admitted that he never stopped abusing her until she was 12 or 13. He abused her when the family went on walks and in his car. Courtney was alway quiet and shy, and I just thought her quietness was because she was sensitive. It was not until last year 2014, when she was invited to a family celebration, and she refused to go that it all come tumbling out of her. I believed her instantly unlike my parents who when told of my abuse just covered it up.”
“My father, David Dennis, is a manipulator. He was a popular elder. When he confessed, he was removed from being an elder but the congregation was not told what he had done or warned that he was a child molester. Even after admitting and being found guilty of the 25 counts brought by the police, he has never been disfellowshipped. He is a convicted child molester and he is still not disfellowshipped.”
In 6 years when he comes out of prison, he will no doubt return to the Launceston, Cornwall congregation and be welcomed back.
Courtney was molested for eight years, and none of the congregation elders have done anything for her. They just continue to support him.
“What I find hard to believe is that the abuse must have started before I went into hospital for cancer. My children stayed with my parents, and they took them to the meetings. Before and during the time I was being treated for cancer and for years afterwards he was molesting Courtney. I can remember being in hospital feeling relieved that at least my children were safe. But now I know they were not safe.”
Rachel continues, “What also galls me is the response of the Launceston congregation. I texted one sister who I thought was close to Courtney and told her what my father had done, and her response was ‘telling all and sundry won’t help, past is past, thank you for the text I now know how to support him.’ I was not telling all and sundry – I was telling someone who I thought would show compassion to Courtney.”
“It seems,” she said, “the congregation may have thought he had been removed as an elder because the gossip machine may have known that he had an affair. Even when finding out it was his grandchild he had sexually molested they acted without care for us.”
“He was publicly reproved once, for one affair. The congregation may have thought he was getting another smacked hand for another affair. My mom once told me he had had three affairs, so that is probably why the congregation thought ‘oh just another affair.'”
Courtney believes what he did in Court is another example of his manipulation. She said, “As the charges were read out he blew me and my mother a kiss.”
“It was painful in court especially because my grandmother only showed emotion when Jehovah’s Witnesses were mentioned. She moved her head from side to side as if to say No when they were criticized. Her face was emotionless the rest of the time, and she did not look at us at all during the hearing. Even during sentencing when more details came out of what he did to me she was comforted by her family and the elders.”
“But fortunately,”, she says, “the Judge saw through it all and did not hold back. He was brilliant. He could see what was going on and let my grandfather and the Court know what he had done and the impact upon me. It was a wonderful moment. I felt relief to know I had been believed and not silenced like my mom.”
“My grandmother’s reaction is ‘we played dirty’ as though this was a game. She is out of touch with her emotions. But that is, of course, what Jehovah’s Witnesses do. Their beliefs come first. It is wrong, wrong, wrong! Me and my family should not be treated in this way.”
David Dennis, aged 60, was handed a 12-year prison sentence after admitting 25 counts of indecent assault and sexual assault on a 13-year-old girl, committed over an eight-year period.
Courtney is now 20 and her future looks good as she will soon join the Royal Navy. Courtney says she could not have gone through the police investigation and the court case without the help of the Plymouth and Launceston Police and, of course, her mother and father’s love and support.
Lindsay Cross in her article “How on earth do wives defend their child molesting husbands?” makes some valid and informed comments in this context. Perhaps Jehovah’s Witnesses should consider this before they shun their families;
She says, “Men like Antonio Olivas, Jerry Sandusky, and Jack Schaap ruin lives of the victims they abuse. They are selfish, and they do life-long damage to innocent children. These are not good people who strayed from the path. They are not moral men who made a mistake. They are rapists. They are monsters. And to overlook that makes monsters of the women who stand beside them. It has to be difficult to accept that a person you love is capable of rape or child abuse. I cannot imagine the pain that has to cause. But isn’t it harder to continue to defend this person, over and over again?”
Plymouth Herald – Mother reveals torment as Jehovah’s Witness is jailed for sexually abusing her daughter Link
Lindsay Cross – How on earth do wives defend their child molesting husbands? Link