Named, Shamed and Culpable – Karen Morgan speaks out

Karen Morgan

At the end of June 2014, the Crown Court in Merthyr Tydfil found Jehovah’s Witness, Mark Sewell, 53, guilty of seven charges of indecent assault and one charge of rape. In July, 2014, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Since Sewell’s sentencing, one of the abuse survivors, Karen Morgan, waived her right to anonymity and has courageously spoken out. She wants the world to know some facts that came out in the trial that still need investigation. She also wants the world to see how the Jehovah’s Witness leadership responds to reports of abuse and specifically to child molestation.

She has not yet received an apology from the Watchtower Society for what she and other abuse survivors experienced at the hands of men appointed by this organisation.

Mark Sewell was disfellowshipped at the time of the rape. He was re-instated three and a half years later. He has been a Jehovah’s Witness (and still is) in the Llantwit congregation which is located near the Barry congregation. It was while he was an elder in Barry congregation that his abusive actions were ignored by the body of elders. He was only disfellowshipped when other elders were brought in to investigate.

Karen Morgan, who Mark Sewell indecently assaulted for over two years, has named all the elders involved in this case. Their names were shared in open court during the trial. She has named the twelve elders who did not report the assaults or rape to the authorities and another seven elders who were sent by the Mill Hill branch office headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses to investigate what took place. None of these men reported the crimes to the police.

She was also put through three or four meetings with Mark Sewell, his wife and elders to answer their questions in relation to two years of indecent assaults. She also spoke up to support a fellow victim who was raped by Mark Sewell.

Karen said,

I would like the Watchtower Society to investigate ALL the elders who were involved at the time and the role each one played. I believe all those elders should be removed from their positions.

“Mark’s wife, Mary, is also a regular pioneer and yet she lied during the trial.

The names of the elders at the time are:

“Glynn Sewell, Mike Jones, Billy Harris, Steve Jones, Tony Sewell, John Wood, Hugh McKinty, Tom Brown, Barrie Jones, Brian Jones, Terry Overall, Jack Viney.”

Karen added, “We also had a committee sent in from Bethel made up of elders from different congregations. These were…David Newman, Eddie Lee, Arthur Taylor, David Algar, Alan Whitby, Anthony Kendell, Edmond Kerr.

Karen’s father resigned as an elder because of this situation. He stood by her throughout the ongoing investigation that finally saw Mark Sewell convicted.

Karen said, “The other seven were brought in not to deal with Mark, but to deal with the elders themselves. As a result, Tony Sewell was removed from being an elder and so was Tom Brown, who was Presiding Overseer at the time.”

Not a single one of these men reported these criminal acts to the authorities.

Even during the trial, Karen said, “All the victims have had the same amount of support as me from Jehovah’s Witnesses – none.”

She explained that three elders were assigned to attend the whole trial and report back to the branch office headquarters. She indicates that two of them “were approachable.” She also commented, “We have had NO support from anyone at the JWs except for two of the elders who attended court every day. They came to see us last week as they now need to gather information about what happened at the time.”

Karen said “I have told the elders what I want to happen. But I doubt I will get it. I want all those that covered up for Mark Sewell to be disfellowshipped.

Karen shared her view of the ongoing situation noting that the Sunday after the conviction, one of her fellow abuse survivors attended the Barry congregation to speak to the congregation. She reported that some were pleasant, but one member, a “sister,” told her to “clear off.”

Karen shared with JWR her view (and one shared by many others) that the Watchtower Society has revealed its true self and its arrogance – even to the press. A journalist who covered the story was told to write into JW HQ in Mill Hill London, which he did and included a list of bulleted questions. None of the questions he asked were answered. All he received back from the Watchtower was a formal defensive statement.

It is the Watchtower Society statement that Karen finds particularly offensive – given the conviction. There is no acknowledgement or explanation from the Society as to why 19 men covered up ongoing abuse and failed to ever report those crimes to the police.

What is evident is that these men were following the guidance given them by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses – policies that are clearly flawed that are designed to defend an organisation at the expense of children.

Karen said, “Mark’s father is the worst offender. He is still a ministerial servant now. He knew what Mark was capable of years before he touched me – but said nothing. He stood by and watched Mark become an elder.”

Karen’s pain is understandable and palpable, but she is not looking backwards. She described her planned course of action this way:

For the immediate future, I want to concentrate on getting the Watchtower Society to change their rules about disfellowshipping.

“I want them to get rid of the ‘two witness rule.’

“When someone is disfellowshipped for a sexual offence, the congregation should be made aware and so should the police.

“The Charity Commission needs to investigate the way sexual offences are reported by the elders. Jehovah’s Witnesses need to have effective policies that protect members of the congregation.”

She may get some help to achieve her goal.

Watchtower Silence

Watchtower Silence

Simon Bass, chief executive of the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service, warned on 4 July 2014, that people have been “turning a blind eye” to abuse for decades.

He pointed specifically to the recent conviction of Mark Sewell, and noted that the Jehovah’s Witness internal judicial committee cleared him of all allegations and failed to contact the authorities. He said:

“…changing the law to make adults legally obliged to tell the authorities of wrongdoing would close a loophole which allowed people to turn a blind eye to abuse.

Mr. Bass continued:

Very often the reputation of the institution is weighed against doing the right thing and reporting. Having a mechanism which says you have to do this, irrespective of the reputational risk that it may have on you, can only be a good thing. Adults ‘owed a duty’ to child victims to report abuse, but too often people were put off from revealing their suspicions because they feared it would damage the school or church where they work.

This is certainly the case within Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Well done Karen Morgan for speaking out!

Listen to Karen speaking out on FUBAR radio 

More information:

Photo credit: BBC News

Churches Child Protection Advisory Service Statement Link

Previous JWR report Link

AAWA statement Link

Susannah

About Susannah

"Susannah," JWReport's News and Opinion Editor, is very familiar with the Watchtower Society and its leaders past and present. An experienced editor and writer, she was born and raised in the UK where she was an active Jehovah's Witness until she was 28. She now lives and works in southern Europe.

Comments

Named, Shamed and Culpable – Karen Morgan speaks out — 11 Comments

  1. Anthony Kendell was (likely still is until 31st August 2014) a District Overseer of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So more than just an elder. An individual in whom the Britain Branch would have placed considerable trust to protect its interests.

  2. Don’t let bitterness and anger ruin your life. The elders had your word against his. A rebellious troubled teenager or someone they respected? Yes they were wrong but it wasn’t out of vindictiveness. I’m sure they all wish they had acted differently. Draw a line under it and move on. Life is too short. How many lives and relationships have already been ruined by this? Let God sort it out.

    • God isn’t going sort out stuffs. Human beings need to. People only hide behind the name of God and he handling issues that should be handled by US to commit atrocities. But we sorting out stuffs on our own is the reason he gave us a BRAIN. I am so ashamed to have believed all those lies i was thought as “TRUTH”. Glad though to be learning the truth about the “truth”.

  3. Lisa, Why are you not asking for the two witness policy to be changed, that allowed this to continue unchecked? A line should not be drawn under child abuse when it is still happening because of the two witness rule. Maybe you should ask yourself why Elders were taken in by Mark Sewell and why this child became a rebellious (in your mind) teenager. Why do you have no compassion for child molestation?

    • When someone reports to elders that they have been sexually abused, the victim is urged to call police. Elders cooperate with police when an investigation ensues. The two witness rule no longer applies. Get up to date!

      • Hi Rivka,Welcome! Thank you for your compassion for another abuse survivor. Defenders of the organisation very rarely consider the person who was abused. Actually, in open court it was revealed that 19 elders did not co-operate not least because of the two witness rule and that is why this was reported. Numerous cases are reporting the same. There may have been an elders letter sent out saying yes now if your child is raped you can tell the police, but actually as far as the elders are concerned they still view child molestation as a sin not a crime and therefore if your child gets molested the perpetrator may not be censored unless there was a witness. As you well know there is a culture of not speaking against a brother and that is still going strong within the congregations hence the reason why children and women and men rarely are able to speak freely. I am sure Karen Morgan will be delighted to tell you that the person who abused her as a child and raped another woman and is serving 14 years is still not disfellowshipped.

      • Rivka, It would not surprise me at all if the GB started to get new light about the two witness rule given all the legal cases. It would not surprise me to see WT begin to ease themselves away from blame and leave the responsibility totally down to the local level elders. I wonder if its worth a bet that we see in the next year new articles and perhaps even on JWTV new statements that indicate the local elders must have misunderstood. No doubt WT Legal will assist with guidance and referrals for legal representation “when the local elders get themselves in trouble.” Some could say this may be the light getting brighter about the 2 witness rule and of course it has nothing to do with money payouts for court cases brought by abuse survivors.

      • I wasn’t urged to call the police. I was told not to tell ANYONE about it. When it went to court last year NONE of the elders would make a statement to the police. One eventually did and then tried to retract it. Maybe you could explain to me exactly how elders cooperate with police?????

  4. Discovered this in a google search – and I have searched several times since July but only now has this come up. You will have my email from posting the comment, or you can ask the Lib Ed site to forward to me – can Karen herself or someone involved in the same case answer this? Because of your South Wales references: this David Newman you mention, is he the same one as used to be headmaster of Balfour House in the eighties? If more recently was at Coleg Glan Hafren, or is from Wenvoe, or is the JW hospital liasion contact for the region, that’s him. He was the headmaster described here, http://www.libed.org.uk/index.php/articles/414-high-learning-potential . He seems to go against the grain of JW reputation of being against university, but he was JW, He used to opt out of assembly because of it and explain beliefs to curious sixth formers. Led by him they caused me a terrifying pressure collapse at age 13-14 with nobody at all to turn to about it, that wrecked my entire future, and wrecked his school’s own propaganda so was a longer term cause of its closure. This would be another angle to look at on his standards towards child suffering and silence about it. At the time, I was disastrously prevented from seeking to raise child safety concerns about the school, by the intimidatingness of the child psychiatry that it had caused me to experience.

    • Yes that’s David Newman. I actually sat the exam to go to Balfour house when I was 11. I only qualified for half scholarship so I never went there. I can just imagine what he was like as a head teacher!

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