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.
“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.
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
Photo credit: BBC News
Churches Child Protection Advisory Service Statement Link
Previous JWR report Link
AAWA statement Link