By C. J. Williams
Many of our opposers seem to want those of Jehovah's Witnesses who have once been criminals to stop confessing their sins to the elders. They also seem to want to take away the freedom of victims and anyone who hears about a case, to decide whether they will report the offender. Victims and their families could end up paying the price along with the offender.
If you have ever been molested, you are not alone. However, if your molester has not repented and has re-offended, then they are actually an uncommon breed among child molesters. Only 11-17% of child molesters in the world ever re-offend within 15 years after ceasing their activity. (That number is doubled for molesters of boys.)
In fact, regarding Jehovah's Witnesses, the July 15, 2002 Watchtower, p.9, recorded a response by one prison that stated, "In the ten years that this program has been in operation, not one released inmate who was baptized in prison as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses has returned to prison—in contrast with the 50-60 percent return rate of other groups."
But even if those numbers were greater than recorded, the following issue affects many times more people than just those unrepentant offenders. Our opposers are willing to destroy the lives of thousands just to get at the few. But they don't want you thinking about the numbers. No, they want to stop your thinking by getting you to hone your thoughts in on the few, blinding you with a "forest for the trees" scenario.
Why the List MattersOur opposers are on a witch hunt to get a hold of our list that tracks sex offenders within our ranks so we can keep an eye on them. This list includes not just rapists and child molesters who have confessed and left their sins behind, but also a great deal more who simply had consensual sex with teenagers that were a year below the legal age limit or who performed some youthful indiscretion. The number of former date rapers alone far exceeds that of child molesters according to the above link. Then there's the statutory rapists and those guilty of various forms of sexual misconduct. Child molesters are a drop in the bucket in comparison, but those repentant ones are the ones who would suffer under the pretense of "discovery" if governments were given the list.
Then there's the fact that being able to acquire one list opens the door up to the governments having authority to acquire any other list of non-sexual criminals or even any other private records both among religions and private citizens without restriction. And not just Jehovah's Witnesses would be affected, but other religions as well, including Catholics, Baptists, Muslims and Buddhists. All under the pretense of getting the few child molesters who have not gotten themselves under control. Instead of seeking to work with Jehovah's Witnesses to ferret out those individuals, they put themselves in opposition to Jehovah's Witnesses over petty religious differences. The hardened attitude of "all criminals must pay" is unchristian and unsympathetic to those seeking help and repentance.
So this issue does not just concern Jehovah's Witnesses, but concerns even people in the world. Since only 11% of treated child molesters and 17% of untreated child molesters ever re-offend, (doubled for molesters of boys) that means 83-89% of them, (or 65% in the case of molesters of boys,) those who have repented and never re-offended, who have molested children that are or became one of Jehovah's Witnesses, or who themselves have been Jehovah's Witnesses at any time and confessed their sins, are at risk. (In other words, the majority of offenders never re-offend.)
Judging all other offenders based upon the few repeat offenders is not fair. Just because you know someone has fornicated, stolen or killed doesn't mean they will fornicate, steal or kill. That is the nature of repentance. If everyone could be judged for the potential to repeat their crime, then every offender of any jailable offense would spend life in prison no matter how minor the offense.
The idea that a person is guilty for life for a fleshly sin is godless, judgmental propaganda. (Matthew 18:23-35; Romans 2:1-11) It is easy to be judgmental and condemn, but it is challenging to restrain oneself so as to attempt to judge fairly. That is why the elders in the congregation have to meet the qualifications they do and why judges do not last long if they are judgmental and arrogant. It takes humility, dispassion and a forgiving spirit to judge fairly and accurately. Jesus himself said that those who judge harshly will be harshly judged. (Matthew 7:1, 2) So it is important to look beyond a short-sighted vision of what constitutes guilt.
Our opposers seem to be disinterested in former criminals coming clean so that they could get help from the elders. By incarcerating those who have already long repented, they increase the likelihood of re-offense, giving our opposers something to hold against Jehovah's Witnesses. Removing their ability to come clean about their criminal offenses would curtail their seeking help.
So why would former offenders no longer confess their sins? Because if the authorities get a hold of that list of sex offenders, it will be impossible for sex offenders to confess their sins to the elders without getting arrested. Brothers who have already confessed and left their sins are at risk if that list gets released. Even those who once repented and have become inactive or gone apostate are at risk. Even people who have never been Jehovah's Witnesses will be at risk, and all of their families will be affected.
Speaking from ExperienceIn full disclosure, I myself was a victim of child sex abuse by someone I know. My abuser has never re-offended, has never offended with anyone else, and has never been one of Jehovah's Witnesses. (I mention this to highlight that it does not require religion to repent and that non-Jehovah's Witnesses would be affected if that list gets out.)
The only children the person has had access to since I was a teen was their own children. They have a family and their grown children love them and, though knowing about the person's past, have stated that the person never did anything to them. That person has no employment that brings them near children and no other family or friend ties that bring that person near children. But if those files get out, that person will be at risk for prosecution, and if that person found out it was because of that list that they were arrested, then they will never even consider joining the organization. Thus, their eternal salvation, and their freedom, is at risk.
How do I know that one will never re-offend? Because 1) they have not re-offended to date, and 2) they have no access to other children. How do I know that they have not re-offended until now? Because I know their schedule and activities and have known it for the past 26 years, as well as the fact that their own children have stated it without subterfuge.
However, since the statute of limitations does not apply to child molestation in our area, that person will be prosecuted and arrested and could potentially do life in prison, not to mention lose their job, their pension and all hopes of ever finding meaningful employment, all because our selfish opposers have a vendetta against Jehovah's Witnesses in general. I'm the victim and I do not want that for my former abuser.
Besides this, my former abuser is also a linchpin to their family's survival. The distress this would cause an entire non-Witness family 26 years after the offense is a punishment I think our opposers would rejoice in because they only want to create reasons for people to leave or never to come to Jehovah's organization. Then there's the fact that I myself could be jailed because I most certainly would refuse to testify against my repentant abuser.
A Jehovah's Witness we will call "Sandy" shared her daughter's experience with me directly in response to this article: "35 years ago my 5 year old daughter was molested by a male cousin in his early teens. When I was made aware of it, after a week of denial, I told my sister who told her husband, who confronted his son. The abuse stopped immediately. Years later when he married and had a daughter of his own, the full weight of what he had done compelled him to come to her and beg for her forgiveness. My daughter's attitude, expressed to me was, 'That's what he did but not what he is.' Many years later, someone she'd confided in as a teenager, decided to send a letter to our elders, accusing him of this abuse. Since my daughter was now grown and married and no longer in the area, I was called to speak on her behalf. I shared her expressed feelings and my belief she would not want this painful experience re-visited. So the issue was dropped. And I'd like to know just what purpose would be served if we exposed this truly repentant person to the scrutiny of the courts, let alone the impact it would have on my daughter."
"Sara" related to me, "I have childhood issues related to abuse and Jehovah has indeed been a lifeline for me and my siblings. Because of my experiences I've always taken a special interest in children from dysfunctional families. Over the years I've studied the Bible with at least 6 of these young ones. In all of this, I had one horrifying experience:
"A sister asked me to study with her preteen granddaughter whose mother was inactive and overwhelmed. Of course, I said yes and took her under my wing. Soon her 2 upstairs neighbor friends were joining in - what a handful, but why not?
"After some months, the sister's granddaughter told the upstairs girls that she didn't like the way I touched her. The girls told their mother who confronted me. I immediately did 2 things: First I got both the mothers and all the kids together and talked it through. It seems my young charge's mother was not very demonstrative, so this child didn't know what to make of me hugging her. I begged the mother to please hug her child and removed myself from the situation. I then spoke to my elders and explained what had happened. Oh yes, there was a third thing I did. I went home and cried for days.
"All the girls stopped studying, but some years later the 'granddaughter' wrote me a letter, apologizing - I still have it. In it she explained she didn't really want to study then and that was the only way she could think of to get out of it. She then asked me to study with her again, but my husband said absolutely not, so the elders found a wonderful pioneer sister to take on the task. Today this mother and daughter are still hanging in there and I'm definitely cheering them on. But the point I'm making is the potential repercussions from any accusation are horrific. It seems highly unlikely that I'm on any kind of list, but if I was, why would the court need to know it?"
Authorities Are Rejecting Our HelpThere was a problem with our methods that came to light back before 2002, by which we were dubbed a "pedophile paradise". But unlike the Catholics, we did not dodge it. We faced it head on and plugged the hole by keeping careful track of sex offenders. We also updated the two-witness rule in the elder's handbook, Shepherd the Flock of God (2007), to allow for evidence presented by authorities in an investigation.
Now authorities are coming at us because they found out we have that list of sex offenders. What do they expect us to do? Not keep track? That was the problem in the first place, so now they want us to go back to not keeping track? They need to decide whether they are going to regulate us or force us to stop keeping lists of sex offenders, because they can't have both.
We are glad to be regulated. In fact, we have shown a ready willingness to help lawmakers figure out how to regulate us, which was exactly what the Royal Commission in Australia was supposed to be about, but which the RC ended up turning into a witch hunt, as my post about it shows. But we will not submit our members to having their confessions used against them, as much as our obsessed opposers would love that.
Are we supposed to punish someone who has repented and is not a threat to anyone? Should the authorities have such power to override the sanctity of religious confession? Would this not violate the separation of church and state so essential to the policies and legal statutes of so many countries today, such as the United States? And if we have such a high rate of molested children in our midst, where are they among our apostates? Even among them they are few, in fact, ultra rare compared to the world. But our opposers don't want you to think about such things.
The Truth About the NumbersIn fact, that's the norm among our apostates. Bragging about our supposed high rate of molestation but not having the numbers to back it up even among their own ranks. A full 3 million American children under the age of 14 are molested every year. (That's 1% of the population of the U.S. every year.) It is not a Jehovah's Witness-centric problem. it is a world-wide problem. In fact, the numbers indicate that we have far less of a problem than the world in general.
Even the unsubstantiated number someone cited of the all-time total number of abused children among Jehovah's Witnesses is only .5% of the current membership total of Jehovah's Witnesses which is half of the yearly national average for child sex abuse cases in the united states. But given that the source has the consistent habit of ballooning numbers and fabricating facts, that number can't be trusted even remotely and is really doing them no favors.
Speak Up, Not OutIf you or someone you love has been molested, you have the right to turn their abuser into the authorities. The organization has granted you the leeway to call in the authorities and you can't be disfellowshiped for it. With the two witness rule in place, we are able to protect the congregation against repeat offenders, but only if one of their victims speaks up and only if someone provides corroborating witness or evidence.
Notifying the proper authorities is a good way to uncover corroborating evidence. Then they can present the findings of an official investigation to the elders and the elders can determine if the evidence is sufficient enough to serve as an additional witness. (It would be inappropriate to expect the elders to do a rape kit and perform other scientific investigations and inquiries.) As much as it would be great, in a perfect world, to be able to trust the word of someone claiming to be a victim, we still require corroboration. (Deuteronomy 22:15-17; Matthew 18:15-17; 1 John 5:7-8)
But don't blame others if you don't speak up or notify the authorities. If you make a decision not to tell anyone, that's on you, not the organization. Just like the offender has to accept the consequences for his or her actions, the victim has to accept the consequences of their own lack of action.
Also, the only thing people get disfellowshiped or disassociated for is unrepentance for fleshly sin, dissension and apostasy. (Seeking to rile others among Jehovah's Witnesses. Proverbs 16:28; Romans 16:17) By not seeking to cause disorder, one shows loyalty. They can prosecute the offender and write letters to the organization, but turning apostate and yelling at bricks on the outside is going to do nothing to change anything inside. Only changing laws outside and regulations inside can affect change. The opinions of apostates mean zilch to the organization. It's nothing but gangrene to us. (2 Timothy 2:16-19)
If someone has repented and never re-offended, why should they be called to account by anyone but their victim or the victim's parents? If they re-offend, have at them. That's not what this post has been about. It has not been about protecting all child molesters, but protecting those on the list who have never molested a child or who have long repented and to protect the sanctity of confession. It is also about protecting their hope of salvation as well as the right of the victims and their families to choose forgiveness and live peaceful lives free from abuse of power by the authorities which could turn them into victims all over again.
Flip-side News: Governing Body Member Demonstrated Correct Procedure
Flip-side News: Look Out for: the Deceivers
Flip-side News: Response to the Royal Commission of Australia