Jehovah’s Witness Outdated Abuse Policies – Royal Commission
29 November 2016 at 11:09 am
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has found children were not adequately protected from the risk of child sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness organisation.
In the royal commission’s latest report Case Study 29: The response of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd to allegations of child sexual abuse it said it did not believe the religious organisation responded adequately to more than 1,000 allegations of child sexual abuse.
The report follows a public hearing held in Sydney in July and August 2015 which examined the experience of survivors of child sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witness organisation, as well as the systems, policies and procedures in place within the organisation for raising, responding to and preventing child sexual abuse.
It examined evidence from case files held by the organisation which recorded allegations, reports or complaints of child sexual abuse by 1,006 members of the organisation.
From the evidence presented, the royal commission report said the Jehovah’s Witness organisation relied on outdated policies and practices to respond to allegations of child sexual abuse which were not subject to ongoing and continuous review.
It said the organisation’s retention and continued application of policies such as the two-witness rule in cases of child sexual abuse “showed a serious lack of understanding of the nature of child sexual abuse”.
It said the rule which the Jehovah’s Witness organisation relied on and applied inflexibly, even in the context of child sexual abuse, was devised more than 2,000 years ago.
The royal commission found the Jehovah’s Witness organisation’s internal disciplinary system for addressing complaints of child sexual abuse was not child or survivor focused.
“Survivors are offered little or no choice in how their complaint is addressed, sanctions are weak with little regard to the risk of the perpetrator re-offending,” the report said.
The royal commission considered the organisation’s general practice of not reporting serious instances of child sexual abuse to police or authorities, demonstrated a “serious failure on its part to provide for the safety and protection of children”.
Earlier this month the federal government announced a 10-year redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, including access of up to $150,000 for each claimant.
The government said the scheme would commence early 2018 with the option to extend beyond the 10-year period if the government had not provided service to all of the people expected.
The royal commission has estimated there are likely to be 60,000 eligible survivors.