(Investigator #202, 2022 January)


The Encylopaedia Britannica 2002 Year in Review (2003) reported: "Five people were expelled from the Jehovah's Witnesses in the United States after they accused leaders of covering up the sexual abuse of children by members." (p. 302)

The expelled included research assistant Barbara Anderson who afterwards founded the "Watchtower Documents" website; and Jim Bowen, former elder, who created the "Silent Lambs" website and says 6000 JWs abuse victims have contacted him. Also in 2002 came news of a secret data-base of 22,000 alleged child molesters held at the JWs American headquarters!

Google Search brings up hundreds of pages that report child-abuse within JWs of which a sample of 59 is listed below.

Reports of child-abuse in the sect escalated in the late 20th century when the leaders' techniques to suppress abuse victims from going public began to fail. One technique that helped to silence victims was lurid descriptions of Armageddon and constant reminders that Armageddon is imminent. This suppressed free speech by threatening God's vengeance not only upon all nations but also on JWs who showed disloyalty to the JW Organization. Armageddon became less intimidating because the event repeatedly failed — the two latest deadlines were the 20th century and the generation that lived in 1914. Critics even began to call the sect a "pedophiles paradise".

Television and YouTube documentaries examining child abuse among JWs proliferated, as have newspaper and court reports. Two documentaries recently seen on Australian TV are:

•    Bearing Witness: Exposing the secretive world of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Four Corners, 14 September, 2021

•    Crusaders: Ex Jehovah's Witnesses Speak Out, October 13, 2021

In 2015 Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse announced a public investigation into the safeguards that JWs and their Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WBTS) in Australia have in place.

JWs lawyers, and publications of the sect, declare that JWs "abhor" child abuse, view it as a "heinous crime", and publish counsel on how to protect children. The Royal Commission, however, consulted 5000 documents subpoenaed from the Australian headquarters and identified 1800 victims of child abuse and 1006 perpetrators since 1950, and found that no incident, allegation, or perpetrator had been reported to the police.

The elders also never informed the congregations about any allegations, leaving parents and kids unprepared. About 579 of the accused had confessed; of these 401 were disfellowshipped [excommunicated] but 230 were reinstated after professing "repentance". Many then reoffended; 78 were reinstated more than once.

It's probable that 1800 victims is not the real total — just the ones who told the elders. There could be others where parents or victims said nothing out of shame; inability to prove it; or feared confrontation or excommunication.

JWs investigative procedures consisted of elders privately questioning children in the presence of the accused. Elders followed a "two witnesses rule" by which guilt could not be established unless the accused confessed or another witness (i.e. observer) to the abuse supported the child's testimony. Failing to get at least two mutually supporting testimonies, the elders might keep the accused under observation and tell the child's parents to not slander the accused by gossip, and that to involve the police would bring "reproach on Jehovah's organization". Parents could also be reminded that Armageddon is imminent and God would then rectify everything. "Wait on Jehovah," was counsel commonly given.

JWs, however, misunderstand the New Testament's two-witnesses rule. It was argued in Investigator #183 that the rule does not apply to crime but to lesser disputes. If serious crime occurs among Christians they should notify the authorities, these being, according to the Bible, "the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer". (Romans 13:4) The authorities have resources and methods to investigate crime that are far more effective than anything elders can do, and can inflict legal punishments which elders can't.

If an adult is raped in a JWs congregation or if the premises suffers arson, the elders would notify the police, even if lacking two observers to the crime. But in the past, child-abuse was not reported.

The JWs Governing Body decides on doctrine, policies, and rules for running congregations, and insist on unity across more than 200 countries. Therefore, the mismanagement of child-abuse among JWs could be worldwide.

The Royal Commission's recommendations on how JWs should improve their child-protection are published as Case Study 29 The response of Jehovah's Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd to allegations of child sexual abuse.

In a video produced by JWs headquarters, Governing Body member Stephen Lett referred to "false stories that are designed to separate us from Jehovah's organization." He said: "As an example, think about the apostate-driven lies and dishonesties that Jehovah's organization is permissive toward pedophiles. I mean, that is ridiculous, isn't it?"

The JWs Governing Body get away with such unqualified denial because their followers are indoctrinated to shun outside research and independent thought. They regard the "Organization" as virtually infallible, and other sources as unreliable, devious, Satanic.

Jesus called his followers "a light to the world". In the case of JWs and child abuse, however, the world (as represented by courts, journalists, investigators, law-makers, the Worldwide Web, and the Royal Commission) is a light to JWs:


Summaries are supplied with some of the URLs, but if you want to share the information consult the actual webpage.'s_Witnesses'_handling_of_child_sex_abuse
Website of Barbara Anderson who worked in the JWs New York headquarters for 10 years. On her "Discoveries of Barbara Anderson" page she shows that: "The scope and complexities of the entire child sexual abuse situation within the organization were enormous."
A JWs pedophile whose career of rape went for forty years.
This 2010 report begins: "JEHOVAH Witnesses covered up a Wisbech sex attacker's series of assaults on a young girl for 25 years."
This lawsuit had two plaintiffs, a woman raped numerous times as a girl by her stepfather, and a male relative abused by the same man. The elders did not report to the police but convened a committee and banished the offender from the congregation for a year. The woman sued in the district court in 2016 for damages from their failure to report:

In its reversal, the Montana Supreme Court wrote that Montana's mandatory child abuse reporting statute states that "a member of the clergy or a priest is not required to make a report under this section if the communication is required to be confidential by canon law, church doctrine, or established church practice" and "Jehovah's Witnesses have an established process for receiving and investigating reports of child abuse within their congregations; that they consider this process confidential..."
This story gives more detail behind the Montana Supreme Court Decision. The justices in a 7-0 decision wrote that the JWs elders were exempt from Montana's child abuse reporting laws, "because their church doctrine, canon, or practice required that clergy keep reports of child abuse confidential."
About forty USA states require clergy to report child abuse, but about 30 of these states have a "clergy-penitent privilege" that allows religious leaders to withhold information received through "confidential, spiritual communication". Attorneys for JWs argued that JWs regard child sexual abuse reports to be confidential spiritual communications (like a priest hearing confession).
When elders hear of child abuse in their congregation they contact the parent organization, the WBTS, to find out whether their state requires them to inform the police. If not then it's handled within the congregation.
Report about a protest by 100 people from 15 countries outside the grounds of a JW convention. The purpose of the protest was to highlight the persistence of child sexual abuse among JWs. Protesters distributed a ten-point resolution which urged JWs to consider the findings of Australia's Royal Commission and requested the Governing Body to put into practice the Commission's recommendations. policies-and-practices/
JWs in Australia are revealed as the only national organization to declare they will not join the national redress scheme but would handle individual claims for redress in-house.
JWs agreed to join Australia's National Redress Scheme after the Federal Government threatened to revoke the charity status of organizations that didn't join.
Twenty former JWs are suing over historical sexual abuse they say they suffered. A former elder who had disowned his daughter, who had been abused and later spoke out publicly, went through the same trauma — he was abused as a child and in 2019 left the sect and now speaks out. A solicitor representing some of the 20 former members, said they decided to seek compensation because they had asked for an apology but instead got denials to what happened.
On this home page type "Jehovahs Witnesses" in the search box and get articles such as "silent history of abuse" and "Jehovah's Witnesses official says to destroy records because 'Satan's coming after us'".
Mark O'Donnell left JWs in 2013 and leaks papers that document child abuse. We also learn how the JW Organization's database of sex offenders got started:

In March 1997, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society ... sent a letter to each of its 10,883 U.S. congregations, and to many more congregations worldwide. The organization was concerned about the legal risk posed by possible child molesters within its ranks. The letter laid out instructions on how to deal with a known predator: Write a detailed report answering 12 questions... Keep a copy of the report in your congregation's confidential file... and do not share it with anyone.
Thus did the Jehovah's Witnesses build what might be the world's largest database of undocumented child molesters...

In 2002 a former elder claimed that 23,720 abusers are listed in the database. Lawyer, Irwin Zalkin, raised the issue of the database in a 2016 court case and: "the judge ordered Watchtower to pay a fine of $4,000 a day until it handed over the documents."
The supreme court put an end to the WBTS's efforts to block an investigation into how JWs handle child abuse allegations.
AO Advocates are lawyers in London and USA who deal with child abuse and are "Jehovah's Witnesses Specialists". In a 2015 civil case against JWs in the UK they secured a payout of £275,000 for their client for sexual abuse she suffered as a child.
A description of how JWs handle child abuse: "The way Jehovah's Witnesses deal with allegations of child sexual abuse is appalling."
"Vicarious liability" is when an organization is liable for the misuse of power and authority it has conferred on others. In the crime of sexual abuse can the trustees of a JWs congregation, or the Watchtower Society, be held liable for sexual abuse committed by an elder and/or if elders conceal the crime? The court's role is to examine each case to determine whether there was "sufficient connection" or "causative link" between the power/status/authority conferred and the crime committed.
An investigation by University researchers on behalf of the justice minister examined 751 reports of how JWs handled sexual abuse. The JWs Dutch branch tried to stop publication but judges ruled the information is in the public interest.
Five articles about JWs abuse on this site.
The JWs response to the findings of the Royal Commission, claiming that  JWs have a "Scripturally Based Position On Child Protection", and  "abhor" child abuse, and do not shield perpetrators. It says, "Parents have the primary responsibility to protect and teach their children", and goes into the assistance the JWs' Organization gives, such as the two-witness rule, videos and magazine articles.
The Royal Commission's analysis of JWs' protective measures, finding them inadequate. For example:

Although the Jehovah's Witness organisation instructs elders to comply with mandatory reporting laws where relevant, there was no evidence before the Royal Commission that the organisation has any general policy requiring or advising elders to report child sexual abuse to the authorities when not required to do so by law, even in cases involving a child complainant. (p. 61)

Regardless of the biblical origins of the two-witness rule, the Jehovah's Witness organisation's retention of and continued application of the rule to a complaint of child sexual abuse is wrong. It fails to reflect the learning of the many people who have been involved in examining the behaviour of abusers and the circumstances of survivors. It shows a failure by the organisation to recognise that the rule will more often than not operate in favour of a perpetrator of child sexual abuse, who will not only avoid sanction but will also remain in the congregation and the community with their rights intact and with the capacity to interact with their victim.  (p. 65)

The Jehovah's Witness organisation's practice of shunning members who disassociate from the organisation has the very real potential of putting a survivor in the untenable position of having to choose between constant re-traumatisation at having to share a community with their abuser and losing that entire community altogether. (p. 71)

Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses at: