Documents relating to the application by the ‘Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Netherlands’ to stop the publication of the academic paper “Sexual Abuse and Willingness to Report Sexual Abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses Community”
According to Utrecht University, the academic study commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security:
“focuses on the influence that patterns, rules, customs and structures within the Jehovah’s Witness community in the Netherlands have on the manner in which sexual abuse or alleged sexual abuse are dealt with as well as the willingness to report sexual abuse or alleged sexual abuse. One important conclusion of the study is that the manner in which the abuse is handled within the Jehovah’s Witness community leaves victims or alleged victims of sexual abuse feeling insufficiently recognised and supported.”
The study was commissioned by the Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) of the Ministry of Justice and Security, which requested a study be conducted in response to a motion of the Netherlands House of Representatives submitted by Van Nispen et al. (Motion 31015 no. 154). This motion served as main impetus for the WODC and the research project.
On 23 January 2020, the Ministerie van Justitie en Veilgheid (Ministry of Justice and Security) issued a internal government letter which presented and summarised the history of the report and the attempts by Jehovah’s Witnesses to suppress the report. In the letter, De Minister voor Rechtsbescherming, Sander Dekker, wrote:
“The report on willingness to report within the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses paints an extremely worrying picture. The investigation shows that there are reasons to believe that making a report is hampered by the closed nature of the community and the risk that the victim will be released. According to the respondents, the problems in dealing with reports of sexual abuse are also related to the closed culture of the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The research shows that elders of the community are strongly focused on keeping the community together by reconciling the perpetrator and the victim. The result of the experienced way of handling the report is that this leads to secondary victimization. Victims feel insufficiently heard, ignored, stigmatized and isolated.
“I expect every board of an organization, including the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to show signs of sexual abuse, to make every effort to prevent sexual abuse. This is especially true with regard to children. As Minister for Legal Protection, it strikes me that so many vulnerable victims felt that they were on their own, had not experienced recognition, and had not, or only recently, found their way to justice and official aid agencies.
“Following the report, a discussion has recently taken place at my ministry with the board. In addition, the board was urged to actively take up the recommendations from the report. In particular, it was about setting up a hotline within the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses where victims of (alleged) abuse can go.
“To my dismay, the board responded negatively to this. Instead of focusing on creating more openness and recognition for the position of victims within the community, it denied the need for this. In the meantime, the board has spared no time, resources or effort to prevent publication of the report. However, in the summary proceedings that were submitted to that effect yesterday at the Midden-Nederland District Court, the administration has been unsuccessful. For the Board’s complete response to the report, I refer you to the appendix.
“Now that the reports are public, I want to call on the board to adopt the recommendations from the reports in a last intrusive conversation. After all, change prompted and propagated by the Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves is the most effective. This is independent of the possibilities that the government has in terms of legislation and official assistance to be able to take action against abuses. Following the final reports and the verdict of the Midden-Nederland court, I will personally discuss the measures to be taken from the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves.” – English translation [non-authorized version]
A full copy of the letter appears below:
Court documents submitted by Jehovah’s Witnesses to stop the publication of the report
As part of the court application to stop the publication of the academic report the Jehovah’s Witnesses submitted an “Expert Opinion” prepared by Holly Folk, Massimo Introvigne, and J. Gordon Melton. The opinion, written in English, stated in the opening paragraph:
“We have been requested by the law firm of Mr. Shane Brady, representing the “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Netherlands”, to examine the report “Sexual Abuse and Willingness to Report Within the Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” authored by Kees van den Bos, Marie-Jeanne Schiffelers, Michèlle Bal, Hilke Grootelaar, Isa Bertram and Amarins Jansma, with the cooperation of Stans de Haas, and commissioned by the Research and Documentation Centre of the Ministry of Justice and Safety (Utrecht, December 2019: hereinafter “the Report”), and to comment on it based on our experience of several decades in the study of minority religions and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
The expert opinion, as used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, is interesting in that the authors define the word ‘apostates’ as a “technical term not implying value judgment” as used “by some sociologists”. (par. 11.)
A finding from the authors of the expert opinion highlight a complete lack of understanding about the structure of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation at the most basic level, that of a congregation. The authors state:
“It is also worth noting that the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not sponsor or provide any activities that separate children from their parents or otherwise take custody of children.” (par. 24.)
Jehovah’s Witnesses do indeed sponsor and provide activities that separate children from their parents. Examples of this are congregation field service, child mentoring programs, personal bible studies, Kingdom Hall cleaning, volunteer construction work, and even in the area of Scripturally-based discipline.
Secret legal report critical of the Australian ‘Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’ used as evidence by Jehovah’s Witnesses to stop publication of the academic paper
On 14 November 2018, Australian-based barristers David Bennett AC, QC and James Gibson presented to Watchtower Australia and the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation their commissioned review and opinion on the findings and recommendations of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse as it related to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The report was used by the ‘Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Netherlands’.
See previous JW Leaks article:
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