Jehovah’s Witnesses sued over ‘child sex abuse’

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At least 20 former Jehovah’s Witnesses are suing the group over historical sexual abuse they say they suffered.

The group has a policy of not punishing alleged child sex abuse unless a second person, alongside the accuser, has witnessed it – or an abuser confesses.

It says its elders “comply with child-abuse reporting laws even if there is only one witness”, though, and always tell police if a child is in danger.

But one former elder said it had been failing to involve the authorities.

John Viney, who says he was abused between the ages of nine and 13, by “a distant family member who was an active Jehovah’s Witness”, added children were still being abused and the religious organisation was “inadvertently” protecting their abusers.

“The way that Jehovah’s Witnesses handle matters within the congregation, it’s a closed shop,” he told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.

“I know for a fact now that there are parents that haven’t done anything about the abuse of their children by others because they don’t want to bring reproach on Jehovah’s name.”

Mr Viney said he had eventually reported his own abuser to the police, in 2019, after years of being too “ashamed”, only to be told the man had gone on to abuse other children and died in prison.

“What would have happened if I had had the courage and common sense to come forward [at the time]?” he said.

Thomas Beale, a solicitor representing some of the former members, said they had decided to seek compensation after asking the group for an apology only to find it “denying what has happened or refusing to engage”.

Those taking the legal action say the organisation is “vicariously liable” for the abuse they say they suffered. Some claim it was negligent.

Source: BBC Africa

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