The Royal Commission’s report of 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 was released today.
The report follows a public hearing held in Sydney in July and August 2015 which examined the experience of two 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.
The Royal Commission heard from two survivor witnesses, 12 institutional witnesses and an expert engaged by the Jehovah’s Witness organisation who gave evidence about the organisation’s policies, procedures and practices.
It also 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.
The Royal Commission found children are not adequately protected from the risk of child sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness organisation and does not believe the organisation responds adequately to allegations of child sexual abuse.
From the evidence presented, the Royal Commission considers the Jehovah’s Witness organisation relies on outdated policies and practices to respond to allegations of child sexual abuse which were not subject to ongoing and continuous review. Included in these was the organisation’s retention and continued application of policies such as the two-witness rule in cases of child sexual abuse which, the Royal Commission considered, showed a serious lack of understanding of the nature of child sexual abuse. It noted the rule, which the Jehovah’s Witness organisation relies on, and applies 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.
Finally, 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.
Read the full report.