Child Abuse and Jehovah’s Witnesses

June 4th, 2013

By Stephanie Hammond

If you found out that a man you trusted had molested your child, how would you feel? What would you do?

Do you know if there are there pedophiles in your local Kingdom Hall?

Do you know if there are there pedophiles in your local Kingdom Hall?

For most parents their natural reactions would include anger, devastation, pain, and anguish. Many parents say they would need an “act of God” to prevent them from physically castrating the violator. Others would immediately call the police and try to have the man put away in prison for the rest of his natural life. All of these reactions make sense, considering the disgusting, cruel acts often committed against children — children who depend on their parents to protect them and come to their aid in situations too abysmal to comprehend.

On the other hand, what if you were told it was more acceptable not to call the police? Instead, what if you were instructed that you must tell a member of your church clergy first and let him handle it? And what if you actually followed this instruction, and then find out that nothing was done to punish the perpetrator? What if the clergy members told you that there had to be “two witnesses who personally saw the man touch your child” in order for them to act? Would you let the matter go? Could you?

That second scenario might seem outrageous to most people. No one could actually follow through with that ridiculous mandate – could they? Does this really happen? What are the facts?

You might be surprised to learn that every day over 7 million Jehovah’s Witnesses follow that exact commandment. In spite of the fact that there have been thousands of cases of child molestation within the Watchtower organization, there are still no effective policies established to protect these innocent children. The reality is that organization’s current policies actually protect sexual offenders.

Consider a portion of my own story:

Stephanie Hammond

The phone in my office rang. I looked at the caller ID and did not recognize the area code. I thought to myself, “I don’t know anyone in that area,” but after hesitating briefly decided to answer the phone anyway. I regretted my decision immediately.

The man spoke. “Hi Stephanie,” he said.

I froze. “I know that voice,” I thought.

“This is Norman.”

Yes, I definitely knew that voice. I felt my stomach tighten. “How did you get this number?” I challenged.

He took a breath and then said, “I ran into your mother at the last district convention [an annual 3-day meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses] and she gave it to me. I had a long conversation with her and told her how sorry I was for everything…,” he cleared his throat nervously, “that happened.”

“Everything that happened?” I thought. Everything? Like taking advantage of me when I was an innocent, completely untouched teenager?

I could feel the anger rising in my chest and my pulse quicken. I could feel beads of sweat forming on my forehead and heat filling my cheeks.

“So why are you calling me? I don’t get it,” I said rigidly. My body was stiff and indignant.

“Well, I wanted to apologize to you too.” He paused as if waiting for an answer. When I did not respond he continued, “I didn’t realize the pain I caused you. And, you know, I have children of my own…” he trailed off, again nervously clearing his throat. “Well, I guess I just would never want anyone to do what I did, you know, to my kids.”

My mind was reeling as I tried to digest what he was saying. My mother ran into him? She was well aware what this man had done to me, and yet she gave him my phone number? She had to know that he intended to contact me, and yet didn’t even bother to tell me?

After all of these years – after all of the pain, guilt and sadness I’d been carrying around — he dared to invade my existence now? I was furious.

I took a deep breath, and willed my composure to return.

“Norman, if you’re calling me in hopes of my absolving you of the guilt you feel over taking the innocence of a fourteen-year-old girl, then I am sorry to disappoint you.”

“I just…,” he paused, “Your mom…she told me that you’re not really doing well in the truth* and I thought, you know…somehow that was related to what I did.”

For a moment I considered his words. So he felt guilty? But I didn’t care. He is guilty. I felt absolutely no sympathy for him.

I felt the heat of my anger rise into my face at the very thought of my mother discussing my lackluster involvement in her religion with this defiler of children.

I pressed my lips together as if to trap the rage that was pooling in my mouth, primed to spew out at any moment with a flow of expletives. I sat in silence for a moment, and allowed my breathing to temporarily sedate my indignation.

“Whether I’m in the organization or not is really none of your concern,” I finally replied, “And furthermore, what you did affected my entire life. Not just my stance on ‘the truth,’ as you put it.”

He seemed unaffected by his quiet response, “Well, I just wanted to say I’m sorry. What you do with that is up to you.”

I refused to allow him to see how troubled I was by his bold intrusion in my life.

“Again, I have nothing else to say to you,” I responded. Then I simply said goodbye and hung up the phone.

I stared at the receiver while my thoughts clouded my vision. In that instant, I felt like I was 14 again —violated, helpless, and numb.

I picked up the phone again. Quickly and furiously I pressed the numeric combination that would eventually reach my mother.

Each ring felt like an eternity. I was livid. How could she have even spoken to this man, let alone given him a way to reach me? What could she possibly have been thinking?

She picked up the receiver.

“Mom,” I said, and without waiting for her reply, continued, “please tell me why I got a phone call from Norman. Tell me why you thought it would be appropriate to give him my contact information!”

I was so incensed I was shaking. Whose side was she on here? I would soon get my answer.

“Stephanie. Calm down.” She said passively, “I saw him at the last district convention, and he approached me. He told me how sorry he was for what he did to you all those years ago.”

I felt a pang in my stomach. He apologized to her? She wasn’t even there. And when I told her about what he did to me, she essentially did nothing. She told the elders in the congregation and reported back to me that we should “just leave it in Jehovah’s hands. He will correct it.”

She went on, “The man I saw before me that day was broken. He was plagued with guilt over what he had done. I felt moved to embrace him and tell him that I forgive him, and I think you should too.” She was so matter-of-fact about it. Her response infuriated me.

“You what?!” I cried back with a rising voice. Tears were welling in my eyes and I felt bile rising as my throat tightened. “You hugged him? You saw he was broken?” I was dizzy with rage and confusion. My voice cracked as I responded, “What about your daughter? I was broken fifteen years ago when he molested me and you did nothing!”

“I went to the elders, Stephanie. It was your word against his. And you know just as well as I do, without two witnesses…”

“Who cares about the elders?” I interrupted. “Why didn’t you go to the police?” Tears had finally made their escape from my eyes and were journeying down my cheeks.

She sighed, and then seemingly annoyed replied, “Look Stephanie, we did it Jehovah’s way. The elders handled it. They didn’t let him attain to any higher privileges [rankings] in the congregation for a while. Jehovah dispenses discipline in his own time.”

After hanging up the phone I felt disgusted and hurt. That very day I resolved to have nothing further to do with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Although I did not realize it then, I would eventually be disowned and shunned by my mother and nearly my entire family because of my decision that day.

I was raised in the high-control cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses and always knew about their policy that said, “There must be two or three eyewitnesses… no action can be taken if there is only one witness.” (Shepherd the Flock of God, pp. 72) My mother reminded me of this rule after I had told her about what had happened to me. Although my gut reaction told me this wasn’t normal, I didn’t question it. I accepted that my mother knew what was best for me. It wasn’t until I was an adult and started really doing my research that I realized not only how wrong it was, but how common child abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual) was within this cult.

There are no champions for children inside the organization. These are not people who are genuinely looking out for the safety of your progeny. This a group that is so preoccupied with not bringing “public reproach” on itself and its leaders, that members essentially cover up the horrific acts being committed against innocents, even their own children. And because this group is so controlled, its members truly do not believe there is anything wrong or out of the ordinary going on. That belief, perhaps, is the most alarming part.

This is why I was so excited when I found out about the work the group of Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses (AAWA) is doing. This group is really taking action to expose the harmful policies the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society is disseminating through Jehovah’s Witnesses. These policies are destroying childhoods, lives, and families. Those policies must be stopped.

For more information on AAWA, visit their website at AAWA.co.

A Silver Lining

I am a relatively new ex-Jehovah’s Witness and find myself still struggling with the events that eventually led to my disassociation. I constantly remind myself that if those things had never occurred I would have never met and married the love of my life, nor have the beautiful family we’ve created with our three exquisite children. I would have never found my “voice” through writing. Nor would I have gathered the courage to speak out about the things that are clearly amiss and even perverse within the organization. I might still be living inside the organization, still accepting their illusions and relinquishing total control over my life to a group of old men.

I’ve made the choice not to see myself as “a victim of the Watch Tower.” Each step I’ve taken toward getting my power back has been a small but delicious victory. I realize that there is a whole new life waiting outside the cult. I am truly grateful for being able to grasp my freedom!

Stephanie with husband Terry and their family

Stephanie with husband Terry and their family

Link to Stephanie’s blog


* Jehovah’s Witnesses use the term “The Truth” to identify their organization. This term is only used between members and promotes the belief that they alone have the “only true religion.”

Note: “Norman” is a substituted name.


Categories: Testimonies, Watchtower Scandals

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Comments Feed22 Comments

  1. Richard E.Kelly

    Stephanie, I am so very proud of you for writing this story. You have told it with grace and style. Look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

  2. Vincent J. Eagan, III

    Ms. Hammond,

    You are quite correct that the JWs are a cult. That does not mean, however, that all Bible teachings are wrong. You did not mention whether or not, upon leaving the cult, you accepted any real teaching on Jesus and the Bible or not.

    If you did, you should know that you can not go to Heaven unless you forgive Norman. It is wrong that he did not pay an earthly justice sum for what he did. Both Peter and Paul wrote statements that suggest that God set up earthly government to bear the sword of justice here. But you have to forgive Norman, just as God forgives you of your sins. You also have to forgive your mother, and that “group of old men”.

    You do not say that you have not forgiven them. However, you also do not say that you do, and your tone suggests you have not.

  3. Lisa Morris

    Vincent, it is really none of your business whether Stephanie forgives this creep. He was calling her only absolve himself of his feeling of guilt, he is just being selfish, as is the mother, both just want to tell Stephanie how she should feel about it, so they can feel better about themselves and their religion. I used to be a Jehovah’s Witness also, so I understand the way they think, nothing is as important to them as obeying a group of men in Brooklyn that feel they speaks for God. They only care because it reflects badly on the religion, so they would like her to pretend it didn’t happen. Since he is not truly repentant, there is no reason to forgive forgive him . It is also not your place to tell anyone else whether they will go to heaven or not, how condescending. You worry about your own salvation, let Stephanie worry about hers. You might want to consider how your self righteousness reflects on Christianity. Just sayin’

  4. Vincent J. Eagan, III

    I am not speaking by my own authority, Lisa. I specifically stated that it is Bible teaching and I made it clear that I am unaware if Ms. Hammond accepts anything of the Bible now that she is out of the JWs. I have stated nothing that is “self-righteous” – there is nothing in that post about me at all.

    Going specifically on Bible teaching, it is quite clear that in order to go to heaven, we MUST forgive those who have hurt us. Consider: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15)

    That’s pretty clear, wouldn’t you say, Lisa? I mean, I don’t think Jesus could have been any clearer there.

    BTW – I forgive you for calling me condescending and self-righteous – which one can only do if she is being condescending and self-righteous herself.

  5. Shelley Brammer Truesdell

    That could have been my story! Hugs to u!

  6. Lino Ayala

    Vincent, it was not you that was raped and taken advantage of. Furthermore it is really none of your business if she has of has not forgiven this pervert yet. And what gives you the right to judge this hurting person to hell. Instead you should be more loving and understanding for what she went through. The Holy Spirit in HIS right time will heal her and forgiveness will come. In the meantime continue being a Pharisee, you are doing an excellent job at it.

  7. Vincent J. Eagan, III

    Lino,

    Ms. Hammond chose to publicly relate her experience. As such, she put this out there in the public forum for discussion. If letting her know that forgiveness is important and she MUST forgive is Pharisaical in your eyes, so be it. this would mean that you are also judging me when you have no right to do so. Of you have the right to judge my statements, I also have a right to judge hers. See how that works?

    I did not ask her to tell me whether or not she has forgiven this man. I simply informed her what the Bible says – again, this is not my opinion. I’ve given scripture specific to the case.

  8. Lynn

    Vincent, I forgive you for putting yourself in a position of judgement over someone else, telling them what they must do in order to get their reward, when the Bible clearly states that all judging has been left to Jesus. I don’t know if Jesus will forgive you for usurping his position, but I forgive your arrogance, your condescending tone, and your self-righteousness. As for forgiveness, supposedly Jehovah knows that we are “made from dust” and that we are weak, and he doesn’t expect perfection in any area. For you to say she “must” forgive or she won’t have a reward is to ignore God’s ability to forgive our limitations. I forgive you for that arrogance and assumption, and for making God seem like such a tight-fisted, angry, maniacal, exacting God, and for working so hard to separate Him from his children by painting him in that light. I don’t know if God will forgive you for blaspheming Him in such a way, and for your callus and demanding attitude, but I forgive you.

  9. "Sophia"

    Stephanie, your story is so encouraging! Much love to you and thank you for sharing.

  10. StillShocked

    It breaks my heart to read these stories of child abuse and the way the Watchtower has shamelessly mishandled these crimes against the innocent. They have not shown any love or concern for the victims, just their own image, while hypocritically denouncing the Catholic Church and others! There is a pedofile by the name of [name withheld] in the West New York, New Jersey, area (originally of Puerto Rico) who has molested DOZENS of little boys and has not served a day in prison all in the name of “not bringing reproach on Jehovah’s name.” What about the kids? Governing Men should be ashamed of themselves!

  11. Brandon U.

    Jehovah loves you and your mother cares for you! She’s not trying to be selfish and of course, she should have put that so-called elder to jail. BUT you should realize that this is not about putting a person in jail, forgive him for what he is done and put it in the hands of Jehovah and he’ll take care of it. You were in that religion and to FULLY realize that this could be something that he had to change. All that emotions is normal to go through and EVERY parents feel hurt but not leave the Jehovah’s organization. You sound selfish. Sorry I had to say in my opinion and don’t attack me because this is what I’m giving you, my peace of mind. Not to sound arrogant whatever you call it.

    P.s Find a local kingdom hall and watch the new movie “The prodigal son” thanks….

  12. StillShocked

    Brandon, how would you feel if your little boy was sodomized repeatedly by someone the elders knew had molested a number of boys in the past, yet the elders’ kids were unharmed because they knew who the pedofile was and therefore protected their children? Would you be mad as hell or who you be calm and wait on Jehovah? Would your child be traumatized and have issues or would he peacefully sit at the Kingdom Hall and not bat an eye while the pedofile is reinstated and “courting” other children? You obviously speak out of ignorance. Put yourself in her shoes and stop judging.

  13. Richard

    Thank you for your story – I as a boy was also taken advantage of by elders and now my own other has chosen to choose this cult over me…

  14. Courtney

    Vincent, I know where you’re coming from & you are 100% correct. Your attackers simply do not show (in this forum) an understanding of Godliness. It’s not easy to forgive those who trespass against us but it is required and necessary or ourselves and others. My birth father sold me for drugs, I was gang raped and molested. The pain was unbearable but God gave me his son! He filled me with the Holy Ghost and I have peace and joy. I forgave. People sometimes (incorrectly) equate forgiveness with thinking or feeling the horrible thing was/is OKAY! Forgiveness does not mean u give the person a pass, or that you are accepting and tolerant of their evil. It simply means giving up our right to get even and you acknowledge that Christ is our redeemer, he does not lie or fail and we cast all our cares on him. The word of God is clear :I WILL REPAY SAITH THE LORD. That doesn’t mean u aren’t supposed to call the cops (for those who can’t discern); as Christians we strive to do the right things-calling the police is one of them. Stephanie doesn’t have to “reveal” to us if she’s or given, but Vincent is correct to tell her the truth especially since the JW do not tell the truth regarding salvation and Gods plan. God bless u, Stephanie. I wish you the best.

  15. Courtney

    Vincent, I know where you’re coming from & you are 100% correct. Your attackers simply do not show (in this forum) an understanding of Godliness. It’s not easy to forgive those who trespass against us but it is required and necessary or ourselves and others. My birth father sold me for drugs, I was gang raped and molested. The pain was unbearable but God gave me his son! He filled me with the Holy Ghost and I have peace and joy. I forgave. People sometimes (incorrectly) equate forgiveness with thinking or feeling the horrible thing was/is OKAY! Forgiveness does not mean u give the person a pass, or that you are accepting and tolerant of their evil. It simply means giving up our right to get even and you acknowledge that Christ is our redeemer, he does not lie or fail and we cast all our cares on him. The word of God is clear :I WILL REPAY SAITH THE LORD. That doesn’t mean u aren’t supposed to call the cops (for those who can’t discern); as Christians we strive to do the right things-calling the police is one of them. Stephanie doesn’t have to “reveal” to us if she’s forgiven, but Vincent is correct to tell her the truth especially since the JW do not tell the truth regarding salvation and Gods plan. God bless u, Stephanie. I wish you the best.

  16. cheryl

    Please disregard Ms. Hammond’s warped, unhelpful and convoluted rational for needing to forgive anyone. Use your rational mind and get in touch with reality.

  17. cheryl

    Sorry that was at Lisa Morris who tells the writer she needs to forgive to go to heaven. Using this historical, mythological old book to control people. Nothing new under the sun. Fear, fear, fear – a good way to control people. If you have witnessed anything supernatural there is a 1 million dollar prize at the James Randi foundation waiting for you.

  18. jade

    Jehovah’s Witness or not, whether the molestation accusations are true or not; any man, woman or child should always report any form of abuse to the police immediately and before bathing. There are help lines for children which are advertised and also given within our school systems. At 14 years of age, I cannot fully understand why at that age did you not seek help if your mother was to do nothing outside the congregation. There were many action options available yet you did nothing, there are student counselors, principles, friends parents as well. I’m certain at the age in which this so called abuse took place, you could have had actions taken against this Norman fellow. If it did happen? I suggest you go to the authorities as you should have long ago. Guilt is guilt no matter how much time has past. When a person breaks the law, they should pay through the justice system. This is why we have a police department, judges and jail as well as counselling services. Think about it, this could have been dealt with and again, you did nothing. I could see if you were an infant or small child but you were a teenager. Why did you do nothing? leaves a person to believe that perhaps it never happened. Sorry but that’s the message I got from your story. I hope you do the right thing so you can finally feel free from any inner pain. I wish you the best. J-Dee

  19. Tom Sawthelight

    I would like to know how and why anyone that goes to a Kingdom hall believe that the governing body is a channel of God? What is it? Just because they say they are. Lol–what a joke-Old bent over men trying to make people believe their nonsense.Well I am one that does not believe that garbage- They are no more a channel of God than Hitler was.No one can give me the answer-If you say because they print all this garbage then that’s a joke- Porn is printed by the millions also-So that closes that case-A bunch of old men sitting around a table pretending that they are the channel of God.-I can not understand the black brothers to not check the history of that bunch of selfrighteous creeps. And how the history of the wt tells some horror stories of jim crow bythe wt in the beginning.How many blacks are on the governing body? Come on- How many? How many blacks are of the 144,000? LOL LOL It would shock you if you really knew- Of course the black brothers would still just say, well things have changed-Then if you say things changed then you are saying that Jehovah chose them to rep him on earth from now on in 1919. Well 1929 they had an article of anti black in it- Then you wouyld have to say Jehovah chose them knowing they were a bunch of racist. Well Jehovah did not choose them–They chose themselves.

  20. Thomas

    All these people basing their “forgive” arguments on the book of Matthew are over simplifying things. Other parts of the same accounts by the other Gospel writers shows the perpetrator must come to you and repent before you are obligated to forgive them.
    Is Jesus going to forgive the Pharisees that he scathed while here? The images in Revelation of Jesus riding a horse trampling sinners so much that blood rises to the bridle show many perverts, abusers and perpetrators will receive no such mercy.
    It is up to the person offended to decide whether the perpetrator is truly repentant, and no one else. Those telling anyone else they must forgive ‘such and such’ perpetrator are overstepping their authority and are placing themselves as judges, and even ignorant people know what the Bible says about Judging.
    Furthermore, common sense tells us that a person can forgive but is not obligated to continue putting themselves in harms way. Look in the Bible to see how many servants of Jehovah fled from abusers;
    • Elijah
    • King David
    • Jesus
    • Paul & Barnabas
    etc.
    Peter also said it’s as bad as murder to be “busy bodies, meddling in other people’s business”.
    Make your own choices, stand before Jehovah the way you see fit, in the end each individual will reap what they themselves have sown.

  21. EJ

    The forgiveness is for Stephanie not Norman. I was molested at 3 and 10 years of age. I was also raped at 15 so it’s not a theory with me. If a phone call 15 years later can reduce you to pieces you are still hanging onto too much of what has happened. When you forgive you can let go and your abuser no longer has any power over you. Sadly he will control you until you let him and what happened go. God Bless.

  22. john newsome

    The flock clings to this concept of a channel of God nonsense. Why? 7 old dead men sitting around a table deciding what next to feed these fools. That’s why Ray Franz left that nonsense. There was no finer christen than Ray Franz. Compared to those other creeps sitting at that table Ray is a saint. And saints do not belong to be with a group of men that Satan has taken over. Yes Satan now controls the WT. How else can children be molested and nothing did? Leave it up to Jehovah? Hell why not leave 1889-1914-1935-1942-1975 up to Jehovah. Why not leave everything up to Jehovah? Their not following Jehovah is the reason Ray Franz left that nonsense. God bless Ray Franz.

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