Child Abuse Attorney Tells Church: Protect Little Ones
When she was 12-years-old, Karen’s uncle, Mark Sewell – a ministerial servant in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, began sexually abusing her. While she was still in her teens, Karen reported him to her church and ran into a brick wall of religious doctrine.
Karen Faces Abuser
In a heroic act of courage, Karen went before the church elders, a group of older men, and described her abuse in “minute detail”. All this occurred while she was sitting in the same room as her uncle. A Jehovah’s Witness “judicial committee” consists of bringing the accuser and the accused together. The result, according to the elders, was a no-fault she-said-he-said.
Jehovah’s Witness Dogma
Karen’s uncle is the son of an elder who was a trusted member in the local British Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation. One of the problems she faced is herchurch’s “all-encompassing lifestyle, with members encouraged to socialise and marry within the group.”
The church has a closed-circuit, in-house procedure for handling child abuse. Should teens choose a boyfriend or girlfriend outside of this religious circle, they are “disfellowshipped” or shunned. What teen could bear such a heavy burden?
The church, formally known as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, has 8 million members throughout the world. This branch of the Christian faith follows the Bible literally and interprets it to mean that two people must witness a crime.
Unfortunately sexual abuse of a child is often a lonely victimization. In this case, a second witness, Wendy, had been raped by Sewell, too. She also came forward to her church elders.
Karen Beats Abuser
The young women were forced to go outside of their religion to the public court systems to get Sewell convicted to 14 years in prison. A High Court rule against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “for failing to protect a child from sexual abuse by a paedophile.” The church is appealing the decision but insisted child abuse is an important concern.
Child Abuse Attorney
Attorney Victor Vieth‘s life’s goal is to end child abuse. He is the executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center and speaks about the church,
“A Gospel-centered institution embraces truth and transparency, understanding that Christ is truth and light and has achieved victory over darkness because of His willingness to hide nothing on the cross… A Gospel-centered culture will drive individuals and institutions to obey the God-ordained civil authorities who are charged with protecting our little ones and punishing those who harm them.”
Karen, now in her 30’s, and Wendy hope to force the Jehovah’s Witnesses to change their policies. A number of Christian and other religions are reforming their policies regarding the protection of their children:
- Roman Catholic Church: reforming its child safeguarding policies following numerous court cases in the US and Europe against priests for the sexual abuse of children.
- United Methodist Church: conducting its own recent inquiry into abuse allegations dating back to 1950.
- Church of England: holding an internal inquiry.
- Haredi Jewish Community: Israeli authorities deported Todros Grynhaus, who was trying to avoid conviction for sex offences against girls. He was jailed for 13 years. This case prompted the UK’s Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, to urge members to report child sex abuse.
Islam: Muslim girls rarely speak of sexual abuse, because that would bring shame on them and their family. However, sexual and physical abuse at Islamic religious schools (madrassas) have resulted in some prosecutions.
Who will protect our children against sexual abuse monsters, if we do not?