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Australia's Jehovah's Witnesses Failed To Report 1,006 Alleged Child Sex Abuses

Australia's Jehovah's Witnesses Church failed to report more than 1,000 cases of alleged sexual abuses against children, a national inquiry has found.

The BBC reports:

"Angus Stewart, counsel for the commission, said that of 1,006 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse identified by the Jehovah's Witnesses Church, 'not one was reported by the church to secular authorities.'

"The Church dismissed 401 members following internal abuse hearings, but more than half were later reinstated, the inquiry was told.

"One Church member, identified only as BCB, gave testimony to the commission, saying that she was sexually assaulted by an elder as a teenager, and suffered depression as a result.

"'The abuse changed who I was,' she said. 'It destroyed my confidence and my self esteem.'"

The church elder who handled BCB's allegations also destroyed notes concerning the case, saying he didn't "want our wives knowing our stuff."

In another case investigated the commission, a woman identified as BCG testified that she had been forced by church officials to testify before the alleged abuser. The woman's father blamed her for "seducing him."

The Guardian reports that the same elder, identified as Max Horley, told the commission that he did not think it was the church's policy to bring these matters to the police. The Guardian reports that when an abuse allegation emerged:

"The elders would go for advice to the Branch – the body that oversees congregations in Australia - if they had any hesitation about how to proceed 'legally and scripturally.'

"In an opening statement, counsel advising the commission Angus Stewart said the organization, which has 68,000 members in Australia, had dealt with all allegations internally. He said the church was preoccupied with sin and sinning.

"Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and interpret it literally. He said that documents would be tendered which showed the elders considered the spirituality and seductiveness of the complainant in determining the allegations against [BCB's alleged abuser.]"

Australia launched an investigation in the sexual abuse of children in 2013, following allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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