Child sex abuse royal commission: Jehovah’s Witnesses to be focus of inquiry hearing
Article courtesy of Info-Secte, Canada
By Angela Lavoipierre
July 27, 2015
The Jehovah’s Witnesses will be the focus of the child abuse royal commission’s next set of hearings, which begin in Sydney today.
The case study, which is expected to run for two weeks, is the first to focus on an entire Christian denomination rather than just one part of it.
It is expected to hear evidence from two abuse survivors as well as senior members of the church.
At least seven current and former Jehovah’s Witnesses Elders are expected to be called.
Senior staff for the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ company, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia, are also expected to appear.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is sometimes described as a Christian sect, had more than 80,000 followers in Australia at last count.
Lawyer Angela Sdrinis, who is representing a number of people alleging abuse, said complainants had been slow to come forward because of the organisation’s size and culture.
“I’ve been doing this work for about 20 years and it really is in the past few months that I’ve been approached by members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who allege sexual abuse within that church,” Ms Sdrinis told the ABC’s AM program.
“I think people generally need a lot of courage to come forward regarding child sex abuse, and particularly in a faith-based organisation, I think the stricter or more conservative the organisation is, the more difficult it is for the victim to come forward.
“Those who have spoken to me recently, some of them found when they tried to complain about the abuse initially – and we are talking about historical sex abuse – were faced with a response that was basically rejecting of their allegations.
“That felt that the church was trying to blame the victim.”