Former Jehovah’s Witness raises child safeguarding issue

Steve Rose with his Silent Lambs courage award for campaigning for child safeguarding in Jehovah's Witnesses. Picture: TOM BANKS
Steve Rose with his Silent Lambs courage award for campaigning for child safeguarding in Jehovah's Witnesses. Picture: TOM BANKS

A former Jehovah’s Witness says church leaders have failed to act on concerns over child safeguarding despite being highlighted by an international report.

Steve Rose, of Rift House, Hartlepool, was a member of the church until 2010 since when he has campaigned for change to policies he and other critics say make it difficult for allegations of child and other sex abuse to be uncovered or acted upon.

The Australian Royal Commission is looking into institutional child abuse in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Commission has found children are not adequately protected from the risk of child sexual abuse in church and showed a serious lack of understanding of the issue.

It also said the organisation relies on “outdated policies and practices” including the 2,000 year-old two-witness rule, which says any sin must be witnessed by at least two people before action is taken.

Mr Rose said: “This is child sexual abuse we are talking about. Everyone knows Jehovah’s witnesses can’t accept blood, yet in 2005 they changed this to blood fractions and blood fractions are not bible based.

“So if they can change a policy for blood fractions them why not change a 2,000 year rule on the two witness rule?”

Mr Rose added: “Next is the they won’t accept women to make a decision at a judicial hearing on child abuse.

“The governing body put in place that a victim of child abuse does not have to face their abused in front of the elders.

“This is a smoke screen because the victim will still see their abuser at their meetings two times a week.”

He also said policies of the church still means victims are likely to be shunned by family and friends if they try to disassociate themselves from the organisation.

Mr Rose said: “The Jehovah’s witness governing body have had 18 months to put a safe policy in place but they only drafted a letter three days before the Royal Commission inquiry.

“This shows an arrogant attitude to the authorities. I believe if they won’t cooperate with the authorities they should be heavily sanctioned.”

A spokesman for the church said: “Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse, a crime that sadly occurs in all sectors of society.

“The safety of our children is of the utmost importance. We are committed to doing all we can to prevent child abuse and to provide spiritual comfort to any who have suffered from this terrible sin and crime.

“The victim and his or her parents have the absolute right to report the child abuse to the governmental authorities, even if there is only one witness.

“Congregation elders do not discourage such reports or shield abusers from the authorities or from the consequences of their actions.”