A Former Jehovah’s Witness Insider Who Was an Eyewitness to Deceit
from Danish source
read also: Barbara Anderson's Anecdotes
Barbara and Joe Anderson, May 2006
In late autumn of 2005, I contacted Barbara Anderson, who, along with Bill Bowen, a former elder from Kentucky, came to the aid of many Jehovah’s Witnesses’ children, who were victims of sexual abuse.
My purposing in contacting Barbara was to find out what happened to her since she discontinued her association with Jehovah’s Witnesses back in 2002, and ask her if she would write her story for my book. She agreed and sent me much more information than I could use in ten pages. We agreed that I could shorten her story for my book, Dommedag må vente (Judgment Day Must Wait), but I promised that I would try to publish the long version of her story on Gyldendal’s website. For that purpose, Barbara edited the material she originally provided me, and also included new information not previously included in the first edition that she had sent. This explains why there are some differences between the following account and Barbara’s story in my book.
Originally, when I asked Barbara to write her story, I did not know much about Jehovah’s Witnesses child sexual abuse problems. However, after reading Barbara’s story, I was forced to revise my attitude toward this sensitive matter, and finally I decided to reveal Barbara’s eyewitness testimony because now it seems to be an important part of the late history of Jehovah’s Witnesses – regardless of the number of cases.
Here is Barbara’s story:
Exciting Invitation to do Volunteer Work
In 1982, the Watchtower Society invited Joe and me to become volunteer staff members at Bethel in Brooklyn where we were provided room and board with a small allowance in exchange for our labor. The year before, when he was nineteen, our son, Lance, volunteered to work at Bethel and was accepted. He was assigned to work in one of the Watchtower Society’s numerous Brooklyn factories, tending one of their many high-speed printing presses which, along with the other presses, turned out literally hundreds of millions of pieces of Watchtower religious literature annually.
Approximately one year later, I became part of the Construction Engineering Department’s staff as part of the secretarial pool. The department consisted of over one hundred people – draftsmen, engineers, architects, secretaries and other office workers – all somehow involved in the engineering, design and construction of new or renovated buildings used by Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world at a time when the Witnesses were considered one of the fastest growing religions.
Early on while I was with the department, a huge parcel of land at Patterson, New York, came into the Watchtower Society’s possession. Unsure in the beginning what to use the property for, in time it was decided to develop it for use as an educational center. The original amount of money set aside for development, I was told, was fifty million dollars. When I left Construction Engineering in 1989, over one hundred million dollars had been spent, and the complex has continued to expand as the Brooklyn operation grows smaller. Although the official offices of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses are still located in Brooklyn, the Patterson location is becoming the hub from where officials direct their worldwide organization.
In 1989 I was transferred to the Writing Department to be research assistant to senior staff writer, Karl Adams. He was writing the history of our religion which eventually became a 750-page chronicle titled, Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, published in 1993.
Another senior writer, David Iannelli, was assigned to work with Karl on the book. During my first day in the Writing Department, David saw me standing alone in the Writing Department Library and came over to talk. I clearly remember him telling me how thrilled I should be to have been transferred to Writing. He said Bethelites would “kill” to get my job. I thought I knew what he meant and smiled.
Everybody who came to live at Bethel was picked to become part of the staff because of their excellent “spiritual” qualifications shown through participation in the evangelizing work. Rather than working at secular-type support jobs at Bethel, I knew, if given a choice, most Bethelites would have chosen to spend their work-day totally immersed in “spiritual” matters. The Writing Department was the hub which all Bethel revolved around because it was Watchtower literature that was the backbone of the religion; hence, I knew the Writing Department was the most coveted place to work.
Despite any negatives, day-to-day work in the Writing Department was exciting; my job was filled with interesting and challenging things to do. Each week, Karl Adams would give me a list of questions he wanted answered, mostly regarding the early history of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the origins of which go back to 1879. In this way, I learned a great deal about my religion. Often, while I was hunting for something specific, I would discover other important archival material long ago placed in old cabinets in many different locations and then forgotten.
Respect for Women
Harry Peloyan (Watchtower writing staff) was an advocate against the abusive domination and tyranny of women and children by rigid, domineering patriarchal men in the faith who used Bible teachings as a whip. Both of us were privy to information about too many unhappy Witness wives complaining of their husbands’ misuse of their authority as head of the house.
I remember the time I was in Harry’s office in January 1992 when I was telling him and another senior writer, Eric Beveridge, what I had heard from Witness women during my vacation. According to them, too many men in the organization treated women with disrespect and as inferiors. One angry woman told me about a Witness who claimed she was raped by a man, who also was a Witness, when she was cleaning the man’s house. When questioned, the man admitted to the elders they had sex, but he said it was consensual and he expressed repentance. She denied it was consensual and said she was raped. She was disfellowshipped for lying; he was not disfellowshipped because he admitted and regretted his sin. Witness women who knew the accused were outraged because the man did not have a good reputation and they believed he was not trustworthy. (Incidentally, no one reported the rape to the authorities.)
Harry and Eric were not happy about my tales. The discussion led Harry to authorize Eric to write an Awake! series addressing the “women problem” and assigned me to do the research. The result was the July 8, 1992 Awake!, a 15-page series of articles, the cover title being, “Women Deserving of Respect.” After this Awake! was published, many letters of appreciation from women were received. Most disconcerting to us was the fact that 75% of the letters were not signed because the women said they were afraid of retaliation at home and in the congregation if the Watchtower sent their letter to the body of elders in their hometown for follow-up.
Awake! Articles Discuss Molestation
The organization has a confidentiality policy which requires Witnesses involved in any judicial case to only talk about it with the judicial committee, or otherwise remain silent. Consequently, the first time I heard about child sexual abuse within the organization was around 1984.
A young woman I worked with in the Construction Engineering Department excitedly told a group of us about a prominent elder in the congregation where she attended in upstate New York before she moved to Bethel, who was arrested for pedophilia. I found out later the molester had been convicted and sent to prison where he served three years. This popular and charismatic elder molested his daughter and many other young girls in his congregation for many years by frightening them into not talking, a feat easily accomplished on young children by an authority figure.
At the time I thought this behavior was an aberration, but later I found out just how wrong I was. The evidence that there were more than just the case related above where children of Jehovah’s Witnesses were molested and kept silent about the abuse, was the authorizing of a series of articles in the January 22, 1985 Awake! the cover title being, “Child Molesting, Every Mother’s Nightmare.” From my past experience with the Writing Department I knew that it was doubtful that the Society would have had a cover series of articles dedicated to the problem unless the child sexual abuse revelations were on the increase within the Witness organization and Witness leaders knew parents needed instruction how to protect their children from being molested and how to recognize signs of molestation. Sadly, though, there was little information in the articles provided to help caregivers and victims deal with the impact of abuse; neither was there a directive to immediately report abuse to the authorities. In fact, in the upstate New York case, it was school officials who notified the authorities about the sexual abuse of one of the children.
Watchtower’s Child Sexual Abuse Problems
What About Professional Therapy?
The Awake! article(s) were meant to help victims cope with the aftereffects of sexual child abuse by offering helpful suggestions, one of which was to seek out mental health practitioners, if necessary, or seek a listening ear from fellow members in the congregation. However, the majority of the Governing Body, especially Ted Jaracz, was dead set against the flock seeking out mental health advisers or therapists, believing their counsel came from Satan’s world. The Governing Body, along with many other high-ranking Watchtower officials, believed that application of Bible counsel as outlined in Watchtower literature could result in psychological stability, even if suffering from the trauma of child sexual abuse. Generally, advice from so-called “mature” Jehovah’s Witnesses was always the same for whatever ailed a Witness: read the Bible, go to Bible meetings, and participate in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ door-to-door ministry. Since Witness child sexual abuse victims were discouraged from seeking outside therapy, they cried out to elders for help, which often became a nightmare scenario for both victims and elders.
Confusing Advice Coming From Headquarters
[The Watchtower's] Service Department was not comforting abuse victims. Generally, Service Department staff told callers to “read the Bible more and look forward to the New World where there won’t be any more problems.” This was not a solution for such complex problems. Further, the insensitive advice given by some men to “Just get over it!” was not appreciated by victims, nor by more liberal members in the Writing Department. In fact, when victims called and talked to personnel in Writing Correspondence, they were treated compassionately and advised with up-to-date information about their problems. All of this resulted in a maze of contradictions with the victims ending up almost re-victimized, and elders, who called for advice, thoroughly confused.
Within the inner sanctums of congregations and circuits, dirty little secrets continued, and, for some unknown reason, protection of abusers was business as usual. One particularly nasty secret concerned personal instructions sent out in 1992 from one of the Governing Body members, who Harry was certain was Ted Jaracz, to a few very well-known circuit and district overseers to meet with and compel abuse victims to remain silent about their abuse or be disfellowshipped. In Harry Peloyan’s office in 1994, I, along with my husband, Joe, thumbed through a file folder full of complaining letters, which came to headquarters from across the country about the situation. Interestingly, the name of one intimidating circuit representative mentioned frequently in those letters is now a member of the Governing Body.
Due to the health problems of my elderly parents, in August of 1992, we decided to terminate our stay at the Watchtower facility in Brooklyn leaving there at the end of the year. However, before I left, I spent time on one more research project. Harry authorized me to put together a package of information alerting and proving to the Governing Body that they had a serious problem with child sexual abuse within the organization. In early January 1993, a few weeks after I left headquarters, a huge packet of documented information gathered by me was provided by Harry Peloyan to each one of the Governing Body members.
I continued to do research for the Writing Department from my home. Among other things, I studied the child sexual abuse problem in other religions and amongst society at large. In this way, I thought I could be of some use to those at Watchtower headquarters who wanted the Governing Body’s child sexual abuse policies changed.
However, as gratifying as it was to see some results from my work, much to my horror, after being home a few months, I learned that within the local congregations in our area there had been an unusually high number of molestation accusations and confessions in the recent past and none of them were brought to the attention of the authorities. As disturbing as this was to think about, it was chilling to know these child sexual abuse cases were being dealt with by men who I knew had little or no idea how to handle the complexities of sexual abuse accusations.
In my home congregation there was an elder who confessed to molesting the daughter of a Witness. Removed as an elder because of the commotion made when the non-Witness father of the child notified the police, within a few years the molester was maneuvering to have oversight privileges in the congregation once again. He had convinced the elders he was repentant, although there was evidence he was using the house-to-house ministry program to meet and study the Bible with single women with children, and then to molest some of those children. I sent a general letter about the situation to the Watchtower Society, and also a beseeching letter on July 21, 1993 to Governing Body member, Lloyd Barry, now deceased. In my letter, I related my concerns about molesters engaging in the door-to-door ministry based upon how the pedophile in our local congregation used this activity to find children, and how I thought a molester’s participation in this activity should be restricted.
In addition, another situation was of great concern. Within the congregations, the names of pedophiles—including those who expressed repentance—were never made public, and many were eventually put back into positions of authority after a number of years had passed. Consequently, they were in a position to molest more children, which many of them did. Lloyd Barry never acknowledged my letter although I talked to him briefly when I visited Watchtower headquarters in 1994.
Instead of the long-hoped for change of policy in the matter of molesters participating in the ministry, and their return to a position of authority in the congregation if they were repentant, nothing happened. However, I understood that a decision in these matters would be difficult and would have ramifications. The scope and complexities of the entire child sexual abuse situation within the organization were enormous. Be that as it may, all I knew was that children were continuing to be molested by Witness molesters and I wanted the situation to change.
I was happy that seeking professional help for the painful effects of child sexual abuse was no longer viewed with disdain in 1992 and ‘93, but by December 1994, there was a swing back to the more rigid viewpoint as taught during the 1994 series of Kingdom Ministry Schools. Additionally, at the schools elders were told that accusations made against a Witness due to repressed memories were inadmissible for judicial action. They were reminded if there were not two eyewitnesses to molestation, and the accusation is denied, judicial action leading to sanctions or disfellowshipping could not proceed.
During 1993-97, I remember how concerned I was about the confidentiality rule. I expressed myself openly to friends in the Writing Department about the confessed, seemingly repentant molester in my home congregation who was holding children on his lap or babies in his arms; yet, the elders did nothing, not even warn parents. Because of my expressed concerns, the August 1, 1995 letter to all bodies of elders admonished the elders to caution a former child sexual abuser about the “…dangers of hugging or holding children on his lap and that he should never be in the presence of a child without another adult being present.”
I knew Harry and the others were still in the middle hoping to make a difference. Finally, in 1997, the Watchtower Society announced in the January 1, 1997, Watchtower magazine article, “Abhor What Is Wicked,” that “…a man known to have been a child molester does not qualify for a responsible position in the congregation.” The announcement also said the organization would not protect a child molester from facing sanctions from the State. Soon after, Harry and I talked on the phone and he was extremely gratified that five years of toiling resulted in a new policy which also prohibited a repentant molester from qualifying to serve in a position of responsibility in the congregation. However happy I was initially with the new policies, I was troubled when I read the following words: “If he [molester] seems to be repentant, he will be encouraged to make spiritual progress [and] share in the field service [Jehovah’s Witnesses’ door-to-door ministry] …” which was exactly the opposite of my request.
At first glance it seemed the Governing Body was moving forward by stipulating that any man who was known as a molester could not hold any position of authority in the organization. Finally, there was recognition that if a man had molested in the past, there was a good chance he would molest again. Hence, it appeared if such a man held a position of authority in the congregation, he would now be removed. Witnesses responded enthusiastically to the new policy statement, believing that by not permitting a known molester to hold a responsible position in the congregation, their Governing Body was right on top of the molestation scandals that had been plaguing churches across the country.
Then it emerged that there was a loophole in the new policy statement. This simple but conclusive statement that “a man known to have been a child molester does not qualify for a responsible position in the congregation” was misleading and dangerous. Why? The key word known was the way molesters would stay in positions of authority. This was made clear in a follow-up letter, which was sent to all bodies of elders dated March 14, 1997, answering the question, “Who Is A ‘Known Child Molester’?” Notice this statement: “An individual ‘known’ to be a former [italics mine] child molester has reference to the perception of that one in the community and in the Christian congregation.” According to this policy statement, if the congregation or the community knew a man was a former molester, he would not qualify for a position of responsibility, or remain in such a position after the new policy announcement. However, the main way a man would become known as a molester in the community was if the matter was reported to the police, something rarely done by the Witnesses. And the Society’s confidentiality rule made it impossible for the congregation to know who was a molester, when a victim was pressured by the judicial committee to remain silent. Consequently, the accused remained in a leadership position because the elders would allege he was not known to be a molester.
Of course, few ordinary Witnesses were aware of the meaning of the word “known” as applied above—and many congregation elders missed the full implication of the January 1, 1997 Watchtower and the Society’s March 14, 1997 letter—but how would congregations have reacted if they knew that child molesters had been appointed by the Society in the past with full knowledge of their guilt? The March 14, 1997 letter to all bodies of elders contained an instruction that inadvertently admitted just such a thing: “[T]he body of elders should give the Society a report on anyone serving or who formerly served in a Society-appointed position in your congregation who is known to have been guilty of child molestation in the past.” [Highlighting and italics mine] This corroborates that the Society had knowingly appointed molesters to positions of authority.
Additionally, this illuminating letter went on to say: “Others may have been guilty of child molestation before they were baptized. The bodies of elders should not query individuals.” [Italics mine] At a time when secular and religious organizations were doing background checks on employees and volunteers who were in frequent contact with children, the Governing Body did not even want elders to query individual prospects for positions of authority about their pasts? It is, at a minimum, irresponsible, maybe even criminal negligence, and, if seriously looked at by investigating authorities, might well be much worse.
As an example of the Watchtower’s official stance, note what their spokesman, J. R. Brown told German media in June 2002, “If an individual was found guilty of child molestation, he cannot under any circumstances [italics mine] serve as an elder.” Yet, notice what is found in a Watchtower letter to all bodies of elders in the United Kingdom, June 1, 2001, where there is an exception to that rule:
“[I]f the branch office has decided that he [former child abuser] can be appointed or continue serving in a position of trust because the sin occurred many years ago and because he has lived an exemplary life since then, his name should not appear on the List, nor is it necessary to pass on information about the brother’s past sin if he moves to another congregation unless contrary instructions have been given by the branch.” (The list is created by the congregation and is titled, “Child Protection-Psalm 127:3.” List contains data about confessed molesters; those found guilty by congregation on the basis of two or more credible witnesses, and those convicted by a court.)
Further the letter goes on to say, “There are, however, many other situations that are connected with the abuse of a child. For example, there may be just one eyewitness, and the brother denies the allegation. (Deuteronomy 19:15; John 8:17) Or, he may be under active investigation by the secular authorities for alleged child abuse though the matter has not yet been established. In these and similar cases no entry will be made on the Child Protection List.”
When I first became aware of child sexual abuse in the Watchtower organization, I didn’t know the Bible teaching requiring two-witnesses to prove sin was applied to molestation. It was only after 1997 when I discovered how the requirement of two witnesses to molestation protected pedophiles that I understood how this policy was such a danger to children.... If abuse victims can not back up their charge of molestation through another witness, and the accused denies the allegation, the accusation goes nowhere, not even on the Child Protection List. Then the confidentiality rule goes into effect. Victims are told not to speak of the accusation or else be disfellowshipped themselves. This was and still is the way molesters are kept hidden and children are open game. It is the application of the “two-witness” policy and the confidentiality edict which are still major tenets needing reform.
In 1998, I officially left the organization, although I had been fading for about a year.... Towards the end of 2000, a friend of mine, a former circuit representative of the Watchtower, saw on a Jehovah’s Witness related discussion group website, a post written by an elder where he asked if any other elders encountered a situation such as he had when he discovered the presiding overseer in his congregation had admitted to molestation some years previously. Because the congregation and the community had no knowledge of the crime, although two of the elders knew, the man remained in his position. The poster expressed his concern for the children in the congregation including his own.
Initially, my friend corresponded with the elder and then I did. What I told him about child sexual abuse within the organization was quite a revelation. Soon, we were both convinced we had to do something to make the world aware that the Watchtower organization, through its irresponsible and criminally negligent policies, was guilty internationally of covering up the CRIME of child sexual abuse, and to convince the Governing Body to change those policies. But how to accomplish this? Soon the elder, Bill Bowen, decided to resign his position and go public about the abuse issue. This took place on January 1, 2001. The media coverage in Bill’s home state of Kentucky, regarding his resignation as an elder over the child sexual abuse issue, was tremendous. In addition, Bill and I came up with an idea for an Internet website which Bill created that we named Silentlambs.org. Here, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were victims of child sexual molestation by Witness perpetrators, could post their stories. Within weeks there were 1,000 stories. After five years, there are over 6,000.
I did not reveal myself publicly when Bill did, but within weeks, Bill and I were on a plane going to New York City to be interviewed by NBC producers as they were interested in doing a documentary about Watchtower’s child sexual abuse problems for their national television program, Dateline. After the producers did extensive research, which established our claims were true, we were scheduled for filming of interviews for TV. Around that same time, one of the producers discussed our accusations with Watchtower officials which they categorically denied.
After calling NBC time and again to find out when the program would air, the Watchtower organization was told at the end of April 2002 the program would be shown on May 28, 2002. Immediately, Watchtower officials notified the local elders to schedule judicial hearings for us. In early May, I proved to the elders I was not guilty of the charges brought against me. Within days the local elders scheduled another judicial hearing with new charges concocted. I declined to attend the meeting because it seemed futile—if I disproved those charges, it was obvious they would just come up with different charges. In any event, I was subsequently disfellowshipped on May 19, 2002 for causing divisions.
Some of the other Witness whistleblowers who appeared on the program were also disfellowshipped around the same time. Disfellowshipped members are construed as being unrepentant sinners and not to be believed, so it was a cunning move for the Watchtower. It was obvious to me I was disfellowshipped shortly before Dateline was broadcast so Witness viewers would not believe what I said.
Before Dateline aired, reporters approached Watchtower inquiring if it was true we were requested to attend judicial hearings because of our forthcoming appearance on the program? Watchtower spokesperson, J. R. Brown, denied this allegation and reporters quoted him as saying the judicial hearings were local matters to be convened because we were sinners, not because we were going to appear on Dateline. Brown even stated that Watchtower leaders were not aware of who was going to appear on the program, which I knew was untrue. When reporters asked what scripture the religion used to disfellowship members, Watchtower spokespersons quoted 1 Corinthians 5:11, 12 which commands a church to remove a wicked man from its midst who was greedy, a fornicator, an idolater, a reviler, a drunkard, or an extortioner. Since I had not been in the congregation’s midst since 1998, nor did I commit any of these gross sins, in November of 2002, I filed a defamation lawsuit against the Watchtower which is slowly winding through the judiciary system.
Although my once dear friend, Harry Peloyan, labeled me “a Judas” for publicizing the child sexual abuse problems within the Witness organization, it is now my commitment to spend the rest of my life sharing my “Insider” eyewitness experiences. Hopefully, my words will help people understand the hidden secrets of this religious organization, a religion which has been very adroitly managed by its Governing Body since 1881. In this way I am making known the truth, and, the truth as I experienced it might prevent another sincere person from making the same unfortunate choice as I did which led me to be an eyewitness to deceit.
May 1, 2006
from Danish source
FULL CHAPTER HERE
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