Abused by the Elders

Dear Randy,

 It is difficult to express myself openly because my life has been packaged with so much humiliation, shame, and guilt. On the other hand it has proved to be of great benefit to me, as it all serves as a tool in the healing process; to be able to come alive and come out of the closet and to have a voice that can be heard.

Growing up with the sexual abuse from my father, and emotional abuse from my mother, has obscured my vision in dealing with spiritual abuse in a religious organization that claims exclusive rights to an acceptable relationship with God and to salvation (i.e., the Watchtower).

Why I needed to leave Jehovah's Witnesses organization

Several years ago, I was a very active pioneer averaging ten studies at a time. I had encouraged many to join the pioneer ranks with me. I felt I was a real motivator in the work of the Lord and a very productive "company" person. But all of this changed in one week.

I was studying the delicate subject of oral sex in their United In Worship book with a new sister and fellow pioneer. I felt uncomfortable when the sister told me that this was a very big thing in her marriage and asked me for more information. I wasn't sure how to handle it so I told her I would ask an elder friend of mine, who was a long-time Jehovah's Witness and the Presiding Overseer of our congregation, for his advice. He informed me that anything to do with the mouth during sex could constitute oral sex. I was totally unaware of all that was involved, since this was the very act that terrified me in my childhood which I did a master job of suppressing. I took the information he and I discussed and shared it with her, along with my thought that it was probably a conscience matter since at that time I couldn't find much information in the Watchtower bound volumes.

This was the beginning of an explosion like that of an atomic bomb. My study discussed our conversation with a long-time JW and told her it was OK to have oral sex. As a child, the sister was terribly abused by her father with oral sex, and remembered it well. She was hysterical at what she thought I had taught my Bible study. She got on the phone, contacting a close relative of mine, also an elder, and went crazy over this. He went to the other elders, and then everyone was all whipped up into a frenzy over what I had done.

Next, he went to the sister (my study) and told her she must make an accusation against me, in order for this to be handled right. The sister was shocked and said she needed to talk to me first, in harmony with Mathew 18:15, and that it was probably a big misunderstanding. The elder said "No!" He told her to trust him as he was an elder and acting in behalf of the rest of elders and in the interest of the keeping God's organization clean. If she did not come forward and make an accusation, I could die at Armageddon, and she would be responsible for my death because of not getting me help. I had always taught her to trust the elder arrangement, because it was God's arrangement. She quickly reminded me of this. She pressed charges.

A meeting was set up right away. They called me in and I wasn't allowed to have anyone with me, not even my husband. I have never been through such an ordeal. They wanted to know details about my sex life both in my previous and present marriage. They yelled at me, telling me I was lying to them. They were all over that room, shaking their fingers at me. I felt so terrible. I told them repeatedly, I didn't know I was wrong and that I was sorry. I said I did not tell her anything about my own sex life. I didn't feel right about that, even though she kept asking me, so she could gauge her sex life by mine. I was so unclear about what oral sex entailed and kept asking them to be specific about what it was. They would not explain it to me saying I knew full well what it was.

As this interrogation was continuing, it got to a point that I felt I should tell them anything that they wanted to hear because I was so scared, and maybe then they would stop yelling at me. I was so terrified. Constantly, I was told that I was lying and that Jehovah would punish me. They said they were there under the direction of holy spirit and I needed to trust them. I said I did, but this was being blown all out of proportion.

Raising their voices, I was told repeatedly that I had a very rebellious attitude and they were shocked to see it. Eventually, they called the first elder in to hear his side. He had phoned me prior to this to brief me on what to say during the above meeting. He said the rest of the body was out to get him, and using me as a decoy. I really trusted this brother and I went along with it. Little did I realize, I was the "fall guy" and I did fall! It was not until a year later, that this elder approached me privately at an assembly and told me that he was fully aware of the misguided information he gave me and that he used me to get the attention off of himself. He then apologized for his actions and for hurting me so much.

After a week of intense meetings with me, my study, and the elder, it was decided I would be reproved and stripped of all privileges because of my unrepentant attitude and rebelliousness. I was informed they did me a favor by not disfellowshiping me. Well I was devastated!

Word spread like fire as to what happened. There was a talk, "needs for the congregation," with all the clues anyone could want to hear, just no name attached. Then it was followed by many prayers in the meetings for God to please forgive those who were not repentant of their sins, and not willing to accept counsel.

At the meetings, during the next few weeks, each elder on the committee made comments using the same sentences used in my meeting. The husband of my study was constantly put on the platform to offer prayers for the congregation and his wife was allowed to continue her pioneering and was offered many parts on the platform. This is the same sister who openly confessed that she and her husband were practicers of oral sex. Interestingly, one of the elders on the committee was an ex-boyfriend of mine, with whom I became very involved with emotionally a year before all this happened, but then I chose to marry another man.

Many of you are probably wondering right now, why didn't I leave then? Well, I had hopes Jehovah would clear this up. My letters went pouring into Bethel pleading for help, explaining my situation time and again. They even have my life story, filled with my traumas of childhood experiences, yet the response I received was that there is no arrangement to appeal a reproof and I needed to get over it and get on with my life.

It wasn't until six months later that I found out what the actual charges were. They finally told me, "practicing and advocating oral sex." I said, "There was no witness, no confession, and that the study admitted in front of all, that I did not say I did this." I also wanted to know, how did I advocate oral sex? They said that I told one person that it was all right. They read from some older article that had one sentence that said 'telling one person can constitute advocation.' They refused any further discussions, saying that all of this went along with my bad attitude and refusal to acknowledge my sins.

I moved away from that Hall three months after the first meetings, as I could not bear the comments that were going around. So when I arrived at the new congregation, elder body #1 wanted elder body #2 to know how terrible my attitude was, so they met and informed them of the whole thing. Elder body #2 shared it with other folks too, and some wives. So congregation #2 became involved in the most humiliating, shameful thing I could imagine. After getting my privileges back a little over two years later, I was working hard to put it all behind me, so I approached an elder and told him that my goals were to pioneer again. He shook his finger, two inches from my face, and said, "just because you turn in an application doesn't mean you'll get accepted," so I never asked to pioneer again, in fear of rejection.

Over a period of time, I began to wonder if maybe I had done these things and that I was blanking it all out. Surly God would not allow this to go on for nothing. There had to be a reason, I thought. Perhaps Jehovah was allowing me to be readjusted, but, yet, I wondered, what had I done that was so wrong? My life became filled with depression and feelings of inadequacies that were overwhelming. Seemingly Jehovah would not clear this up, and then I began to feel it was because I did not deserve this from God, that I was bad, and my service was unacceptable to him.

Consequently, from all that happened to me, and being a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I then set myself up by making a mistake which reinforced to myself and to all onlookers that I was the evil rotten person they thought I was.

During the last elders meeting I was in, I carried a loaded gun. I was ready to blow my brains out as I could not take it any longer. Evidently, I won my way into the hearts of a few caring folks who were kind to me and seemed to understand my dilemma. They were kind and merciful, barely giving me a slap on the hand. But, it saved my life. If they would have disfellowshipped me, I was gone, as I had all my affairs lined up. I was resolved in my heart and was at peace at death's door. I would save God the effort to kill me.

After this, I had an injury that landed me in bed for nearly eight months. It proved to be the best rest I could ever have had. Several of the JWs came to visit me and tell me that if I did not have surgery and get back to the Kingdom Hall, that I would miss out on Jehovah's spirit and would suffer spiritually. But after I got away from the whirlwind of activities that kept me so wound up so that I didn't have time to think, I really started to look at things! I asked why would a religion cause so much harm to anyone? My question led me to a long, in-depth study of the origin of the religion I was a part of for most of my life. In time, I could see that the things that I had experienced were evil and destructive. It was not from God! I was ripped apart by wolves who wore sheep's clothing.

For these reasons, I no longer have anything to do with Jehovah's Witnesses. I nearly died and I feel they don't care. I don't need this any more. It is life threatening for me if I were to stay in this organization; I want to live and share my life with my family. I am ridding myself of this baggage and the feeling that I am an unworthy person because I cannot measure up to all the rules and regulations of this organization, many of which I was obviously unaware of. I cannot allow myself to endure the beatings and pain of such brutal treatment. I need to heal my wounds and heal the scars that cover my spiritual being.

If you could read between the lines, there is more pain than anyone can imagine; a thing I hope no one else has to go through. I think it's equally terrible to live with threats to keep silent over such trauma. To threaten with supposedly, God's backing, is an unscriptural, authoritative threat, a pulling of rank. It is "abuse of power." It isn't love.

I was raped by my father, with my mother quietly standing by. I had to live with that in silence for many years. I felt spiritually raped by these elders who falsely accused me, while the Mother Organization quietly stood by. I have lived with threats (if I became verbal) about my experiences in this organization, not only by the elders, but by relatives and friends. Many have chosen not to have anything else to do with me because of my need to cry out my pain. I think it's time that the world should know the truth about my treatment. If this were a court of law, they would all have to look and see first-hand the damage that has been done to me, and my husband and children. They would have to see the bills racked up to get help to deal with all of this. If justice were really done, someone somewhere would have to take responsibility for what happened. But Watchtower has covered over, not only its own transgressions, but those of its managers. Swept under the carpet, denied like the rape by my father.

I am finished setting myself up as a victim anymore. I hope others can see from my experience that they don't have to let this happen. It is a terrible crime. Healing is not only recognizing, but taking positive action; fleeing, getting help, and taking charge to make healthy changes. Healthy choices. Speaking out has helped me to heal and helped to break free from the silence and enslavement of spiritual abuse.

Thank you for reading my story,

Melanie


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