The Jehovah’s Witnesses leadership has created sophisticated strategies to conceal allegations of sexual abuse. Witnesses instruct local elders to keep claims of molestation private, internal documents show, all the while collecting detailed information on predators in their ranks.
For abuse victims, this can mean enduring a variety of hardships, such as being ignored by leaders and shunned by family and friends. Based on Reveal reporter Trey Bundy’s ongoing investigation, here are five issues victims have encountered.
1. They’ve been ignored.
It took Jose Lopez, a former Witness, nearly 30 years to find justice after being sexually abused by a member of his congregation. When his mother reported the abuse to elders in 1986, they did not call the police or warn other parents. Instead, they promoted his abuser, Gonzalo Campos, through the ranks – even as he continued to molest other children. In 1994, when another family brought allegations of Campos’ abuse to elders, they were told too much time had passed and nothing could be done. Campos was removed from the congregation in 1995 but reinstated five years later.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the organization’s parent organization, has instructed elders in all 14,000 U.S. congregations to avoid lawsuits by keeping reports of child abuse secret – from other Witnesses as well as from law enforcement agencies.
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