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Protest in Emmen: Jehovah's Witnesses continue to oppose abuse victims, says lawyer

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Victims of sexual abuse within Jehovah's Witnesses are still being thwarted by the denomination. That says lawyer Nico Meijering.

He calls the abuse within the church "many times more dangerous for society and riskier than the average motorcycle club." The Reclaimed Voices Foundation is on Saturday afternoon at the door of the Jehova's Witnesses headquarters in Emmen. In 'a quiet and peaceful protest' against sexual abuse.

Meijering, lawyer at Ficq & Partners Advocaten in Amsterdam, represents twelve victims of sexual abuse at Jehovah's Witnesses. Several victims want to inspect files that the denomination has about them.

Child abuse within the Jehovah's is handled internally - if spoken about. Records of interrogations, with details and sometimes confessions, are retained.

It's outrageous'

Meijering appealed to the denomination several times - the Dutch head office is in Emmen - but comes to the conclusion that Jehovah's Witnesses do nothing but 'train and ignore'. That what has been submitted to information so far can not be called files.

"It is outrageous," says Meijering. ,, We are sent with a clump in the reeds. This shows that Jehova's Witnesses do not want to cooperate at all. We are considering what we can do. They train and ignore. These are extremely precarious matters. "

More than three hundred abuse cases

Meijering also supports and advises the Reclaimed Voices foundation, co-founded in 2017 by Frank Huiting from Groningen, a victim of sexual abuse within the Jehovas.His foundation calls on victims to tell their story and says to have knowledge of more than three hundred abuse cases.

At the Public Prosecutor's Office in the Northern Netherlands, two individual criminal cases are involved, the Public Prosecutor reports. She expects to be able to provide more clarity about this in the 'not too long term'.

In the rest of the country there are at least seven other studies, in different regions. The OM emphasized at the start of these investigations, in August, that there is no criminal investigation into the faith community as a whole.

Lawyer Meijering is surprised about this. "It is clear from all sides that it is a community that is particularly unsafe for young children," says Meijering.

"That's why I do not understand why the OM only acts on the basis of individual declarations. We see that motor clubs are being tackled - I find the sexual abuse within this religious community many times more dangerous for society and riskier than the average motorcycle club. ''

Investigation in connection with the motion in the House of Representatives

Following ar motion in Parliament, the Research and Documentation Center of the Ministry of Justice and Security will start such a broader investigation. That report is expected in mid-2019, says a spokesperson.

In the United States, a jury declared itself at the end of September in a criminal case against the Jehovah's Witnesses. The abuse of a 21-year-old woman by a member of the church order had been concealed for many years by order of the national church council.

The society must pay the woman $ 35 million.

A judge must still assess the punishment and the American Jehova's will appeal. But the jury's verdict was a signal to the church.

Send a signal

The Dutch foundation Reclaimed Voices, co-founded by Frank Huiting from Groningen, today hopes to send out a signal in a different way. Through 'a quiet and peaceful protest'. With a podium for victims to speak out.

Just in front of the door of the headquarters of the Dutch Jehovas, in Emmen.

'Reclaimed votes' is the literal translation of the name of the foundation.

,, What is still necessary to prevent and deal with sexual abuse? That's what it's about '', says Huiting, himself a victim of abuse. ,, It's about child safety. And not only in Jehovah's Witnesses, but in all closed communities. We are not looking for financial satisfaction. We want to give victims a voice and want the Jehovah's to open themselves up to external advice. "

The fact that the Jehovah's are closed is apparent, among other things, from the refusal to provide information about abuse cases that have been dealt with internally.Reporting is almost never done.
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What do Jehovahs Witnesses say about this?

The Jehovah's do not recognize themselves in the image that lawyer Nico Meijering paints of 'scandalous' opposition from victims of sexual abuse within the religious community. "In accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation, we provide access to the personal data that we have from the applicant upon request. Comment [from advocate Meijering] as you put it, therefore we are surprised, "reports spokesperson Michel van Hilten in a reply by e-mail.

Three months ago he told this newspaper that the Jehovah's believe that there is no structural problem [of sexual abuse]. "We know a handful of incidents and reports of abuse per year," Van Hilten said.

The Jehovah's are invited to be present at the protest, but 'prefer to have direct contact with individual victims who seek contact with us'.
"Details of a recommended investigation by the House of Representatives have not been known to date. However, we have already informed the Ministry in advance that we are prepared to explain a few things. ''

 

source in Dutch:

 

 

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