By Jack Ryan
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.
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.
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:
By Jack Ryan
Jehovah's Witnesses will do everything to avoid having to comply with a declaration obligation for cases of sexual abuse. That experts conclude on the basis of new internal documents from the church, which are in the hands of RTL Nieuws.
These are letters from the head office in America to departments in other countries. These letters discuss what needs to be done if a declaration is required in that country. The central management points out to the departments in the letters that they have to do everything they can to get out of such a duty to report.
Jehovah's Witnesses are under attack because they do not report internal cases of sexual abuse to the police. The perpetrators are tried in an internal legal system, but receive no prison sentence or fine. The heaviest punishment is exclusion from the church.
Church organization refuses to cooperate
Reports are made of the internal legal cases containing details about the abuse and sometimes even confessions of perpetrators. MPs and victims of abuse have called upon Jehovah's Witnesses since the beginning of this year to share these documents with the police and judiciary. Until now, the church organization has refused that.
The letters that RTL Nieuws has, show that a possible declaration obligation for sexual abuse in the Netherlands may have little effect on Jehovah's Witnesses, says Raymond Hintjes. He is chairman of the victim organization Reclaimed Voices. "Even if a declaration obligation is introduced, we see that the Jehovah's Witnesses will still try to get out of it through a deliberate action."
Arrogant contempt for the rule of law
Professor of criminal law Henny Sackers of the University of Nijmegen thinks the position of the church is shocking. "It seems almost a kind of arrogant contempt for the Dutch legal system, now that they want to do everything to prevent government interference, criminal government interference."
Jehovah's Witnesses invoke the privilege of refusal when refusing legal aid. Clergymen do not have to testify under that right about what a believer has told them in confidence. Earlier, Minister Dekker (Legal Protection) wrote to the House of Representatives that it is not clear whether Jehovah's Witnesses may use the right of non-disclosure in this way. Dekker is now investigating whether it makes sense to set a declaration obligation.
The documents that RTL Nieuws possesses can not be published because they may be able to identify the source.
Originally posted in Dutch on RTL Nieuws
By Jack Ryan
Religious sect Jehovah’s Witnesses has refused to hand over documents to the public prosecutor in which an ex-member admits the abuse of a child, also member of the sect at the time, RTL Nieuws reports. Samet G, now 31, was a minor himself when the abuse of his 4 year-old niece started. The abuse continued until she was 14 and was reported to the police in 2015 when the girl and her mother left the Christian sect. A court in Breda last week sentenced G to a 9 months suspended sentence and a fine for the abuse but did not have access to the confession, which dates from 2011. G is appealing against his conviction.
JehovahÂ’s Witnesses have their own internal committees which sit in judgement in cases of sexual abuse and do not involve the police. A record of these proceedings is made and kept. According to RTL, the public prosecutorÂ’s request for a copy of the confession was refused on the grounds that it would compromise the manÂ’s privacy and that, by law, clergymen, or in this case the elders, cannot be forced to reveal what has been told to them in confidence. Although there is doubt among lawyers that the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses elders can claim this right, the public prosecutor accepted the refusal, RTL writes.
The sect also refuses to cooperate in an independent inquiry and, according to minister for legal protection Sander Dekker, it cannot be forced to do so. Abuse survivors According to Reclaimed Voices, an organisation that helps ex-JehovahÂ’s Witnesses members who were victims of sexual abuse, the minister needs to do much more. Â‘If we canÂ’t get the files via the courts we need politicians to act. Someone must force the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses to hand them over,Â’ the organisationÂ’s spokesman Frank Huiting told RTL. CDA MP Madeleine van Toorenburg and other MPs have asked the minister to investigate if JehovahÂ’s Witness have the right to refuse access to documents that might shed light on a criminal case and slated the sectÂ’s Â‘culture of silence and cover-ups,Â’ RTL writes. JehovahÂ’s Witnesses are being widely accused of silencing victims of sexual abuse within the sect. The Guardian newspaper recently uncovered a case involving at least 100 victims who claim to have been abused.
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By Guest Nicole
Reclaimed Voices, a foundation set up in the Netherlands to denounce sexual abuse by Jehovah's Witnesses, received 46 reports of abuse in just a week's time. The number of reports is shocking, Frank Huiting, one of the founders and himself a victim of sexual abuse in a closed Jehovah's Witnesses community as a child, said to broadcaster NOS.
The foundation was launched just over a week ago, based on Huiting's own experiences. He was abused from the time he was seven year's old. When Huiting told his parents, they decided not to report it to the police. An elder in the community advised against it. "Then there will be headlines in the newspaper and we don't want that."
According to the Reclaimed Voices initiators, victims within the closed Jehovah's Witnesses community are not heard and perpetrators are left to continue unchecked. Over the past week, foundation employees heard stories from a number of people who were abused by Jehovah's Witnesses. "The fact that so many reports have come in actually says enough. There are at least hundreds of cases in the Netherlands that should actually come out", Huiting said, according to NOS. He added that so many victims are too afraid to come forward.
The main purpose of Reclaimed Voices is to be a listening ear. The employees urge victims to speak out, and hope that they also report the abuse. "People walked around with this secret for years. And the fact that they are coming out, can be a relief for them. That was also my experience. We also want to advise them to seek professional help. Also outside the religious community, for example with a social worker, psychologist or general practitioner", Huiting said.
The foundation aims to collect as man reports of sexual abuse as possible and present them to the board of Jehovah's Witnesses Netherlands and the Dutch government. "We want to get the government to investigate these abuses. And not to start a fight, but really to focus on the victim."
Earlier this year Dutch newspaper Trouw spoke to a number of people who were sexually abused as children in the Jehovah's Witnesses community. One victim described the religious society as a "paradise for pedophiles".
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