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Ex Jehovah's Witnesses speak out about their experiences. Be warned - not an easy read.....

Recently there have been two important articles published on the MailOnline website, one of the world’s most visited online newspapers, plus a TV documentary. These pieces have raised the level of awareness about the scandalous way the Jehovah's Witness organisation view matters such as divorce, child abuse, disfellowshipping and shunning.

Firstly, the spotlight was shone on these areas by Rebekah Vardy, who has spoken out about being brought up as a Jehovah's Witness and being abused between the ages of 12 and 15.

She has revealed how she was not believed and although her abuser was not a member of the organisation, the matter was not taken any further by the elders and her own family were convinced it would be a mistake to speak openly about it. In fact, she was made to believe she had misunderstood things.

Dr Heather Ransom and specialist ex JW recovery counsellor, Nicolas Spooner

Following up this story was an insightful article in which a former Jehovah’s Witness, Dr. Heather Ransom, talks about the pain of being shunned by family and friends after leaving the JW’s after 48 years, but also reveals how she was determined not to let the JW organisation take any more of her life.

She has done some extremely important, ground-breaking research into the effects of religious shunning on identity and mental health. (Full disclosure, Heather is my soon-to-be wife, and I am also mentioned in the article about my work as a specialised recovery counsellor for ex Jehovah’s Witnesses)

There was also a TV documentary, aired on Channel 4 on 16th May, presented by Mrs Vardy. In this programme she interviews other former Witnesses to hear their stories surrounding abuse, suicide and how the elders dealt with the situations. Each account is harrowing in its own way, and it is only fair to warn you that it can make for distressing watching, especially if you are also a former Witness with some experience of these emotive subjects.

I could write a summary of each interviewee and what they spoke of, but the impact of their stories carries more weight if you watch for yourself and get the full flavour of the people being interviewed.

However, what I would like to do is simply write some quotes that appeared at various times in the documentary to show how the JW organisation responded when asked to comment on various things that were covered in the programme.

I should warn you, there is a good chance you will feel quite angry at some, if not all of these, but it still seems important to put the information out there, especially to highlight the outright lies and hypocrisy this organisation is capable of. This is also something that current Jehovah’s Witnesses need to know about how their organisation runs itself.

On the subject of how family matters and divorce are dealt with by the elders:

The JW organisation said it was “…false to allege… that when congregation elders decide whether an adherent should be expelled, they ask inappropriate questions.”

They also said they “…view men and women as equals… However in accordance with the Bible-based beliefs and teachings… elders are male.”

In relation to shunning once a member is disfellowshipped:

The response from Bethel was “Individual adherents will… decide… whether to stop or limit contact with the person..” and there is “…no change in the social relationship.” between immediate family members.”

They also said “…courts have also rejected the allegation… that… disfellowshipping and so-called shunning result in social isolation and discrimination.” “And it is false to say they live cloistered lives” and “…simply misleading, and discriminatory, to imply that… our religion is ‘controlling’.”

They went on to say they deny the implication that their beliefs “…relating to so called shunning cause or contribute to… ‘suicide’…”

On the matter of how the organisation and elders treat allegations of child sexual abuse:

The Jehovah’s Witnesses said elders are directed to “… immediately report an allegation of child sexual abuse to the authorities… even if there is only one complainant and no other corroborating evidence.” They also said it is “…false and offensive…” to imply that they “…prevent the relevant statutory authorities from ensuring that crimes of sexual abuse are not perpetrated.”

To all current practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses, just have a think about these quotes and let them sink in. Be honest with yourself and think about your own personal experiences, to be sure that what the organisation SAY aligns with what ACTUALLY happens.

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