Silentlambs - Ten Years Assisting Jehovah's Witnesses Submitted by: Watchtower Whistleblower
(OPENPRESS) December 17, 2009 -- 2010 will mark the tenth year of Silentlambs as an organization for protecting children. The beginnings of the organization were simple. I (WH Bowen) wrote a letter of resignation as an elder due to being told by the legal department to not report a child molester:
The purpose was to take the right action in order to report as well as protect the child. That letter was posted on a forum called H20. After being told my resignation was accepted and nothing would be done I went to the media with the issue. Hundreds of emails and phone calls confirmed this was not just a one of a kind problem. The PR department for Jehovah's Witnesses went into high gear to deny that there was any problem with child abuse not being reported or that they ever advised anyone not to report allegations of abuse.
Home office interviewed my father and used a clip where he said, "My son is just not telling the truth." Then they distributed this to media in four states. A local sub CO gave a special ‘local needs' talk in which he stated it was a lie. On a late night in February of 2001 I wrote an essay called "The Day the Lambs Roared"
The story was a metaphor of what I hoped could be accomplished if victims could find their voice. A week later I sold two JW books and with that money started the Silentlambs website. The simple purpose of the website was encapsulated in the mission statement.
True to that mission we attempted to give abuse survivors a voice to the media to speak out. To date Silentlambs has supported 22 documentaries in 9 different countries along with hundreds of newspaper and magazine stories. An important moment was when we got a ¾ page article in the New York Times.
After repeatedly stating they would never disfellowship anyone for speaking out on abuse I was disfellowshipped on 8/15/02 for doing so. Interestingly I made my own announcement when the local elders became afraid to make the announcement.
After steadfastly holding they never advise anyone to not report abuse on May 28, 2002 Dateline played a recording of the Legal Department advising me to not only not report abuse but to "Leave it in Jehovah's hands."
So they were proven to be liars before the public and any of the brothers and sisters that viewed the program. They even tried to disfellowship everyone on the program two weeks before it aired after just three months earlier sending a letter to Dateline stating the reason they would not appear on the program is that they did not want to appear adversarial with their brothers and sisters on the interview.
The Silentlambs March was viewed by many as a protest but the reality of the matter is that it showed just how obtuse leadership of the organization had become. Numerous times to media JW policy on abuse stated they were honoring a biblical edict of "two eye-witnesses" before a child could be believed.
That principle states that any member in good standing can have the right to produce witnesses to wrongdoing before an impartial committee and then provide the basis for scriptural action to be taken. As a Jehovah's Witness in good standing in May 2002 I wrote a letter to the Service Department of Jehovah's Witnesses asking for a committee to be established to hear eye witness testimony for scriptural wrongdoing of the governing body on the abuse issue.
The Silentlambs March produced 125 Jehovah's Witnesses who were eye witnesses of the crimes against children committed by the governing body. When they arrived they were locked out and ignored. These actions provided proof beyond all doubt these men were not only cowards but refused to follow the very policies they used to hurt children and protect pedophiles.
Each witness carried stuffed lambs for victims/witnesses that could not be there. When we were refused the ability to leave them on the front step they were left in the fence at a park in front of the main entrance. Two hours later bethelites were observed stuffing them into trash sacks.
Perhaps an even better metaphor for how victims of abuse are treated within the organization. The question that begs to be answered is will
all the preaching in the world compensate for willfully injuring children? Perhaps only God will answer that question.
From the inception the Catholic Church reacted and responded in varying degrees to media and lawsuits, the Pope even making a public apology for the cover up of abuse within their religion. Yet leadership of JW's continue the course of denial of the numerous facts presented against their policy on abuse. They also have often condemned the Catholic Church for their abuse problems.
They have even made statements to media that their "policy" is superior to most religions. http://www.silentlambs.org/education/wtinfo2.cfm
It seems strange to read articles about how humble leadership is when their actions above seem so far removed from humility.
Then there was the lawsuits filed against the organization. There is so much to be said about this that shows in what an unchristian way survivors are treated. One example is when Watchtower lawyers are overheard joking about the tactics they use to force abuse victims to obtain very small settlements even when they are authorized to pay much more.
While over fifty lawsuits were filed, the Watchtower attorneys used copious amounts of World Wide Work donations to fund local law firms in an effort to not pay victims any compensation by filing frivolous motions to run up the costs in order to make it very expensive for any victim seeking justice. I have personally observed Watchtower attorneys and locally hired lawyers defending the religious rights of a convicted pedophile to prevent further convictions in order to protect church records.
This has happened many times and yet who pays for this? Donations. I wonder how many actually know that when they give money that it in some cases will protect a pedophile from being convicted.
In May of 2007 Silentlambs conducted a press conference to announce that 17 victims were paid settlements based on the wrongful actions of the Jehovah's Witnesses abuse policy.
While the organization made the victims sign gag orders to cover the facts they hypocritically made a public statement that implied they never lost in court on an abuse case. The statement said, "In the United States, over 80,000 elders currently serve in over 12,300
congregations. During the last 100 years, only eleven elders have been sued for child abuse in thirteen lawsuits filed in the United States; In seven of these lawsuits against the elders, accusations against the Watchtower Society itself were dismissed by the courts."
When brothers and sisters as well as they public read this they might think this proves there is no problem with abuse in the organization. Yet consider the case of Erica Garza against the elder that molested her that appeared on Dateline. When the judge dismissed her case due to the statue of limitations in which she missed the deadline by one month. The judge stated the actions of the organization were egregious and horrendous yet due to the statues his hands were tied to do anything.
That perhaps was one of the seven cases that was dismissed. Yet in many, many more cases the organization purposely sees that they never see a court room by paying settlements to victims. It has been noted that at times in recent years Watchtower Lawyers give special talks on Saturday night in local congregations and basically brag about their legal prowess as being invincible.
Yet this appears to be just another lie to members to cover the fact that they are paying out millions of dollars in World wide Work money in legal fees to lawyers to fight the cases and then when they are completely busted, millions of dollars in settlements to victims in order to prevent the public or Jehovah's Witnesses to know how the child abuse policy continues to hurt children.
If you know of someone that has been abused, especially in the last ten years, please contact Silentlambs as there is a very real chance that you could be compensated for their bad policy that put you in danger.
Many precedents have been established in the courts over the last ten years that can make this a much easier process to get you the help you need.
The most common expression that I have heard over the last ten years is "I thought I was the only one."
Then for so many after reading the website they realize they are not alone. One victim spoke of her abuse the first time after 68 years and just two nights ago another spoke out for the first time at age 34. I have stated many times that speaking out on abuse is always a positive step on the path to healing.
In every single media interview I was offered, it was always explained the purpose was to allow abuse survivors to tell their story and if this was not going to be done then I was not interested in doing the interview. So many stepped up and told their story and as a result helped many thousands to know they were not alone. That is the work of Silentlambs that remains true to the mission of Silentlambs since its inception by allowing the lambs to roar. If you would like to see some of the major events you might like to look at the time line for the first
two years of Silentlambs.
The question remains should Silentlambs continue? It seems that each month new victims find the website for the first time. Media and reporters use the website as a resource to quote and find information. Lawyers are able to use the legal documentation provided to understand better ways to litigate for victims. Jehovah's Witnesses are able to review the information and make better decisions on what to do about abuse issues. The public are also able to understand how bad policy can hurt children and how better policy can be enacted.
To date Silentlambs has been contacted by over 7,000 abuse survivors, we have helped to report over 300 JW molesters, provided extensive assistance for numerous media reports on the abuse issue, and provided thousands of private counseling and support sessions for abuse victims as well as spoken out at several conventions on protecting children. For those reasons it would appear that Silentlambs needs to continue as a voice for this issue. The only way this can happen is with your support. Due to the economic downturn donations to Silentlambs has been very low. This next month we are facing some major expenses with website fees. If those costs cannot be met then
Silentlambs will no longer be on the Internet.
Each time it seems when we reach this point someone finds a way to help things to continue. If your heart moves you to assist please check out the donation page on the home page of the website.
Several options are offered on how you might be able to help financially. Even if it is $5 every little bit helps. If you would like to assist with
the work of Silentlambs on a day to day basis please contact us, as there might be some areas you could help as well.
In 2001 three simple requests were made to make good policy for children in the organization.
1. A video taped apology to all victims to be played at all congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses.
2. A written statement in the form of a letter to be read to all congregations. If you are molested go to the authorities first.
3. Anyone who has ever molested a child should be forbidden to go out in field ministry for life.
While it would certainly appear humble men could do far more, the organization has yet to act on even one of these requests. So ten years
later we write to ask for your help to keep it going. If you see this work as having merit please assist Silentlambs to continue. Thank the
many that have been part of this work either financially or by their efforts for without them we would not be here today.
The courage of so many might be encapsulated in these words, thank you for being part of Silentlambs.
It's not enough to have a dream unless I'm willing to pursue it...
It's not enough to know what's right unless I'm strong enough to do it...
It's not enough to join a crowd, to be acknowledged and accepted...
I must be true to my ideals, even if I'm left out and rejected...
It's not enough to learn the truth unless I also learn to live it...
It's no enough to reach for love unless I care enough to give it...