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Dangerous message about domestic violence

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Jehovah's Witnesses, awake, domestic violenceJehovah’s Witness magazine contains a worrying message for victims of domestic violence.

My calm Sunday-morning reverie was interrupted last weekend by a magazine posted through my letterbox by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The image for this article is the front cover of the JW’s April issue of their Awake! magazine.

The main title, as you can see, is ‘An End to Domestic Violence’.

Curious to see what message they were giving inside this magazine, and how it linked in with their evangelistic endeavours, I read it.

The article begins with a well meaning tone, outlining the severity of domestic violence.

‘In the United States, for example,’ it says, ‘one survey found that during one day an average of over 16 calls per minute were directed to domestic-violence hotlines across the country.

‘Domestic violence is a worldwide epidemic, crossing cultural, economic, and social groups.’

Can’t argue with that.

But then the true message of the article is revealed; over the next pages the piece tells readers how violent men can be reformed with the help of the Bible.

‘Jehovah’s Witnesses, the publishers of this magazine,’ it says, ‘believe that the Bible’s practical advice can help violent spouses change their behavior. Is such a reversal easy? No. Is it possible? Yes!

‘Bible education has helped many to replace a violent disposition with one of kindness and respect.’

The article continues to tell the story of Troy and Valerie, a couple who were in a violent, abusive relationship.

With the help of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the bible, Troy is transformed, and Valerie is quoted at the end of the story saying how glad she is that she didn’t give up on their marriage.

The message of this piece gravely concerns me.

Telling women who are in a violent relationship that their partner can change is downright dangerous.

Targeting vulnerable women, who are victims of domestic violence, as a means of evangelism, is very – very – irresponsible.

When I spoke to Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, about this, she said: “Violent men often promise to change but they rarely do.

“Research shows that domestic violence usually gets worse over time.

“In the worst cases it can end in death – two women are killed by current or former partners every week.

“Domestic violence isn’t caused by a man losing his temper or drinking too much.

“These are just excuses for violence.

“Domestic violence is caused by the abuser’s desire to exert control over his partner.

“It is,” she added, “possible for violent men to change – but only if they accept responsibility for their behaviour and recognise that violence is a choice.”

Another myth that the article perpetuates is that violent partners are violent because they themselves grew up in violent families, so “as adults they think that their behavior is acceptable.”

On their website Refuge refute this, along with other myths.

Refuge says: “This is not true. Growing up in a violent home is a risk factor and some children who experience abuse do go on to be abusive in their relationships.

“But many do not.

“Instead they are repelled by violence because they have seen the damage it causes. They would not dream of hitting their partner.

“Abusers learn to be violent from the society they grow up in.

“Inequality between the sexes means that men have more power than women – inevitably some of them abuse or exploit that power.

“People who blame violence on their childhood experiences are avoiding taking responsibility for their actions. Violence is a choice an abuser makes.”

And for those readers who ask ‘Why don’t they leave?’, the JW’s article provides a list of reasons that women might stay with a violent partner.

One reason they do not mention, however, is that many women stay because they continue to believe that their partner can change; that one day their partner will change  – perhaps with enough love, enough patience, enough understanding, enough prayer?

However, the stark and frightening truth is that for too many of these women, that day never comes.

Some – an average of two every week –  will die, at the hands of the man in question, hanging on to that hope.

This dangerous article fuels this belief, and puts women at real, and grave, risk.

As if this message wasn’t alarming enough, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are also keen to point out that for them the only grounds for divorce is adultery.

Not domestic violence.

The article concedes that in some circumstances a married couple could separate, and this does include circumstances where one partner is being violently abused by the other.

I think this message is equally insidious.

By telling women who may be in a violent, married relationship that adultery is the only ever cause for divorce, they are essentially proposing that any separation because of domestic violence should only be temporary.

When it is estimated that on average a woman will leave a violent relationship up to seven times before leaving for good, and when no other type of crime has a rate of repeat victimisation as high, this message too, is an irresponsible one.

I do not personally believe in the power of a holy text, or prayer, or religion to transform perpetrators in this way, but it is not people’s personal beliefs that I’m disputing.

Even if someone does believe in any kind of transformative power, it is impossible not to acknowledge that the message this article is both dangerous and irresponsible.

Furthermore, it is being pushed through people’s letter boxes, entirely unsolicited, with no follow up, for largely evangelical purposes.

Worried by now, I had a look at how the other believers approached the issue.

The Catholics Experiencing Domestic Abuse Resources (CEDAR) website is an example of a religious organisation with a better approach.

They have lots of resources for those who may come into contact with victims of domestic violence, they state the statistics and they list a very comprehensive list of helplines for outside agencies and secular organisations who can help victims of domestic violence.

Likewise the Christian charity Restored, who not only point people towards the UK National Domestic Violence Helpline very clearly, but are involved in ongoing campaigns to end domestic violence and help the women who are victims of it.

Not so the Jehovah’s Witnesses website.

Nowhere in the article, or on their website, is there any signposting to a single domestic violence charity or organisation; no web details, no helpline number, no mention of refuges or actual help.

Refuge conducted research earlier this year that found a third of women do not know where to get support if they are suffering from domestic violence.

One of the most important things we can do is tell victims of domestic violence where to go, who to call, who can help them – and yet this article in Awake! only directs them toward Bible verses and the Jehovah’s Witnesses website.

And given that 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence over their lifetimes, that means that potentially 1 in 4 unwilling recipients of this magazine will be experiencing it.

At a time when government funding cuts mean that domestic violence services across the country are increasingly squeezed, it is especially worrying that women in this position are being given this worrying message.

If you are affected by domestic violence, there are lots of people out there who can help you.

And here are the details for some national charities: Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline Run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge 0808 2000 247; www.Refuge.org.uk; www.womensaid.org.uk

  1. vicki wharton says:

    Domestic violence is sexist violence – men who are sexist and think that they are in charge of women and children as lower human beings by dint of having a set of bollocks will not change – there is too much cultural reinforcement of their prejudice. Why we do not challenge sexism in the way that we do racism shows how much hypocrisy there is around sexist violence in the home and I am not sure that most of the so called support networks really do support women by challenging men, rather than telling the women to run away to a hostel or home and give up their life. Most of us haven’t got an alternative life to fall back on that has equivalent opportunities in it that we had in our previous life. For instance, my family has been estranged from me ever since I told them I was being hit by a man. The media of pornography and lads mags and red tops pumps out a very effective propoganda that any women that falls foul of a man was asking for it in some way shape or form and I found that held true with literally ALL of society’s supposed support networks including the police, social services, church and even councellors. The emphasis was constantly on me to run away from my home that I part owned, my business that I ran from home and my child’s and my support network. An option that leaves you homeless and jobless with a young child to feed and no family support is not really an option at all. Or not a credible one. Better to prevent the problem by reeducating the population into striving for gender equality as we do racial and religious equality rather than this dangerous game of charades we play with women and female children’s lives.

    • ethel says:

      im a jw my husband has been bruttal for yrs.guess what hes a jw now his behavior is to humanlaite me now we are older peoples, i just realize ive been sick every since i saw and read this magzine.i cannot believe it. but i do know one thing if my husband hit me ever again im gone, and i will sue this org. women are 10 to 1 over men so what ive had my fill with some of bully sisters, its as ive awaken from a dream i love God and the Christ.enough already

  2. TJ Curioso says:

    Excelente article! But what the Watchtower wrote in another article, can be even more serious.

    In the Watchtower, February 15, 2012, pp. 26-30, the study article with the theme “Happiness Is Possible in a Divided Household,” tells the following story to readers:

    “Many modern-day examples illustrate the value of applying Peter’s counsel. Consider the case of Selma. When she began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, her husband, Steve, was not pleased. He admits, “I became angry, jealous, possessive, and insecure.” Selma observes: “Even before I got the truth, living with Steve was like walking on eggshells. He was hot-tempered. When I started studying the Bible, this characteristic intensified.” What helped?

    Selma recalls a lesson she learned from the Witness who studied with her. “On one particular day,” says Selma, “I didn’t want to have a Bible study. The night before, Steve had hit me as I had tried to prove a point, and I was feeling sad and sorry for myself. After I told the sister what had happened and how I felt, she asked me to read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. As I did, I began to reason, ‘Steve never does any of these loving things for me.’ But the sister made me think differently by asking, ‘How many of those acts of love do you show toward your husband?’ My answer was, ‘None, for he is so difficult to live with.’ The sister softly said, ‘Selma, who is trying to be a Christian here? You or Steve?’ Realizing that I needed to adjust my thinking, I prayed to Jehovah to help me be more loving toward Steve. Slowly, things started to change.” After 17 years, Steve accepted the truth.”

    You can read this article for yourself, here:
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2012124

    What do You think of this?

    • naomi wilcox says:

      Thanks for highlighting this. How terrible. This is another example of extremely dangerous & irresponsible advice being given to vulnerable women. It is frightening to think what consequences advice like this will have.

  3. Margo says:

    If you think this is bad, check out what was in the April 2012 issue of the Watchtower:
    “Watchtower 2012 Apr 1 p.29
    “Selma recalls a lesson she learned from the Witness who studied with her. “On one particular day,” says Selma, “I didn’t want to have a Bible study. The night before, Steve had hit me as I had tried to prove a point, and I was feeling sad and sorry for myself. After I told the sister what had happened and how I felt, she asked me to read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. As I did, I began to reason, ‘Steve never does any of these loving things for me.’ But the sister made me think differently by asking, ‘How many of those acts of love do you show toward your husband?’ My answer was, ‘None, for he is so difficult to live with.’ The sister softly said, ‘Selma, who is trying to be a Christian here? You or Steve?’ Realizing that I needed to adjust my thinking, I prayed to Jehovah to help me be more loving toward Steve. Slowly, things started to change.”After 17 years, Steve accepted the truth.”
    http://www.jwfacts.com/images/watchtower-2012-feb-15-p29.jpg

  4. The reason there was no listing of support services in the Awake is that JW’s do not condone those types of “worldly” secular programs. Any issue, be it domestic violence, child abuse, or other concern, is expected to be handled solely within the congregation. This is the reason for the high incidence of child molestation that occurs within this religion. I grew up in this cult. They expect their members to turn to the elders of the congregation for any issue.

    • naomi wilcox says:

      That’s very worrying, it reminds me of some of the same types of issues which are coming up with Sharia courts.
      Blind faith in any religion, to the negation of all secular assistance is very very dangerous. However, as an ex-believer myself, I know how impossible it can be to reason with someone who wholeheartedly belives in something.

  5. Denny says:

    You think this is bad? You should see the one they had a couple of years ago in their study version, which is reserved for JWs and people who are close to joining. They give an example of woman who is upset that her husband is abusive and that is why she doesn’t respect him as her head. The witness is the story asked her “which one of you is trying to be a Christian”. She starts being more respectful and he stops beating her. She is glorified for her model Christian behavior. The message an abused woman or child is likely going to take from this? It is my fault.
    They don’t want the abused women and children realizing they are victims.

  6. Mary Aguilar says:

    Mary Aguilar shares her story

    My name is Mary Aguilar. I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the early 70’s and 80’s and a victim of domestic violence. My husband was a Witness too, and still is. I spoke to elders several times about his violent behavior. Their excuse was that I wasn’t doing enough. I wasn’t a good wife. I didn’t pray enough. I wondered how they knew how much I prayed. After several attempts to talk to the elders, nothing was done and I had nowhere to turn.

    The abuse and beatings from him were so bad that once my face was unrecognizable, and he turned my children against me. I remember one time he took me to San Diego, about 60 miles away, and he threw me out of the car and left me there for an hour with no money, nothing. I was petrified. So much for Christian brotherly love!

    He was always saying I had a problem with headship and the brothers would go along with what he was telling them, placing all the blame on me. I tried repeatedly to please Jehovah, but the more I did the worse my husband became.

    He turned my children against me telling them that I was a bad mother because I was disfellowshipped and I didn’t love Jehovah. I was in a helpless position. Before leaving for field service, he would beat me. I could never please him or the organization. I almost lost my little baby boy who ran into the street. When I screamed, he said, “Daddy told me, I don’t have to listen to you.” It was as if I was being tortured by my own family.

    I felt as if the entire world didn’t understand. I couldn’t go to my family in NY as they weren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I didn’t want to disgrace Jehovah’s organization. My ex-husband told me that he wanted me to get a job, so I found a job in a French restaurant as a hostess. While working, I spilled a drink on myself. When I returned home, he accused me of letting someone kiss me. He beat me so bad with belts, and I thought to myself, “This is one of Jehovah Witnesses? Something is wrong here.” I couldn’t understand how a loving organization could put up with this evil person. I was disfellowshipped for smoking, but wife beating and turning children against their parent was tolerated. I could never do enough and I felt like I was a whipping post for everyone.

    The brothers were so self absorbed that they failed to notice that I was being abused; nor did they care. We moved to another part of town, and this was good for him because no one knew him there, and the beatings would be more and more frequent. I was so exhausted from fighting and trying to please Jehovah, who was never pleased. I thought to myself, “What if I died one day in the course of these beatings, are they going to say, ‘She told me so?’” I would never want that responsibility for someone’s life.

    All that I cared about was the Watchtower Society and how to please the leaders and getting people into the organization. I realize now that it is a publishing company with a lot of rules which actually stole my life.

    One of my neighbors heard my screams when my husband was beating me, and told me later that I was a battered woman and needed to call a phone number she gave me. I hesitated to call but finally did, and to my surprise the counselor said to me, “When you come here you will think you are married to all these husbands.” I thought to myself, “No, my husband is a Jehovah Witness.” But when I went to the shelter, I saw there was no difference.

    I was reinstated at the time when I decided that I needed to go for help. So I told the brothers that I wanted to go to a shelter for battered women and said that they could help me by advising me on what to do. I needed help, emotionally and financially! I was told, “You can’t go to the world for help.” I asked, “Are you going to feed, clothe and shelter me?” So I left everything behind, and with my children, we went to live in the shelter where we were cared for. The brothers didn’t help us at all. They still didn’t disfellowship my husband even knowing the truth about him. You just don’t go to a shelter for no reason.
    When I came out of the shelter and during the time I was trying to put my life together, my husband kidnapped my children and hid them at different Witness homes; even a local elder hid my children. I didn’t drive, so I took buses, going from town to town to find them. I finally told the police and they found and returned them.

    One of the so-called sisters, the one my husband eventually married, hid my children in Jehovah’s Paradise! When I got my children back, I moved to a new place. I had someone stay with me at night because I was scared of living by myself. The next morning, the brothers called and told me that they wanted to talk to me. I said okay. They came over and told me they saw a car in front of my house. I said that I was scared, and for protection, a man stayed with me. I told them that we did not sleep together. They told me I was going to be disfellowshipped. I said, “Just because the car was there?” They said, “Yes.” I asked them, “If I was in a room full of cigarettes and the cigarette smell was all over my clothes and I told you I wasn’t smoking, you would believe that I was? Things are not as they seem.” So I was disfellowshipped. And soon my husband divorced me.

    Interestingly, the woman my husband married was terrible to my children, but, yet, considered by the Witnesses to be a loving sister. I couldn’t understand how these two people could get away with the things they were doing. They were seeing each other before the divorce, and then he set me up so he could be free to marry her. When I wrote Brooklyn (Watchtower headquarters) a letter, and notified them what had taken place and had a talk with the elders at the local congregation, nobody offered any empathy, nor did they ever apologize for hurting me so badly.

    I would not be able to sleep at night if I knew I had done these terrible things to a woman and then taking her children from her. My baby was only 2 years old! My heart was broken and that terrified me. I had to go through life being disfellowshipped, wearing a label that I didn’t create, and being cast aside like a piece of dirt, but I am back now and I want others to know, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!

    We don’t have to suffer in silence anymore. I don’t care now and I won’t be what others want me to be because I am me; either accept me for who I am or don’t, but I will not change! I love life, and as long as I am alive, I will speak out for others in distress. I want to thank everyone who gave me a voice and also God for not allowing me to lose my mind over all the stress and heartbreak I’ve had to endure.

    If anyone needs to speak out, I WILL LISTEN!
    —Mary Aguilar

    • I too was in a domestic violence household as a Jehovah’s Witness. I can’t go I to to much detail, as I am still in hiding. During an “episode’ I had called a couple, who I thought would help me. They picked me up, walked me through the mass of police that I had called, and drove me to the Kingdom Hall, repeatedly I told them I was in fear for my life. Upon arriving, spouse and I had a “talk” with the elders- I was at fault, we should read “this book” together; that never happened.
      Peace somewhat reigned the house for a few months, then it started again, I was not going to allow it to escalate. I prepared everything to leave. I had been in contact with the Domestic Abuse Hotline (scary, because you should never reach out to the “world” for help). I did not own a car, public transportation was not an option. The Hotline told me once I had an opportunity to leave, do so.
      The opportunity came, I left, went into hiding. Once I was able to I started Divorce and Protective proceedings. He in turn did the same; how? according to the Witmess only can you divorce if adultery was committed.
      If you are a woman, thinking about STUDYING with the Witnesses DO NOT STUDY. Once you become a Witness, women and girls, become third class citizens. YOU will always be at fault for whatever occurs, they will cause you to self-doubt yourself..eventually to the point your self-esteem will be nill.
      Please I pray for any woman who is in a violent home, call a Hotline, you know Jehovah, does not like violence. You are serving JEHOVAH, your God, you making HIM happy, NOT THE ELDERS THEY ARE NOT JEHOVAH. ONLY JEHOVAH CAN JUDGE YOU. Psalms 11:5,
      I repeat, THE ELDERS ARE NOT JEHOVAH, you serve a LOVING God, he does not want to see you hurt. Prov. 6:16-19.
      Also read the Gods Love book, the Appendix on pg 219-220, The Bible’s View on Divorce and Separation ( http://m.wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1102008088 ) PLEASE READ.
      You DO NOT need the Elders permission to leave an abusive situation. Do not return their calls, nor speak to them. You will not be heard.

    • I have read yours and Mary’s stories – thank you for sharing this. It is so useful – unfortunately a bit late for me to take preventative action but I can work on things from here

  7. My Jehovah’s Witness husband threatened to burn down the house with me in it. The police were called and a women’s shelter had beds ready for my children and me. We ended up leaving and staying with relatives for three months.

    Despite how seriously the authorities took the situation, the Jehovah’s Witness elders tried to force me to go back to that man. I spent almost two years separated from him and the elders would purposely try to put us in situations together.

    Finally, I chose to move on and got a divorce. But the Watchtower does not recognize spousal abuse or threats as valid grounds for divorce. So, I was kicked out of the congregation and I have been shunned by the entire JW community.

    My ex is still in good standing to this day.

  8. Too many women continue to suffer at the hands of abusive, domineering, patriarchal husbands in the Jehovah’s Witness religion. The Watchtower Society sets men up as the heads of the household in a typical partriarchal religious fashion, where women must be in subjection. This is perfect situation for domestic violence. The problem is that the Watchtower Society then tells women to STAY in this situation! How ridiculous! They need protection from police, not prayer!

    • naomi wilcox says:

      I agree with you completely Steph. I have to say I had no idea the problem was so enormous until I started to read some of the comments left under this article. I will be writing a follow up piece to try and expose what’s going on more. People need to know, and women within the organisation need to hear that there is help for them elsewhere.

  9. They need protection BY police, not from police (bad typo).

  10. Susan Todd says:

    Thank you for sharing this information. I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness and I can tell you from personal experience that Witness women are taught that if they have an issue (violence or otherwise) they are to approach the Body of Elders and it will be handled internally. Is it handled internally? I guess that depends on what you consider handled; in my case I was read a variety of scriptures on how to be a better Christian wife and told if I fulfilled my responsiblites as Jehovah had outlined, all would be okay. I went away feeling as if it was my fault and became more obsessive about being a good wife in order to save my children from their dad. I finally took matters into my own hands and told my husband if he raised his hand to any of my children, I would take a baseball bat to his most precious truck. One swing of that bat was all it took…. Now many years later the end result is that me and my children remain somewhat intact and their father committed suicide at age 54 due to certain mental issues that were handled internally by the Body of Elders because, at that time, mental health was considered a lack of faith. No winners all the way around…

    • naomi wilcox says:

      Hi Susan. Thanks for sharing your story. It must have been so terrible for you, everything that you and your family have suffered.

  11. We spoke out about this issue in 2001 with the publishing of a similar article from Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have propagated the belief of abusing women and it continues to hurt members as they try to follow its tenants. Because of this we created a link called “Battered Lambs” Where JW women could tell their story, there are hundreds there of how women are regularly being abused within this religion. Educating the public is the key to exposing this crime. http://www.silentlambs.org/personal_experiences/battered_lambs.cfm

    • naomi wilcox says:

      You’re absolutely right, educating people about this is so vital. I have to admit I wasn’t at all aware of the extent of the problem.
      I will be writing a follow up piece this week, in response to all these comments. I’d love to write more about the ‘Battered Lambs’ project you’ve set up. Is there any way I can contact you to find out a bit more about it?

  12. jimbo says:

    What gets me the most is the fact that ive never met or heard of a single”Elder”with a college degree in psychology or any kind of counseling what so ever.and yet they feel they can solve any CRIME,or family problem with a couple scriptures.its like going to a plumber and asking him to perform heart surgery on you.

  13. Brenda C says:

    Reprehensible. Support from the congregation Elders(tm) consists of:

    “You’re a spiritually weak wife. If you were stronger, spiritually, he wouldn’t have to beat you.”

    “You’re too headstrong and don’t respect your husband’s authority.”

    “That’s what you get for marrying into a Spiritually Weak(tm) family!”

    And my favorite — “You probably deserved it.”

    Gratefully, I left the husband and the religion in 1982.

  14. Isabella Botticelli says:

    Thank you Naomi Wilcox for printing this revealing article! It is sickening to me how JWs force women to stay with abusive men. I remember when I first stated studying way back in 1971. I told the sis that “if I do what your book says, my husband will get worse and more abusive.” It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is indeed a sick organization. Thanks again for revealing the false reasoning they force on women. Bravo to you!

    • naomi wilcox says:

      Thanks Isabella, I’m gld I’ve helped lift the lid on this a little. I will be writing another piece about it, as I had no idea the extent to which this problem reached. It’s important we get the message out there.
      I’m glad that you were able to escape. x

  15. Susan Todd says:

    So many stories are related by myself and others that tell the horrid tale of secrecy and unjust treatment of women and children who are told often to stay in their place. Kudos to all the above comments for their strength and courage to step away from an Organization that is by it’s own design dangerous to all that attend. There are many of us and we all know that the cost of spiritual freedom comes at a very high price, loss of family and friends who are not allowed to accept that conflict or difference of beliefs is about issues and not people.

  16. Micaela S says:

    Thank you for covering this issue. Fourteen years ago I was a young (19yrs old) Jehovah’s Witness that unfortunately married a man that physically and emotionally abused me. He was also a Jehovah’s Witness.

    It went on for about a year and the elders (the congregations clergymen) were aware that it was happening. They met with him privately and decided that he was repentant, so they publicly reprimanded him at a congregation meeting and had him promise not to do it again. They told him the next time he felt like abusing me, he should pray to God instead. You can guess how well that advice worked. Eventually I left him for the final time, and with my parent’s help I was able to get a restraining order.

    Within the first week of separation the elders sought me out to tell me that while they sympathized with my situation, they needed to remind me that I was still a married woman and would eventually have to go back to my abusive husband. The elders read me some scriptures and reminded me that I chose to marry my husband and if I was unhappy with that choice it was my own fault for not getting to know him better. They told me that even if I were to divorce him in court, I would still be married to him scripturally (in the congregation and god’s eyes). They informed me that I should not be seen associating with single men and that any steps I took to move forward with my life that did not include my husband would have consequences.

    I started going to a counselor at the women’s shelter, and was able to divorce and move on with my life. The elders ex-communicated me for it and I lost all of the support and love that I had ever known. Everyone in my family and all of the friends I had ever had were Jehovah’s Witnesses and they all shunned me and considered me dead to them because I divorced without scriptural grounds (adultery). I am happy to say that I am mostly healed from that terrible experience and have built a life for myself outside of that religion.

    • naomi wilcox says:

      Thanks for sharing your story. It’s absolutely terrible what you have been through. I’m glad you were able to get the help and support you needed eventually, and that now you are free from the abusive relationship and the religion. I hope that by highlighting this issue other women who may be in the position you were are able to seek help. It’s terrifying what I’m learning from all these comments and stories, and sounds like for female victims of DV who are JWs, seeking real help and escaping these abusive relationships is made incredibly difficult.

  17. Amanda says:

    I was born into the Jehovah’s Witness organization, women are treated as lesser in every aspect of their religion. Women are not allowed to “teach”, they are told to be in subjection to their husbands, they are not even allowed to pray to God in the presence of a male without a head covering even if that male is their year old son. Women that leave their marriage due to abuse of themselves or their children are never allowed to be with another man. If they start another relationship they are disfellowshipped and shunned. I was a victim of rape and I had to have what is called a “judicial committee” where 3 of the congregation elders (only men are allowed to be elders) are to determine your heart condition. In reality it is 3 untrained men asking you if you screamed, what exactly happened and judging you if, in their opinion, you were complicit in any manner whatsoever. If you are found complicit then you are disfellowshipped or publicly reproved for immorality. You are never referred to the police or counselling professionals. In fact, reaching out for counselling to deal with abuse or depression, or contacting the police, has attached stigma that will have other members judge you as not being faithful enough as you are to have the untrained elders deal with it or simply wait on Jehovah and be more faithful as something must be lacking in your faith. This is a dangerous cult.

    Thank you for your attention to this irresponsible doctrine. The more media attention that can come to spotlight the crimes and doctrines enforced by the leaders the sooner those stuck inside can find the help and happiness they deserve.

    • naomi wilcox says:

      Hi Amanda,

      Thanks for sharing so honestly about your experience. I can’t believe what so many women like you have had to go through. I am honestly horrified. In particular your experience of the ‘judicial committee’ judging whether you had been the victim of rape. It is abhorrent.
      I sincerely hope that since leaving the JWs you have been able to get the help and support any victim of rape needs.
      I will continue to try and riase media attention this, especially now I realise the even greater severity of the problem. I will be writing a follow up piece to this shortly, reflecting some of the comments left here, and signposting women to organisations that can help.

  18. Hi everyone who has left a comment. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am honestly, utterly horrified. I wrote this article with the facts to hand at the time, I had no idea the extent to which this issue went.
    I’m grateful to you al for sharing so honestly, I believe that by exposing these awful lies and disgusting behaviour we can maybe begin to reach women who are still in it’s grips. I am shocked and appalled at your many stories.
    It’s encouraging to hear about the ‘Battered Lambs’ project, I’d like to find out more about that and maybe write a follow up piece to further shine a light on what is happening behind closed doors.

  19. Thank your for taking this issue so seriously!

    If you would like more infomation regarding domestic abuse as well as child abuse issues amongst Jehovah’s Witnesses, please visit aawa.co

    You can send your request for information through the Contact form.

    Thank you!

    • naomi wilcox says:

      Thanks Julia, I have sent a message. I’m hoping to write a follow up piece in response to all these comments. I didn’t realise how awful it was. I will be writing about AAWA in my next piece, so thanks for the tip!

  20. Patricia says:

    Naomi Wilcox, THANK YOU. Thank you for bringing light to this issue- the more ‘outsiders’ who are able to dissect this organization for it’s dangerous faults and practices.
    The more information made available the less will be converted. Less will have to be raised in this mess like so many innocent children are- just as I was.

    My story short: My mentally/ emotionally ill mother was converted, father tagged along. I suffered physical beatings and sexual molestations at the hands of men in ‘good standing.’ My cries for help were ignored. It was , after all, my fault. My lack of faith, right? Took me 28 years to realize that was NOT right.

    The issues go deep. The abuses of power- the purposeful victimizing of the venerable- the manipulation- it’s unreal, and yet it is happening and being disguised as ‘faith’ and God’s will.

    I hope you can continue to bring light to this matter (and the flood of more you will more than likely discover upon further research.) The task will be daunting. As a forewarn- you may get legal threats and harassment from the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society lawyer’s. They have a multi-million dollar (or is it billion now?)corporation to protect.

  21. It’s a shame that the article was taken out of context..as usual…why don’t you paste the whole article here? Rather than selecting the bits you don’t like?

    The bible condemns violence in any shape or form and a woman has the right to separate from her husband in that case. The article merely highlights that some men have changed by accepting the bibles message and it shows how the bible can change peoples lifes – this is not to say that all men change but that there is hope in some cases and that the bible promises a future where there won’t be domestic violence. The article does highlight in a footnote that separation on grounds of domestic violence is an option.

    I am sorry about anybody who commented here and has suffered from domestic violence – some through their JW husband. However, we do believe that anybody who is violent or condones it will be held responsible by Jehovah in the end. Unfortunately cases of domestic violence haven’t always been dealt with correctly in the past – that doesn’t mean though that the whole organization condones domestic violence or views women as inferior (see this article: http://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/wp20120901/gods-view-of-women/)

    People are imperfect and make mistakes and at times probably didn’t know how to handle certain situations ie domestic violence, rape etc. JW’s have the right to go to the police, there is no policy stating that we deal with things like that “internally” – when it comes to crimes JW’s are not in the position to deal with the legal side of things. That’s your responsibility. People sometimes confuse religious institutions with self-help groups where people tell you what to do and then blame them if they didn’t tell you to go to the police. But you might be surprised to hear that even places like the Citizens Advice Buero or a therapist would not make you go to the police – they just tell you the options – if anything. It’s your responsibility to report violent behavior to the authorities. I personally only heard of JW women being battered by their non-believing husbands. Does that mean that I think that all non-JW’s hate JW’s and batter them? Of course not! Please use your common sense..

    • SallyMae49418 says:

      I used to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and left after experiencing abuse by an entire congregation. There are too many stories coming out from people who have left and NO, it isn’t just Satan or disgruntled people who just want to turn around and “beat their former brothers” for no reason. A large part of the reason you have “personally only heard” what you’ve have or haven’t heard is because these matters are taken to elders who hold secret judicial committee meetings the contents of which cannot be disclosed under penalty of rebuke or worse. I’ve been called into those meetings as a witness, I know what went on in them. And, you are wrong about therapists. While they may not make you go to the police, depending upon the jurisdiction they may indeed be considered mandated reporters and this does not always just apply to children, the elderly or the handicapped. One this this article does not do that any responsible reporter WOULD do, is point people to domestic violence resources in the community. It was more than fair for the writer of this article to point that out.

    • SallyMae49418 says:

      “why don’t you paste the whole article here?” Maybe because the WBTS maliciously sues people for even publishing quotes from their literature. http://www.religionnewsblog.com/12205/jehovahs-witnesses-file-100000-suit-to-silence-embarrassing-whistle-blower-website ; http://www.culteducation.com/reference/jw/jw223.pdf

  22. september mark says:

    I too was in an abusive relationship as one of jehovahs witnesses. I was raised as one by my grandmother and she was married to an abusive man. He abused my mom sexually physically and emotionally and he never got disfellowshipped for it. He only finally did for smoking. My grandmother left him more than once but the elders kept telling her she must go back…so she did. It did get passed on from generation to generation as our magazine says…my mom married an abusive man and than so did I. Also a couple of sisters told me I couldn’t leave him and so did another elder. So I stayed for two years and got abused. We also had a little son. After two years of living with it though I finally separated from him telling my husband I wont return until he stops and get help. He just refused. I stayed loyal to my vow and stayed married yet separated in case he changed his mind. He finally cheated on me so I divorced him. I am so glad I left him reguardless what mere man was telling me because I protected my self and my son yet stuck to my vow to God and yet breaking the cycle of abuse in families. Or the cycle would have been passes on to our son. I do believe Jehovahs witnesses have the truth about God….its the only religion that even uses His name…it does bother me though how the magazines and other JW seem very much promote staying in abusive relationships. It even happened to me and in my family. There is also to much info out there now on why not to and how damaging it is to our children…how it wrecks lives. That does not sound God like at all. God promotes a healthy marrage….not an abusive one. He is a God of love. I do not agree that its even a womans right to stay with an abusive man….ever. Esp with children. Well I guess she can but I am certainly going to call the police on them then and report it and also to social services if they have kids. I will not ever support abuse in a home…christain or not. Its disgusting. I will not be a silent citazine about it…that’s for sure. Plus those kids deserve protection not a home of violence.

  23. This blog was started two years ago. Yes the Elders and Circuit Overseers STILL turn their heads.

    I too was in a domestic violence household as a Jehovah’s Witness. I can’t go into to much detail, as I am still in hiding. During an “episode’ I had called a couple, who I thought would help me. They picked me up, walked me through the mass of police that I had been called, and drove me to the Kingdom Hall, repeatedly I told them I was in fear for my life. Upon arriving, spouse and I had a “talk” with the elders- I was at fault, we should read “this book” together; that never happened.
    Peace somewhat reigned the house for a few months, then it started again, I was not going to allow it to escalate. I prepared everything to leave. I had been in contact with the Domestic Abuse Hotline (scary, because you should never reach out to the “world” for help). I did not own a car, public transportation was not an option. The Hotline told me once I had an opportunity to leave, do so.
    The opportunity came, I left, went into hiding. Once I was able to I started Divorce and Protective proceedings. He in turn did the same; how? according to the Witnesses only can you divorce if adultery was committed.
    If you are a woman, thinking about STUDYING with the Witnesses DO NOT STUDY. Once you become a Witness, women and girls, become third class citizens. YOU will always be at fault for whatever occurs, they will cause you to self-doubt yourself..eventually to the point your self-esteem will be nill.
    Please I pray for any woman who is in a violent home, call a Hotline, you know Jehovah, does not like violence. You are serving JEHOVAH, your God, you making HIM happy, NOT THE ELDERS THEY ARE NOT JEHOVAH. ONLY JEHOVAH CAN JUDGE YOU. Psalms 11:5,
    I repeat, THE ELDERS ARE NOT JEHOVAH, you serve a LOVING God, he does not want to see you hurt. Prov. 6:16-19.
    Also read the Gods Love book, the Appendix on pg 219-220, The Bible’s View on Divorce and Separation ( http://m.wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1102008088 ) PLEASE READ.
    You DO NOT need the Elders permission to leave an abusive situation. Do not return their calls, nor speak to them. You will not be heard.
    – See more at: http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/2013/04/dangerous-message-about-domestic-violence/#comment-771491

    • Hi Carmen, so sorry to hear what you’ve had to go through. I’m still amazed that nearly two years after I wrote the piece above I am still receiving responses like yours. It is terrible, and obviously a huge, hidden problem.
      I wish you a happier & safer future whereever you are x

      • Thank You Naomi.
        The sad truth, if the wife leaves, goes “underground” for safety, and unable to seek legal resources due to safety. The elders as well as the society will financially back the husband in EVERYTHING to dissolve the marriage, even so far as lying about infidelity, for grounds.

      • I have been a jw for 40 years. Was married to one when I was 18. Everyone thought he was a nice boy, son of an Elder, spiritual, always in service, door to door. He was a possessive, abusive alcoholic. I reported him to my Elders, as we are supposed to do. They tell us and write in their literature, that if we don’t stool we are accomplices and are not helping the erring person.
        He denied everything. At 21 I left him. Everyone shunned me. I was called dirty names and totally ignored. My family was also advised not to support me as I was not good company to keep. I was all alone. They said I would not be in paridise if I wasn’t submissive and go back to him. I popped a bunch of pills because I would rather die in my sleep than be abused and having been taught that a person will be resurrected in paradise if he/she dies before Armagedon but not welcome there if he/she dies at Armagedon as an unrepentant sinner.
        My mom found me unconscious. She took me to emergency at the hospital where I had my stomach pumped and survived. I refused counselling, because we are not suppose to get outside help. It reflects badly on the Watchtower organization. Not one person came to visit me as depression and suicide are viewed as crimes and lack of faith. All the more reason to shun me.
        I could no longer go to the 5 obligatory meetings at the Kingdom Hall where we worshipped. I was being bullied there and emotionally abused. So I stayed away many years. People thought it was because I didn’t love Jehovah or I was promiscuous. It wasn’t that at all. I did love God with all my heart and was fervant in keeping up my bible studying and prayer 4-5 times a day. Well for us, we pray when we get up, pray at every meal and also at bedtime. I kept praying that my husband would confess and that the congregation could see the truth by God’s Holy Spirit. Never happened. Years later I came back pregnant by a man who pretended he wanted a bible study and beat me because I refused to have sex with him, and he said I thought I was better than him for being a witness.
        Well you can imagine how happy my husband was. He was seeing someone else but couldn’t marry her because he wouldn’t admit to abuse or adultery and perhaps get disfellowshipped so now HE could get his scriptural divorce in our religion because I was nonconsentually pregnant.
        Did I think my brothers and sisters would be supportive and compassionate now? Of course I did. Single mom, fatherless child. That’s what we preach from the scriptures! Uh uh. Much worse. People avoided me and my baby like the plague. I drove myself, while in labour, to the hospital, not one call or visit during the time I was there. Drove myself and baby home. Went to Kingdom Hall with 5 day old baby. No congrats. I sat down in my seat and everyone in that row moved to sit somewhere else. How delightful! Must have been divine inspiration!
        Of course one knows there is hardly a chance if remarrying in this religion if you are in this situation, so you accept you will be single until Armagedon and in the new system, ei paradise, you may find someone. But don’t forget the millions that will be resurrected may not get remarried. They will be sexless, like angels.
        My son turned 18. Never had a dad and pretty much ignored by everyone in our religion, and I met someone who was a newly baptized witness, not prejudice towards me. We married 11 months after we met.
        From the start he would be swearing st me and calling me dirty names, beating me, choking me, throwing me into the toilet on a regular bases. I called an Elder who was best man at our wedding and had studied with my husband to become a jw. He told me, “you made your bed, now lie in it”. I called him many times after while my husband was beating me so he could perhaps reason with him. Finally I was told calling him was harassment and not to bother the Elders. I was told by the whole body of elders, it’s none of our business, and it’s gossip to even speak to them about my husband! Hey, wait a sec, I was just out in service presenting a Watchtower magazine on Domestic Violence and it says in black and white and in 230 languages, “tell your Elders, Jehovah hates men who abuse His daughters, get help! Anyone who blames the victim is wrong.” But I was accused of being unsubmissive for showing the “spirit appointed, glorious ones” this article. I was disfellowshipped because they said I was “reviling” my husband. (Name calling) Never did, never defended myself when he was beating me and still ran out the door to go in service (door to door when he was wringing my arm). I had been to the hospital several times with multipal contusions and could no longer work due to permanent nerve damage to my neck and arm. So I called the police finally. The WT says we’re allowed but it’s not true. It says we should seek counselling for post traumatic stress disorder. Just not true if its because of your jw husband because it reflects badly on them. No problem though if your husband is not a jw, heck, they’ll even take you to the clinic themselves and get you away from him.
        It’s been 3 years. I have tried to get my letter in to come back 3 times. They won’t even look at them. I was told I could never come back and no one is in my side not even God. That means all the love I’ve shown to my friends and neighbors for the last 40 years didn’t mean a thing. I was going to die, because I reported an abusive man.
        I’m just starting to get out of my depression. The panic attacks and screaming in my sleep are not everyday now. I read the bible and still pray knowing Jehovah loves me and is proud of me for speaking up against abuse and any such apostic thinking as to not shun criminals such as wife beaters and pedophiles from the congregation. I am in court next month finally, ready to defend myself and all my sisters who have had to endure violence and abuse in this organization. Be strong and assertive. Jesus was. Don’t worry what people think. You have to love yourself. Remember, love you neighbor as YOURSELF first!

        • Hi Louise, I am so sorry you have had to live through all of that. It simply breaks my heart to read your story. And it makes me so angry that this is being done to vulnerable women who have suffered at the hands of their partners. It is a disgrace.
          I am amazed that you have kept your faith despite all of this. I had an idea recently, I always see JWs handing out their booklets in town, I’d like to print out this piece I wrote with ALL of the comments, the stream of women speaking of their experiences and hand it to them instead! Do you think they would read it?

          • Carmen says:

            Sadly Naomi. Witnesses are taught from an early age that ANY document, paper, flyer etc. outside of the Organization is considered apostate literature and is dangerous to read, “you might even get disfellowshipped or priveleges taken from you”.
            What I suggest, and I plan on doing this as well; with flyers that JWVictims.org have, is place them in Watchtower/Awake magazines that are in laundromats and other public places, where the magazines are “replenished “.
            What that means, if magazines haven’t been read at these locations, the magazines are picked up, by our Dear Sisters (with our information placed discreetly inside) and she places “new” magazines.

  24. ethel says:

    it will continue until the full matters are broadcasted to the whole world.i have done all i know how to do. i love God and Jesus but these are not Gods true and only servants. i plan to sue. ive had it…… jeausouly teach Gods thruths not mans one child said unless I go to collage Im no use to the org. all my life ive been conrtolled by this org. the sad part they have many who really do care

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