Testimony on day 4 of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse explored how the socio-cultural environment of Jehovah’s Witnesses creates “the perfect storm” for child abuse. Below are listed the conditions that were highlighted in questioning Dr. Monica Applewhite, expert witness for the WTBS of Australia. If you read the source article starting on page 30 and look at Table A4 on page 31, you will likely be able to identify other factors that apply.
Table A4: Preconditions for sexual abuse and individual and social/cultural factors (excerpts)
1. Repressive norms about masturbation and extramarital sex
2. Weak criminal sanctions against offenders
3. Ideology of patriarchal prerogatives for fathers
4. Barriers to women’s equality
5. Erosion of social networks
6. Social isolation of family
7. Social powerlessness of children
Source: Finkelhor (1984), pp. 56–57 Finkelhor’s model demonstrates the importance of looking beyond the individual victim or perpetrator when assessing where primary prevention programs should be introduced and how other seemingly unconnected societal pressures and gaps can lead to an environment where a child can be sexually victimised.
Below is an excerpt from an article in The Saturday Paper (Australia)
“The Jehovah’s Witness Church is a tightly controlled, rule-bound organisation that seeks to keep its members in relative isolation from the rest of society…” counsel assisting the commission, Angus Stewart, said this week. “It is a system in which a group of men who are appointed from above, not by the congregation, stand in judgement over their fellow men, women and children on every aspect of their lives.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are fierce literalists of the Bible, and the most devout have largely supplanted civil law with their own divine version. They regard themselves to be “in the world, but not of it” and it is their parallel modes of living that have this week come under such scrutiny. Two congregations in particular – Narrogin, and the other in Mareeba in far north Queensland. The commission found an arrogance and insularity that devastated victims of child abuse – a culture that meant of more than 1000 reports of child sex abuse over 60 years, not one was referred to police. Not one.