Many people have asked me how I can be so sure I will not want to return to a good standing in Jehovah's organization, after such a short period of time outside of it. The answer is quite simple really. I do not believe anyone should suffer the abuse I have seen and experienced. When I say abuse, I mean the abuse of power by the branch office or "Governing Body," physical abuse, sexual abuse, and domestic abuse of women, children, and some teens (boys and girls), psychological abuse, and abuse of the Bible itself to justify horrible things. I am only twenty-three years old and I could give countless examples of all the different types of abuse I have just mentioned, but I will limit myself to just a few.
1. Abusers often hide themselves by having a position of good standing within the congregation. One such person that has gotten away with this is my Grandmother. She lived with my family ever since my Grandfather (who was actually a wonderful person despite being a witness) passed away when I was age eleven. The psychological abuse she rendered to me has been understood by very few people. By the time I was age thirteen years, I began struggling with an eating disorder. My Grandmother was relentless in her criticism of my body. I was overweight, sure enough, but she went so far as to tell me that I needed plastic surgery to reduce the size of my breasts so I would not look so provocative. She told me that no "brother" in the Kingdom Hall was going to want such a big girl. She would take me out to buy me new dresses, allegedly to apologize for her hurtful words. Then later, she would ridicule me publicly at the meetings, saying how fat I looked or how I was showing to much skin in the same dresses. Just to be clear, I did have my father check my clothes before I left the house. Everything was below the knee and nothing was showing.
When I was fifteen years old, my Grandmother's abuse of me moved from strictly psychological to physical. She knocked me to the ground, after I stood up to her. I refused to speak to her for two years after that. All the while, still going to meetings and even Regular Pioneering (full time preaching title) with everyone wondering why I was so mean to my Grandmother. Why would I not ride in the same car or work with her in service? I even tried to tell the elders why, but they only halfway listened to what I was saying and said that I needed to stop trying to blame innocent people for my depression. You see my Grandmother is still today considered a shining example of a true Christian woman, and is held in high regard in her congregation. She has adopted a new family, and even when I tried address our differences with her, in an attempt to put the past behind us and make a new start, she refused me.
2. The man I thought I loved ruined my reputation and my ability to trust. He and I were helping to rebuild homes after a natural disaster when we met. He was a Ministerial Servant (elders' go-fer) and a Regular Pioneer. When he told me he wanted to be with me, I thought I had hit the Jehovah's Witness' jackpot! Little did I know he wanted someone to step on, not someone to love. My idea of love, at the time was so warped already, due to the abuse by my Grandmother's hands that I didn't even realize how bad my situation was until almost a year later. When I finally realized that he was just trying to break my spirit by telling me how fortunate I was that he found me and decided to love me, I tried to end it. This made him very angry. He began demanding more and more of me physically. It started with provocative pictures, and grew into something very dark and twisted. I didn't know how to get out of his insane idea of a relationship, so I just began accepting it, even telling my friends that we were secretly engaged, at his request. Although my parents tried to end it for me, they weren't able to really end our relationship until six months later. By then, I had been badly beaten, molested, and probably raped but I do not have my complete memory of the time I was abducted to say for sure.
That whole ordeal left me broken inside. I began hurting myself intentionally and eventually attempted suicide. It is to my great relief now that I was unsuccessful.
3. Even after all those and many other things happened, I remained faithful as a Jehovah's Witness. I kept attending and participating, even though most of the time, it was more like just routine, rather than an actual desire to be at the meetings. I had been publicly reproved for sneaking around with my abuser. I no longer qualified for Bethel (Watchtower Society Headquarters in New York) or Gilead (a school to train missionaries). What could I do now? I had been planning on that my whole life, because I was born into this religion. My Mother encouraged me to go back to school and find something I enjoyed learning. I found psychology and thought about all the good I could one day do in my ministry, if I truly understood how to talk to and understand people outside the organization. I believed that if I could understand the way they thought, maybe I could understand why they didn't all just start studies right away and come to an accurate understanding of the Bible.
I was met with so much opposition by Jehovah's Witnesses. I was asked why I would waste so much time on this pointless degree? When I explained, I was told there was no need for what I was doing because the world could not teach me anything that the Watchtower Society could not show me. I kept going anyway.
I had made really good grades in my home school program and have always been an avid reader. It was nice to be able to have those things appreciated for once. I felt really smart for the first time, outside of just giving a good talk or comments at meetings. After being beat down so much, college was the perfect way for me to build myself back up and feel like a strong woman. I even qualified for a scholarship based on my grades, which allowed me to move out! My Grandmother could no longer get to me!
Well, I still was counseled by the elders, often about my choices, and here is where one Elder abused his power and position as an Elder. He heard what was going on in my life during a confidential meeting that I asked for, in order to be encouraged by the Elders, and he turned it into that Sunday's public discourse. I was infuriated! He gave a thinly veiled example of "a girl in one of the local congregations that was seeking a secular education in the field of psychology" when he knew good and well that I was the only girl in the circuit going to school at all. He talked about how saddened he was that this girl was not only wasting her time, but that she was wasting it in a field that was useless. He went on and on about how psychology is always changing and even how the people teaching the classes change what they say from year to year, due to constantly evolving theories. He told the congregation that nothing taught in those classes was lasting like the knowledge Jehovah's Witnesses teach. Then he continued and gave examples of my personal struggles with my faith and blamed them on higher education. When he was finishing up this humiliating display, I stood up and stared at him. I was in the second row and just stared him down to the point that he took a step back. Then I left making a point to slam both doors on my way out!
Elders are put into position in order to take care of the congregation. They are meant to support, help, listen, and offer sound, Bible-based advice. Instead they gave me criticism and humiliation. A common phrase among Jehovah's Witnesses is that "the Elders are imperfect men in a perfect organization." Does it seem perfect to you?
4. My fourth and final point to make is that nothing about my experiences are isolated or unique. They are, in fact, very common. I didn't realize how much so, until after I moved from that congregation and found the same thing in two other congregations in that area. Then I moved across the country and found the same conditions. 4,000 miles I ran, and still it was right in my face.
Then I heard one of my old friends had been molested by a "brother" in my home congregation. Even though he had been convicted in a court of law, he was not even reproved and was having gatherings at his home again, where he had all the opportunity in the world to repeat his offense again and again. Yet my friend's father had been disfellowshipped for taking action (reporting the abuse) and harboring bad feelings towards this man. I stopped going to the meetings after hearing of this. I was so disgusted with the whole organization, and the policies in place that allow this pedophile to be out in the open, yet cleverly disguised.
I was disfellowshipped early this year for having a boyfriend outside the organization. I was not unhappy about being kicked out. After all that, I truly no longer had any desire to be a part of the Watchtower Society, anyway. What I am not satisfied with, however, is being shunned by half of my family and all of my old friends because of being disfellowshipped.
The one thing I want everyone reading this to know is that most of Jehovah's Witnesses are just victims. I do not even hate the people that abused me, because I now know that they are just victims. They have had their thinking so deluded and and twisted by the ever-changing teachings of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WBTS) that I really do think that they believe what they have done is okay. At the very least, they think it is easily forgivable, because they did not get into too much (if any) trouble.
Also, I would like to clarify that my parents did not have knowledge of the abuse I suffered when it was happening. They are really good people and I believe that they are just very conflicted because that truly is their faith. There are good people just trapped inside, and these people are also victims in many of their own different ways. Many of them scared to leave, even if they want to, because of fear....fear of losing their family and friends, because of a ridiculous shunning policy (anyone disfellowshipped is shunned as if they no longer exist by Jehovah's Witnesses). Imagine knowing that if you openly disagree with Watchtower Society teachings or go out for one night on the town and have one too many drinks and the wrong person hears about it, or even if you were just in the wrong place with the wrong people at the wrong time, it could cost you your whole world; all of your friends and family, even your ability to simply say "hello" to anyone in your place of worship. In a place where most people seek peace of mind and spiritual help, you cannot even say "hello" to anyone you care for or anyone that you know cares for you. The Governing Body calls this policy a "loving arrangement!"
This was just a glimpse into how I, one person among nearly eight-million, have been permanently injured by the wretched policies put in place by the Governing Body and the way those policies are implemented to cause/ allow suffering. The Governing Body claim that their teachings/policies are all Bible-based. Where in the Bible does it say that any of this is okay? I have read it cover to cover several times and I do not understand their view. I feel they are just twisting the Bible to suit what they want, in order to maintain control over their members. My heart breaks for everyone affected by this whole thing.
NOTE: If you are a former or Ex-Jehovah's Witness, who would like to have your case reviewed legally, concerning you or your child having been molested/raped and receiving no assistance from anyone in the Watchtower Society, you can contact William H. Bowen, the founder of silentlambs.org. For confidential contact info, check with Admin. in "The Truth Behind Jehovah's Witnesses" group on Facebook.