Copyright 2015 Caroline Norton
This publication is dedicated to all former Jehovah’s Witnesses who have broken free and to those who are still held by its chains against their will. To those who have suffered and those who suffer still.
If you have ever come across a Jehovah’s Witness child in your working life you may have found it difficult to understand their ways and therefore to help them with their problems. As I was raised a JW myself I have first-hand experience of life as a JW in school and I remember clearly what a tough time it was. The most distressing part about it was always feeling so different to my peers. I had very little in common with them and felt like an outsider with no way to get in. I was a spectacle, the girl who sat out of assembly and RE lessons, the one who never got involved in anything to do with Christmas or birthdays. There was nothing to talk about with my classmates because I didn’t do the things they did. I was the odd one out. For the whole of my school life.
I was a very unhappy withdrawn teenager and went off the rails (as you do). I found myself on the receiving end of Scriptural correction by the Elders and I have spent these last few years trying to recover from the long lasting effects of their cruel treatment. But I cannot bear the thought of my whole life as a Witness going to waste and I felt there must be some way I can use my experiences to benefit others. This has prompted me to put together this information for counsellors, teachers and social workers, in fact anyone who may come into contact with JW children. Here you will find basic information about the religion, its beliefs, expectations of young ones and the many restrictions the children are expected to live under whilst at home and in school and the distress this can cause. Please let me stress, the rights and wrongs of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs are not discussed here, this is purely to educate and to highlight the struggles JW children have that other children don’t. A better understanding by those working in children’s services will lead to the proper help being given and therefore a more successful and happier school life for those affected.
Jehovah’s Witness children have many added pressures due to religious activities and it all takes its toll on them sometimes. They really need someone to talk to who understands a little about where they are coming from. But, ironically, they are discouraged from unburdening themselves to any kind of counsellor outside of the religion for fear of being influenced by worldly reasoning.
Expectations of children are high within the religion and there is much conflict. School says: study hard, do your A levels, go to college, university. Watchtower says: leave school, get a part time job, pioneer (full time preaching). They are being pulled both ways over several years of their lives and it’s not surprising it gets to them! They may believe – they may not – but all will be struggling to conform to both lives they live.
I have tried to give a fair view of the religion from different standpoints and have included facts and extracts from JW literature, an explanation of the terms used and testimonies from adult former JWs about their young lives. Each section could be considerably expanded but I wanted to provide a basic overview of the problems that exist.
If you require more information please visit the linked websites. Alternatively, I am happy to visit your place of work in person (within the UK) to discuss and answer questions on these issues.
I hope you find this information useful.
Apostasy Any rejection of, or deviation from, watchtower teaching, even in relatively minor matters – viewed as a most serious sin, equivalent to outright rebellion against God himself. In some instances simply questioning the teachings is viewed as apostasy.
Auxiliary Pioneer One who commits to spending 50 hours a month in active preaching work.
Armageddon The name of the world battle that will shortly take place by God’s hand ridding the earth of all who have rejected God’s ways after which the survivors will bring the earth back to a paradise.
Armageddon 1975 According to WT’s bible chronology the year 1975 marked 6000 year anniversary of the creation of man. The literature gave the impression that Armageddon would happen in this year so many JWs sold their property, did not make any plans, children saw no point in working hard at school, did not book holidays – because they fully believed the world was going to end.
Anointed Class A limited number of people (144,000) have been anointed with Holy Spirit and only these will go to Heaven when they die to rule alongside Jesus Christ over the paradise earth.
Awake! A monthly magazine published by Watchtower, Bible and Tract Society featuring articles of human interest, religion and practical sciences. To be “placed” with the public.
Baptism A candidate approved by the Elders after going through a series of questions can be baptised. This takes place by full immersion at a circuit or district assembly.
Bethel Watchtower Headquarters, currently at Mill Hill, London but new premises are currently being built in East Hanningfield, Essex. Staff of hundreds print and distribute literature and organise activities for congregations.
Bible Study The aim of door to door preaching is to engage people in a free home bible study.
Blood Transfusions Blood is viewed as sacred. Whole blood is not permitted either by transfusion or any other method and is a disfellowshipping offence. Taking blood fractions however is a matter of conscience.
Bloodguilt Faithful Witnesses will preach at every opportunity as this saves lives if people listen to the message. Failing to pass on information about God’s coming Kingdom would mean that people will die because they didn’t hear the message – therefore they would be bloodguilty.
Branch Committee Each country has a Branch Committee based at Bethel.
Brother Baptised men are called “brothers.”
Charity Not encouraged to give to charity, it is an individual’s choice. Taught that the public benefit more from hearing the Kingdom message.
Circuit Comprises several congregations totalling about 1000 Witnesses
Circuit Assemblies A gathering in a central city to several congregations for a one-day programme of spiritual food comprising of talks, demonstrations and baptism.
Circuit Overseer Oversees several congregations and visits once every 6 month or so to give spiritual encouragement.
Cross JWs do not wear a cross and will not use it in any way as Jesus died on an upright stake.
Disfellowshipped When someone has committed a serious sin they at risk of being put out of the congregation. Sins such as sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, smoking, fraud, murder, attending another church, gambling, associating with another disfellowshipped person, uncleanness, gluttony may result in being disfellowshipped. A person who is judged as unrepentant by the Judicial Committee would then be disfellowshipped from the congregation. An announcement would be made that “so and so and is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
The person would then be completely ostracized / shunned by family and friends. No one can greet them, eat with them or email them. There is to be no communication whatsoever. Family members living in the same house must have no unnecessary communication and definitely no spiritual discussions. They can attend meetings and assemblies but are not allowed to go on Field Service, or take part in the Ministry School. They must sit in the back row at the Kingdom Hall or sit with family but should not attempt to talk to anyone.
After some time (usually no less than 6 months) when they feel ready they can apply to the elders to be reinstated. They meet and discuss their new attitude and change of circumstances if relevant. Their sincerity is judged by the Judicial Committee and they are either reinstated a few weeks later by announcement or told they are not ready.
Disassociated If a person voluntarily wishes to officially no longer be known as a Jehovah’s Witness they put this in writing and an announcement is made. They are then treated in the same way as a disfellowshipped person. Reinstatement is possible under the same procedure as disfellowshipping.
Family Worship One night a week is designated the Family Worship night, conducted at home amongst family members with the head of the house taking the lead.
Field Service Engaging in active door to door preaching, street witnessing or business witnessing. Recently introduced a mobile literature stand.
Great Crowd The bulk of those who will survive Armageddon to continue living on earth.
Great Tribulation A period of great worldwide turmoil that will precede the start of Armageddon. Economic and religious systems will crash.
Hell JWs do not believe God burns sinners in an eternal fiery hell. Rather Hell is simply the grave.
Judicial Committee Formed of three or more elders for the purpose of judging a case of any seriously bad behaviour.
Kingdom Hall Meeting place of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Meetings Two meetings a week, one mid-week and one at the weekend. Both last about 2 hours.
Mid-week: song, prayer, series of talks by those on the Ministry School, song, announcements, more talks by elders or ministerial servants, song, prayer.
Weekend: song, prayer, listen to a half-hour public talk, sing, question and answer study of an article in the Study Edition of the Watchtower. All those in good standing in the congregation are encouraged to participate including children.
Ministry School Baptised and unbaptised can volunteer to give talks and do demonstrations at the mid-week meeting. Brothers can address the congregation. Sisters can only do role play with another witness. This school is to train people to be better teachers in Field Service.
Monthly Report Submitted each month with total number of hours each individual has spent in field service, number of magazines placed, return visits, bible studies conducted and digital formats downloaded. Collated and sent to Bethel.
New System Paradise earth after Armageddon. The Old System being what we are living in right now.
Regional Convention Held once a year in the summer at a large venue. Three days of talks, demonstrations, visual drama and baptism.
Regular Pioneer One who has committed to spending a certain number of hours in field service for a year, which works out to about 70 per month.
Reinstated A person can be reinstated after being disfellowshipped. This could be several months or years after being disfellowshipped/disassociated. An announcement is made that the person has been reinstated into the congregation. Applause is not allowed as the person has yet to prove themselves, but now everyone is free to talk to them.
Resurrection The dead who are in God’s memory will be brought back to life after Armageddon into the paradise earth, then to be taught God’s ways and given another chance.
Sister Baptised women are called “sisters.”
Society, the Legal Corporation used by the Governing Body.
Special Pioneer one who dedicates their whole life to the preaching work and are assigned to work in countries where there is a greater need. Financially supported by the organisation.
Theocracy JWs do not act in a democratic way but rather submit to what they interpret as God’s laws. These laws are imparted via Holy Spirit to the Governing Body members in New York and all policies, practices and procedures are put in place by them.
Theocratic Warfare Hiding the truth from those who are not entitled to it, i.e. the authorities in order to protect the religion or themselves. Not outright lying but deception for a legitimate purpose.
Truth, the JWs refer to themselves as “being in the truth” “having/knowing the truth.”
Watchtower Monthly magazine containing scriptural articles to be “placed” with the public. There is also a Study Edition only available to Witnesses which is discussed at the weekend meeting.
Christmas is not celebrated /
December 25th is not Christ’s birthday. Since he was 33 and a half when he died and he died in April then that would make his birthday somewhere in October. In any case we must give all glory to his Father (God) and not to Jesus.
Birthdays are not celebrated /
Give glory to God not ourselves. The only two birthdays mentioned in the Bible involved murder.
Easter is not celebrated the same as others /
JWs observe the Memorial of Christ’s death once a year around this time (Last Supper). They pass the bread and wine around but only those who feel they are going to Heaven when they die (144,000) actually partake.
A matter of conscience.
Blood Transfusions /
Whole blood is a disfellowshipping offense. However, blood fractions and other medical procedures involving blood are a matter of conscience.
After school activities /
Must not mix with worldly people. Also may take up time that should be spent in spiritual activities.
School trips /
Must not mix with worldly people. Also may take up time that should be spent in spiritual activities.
Ghosts are really the demons playing tricks. The dead are dead.
Sex Education /
Parents are advised to educate their own children in these matters making use of the relevant articles in the Watchtower and Awake magazines. They fear it will be taught in class that homosexuality and sex outside marriage is acceptable. This would be in conflict with bible teachings.
Dating is only to be done with marriage in mind, therefore children are too young to be dating. JWs must “marry only in the Lord” – date and marry other JWs. Dating JW couples are not allowed to be alone together and can only sit together at meetings when they become engaged.
For more detail on each of these subjects and many others please visit and .
Students & Associates[*:*]
Those having a regular bible study, attend meetings, assemblies and conventions
Those attending meetings, assemblies, conventions, engage in regular field service and report their activity (those who do not take part are described as inactive)
Baptised brothers who assist the elders in their duties, organise literature, give talks, lead meetings for field service. Several in a congregation.
Baptised brothers who oversee the ministerial servants, give talks including the Public talk at the weekend meeting, form judicial committees, some serve on the HLC (Hospital Liaison Committee and fill many other roles. Several in a congregation.
cover several circuits
cover several congregations.
Currently UK Branch office is in Mill Hill, London, soon to be relocated to East Hanningfield, Essex. Oversees printing and distribution of literature. Has legal, writing and translations departments and others.
Currently eight male members based in New York. Made up of only members of the 144,000 who describe themselves as “Guardians of the Doctrine.” Oversee 96 Branch Committees worldwide. Decide what goes into the literature.
Jehovah’s Witnesses regard other people as being under the influence of the devil. When they call on people at home most are not interested in listening to them and they take that as a rejection of God’s righteous principles and Jesus’ teachings. Therefore they are extremely cautious about mixing with others who, in their opinion, do not share the same values.
Non JWs are referred to as “worldly” and this creates a real “them and us” view, a division, and JW children can grow up feeling isolated, different and misunderstood. They are often secretive due to embarrassment about their religion and at the same time are taught that they are better than others because they are educated to do things the scriptural way. They believe that all who do not serve Jehovah God will be destroyed at Armageddon which is soon to take place. “Serving God” to JWs means becoming one of Jehovah’s baptised Witnesses. So in effect they say that only JWs will be chosen to survive Armageddon. Their literature states that salvation is through supporting Christ’s brothers (The Governing Body).
“Just as Noah and his God-fearing family were preserved in the ark, survival of individuals today depends on their faith and their loyal association with the earthly part of Jehovah’s universal organization.” Watchtower 2006 May 15 p.22
“If we stop actively supporting Jehovah’s work, then we start following Satan. There is no middle ground.” Watchtower 2011 Jul 15 p.18
[_“But Jehovah’s servants already belong to the only organization that will survive the end of this wicked system of things.” _]Watchtower 2007 Dec 15 p.14
Children usually do well in primary and secondary school as they are very obedient and are used to paying attention to a speaker. Further or higher education is frowned upon and not encouraged. In their view the most important occupation in life is the preaching work and children are expected to leave school, get a part-time job (enough to survive) and enter the pioneer service. And there lies the conflict – at school pupils are pushed towards bettering themselves in order to earn a decent living to be able to support themselves and a future family. Whereas at home and at the meetings they are told to set their sights on pioneering or (for the brothers) to enter Bethel service.
This conflict may be compounded when a child is living in a divided household, either physically or spiritually where only one parent is a Witness.
If a child thinks about it and decides to accept what their parents have instructed teachers to do, such as in providing an alternative to Christmas based activities, it can still be hard to be separated from all their classmates and to be treated differently. It’s something they will remember well into their adult years. However, if the child disagrees with their parents’ instructions and really wants to join in then there will be a whole load of conflicting emotions. If this mental battle exists within a child when it comes to day to day, in-school issues then the same internal conflict with attending meetings or going on field service can cause a lot of anxiety for a prolonged period of time. A constant battle of emotions, thoughts and feelings – wanting to be the same as their peers yet wanting to please their parents and God too is extremely wearing. Their parents are instructed to do as the scriptures say and bring their children up “in the discipline and mental regulating of Jehovah” (Ephesians 6:4) At this point in their lives they have no choice.
Children have issues – issues that are simply part of growing up in this world. Below are some very common situations with the added reactions of Witness parents and the extra pressures that brings to JW pupils.
A ten-year-old boy has been hanging around with a group in his class after school and he has been smoking an occasional cigarette/joint. Although teachers would not encourage this and good health is promoted in classes, a Jehovah’s Witness child has the added fear that he will be found out and his parents would be told. This is a serious thing and his parents may involve the elders to give him counsel. If he continues smoking his JW friends would get to know about it and he then would be seen as “bad association” within the congregation and be avoided. If he has been baptised he could be called to appear before a judicial committee and privately reproved, publicly reproved or even disfellowshipped.
A year 10 girl (age 15) has got to know a boy in her year who is good-looking, very well-mannered, comes from a respectable family and seems to like her. They get on so well and he has proven to be a real friend to her. They’ve known each other since year they were 11. The boy has invited her round to his house to hang out for a while after school and she really wants to go. She’s told her mum about him but is not allowed to go as he is a worldly boy, he doesn’t love Jehovah and doesn’t have the same values as her. She is considering going against her mum’s advice as she can’t see any harm in going. She tells the boy she’s not allowed and he is offended and can’t understand why. She doesn’t want to lose his friendship so she goes. Unfortunately, one of the other JW children in the school has seen them walking off down the road hand in hand. They then tell the girl’s mum what they’ve seen and she is in trouble. If she continues dating this worldly boy she would be seen as “bad association” within the congregation. If she has been baptised she could be called to appear before a judicial committee and privately reproved, publicly reproved or even disfellowshipped.
A nine-year-old pupil has been to the circuit assembly at the weekend and has been baptised. This is a very happy occasion – they have dedicated their life to God and everyone is so pleased with them. Cards and presents are given and family come to witness the baptism. They may be very tired the following day but will be feeling happy and exhilarated. Little do they realise how their lives have now changed and at such a young age. The reality is they have also committed themselves to a human organization and on the day of their baptism will have answered in the affirmative the following two questions:
[_(1) On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will? _
(2) Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization?]
When their emotions have settled down they may start to feel fearful and cautious. The reason being that they would have been told that by their actions they have angered Satan, the Devil. He doesn’t want people to know God and dedicate their lives to him so he will be making a target of them. People tend to slip up in the first six months or so after their baptism because they are on an emotional high and therefore vulnerable.
A young pupil who was baptised a year ago at the age of 14 has been having a sexual relationship with a girl. He loves her and is not prepared to give her up. He has been in front of a judicial committee and although he wasn’t there he knows that at the meeting last night and it was announced that he is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses – he has been disfellowshipped. He will be feeling distraught, as if this is the end of his life. Even if he acts as though he doesn’t care about the religion, his family and friends that are witnesses will not talk to him again. He may become depressed, withdrawn, angry, and it’s vital that he receives extra care and support at this time.
The favourite aunt of a pupil was disfellowshipped three weeks ago. They used to go shopping together, she would help her with her homework and have chats on the phone. They were more like sisters really but now all that has stopped. She misses her aunt terribly and wants to write her a letter but her mum won’t let her, saying, she knew what would happen if she got disfellowshipped – how could she do this to us?
Watchtower Study Edition 2013 Jan 15 p.16
“[_Do not look for excuses to associate with a disfellowshipped family member, for example, through e-mail.” _]
Further education discouraged in favour of pioneering
Watchtower article 15 April 2010
“Consider how Cherie gained strength from having a close relationship with
Jehovah. In high school, she won awards because she did well academically and excelled in sports. When she finished school, she was offered a scholarship that would enable her to pursue higher education. “The offer was tempting,” says Cherie, “and coaches and fellow students put a lot of pressure on me to accept it.” She realized, though, that pursuing further education would require her to devote most of her time to studying and preparing for sporting events—with little time left for serving Jehovah. What did Cherie do? She says, “After praying to Jehovah, I declined the scholarship and began serving as a regular pioneer.” In the meantime, she has been pioneering for five years. “I don’t have any regrets,” she says. “Knowing that I made a decision that pleases Jehovah makes me happy. Really, if you put God’s Kingdom first, all other things will be added to you.”—Matt. 6:33.”
Watchtower article 15 July 2010
“5 To this day, many in the world dedicate their lives to the pursuit of power, wealth, and position. As a result, they have little or no time for spiritual interests. (Matt. 13:22) In contrast, Jehovah’s people are happy to ‘make themselves small’ in the eyes of others in order to win the blessing and approval of the Master of the harvest.—Matt. 6:24; 2 Cor. 11:7; Phil. 3:8.
7 If you say no to the “lofty things” of this world and allow yourself to be “led along with the lowly things,” you too can expect to enjoy many additional blessings and privileges in the harvest work.—Rom. 12:16; Matt. 4:19, 20; Luke 18:28-30.”
Children encouraged to go to Bethel
Watchtower article 15 Aug 2010
“After seeing many hard workers happily serving Jehovah at the branch office in Mexico, one young Bible student was so impressed that he asked: “What do I have to do to stay here?” He was told: “First, you have to be baptized. Then, it is good to serve as a pioneer—a full-time Kingdom proclaimer.” The young man followed the recommendations, and two years later he was invited to serve at Bethel in Mexico, where he has served for the past 20 years.
What Is Bethel?
In the Hebrew language, “Bethel” means “House of God.” (Gen. 28:19, ftn.) The facilities at various branch offices are used to print and distribute Bibles and Bible literature and to provide spiritual assistance to over 100,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. Close to 20,000 Bethel workers—men and women of many different social and cultural backgrounds—selflessly serve Jehovah and their spiritual brothers and sisters full-time. Those who have spent many years in this Christian work serve alongside energetic youths. On evenings and weekends, members of Bethel families enjoy associating with nearby congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses at meetings and in the Christian ministry. They also use their free time for Bible study, recreation, and caring for personal matters.
Members of the Bethel family receive a small monthly monetary reimbursement. They enjoy tasty and nutritious meals and live in clean, comfortable quarters. Bethel homes are not designed to be luxurious. However, they are practical. Visitors are impressed not only by the well-kept buildings and grounds and the smooth-running organization but also by the spirit of kindness and cooperation that prevails at Bethel. Everyone works diligently, yet no one is too busy to be friendly. In Bethel there are neither social distinctions nor feelings of superiority because of one’s assignment. Every assignment is important, whether it is cleaning, gardening, cooking, or working in a printery or an office. Bethelites, as those in Bethel service are known, work together as a team to support the ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses.—Col. 3:23.”
There are about three generations of Jehovah’s Witnesses now who were encouraged to gain no more than a basic education, are still trying to support their family on a low wage and who deeply regret not going to college or university when they had the chance. Many have no pension arrangements as investing in a world that is going to soon pass away was always discouraged.
Recent cutbacks at Branch offices around the world has meant many Special Pioneers and Bethel workers have been laid off. They are now faced with the task of finding somewhere to live, getting a job and supporting themselves in a normal world.
Encouraged to work towards baptism from a young age
Watchtower article 15 June 2010
“Serving Jehovah as one of his baptized Witnesses is a goal that all young ones should have.”
Watchtower article 15 June 2011 “The Proper View of Baptism”
“Some parents consider their children’s baptism as a beneficial step that involves risk—much like getting a driver’s license. But do baptism and sacred service ever threaten a person’s future success? The Bible answers no. Proverbs 10:22 states: “The blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.” And Paul wrote to young Timothy: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency.”—1 Tim. 6:6.”
“Satan’s world is a source of hardships. Parents need to help their children to recognize that distinction.—Jer. 1:19.”
“Should My Child Put Off Baptism?
Occasionally, even when children qualify for baptism, their parents may decide that it should be postponed. What may be their reasons?
I fear that if my child gets baptized, he might later fall into serious sin and get disfellowshipped. Is it reasonable to believe that a young person who puts off baptism will not be accountable to God for his conduct? Solomon directed the following words to young ones: “Know that on account of [your actions] the true God will bring you into judgment.” (Eccl. 11:9) And with no exception as to age, Paul gave this reminder: “Each of us will render an account for himself to God.”—Rom. 14:12.
Both baptized and unbaptized worshippers are accountable to God. Do not forget, Jehovah protects his servants by ‘not letting them be tempted beyond what they can bear.’ (1 Cor. 10:13) As long as they ‘keep their senses’ and fight temptation, such ones can count on God’s support. (1 Pet. 5:6-9) A Christian mother writes: “Children who are baptized have more reasons to stay away from the bad things of the world. My son, baptized at 15, feels that baptism is a protection. ‘You don’t think about doing something contrary to Jehovah’s law,’ he said. Baptism is a strong motivation for righteousness.”
If you have trained your children by word and example to obey Jehovah, you can be confident that they will continue to do so after they are baptized.
I would like to see my child reach certain goals first. Young people should learn to work so that, in time, they can be self-sufficient. But there is danger in encouraging them to take up a lifestyle centred on education and financial security instead of true worship.
Plans for a life that subordinates spirituality to worldly goals can snuff out a young person’s desire to serve God.”
Be Aware: A Jehovah’s Witness child will have more reasons than other children to keep sexual abuse quiet.
Fear of having to talk about it to the elders (men)
Fear of not being believed by the elders
Fear of getting the abuser disfellowshipped
Fear of being disfellowshipped themselves if baptised (if they feel it was their fault)
If the abuser is an elder, fear of him being demoted
If the abuser is a family member, fear of bringing shame on the family
Fear of bringing reproach on Jehovah’s name
Fear of upsetting people in the congregation
Fear of dying at Armageddon
Since the BBC’s Panorama programme in 2002 which highlighted the problem of sexual abuse cover up within the religion, there has been a steady stream of JW victims bringing their abusers to justice. In July 2015 the Australian Royal Commission held an inquiry into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Among other organisations Jehovah’s Witnesses came under investigation and the findings are shocking. The Commission heard that 1006 cases in Australia alone have gone unreported, paedophiles get away with their crimes, are allowed to remain in the congregation unknown to members and there has been no aftercare for the victims. During the proceedings the harrowing evidence of victims of child abuse was heard, elders were called to give evidence and explain their actions as well as a member of the Governing Body. Many other aspects of the religion were called into question throughout the inquiry including the role of women and the religion’s harsh shunning practices.
The Commission has instructed the Governing Body to amend their policies and practices, address the issues raised and return to the Commission in two and a half years’ time to present their changes. The proceedings will again be made public.
The full proceedings are available as Case Study 29 at the website below and each day in court can be viewed on You Tube.
A similar inquiry called the Truth Project has recently begun in the UK which will cover England and Wales. Scotland has their own inquiry underway. Jehovah’s Witnesses and other organisations are under investigation and it is currently at the stage of taking of statements from those who have been adversely affected by their policies. The full inquiry is expected to take five years. For more information visit the website:
UK Charity Commission
Jehovah’s Witnesses are also under investigation by the UK Charity Commission. To continue enjoying the tax benefits of a charitable status there are safeguarding rules that must be adhered to and JWs have fallen short on these for many years. Their policies on both handling child sexual abuse cases and shunning are currently being looked into. The investigators had very little success when questioning the elders in various congregations so have now gone to those individuals who have been directly affected and are currently gathering statements.
There are cases where elders have instructed victims of sexual abuse within the religion to keep quiet. Their policy may well state that they should be told they have the “absolute right” to inform the authorities but the reality is that if they do speak out it is made very clear to them that they will be:
1. Bringing reproach on Jehovah’s name
2. Stumbling others in the congregation
So the guilt is laid firmly at the victim’s feet from the outset. The elders insist that according to the scriptures there must have been at least two eye witnesses to a serious sin (the abuse) otherwise there is not enough evidence. They do not take trauma behaviour into account as evidence. The “two witness rule” comes from Jesus’ words at Matthew 18:15,16 which reads: “Moreover if your brother commits a sin go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more in order that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter may be established.” (New World Translation)
Their whole system is shocking and unacceptable and has destroyed many lives. Many survivors suffer with depression, anxiety, phobias, fears, shame and guilt not only because of the abuse itself but also from the effects of having to keep it quiet for so many years. The following are such cases:
Each year, 1% of Jehovah's Witnesses, around 70,000, are disfellowshipped and subsequently shunned. Only one third return to the religion, the remainder having their family ties severed for life. Mr Aron, director of Melbourne’s Cult Counselling Australia, identifies that “shunning is “draconian, cruel and callous” … [and] could crush self-esteem and give feelings of guilt, especially in children.” (The Age 16th Mar 2013) (Source: JWFacts.com)
Watchtower is aware of the damage caused by being disfellowshipped, as it mentions in the quote below, reinstated members can suffer emotional trauma for years, though they blame this on the result of their sin and a guilty conscience, rather than relating this to the public humiliation of disfellowshipping and trauma of being shunned by loved ones.
[_“Sin still has an aftermath. For example, a disfellowshipped wrongdoer may repent and be reinstated in the congregation, but it may take years to overcome the tarnished reputation and emotional trauma resulting from sin. Meanwhile, how comforting it is to have Jehovah’s forgiveness and the support of his everlasting arms!” _]Watchtower 1991 Oct 1 p.18
Jehovah’s Witness children grow up with mental chains that other children do not have. The information they hear repeated at meetings greatly influences their actions, thoughts, feelings, opinions, even speech and is reinforced in the home. Whilst any thinking person will be able to see sense in the good moral advice given it’s the repercussions of disobeying and the FEAR of those repercussions that exert such a tight grip. As a consequence of this many JW children and adults lead a double life because there are so many issues that deep down they do not agree with. But they fear disrupting their whole life and being ostracised by the ones they love if they were to acknowledge them.
Many children leave school unprepared for life in the big wide world, are naïve, have poor social skills, are far too trusting and therefore fall prey to those who would take advantage. JWs are relatively peaceful people and some grow up not knowing how to handle conflict having had little experience of it. Many do not easily recognise danger as they have lived such a sheltered life and have not developed the skills necessary to survive and be happy in this world.
You will no doubt come across varying degrees of compliance by parents: one child’s parent may be perfectly happy for them to attend a sex education lesson or go and see the Christmas play, another may not. So this is when it gets difficult! Please remember: it’s not the child’s decision as to what they can and cannot do. They have to do as their parents say. They will no doubt be feeling just as confused as you as to why there is no consistency among their fellow JW class mates.
Listen to their worries, let them rattle on
Learn the language – the truth, placing magazines, answer up, the anointed ones, circuit overseer, going on field service
Question “What’s the hardest thing you find about being in the truth?” “Did you enjoy the assembly at the weekend?” “When’s your next talk on the school?” “Do you miss your disfellowshipped sister?”
Understand at the moment they have no choice but to cooperate with their parents
Reassure them that one day they will be able to make their own decisions about the religion
Remind them to see the good in what they do: by going to the meetings and assemblies and on field service they can see their friends
Don’t draw attention to their differences – they don’t like being different to everyone else
Suggest that if they believe in God they could pray to Him for help to cope with their situation
Tell them that there is someone they can talk to openly and in confidence who has an understanding of their religion
“The most difficult thing has been to retrain my brain. I’ve grown up with ideas drummed into my head that just aren’t true so I’ve had to remove the faulty JW thinking, i.e. all worldly people are evil; no JW would ever lie to me; the elders are always right. It’s been really hard and I’ve realised my perception of the world I live in has been warped all this time.” (Caroline)
“The biggest thing for me was don’t worry about your exams because Armageddon is coming.”(Annie)
“Deprived of a life in general. The list would go on and on.” (Carol)
“Deprivation of time and relaxation is one I’ve never really thought about before but it’s true. No lie ins on a weekend as there was field service on a Saturday and meetings on a Sunday. Week day evenings were taken up by twice weekly meetings, (years ago) home bible study, etc. Even on holiday there was no escape as the holiday would either be combined with a convention and/or we had to attend a kingdom hall wherever we were!” (Freya)
“The best way to describe it was this bubble, and all you knew was the Truth – nothing else. It’s only when you come out you look back you realise that I missed out on lots of things and I’m so glad to be out.” (Elliot)
“One of the most bizarre ones for me was when I was about 14 or 15 my parents dictated that I was no longer allowed to stay for lunch at school and my mother would come and collect me for the hour and take me back. They would never give a reason why.” (Andrew)
“I felt very isolated and alone. The older I got, the more suicidal I felt as well. I was constantly scared to tell my teacher I couldn’t participate because having gum put in my hair and being called Satan would follow from the other kids soon after. I was beat up in the 4th grade. Right in front of the teachers. But they didn’t see because the kids were blocking their view. When I’d try to tell them, they blew it off as kids being kids and I should just try to stay away. My teacher felt really bad the next day when I had bruises on my neck. I wanted to join in. I wanted to belong. But I was scared someone would see. I was scared I’d die at Armageddon. To this day I have severe anxiety and depression. Social anxiety in particular is a huge problem. I have horrible trust issues. I think an important thing for the kids to know is there is someone there that is educated in the jw rules. Knows what is allowed and is not. The emotional turmoil and mental disorders they either have or will soon develop. And they can be the ones the child can trust and know for certain, they can go to. And family won’t know. Classmates won’t know. Because that’s why we don’t talk. We are scared of talking, that we’ll be discovered. And we are also scared our ways of thinking can lead us only to destruction at Armageddon. About the children that are being molested – I think it’s very important for teachers to also be educated in the messed up views of molestation the elders have. More than likely, half the jw children they run across will have been a victim but believe there’s nowhere for them to go.”(Jessica)
“A little story of what happened to me when my oldest was not yet in school. At that time I was struggling with the whole jw teachings. Far worse than at other times. I was making up excuses to my ex not to go to those meetings. Without realizing it she was feeding my sons information that would ultimately cause me great heart ache. One day, during a Friday night meeting, in the middle of winter, my ex was taking my sons and going to the meeting. As my young little 4-year-old was going out the door I heard him say through the tears, “I don’t want daddy to die” You see they teach that those who are not jw’s and those who wilfully do not follow their instruction are going to die at Armageddon. No child should ever have to be taught things so devastating to them. For God’s sake he was just a little boy! Those words, “I don’t want Daddy to die” will haunt me for the rest of my life.”(Ron)
“I grew up in a very small community, so everyone knew I was a jw. Kids would make fun of me. They would call me “la atalaya” (the watchtower in Spanish). I would have to sit in the back of the classroom by myself during any birthdays, valentine, Halloween, Christmas, or thanksgiving parties and just watch. Even if kids tried to be my friends I would have to tell them I couldn’t be their friend because I was a jw and they weren’t. That was elementary. It was hard to be made fun of on a daily basis. As I got older we moved and I discovered I could now hide who I really was and I could lie to my parents about my friends. But if I happen to run into to someone from school while doing door to door work that was just devastatingly embarrassing. By the time I got to high school most of my friends knew I was a jw so if we were on field service and I was around a friend’s house I would hide out inside as long as I could! From a very young age they start drilling in your mind to isolate yourself from “the world”. They want to shut down any outside influence. You are taught to not question or think. Because even having thoughts against the “org” is wrong. Even as an adult now and having left over 12 years ago I battle with the mindset that was drilled into me.”(Grace)
“In junior school 1975 – 79 every Easter I would stay in the classroom for easter assembly. One year while the kids were in the hall several teachers went out onto the field to hide easter cut out cardboard shapes (rabbits and eggs). Of course I sat there watching them out the window, logging the places they’d hidden them – under the plant pot, next to the fence, under the bird table. After their assembly was finished I joined the kids in the field searching for these shapes and guess who found the most? I won 1st prize – the biggest chocolate egg and didn’t share a bit of it!” (Harriette)
“I always felt lonely in school, was told not to make friends with “worldly” kids so obviously I got bullied for being different. I came to hate school. I have never been a confident person and I feel that being brought up as a jw made this worse, being encouraged not to interact with my peers has not helped me and now I still find it difficult to interact with people. Although I’m glad of the morals compared to teenage girls in school. School is where we interact with our peers and sometimes make lifelong friends, well it should be. I feel that being a jw has actually ruined my social skills. I am not good at talking to people even now. It’s always in the back of my mind even though I left several years ago that I’m different, people aren’t interested in me and view me as a freak.”(Amanda)
Website includes testimonies from former JWs about their experiences of shunning, abuse and growing up as a Witness child.
A beautifully written heartfelt account of a former JW, his feelings about his school days and attitudes to teachers who influenced his young life.
JW Schoolgirl Speaks Out
(Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses)
Official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Discusses core concepts, scandals, questionable doctrine, changed teachings and other topics of interest.
A website giving voice to millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world who would not normally have the opportunity to say what they really think about the Watch Tower Society, or the teachings and practices of the Governing Body.
An updated version of this book will be available soon.
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Everyone knows a Jehovah's Witness or had them knock at their door. And it's well known that they do not celebrate Christmas, and will not have a blood transfusion. But not a lot is known or understood about JW children's lives - the conflicting advice they have to deal with and the fears and expectations they live under throughout their young lives. That's why this book is vital for all teachers, social workers and counsellors, indeed, anyone who works with children. The chances are that one day, if not already, you will be assigned a child to assist who is being brought up by Witness parents. This comprehensive guide will provide you with a basic knowledge of the structure and language of the Watchtower Society, information about the safeguarding policies, procedures and practices of the religion. What happens in a baptised JW child's life can have long lasting, sometimes devastating effects and if those in a nurturing position can understand they can give more targeted help.