Royal commission told witness known as BCG would give evidence that her father’s sexual abuse did not appear to qualify as ‘wrongdoing’ to the church Elders in the Jehovah’s Witnesses forced a girl to confront her father who was abusing her, and who blamed her for seducing him.
The elders were friends of her father who was a highly regarded member of the church, which likes to keep its members isolated from the rest of society, a royal commission has been told. Counsel for the commission Angus Stewart SC said a witness known as BCG would give evidence that her father’s sexual abuse did not appear to qualify as “wrongdoing” in the eyes of the church. In his opening statement to a hearing into child sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Stewart said of the 1,006 alleged perpetrators of child abuse identified by the Jehovah’s Witnesses since 1950, not one was reported to authorities.
The church was preoccupied with sin and had a patriarchal structure where a man was head of the family and elders – all men – shepherded the congregation, Stewart said. They believed the Bible was the inspired word of God and interpreted it literally.
They also believed the end of the world was near. Stewart said BCG would tell the commission her father had also abused her older sister and two younger sisters, but the three elders who heard her case did not take these offences into account. BCG’s father was ultimately “disfellowshipped”, not for his sexual abuse but for lying. Her father immediately appealed against the decision to cast him out of the Jehovah’s Witness community at Mareeba in far north Queensland. At the church’s appeal hearing he admitted the abuse and his excommunication was upheld, but a few years later he was reinstated.
In 1995, BCG wrote to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia – the Witnesses’ public company. Three months later she received a reply promising an investigation and counselling her to have faith in Jehovah, Stewart said.
She eventually left the church and went to police. Her father was arrested and convicted in 2004 and sentenced to three years in prison for indecent assault and attempted rape of BCG.
Over the next two weeks the hearing before chief commissioner Justice Peter McClellan will hear from two abuse survivors and 15 witnesses, including Jehovah’s Witness church elders. The commission has taken testimony from 57 people who came forward about abuse in the church