A parent’s perspective on CSA issues and contact with perpetrators

I have been professing since 1999, but I was raised in the Jehovah’s Witness religion. 

I was molested by my father for as far back in my childhood as I can remember.  My father used obscure verses from the books of the prophets to justify the father’s right to “know” his children and the right of a Father to “humble” his children to teach them submission. When I was 16, I revealed my abuse to a friend.  She told her mom who then told my mom. My mom immediately went to the police and my dad was removed from the house within 24 hours.  The police were quick to respond, but the continuing emotional abuse was from the response of church and family. My dad was sentenced to 5 years in jail, but served only 6 months, getting out early due to his “good behavior” while he was in jail. 

My grandmother, his mother, was angry at my mother stating that “those are family secrets that are not to be talked about.” I found out then that my family has 4 known generations of CSA. My extended family was not willing to be in contact with me for many years and was not supportive of me in my healing from the abuse.  My dad remarried, a woman with three daughters, 2 of whom my dad ended up molesting as well.  

My mom was excommunicated from the JW church for divorcing my dad, apparently CSA is not considered adultery or fornication.  My dad has remained in good standing in the church the whole time.  He was never excommunicated and is still to this day a member in good standing.  He knocks on doors seeking converts, goes to meetings (The JW’s call their gatherings meetings as well) and circuit assemblies, and visits the widows. 

My experience with the church, from the perspective of a young girl was very damaging emotionally.  The acceptance of my dad’s behavior and the punishment that my mom received for leaving a man like him was very confusing. I ended up going back to the JW church only a year after my dad’s arrrest, feeling a tremendous amount of guilt that I wasn’t right with God if I didn’t go to meetings.  I sincerely wanted to be right with God, believed firmly that there was a God and believed that somewhere there was an absolute “truth” about how the world was made, and that God had a plan for His people. 

The church told me that if I wanted to “be right” with God then I would need to move out of my mother’s home as she was excommunicated. This alienated me from my only remaining source of support and unconditional love.  Fortunately for me, I left the JW church and began desperately seeking God in prayer.  I hadn’t read the verse about praying in the closet, but this was my safe place, and I went in the closet, hidden behind the hanging clothes and begged the God of heaven to hear my cry.

I battle with depression and anxiety, I have twice attempted to commit suicide, and easily feel guilty and ashamed for sins that I didn’t commit.  I am not proud of these things that I struggle with, but it is somehow comforting to me to realize that many CSA victims struggle with the same things.  I have come to see suicide as the devil offering me an easy way out and I have decided that I chose life regardless of how difficult it is at times.

My plea right now is that we can have mercy and compassion on those that have endured the same treatment from a “faith” that is doing ungodly acts and claiming to be godly. Even having compassion on those that chose to leave after enduring this kind of treatment. 

I spent 7 years looking for the “church that only taught the bible” I had given up by the time we met a dear older brother in Kake, Alaska.  I thought God didn’t have a church anymore and I wasn’t sure how to obey the scripture about not forsaking fellowship.  My husband and I had tried most of the denominations and come up empty in our souls. 

When we first met the sister workers, I remember thinking that it was like they actually knew Jesus, like he was their brother.  A different spirit is what I saw and experienced even though I did not have the words to express it.  I know for a certainty that what I found and what I experienced caused me to feel like God was near to me instead of far away.  I saw something different in the people and the desire to follow the bible in a very literal sense. 

I personally found life for my soul, not an easy way, but a way of life and hope and vision that I hadn’t seen before.  I personally believe that God can work in other ways, we hear stories of people like the apostle Paul that had amazing conversion experiences, but most often the work of God begins with a quiet simple message that reveals Jesus to a human heart.

Just because God opened up a way in sending Jesus to the earth, doesn’t mean everything in God’s way is of God.  The devil has always been messing with God’s goodness. Jesus said to beware of false prophets and to watch for those coming claiming to be Christ.  If someone claims to be a prophet of God, a worker, and they are abusing children then they are not of God.  The Spirit of God does not hurt children.  Those that do such things are not of the Spirit of God. 

You don’t have the nature of a predator one day and the next day you don’t. Child abuse is a pattern of sin where your conscience is so seared that you are not able or willing to stop yourself from victimizing the dearest of Gods people, the ones we were told to be like.  The root of most abuse against others is a desire to control and dominant. 

A narcissistic personality is often the root cause of abusive behavior.  The thinking that one is above the rules of society and can somehow justify abusing another to satisfy their own need for power and control, is often the mentality that drives abusers.  The predator mentality seeks to satisfy itself at the expense of another, feeding on the pain and suffering of others. It is sick and there is no “cure” for pedophiles, it is the evidence of a seared conscience. 

The approach of encouraging the victim to go to the “brother” in the spirit of Matthew 18 is damaging and results in further abuse.  An abuser will have the upper hand in a conversation with the victim and the result is often that the abuser becomes even more manipulative in order to establish control over the victim.  When the abuser becomes angry, defensive, blames the victim or goes into denial these are red flags that the abuser knows what they are doing and is seeking to reestablish control. 

I was 45 years old when I finally was able to stand up to my father and not feel fear.  He tried to tell me that he wasn’t a pedophile, 30 years after he plead guilty, he was still trying to manipulate me.  I told him that he could tell anyone else those lies, but I was there, and he wasn’t going to change what I know to be true. 

After that conversation with my father, for the first time in my life, I left without feeling fear. Those of you that never knew paralyzing fear as a small child, I longed for your life. Those of you that have loving, kind fathers who know what appropriate touch is, I longed for that in my life.  Those of you that have fathers that know what healthy boundaries look like, be thankful.  These are not things that I was given from my childhood.  I had to learn them as an adult and experience the triggers and anxiety from not being given healthy foundations. I experienced anxiety and fear in having a relationship with God because of the association with him being a Father.  A hope of mine is that, with all that is being revealed regarding the abuse that has been so prevalent, there will be an increase in compassion, an increase in understanding and an increase in awareness of what the cries for help look like.

My biggest concern with what I am seeing right now is a lack of sensitivity to parents concerns when they notice warning signs before actual abuse has happened. I have a situation where a known pedophile has been following my children and I am in the middle of a legal battle to try to get a protective order against him.  Because the workers allowed him to be in the meeting, the court is using that as my giving consent to have him there, even though I did not give consent to him contacting my children. 

Because of how we meet together in different homes and a privately owned convention ground and public gospel meetings, it limits the legal action we can take to enforce the decision to not “allow convicted child molesters” into the meetings.  Each individual elder would have to be willing to refuse to let him in their home, each homeowner on convention grounds would need to be willing to trespass the convicted child molester and we really don’t have much legal grounds to force someone to leave when we are having gospel meetings in a public facility. 

It seems like many of the workers feel that the abuser will abide by the decision and not come to meeting. That has not proved true in our situation.  The abuser showed up only a week after being told to not come to meeting any more. The pattern of child molesters showing up at convention uninvited and unwelcome is not a new pattern. 

What legal recourse are workers / elders / parents willing and able to take to prevent someone from contacting our children.  How can we communicate with the workers, elders, and homeowners when we don’t want someone (for any reason) to not touch or communicate with our children?  How can we know that we will be supported when we try to set boundaries for our children and encourage them to set boundaries?  What ways is the ministry prepared to encourage and enforce individual boundaries?

I hear lots of information about how to report CSA & how to support victims, but I would like to see more interaction with parents and workers as far as how to work together to prevent encounters from even happening.  I have multiple times brought concerns to the workers about inappropriate sexual behavior only to have them minimized and my concern brushed off.  I was told that the behavior was “normal”, if I am uncomfortable with someone else’s sexual behavior, it doesn’t matter if it is “normal”, I have a right to not be exposed to it.

A safe fellowship would openly and honestly address all concerns about inappropriate behavior and would give parents freedom to decide what they are comfortable with knowing that they will not be pressured or shamed or accused of not forgiving. Forgiveness is not the same as trust, we should not be expected to trust anyone with our children. Trust is earned by a period of consistent safe behavior and the parents have the right to decide who to trust and what constitutes safe behavior.

The current advice for parents to go to authorities if there are CSA incidents still leaves a breach in the relationship with the parent and the supporting role of the ministry.  We as part of the fellowship are invited to gospel meetings, invited to convention, and invited into the homes of the elders to partake in these meetings.  We are not facilitating meetings on our own or organizing our own “church” functions, those are largely planned by the workers with the saints assisting.  The parents are being encouraged to go to the authorities if an incident occurs, but the blame and responsibility is still being put on the parent. The current status in our state is that the parents are still being held responsible for “keeping the children safe”.  The ones facilitating the gatherings have the responsibility and burden of making family events safe for children.

Our state organizes a state fair and at events where alcohol is present, the fair has the responsibility of making sure the alcohol is kept where the children are not present.  The fair is held accountable if they do not make these events safe and do not follow the guidelines for keeping the kids safe. This is so much more important when it comes to keeping our children safe from pedophiles. The workers, the ones organizing church functions, are the one who should be bearing the primary responsibility for making all church functions safe for children. 

I love my God, I love His Son, I love my children, I love my family and I love souls.  I have not learned to hate as a result of my experiences, I have learned that love is something worth fighting for, something worth defending and something worth dying for.  I love all the dear souls that are hurting right now, inside the fellowship or outside.  I pray often that God will draw very near whether you are in meetings or have left meetings. God sees every cry and sees the hurting, broken hearts. May we all choose to keep loving and not give in to the power of hate.

In love,

Jennifer F.

2 thoughts on “A parent’s perspective on CSA issues and contact with perpetrators

  1. That was very moving and shows discernment of the spirit of truth. Thank you for sharing.
    The workers need to interact with the church as we have a different life experience. We can give insight that someone that does not have children cannot discern. As parents our lives become entwined with these little souls. Jacob said he would grieve for Joseph till his dying day. We know this dept of love we know the horrendous pain of our children or grandchildren being hurt.
    This paragraph that you wrote is crucial for healing. I hear lots of information about how to report CSA & how to support victims, but I would like to see more interaction with parents and workers as far as how to work together to prevent encounters from even happening. I have multiple times brought concerns to the workers about inappropriate sexual behavior only to have them minimized and my concern brushed off. I was told that the behavior was “normal”, if I am uncomfortable with someone else’s sexual behavior, it doesn’t matter if it is “normal”, I have a right to not be exposed to it.

  2. This is such a good letter. So much I can relate to in what you are sharing and querying, as well as what I experienced myself. I think I will just say amen to this. Thank you for sharing your experience, Jennifer.

Like to make a comment? Your 'name' and comment will be posted here after review by a moderator

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s