Discussion in 'In The News' started by wallflower, Feb 4, 2013.
Mr Rodney Spinks gave the final talk at the regional convention/district convention last year. He was the brother who said that "we should go to the bunker when directed to do so. We should be ready to die for our faith when we get there."
What he didn't disclose from the platform is that he has been involved with the Australian Royal Commission. He didn't disclose that the law authorities will be looking for elders who are paedophiles or who have concealed a paedophile in the congregation. The penalty for this under the Australian law is imprisonment. It is not the death penalty.
If you scroll down to the bottom of the page on this link, you can see where the opening address can be opened as a document or as a pdf file.
This information is taken from Angus Stewart’s opening address from Case 54.
Angus Stewart is the Senior Legal Counsel for the Australian Royal Commission into Child Abuse.
On 16 January 2017, the Royal Commission wrote to Watchtower Australia requesting that a member of the Governing Body be available to give evidence at this hearing whether in person or by video link. On 31 January 2017, Watchtower Australia informed the Royal Commission that a member of the Governing Body would not be available to give evidence. That is a matter of considerable regret given the degree to which the Australia Branch is subject to the control of the Governing Body on matters of policy, procedure and practice.
The Royal Commission will hear evidence that of 17 allegations of child sexual abuse that the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia have received since Case Study 29, they have reported 15 allegations to the authorities. In both cases that were not reported, the adult survivors of historical abuse elected not to report and the Jehovah’s Witness organisation abided their decisions.
In July 2016, the Royal Commission published ten elements which should be present in a child safe institution (the child safe elements.) Those elements are that:
a) Child safety is embedded in institutional leadership, governance and culture;
b) Children participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously;
c) Families and communities are informed and involved;
d) Equity is promoted and diversity respected;
e) People working with children are suitable and supported;
f) Processes to respond to complaints of child sexual abuse are child focused;
g) Staff are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children safe through continual education and training;
h) Physical and online environments minimize the opportunity for abuse to occur;
i) Implementation of child safe standards is continuously reviewed and improved; and
j) Policies and procedures document how the institution is child safe.
The Royal Commission is expected to hear evidence that the Jehovah’s Witnesses consider that many of the child safe elements have limited application to the Jehovah’s Witnesses because the organization does not operate or sponsor programs or activities which separate children from their families, nor does it have any positions that provide access to children without their parents. As a result, the Jehovah’s Witnesses will give evidence that the organization does not maintain or operate the “institutional settings” that present opportunities for predatory sexual behaviour.
Since the Royal Commission’s commencement, 57 private sessions have been held with survivors of child sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witness organization.
Since 2015, the Royal Commission has received more than 1,165 items of correspondence in relation to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Australia. This correspondence has been received from all over the world including from the United Kingdom, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Canada and United States of America. The correspondence has been overwhelmingly critical of the Jehovah Witness’ institutional response to child sexual abuse.
More information to come...........
Are the elders STILL not reporting child abuse to the police? Or are they just talking about the way it was before the case?
Mr O’Brien has a new assignment serving in the Papua New Guinea branch. He was formerly the Branch Director of the Australian Bethel. Mr Winston Payne is now the Branch Director of the Australian Bethel.
Mr Stewart asked if the Watchtower Society in Australia, had taken advice from external sources for the purpose of amending the policies and procedures on dealing with child sexual abuse. Mr O’Brien replied that the Watchtower Society in Australia, had not done so.
Mr O’Brien stated that the Watchtower Society Australia, was working on a policy statement which would be made available for all members of the congregation.
There was a discussion about the matter of reporting child sexual abuse to the authorities.
Mr O’Brien said that it has never been the practice of the Watchtower Society, to not report allegations of abuse.
Mr Stewart pointed out that there have been 1006 perpetrators that weren’t reported over the last 50 years.
Mr O’Brien replied that the Watchtower Society Australia would report if mandatory reporting were in place. He replied that the organisation doesn’t do the reporting but it is the elders who should report.
Justice McClellan asks Mr O’Brien: What obligation do elders have, if they hear about a clear allegation from an adult survivor but there are not 2 witnesses to the abuse?
Mr Spinks says that since the first round of hearings, that incidents have been reported to the police authorities. This change in procedure has not been included in the policy documentation.
Justice McClellan asked: What will be the situation in 5 years time? If changes in policy and procedure aren’t documented now, is it possible for things to go back to what they were? Is it possible to slide back into the habit of not reporting abuse to the police?
Mr Stewart asked about the scenario where an adult child reports child abuse within in the family, while still having younger siblings in the home, who are still at risk.
Mr Spinks said that the elders would contact the Legal Department for advice.
Mr Stewart asked Mr Spinks: why is everything legalised? Why not make it a standard practice to report abuse to the police? Other organizations do this.
Mr Spinks replied that they do report and that this was put in the policy document.
There was a discussion on the definition of the age of consent. They also talked about whether a minor could be found “guilty” of sexual misconduct if they were close to being of legal age. The age of consent is 16, in Australia.
Mr Stewart asked about the 2 witness rule. Mr O’Brien said that this rule was in the Scriptures and could not be changed.
Mr Stewart said that when looking through the documentation and correspondence from the Watchtower Society Australia, there were conflicting references and documents which were outdated. The outdated references and documentation have been superseded but are presented as if they are the current policy, procedure and standard. There is confusion as to what exactly is the current policy.
Mr Stewart asked the question outright: What exactly is your policy?
Mr Spinks said that there is a new edition of the “Shepherd The Flock” publication to be released in the future, for elders.
Next they covered the subject of shunning. Mr Stewart asked: If a survivor of child abuse is not disfellowshipped, does that mean that they are not shunned?
Mr O’Brien agreed with that. Then Mr O’Brien said that if a survivor disassociates and leaves, then they are shunned. The survivor knows the consequences of leaving. They choose to leave the congregation. They are old enough when they get baptised to know the consequences of leaving. They are near adult age when they get baptised.
Mr Stewart asked: What has changed since this was discussed in the first round of hearings?
Mr Spinks said that survivors are not shunned.
Mr Stewart said if they disassociate, then they are shunned.
Justice McClellan said that some survivors have to leave for the sake of their own mental health. But the consequences of that is that they are shunned and lose their family and social network. He said that no-one else does that in society.
Justice McClellan pressed the point again and said that this is cruel behaviour.
Justice McClellan explained the process of how a survivor can feel that they are not receiving any support. If that situation continues for a period of time and the survivor isn’t receiving any support, this can result in the survivor feeling that they have to leave and disassociate.
Mr Spinks said that they follow what the Scriptures say.
Mr Stewart asked: Why is it necessary for the congregation to shun a survivor who disassociates? Why can’t they stay and get support?
Mr Spinks said that the survivor makes their own choice.
(I’m just going to make a comment of my own here - from a psychological angle, that response from Mr Spinks sounded just like “victim blaming.” That’s where a victim is blamed for what happened to them. It’s an attempt to make a victim feel as if it is their fault. I see this frequently in my line of work.)
Mr Stewart raised the point about the redress scheme.
Mr O’Brien said that the Watchtower Society Australia was in the process of working on the redress policy, but still had some questions to work out.
Mr O’Brien said that the Watchtower Society Australia wanted to know if the redress scheme was based on the number of case files.
Mr O’Brien also felt that not all of the abuse cases fell into the “institutional” setting.
Justice McClellan said that the cases would be handled on a “case by case” individual arrangement and they would gauge how much Watchtower Society Australia policy and procedure had contributed to each case.
Justice McClellan also reminded Mr O’Brien that the Watchtower Society Australia falls within the Australian Royal Commission’s criteria for institutional abuse.
Mr O’Brien said that the Watchtower Society Australia had not ruled out the redress scheme but they were still looking at it.
Mr Stewart asked about the role of women in the decision making processes regarding handling child sexual abuse cases.
Mr O’Brien can be involved in supporting a survivor and may pass on an allegation, but they cannot have a role in the decision making process.
In the next part of the hearing, Mr Spinks and Mr O’Brien were briefly interviewed by another one of the commissioners on the panel. I will have to look up his name as I don’t know what it is, off the top of my head.
This commissioner told Mr Spinks and Mr O’Brien that they gave a pastoral response. Mr O’Brien didn’t know what the word “pastoral” meant.
(Just putting my own comment here – Curl my hair!!!! Are ya kidding me?)
Anyway, the commissioner went on to explain that he meant that the 2 men had given a religious response about shepherding the flock.
The commissioner asked if the organisation had helped survivors with getting therapeutic assistance?
Mr O’Brien said that the organisation would assist under the redress scheme.
The commissioner asked if the organisation is providing any current assistance? Or were they going to wait until 2018? He pointed out the importance of providing survivors with support, empathy and understanding for what they had endured.
Mr O’Brien said that the organisation had sought external legal advice so that the organisation could help survivors.
At one point, Mr O’Brien read the scripture at Isaiah 33:22 – “For Jehovah is our Judge, Jehovah is our Lawgiver, Jehovah is our King. He is the one who will save us.”
(My own comment here – I think the motive for Mr O’Brien reading out that scripture to all of the commissioners on the panel, was to show them that Watchtower Society Australia does not feel that it has any obligation to follow the direction from the Australian Royal Commission.)
Also, the Watchtower Society Australia plans to publish a new release – it is supposed to be released in the near future. It is a procedural handbook for congregation members on how to handle child abuse cases. This will be for Australian publishers only.
In summary, it looked to me as if Mr Spinks and Mr O’Brien objected to almost all of the questions.
Mr Stewart would ask a simple question: Is that in your policy? What exactly is your policy? Mr Stewart had to do a lot of redirecting back to the original question so as to keep the hearing on track and focused on the issue of child safety.
It seems from the way Mr Spinks and Mr O'Brien were talking, that for the present, the elders are reporting child abuse to the police, at this point in time. I guess time will tell as to how long they continue to do so.
Yes, the idea of the second hearing was to compare how the policy and procedures have changed and to see if elders and the Watchtower Society are doing things differently. The Watchtower Society will still be held accountable for the fact that it did not report the 1006 paedophiles in its ranks prior to 2015.
I just don't get why it took an Australian Royal Commission to get our organization to open their eyes! If I knew that child abuse was going on I would immediately contact the police! How can an elder--a shepherd of the congregation--fail to do this? It's all so disheartening.
Poor elders, they are responsible for all, but the Watchtower for nothing. Pontius Pilate is back. Let's prepare the water for the Society!
It really is disturbing that so few JWs understand the sex abuses going on within their own religion due to bad policies!! I have had conversations with JWs in my family that had no knowledge of the Australian committee or Candace Conti in America. They were shocked and in disbelief. They didn't realize that elders were instructed not to go the police for many years. They assumed that elders were "mandated reporters" like teachers or psychologists and always had to get police involved. I had to keep saying, "That's not the way things have been run." Even after all this controversy there has hardly been a peep from the Governing Body. All Jehovah's Witnesses should be made aware of the org's policies on handling sexual abuse...especially after these high profile cases. The radio silence from the organization is very telling...they care more about damage control and keeping up appearances than safety for congregants. It's all so upsetting.
I've had the same conversations with brothers and sisters, also.
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I haven't posted on this thread for some time - at this point, it looks as if the Australian Royal Commission is due to submit its final recommendations to the Australian Government in late December.
This is the link to the monthly broadcast for November, 2017.
At the 0.53 mark, brother Gary Breaux explains that the Watchtower Society will not be changing its policy on using the "two witness" rule.
This information is now in the public domain.
The brother forgot to add that the Australian Royal Commission made a suggestion that the policy could be based on the scripture at Deuteronomy 22:25-27 (where a person was raped and a sentence was passed on the perpetrator, on the basis of one witness.)
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