In October 2014, a Dallas-based law firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of six individuals from Jehovah's Witness congregations in Dallas, Plano, and Greenville, who say that they were sexually abused as children during the late 1980s and 1990s. These unnamed plaintiffs were between ages 4 and 14 when the alleged abuse occurred.
The lawsuit names the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc and the local congregations, along with Reginald Jackson and another unknown individual who were elders tasked with overseeing the congregations in this region during the period that the alleged abuse happened.
The lawsuit alleges that Jackson threatened the victims and their families if they spoke to anyone outside of the church about the allegations. In the Jehovah's Witness community, victims of abuse are told to keep these matters internal. Elders are also discouraged from reporting suspected abuse to law enforcement unless there were at least two witnesses to the abuse.
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of sexual exploitation and abuse, along with negligence and fraud because congregation members allegedly misrepresented themselves as trustworthy people.
Attorney contributor Marc Lenahan represents survivors of sexual violence, helping them get the justice and support they deserve in civil court. We have asked him to add some information on the legal options available to those who have been sexually abused in the Jehovah's Witness community:
The culture of secrecy described in the Texas Jehovah's Witnesses lawsuit is found in JW congregations across the United States. In many cases, congregation members are permitted to return to the church after being accused of sexual assault simply by expressing remorse. This refusal to notify law enforcement of suspected child sex abuse enables many abusers to continue abusing innocent victims and amounts to negligence.
If you or a loved one has been sexually assaulted by a fellow Jehovah's Witness congregation member or church elder, you can learn more about your legal options by speaking to one of our dedicated sexual abuse survivor attorneys.