On May 23, a Delaware man was arrested and charged in connection with an alleged sexual assault that occurred at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on 395 Boxwood Road in Red Lion in 2005. 25-year-old John Logan Haugh has been charged with two first-degree misdemeanor counts of indecent assault of a person less than 13 years of age.
According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by York Area Regional Officer Scott E. Longnecker in October 2017, police were notified of the sexual assault from a Childline referral. According to the Childline report, the victim was 4 years old at the time of the assault and her family was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The affidavit goes on to claim that while at the Kingdom Hall for outreach activities, the victim’s mother left the victim with the congregation and went to use the restroom. Haugh then allegedly brought the victim to a secluded area and sexually assaulted her. The victim’s father began searching for his daughter and found her and Haugh in a room together, with the victim on Haugh’s lap and Haugh allegedly touching the girl inappropriately under her clothing.
The victim’s family notified church elders, whom they believed to be mandated reporters. Court documents say that Haugh has allegedly sexually assaulted other children. However, the elders did not report this incident to the police.
This case is not the only instance of sexual abuse coverup allegations against the Jehovah’s Witnesses in York County. There have been several lawsuits filed against the group across the country, as well.
A Philadelphia Inquirer article alleged that Jehovah’s Witnesses elders consistently cover up sexual abuse of members’ children, even shunning those members and victims for speaking out and reporting sexual abuse.
In February 2017, a Spring Grove woman filed a lawsuit and reached an undisclosed settlement with the organization. The woman accused the church of failing to inform the authorities after the family reported the abuse to the church.
The Inquirer article also mentions a York woman who says she was molested as a teenager by a couple she knew through the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent helps the survivors of sexual violence find justice and demand accountability from the organizations whose negligence contributed to the abuse. Here is his perspective on the legal options for survivors of sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witnesses community:
Over the past few years, the media has been shedding light into the problem of child sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witnesses community, with several allegations that the religious group has pressured victims to stay silent. However, many of these survivors have been fighting back by filing lawsuits against their abusers and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The group has policies that discourage church elders from reporting abuse to authorities, including a two-witness rule which requires two eyewitnesses to the abuse before an allegation is reported to the police. These coverups allow sexual predators to continue practicing in the church and sometimes may lead to other victims being abused by the same perpetrators.
This coverup culture is a form of negligence by the church. Survivors who have struggled to find justice through the organization may have legal recourse by filing a lawsuit against the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
If you’d like to learn more about your family’s legal options after your or a loved one was sexually abused in the Jehovah’s Witnesses or another religious organization, we advise speaking to an experienced Jehovah’s Witness sexual abuse lawyer.