Part 2 | Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Child Abuse Royal Commission

16 December 2019 | Say Sorry | Two Year Review previous article: Part 1

(10 minute read)

The Child Abuse Royal Commission’s Final Report

On 15 December 2017, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse presented its Final Report to the Governor-General.

The Final Report comprises a ‘preface and executive summary’ and 17 volumes. In addition three other reports were also published, Working With Children Checks (2015), Redress and civil litigation (2015), and Criminal Justice (2017).

Volume 16: Religious Institutions of the Final Report contained over 2500 pages divided amongst 3 books.

Final Report of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and Case Study 29 into Jehovah’s Witnesses (second volume from top), sitting on the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures outside Parliament House, Canberra. Image copyright 2018 by SaySorry.org

In its Brief guide to the Final Report (2017) the Child Abuse Royal Commission explained:

“All children are vulnerable to sexual abuse in institutional contexts. The Royal Commission looked at institutions’ responses to such abuse. We heard from thousands of people who had been sexually abused as children while in an institution. we also heard from experts, government, services and other interested people.

“Through our inquiry we have heard about the sexual abuse of children in institutions covering many decades and we know the risk remains today. To fully examine institutional responses to child sexual abuse and how we can better protect children, the Royal Commission:

      • “held private sessions – for people to tell us their story of abuse in a protected and supportive environment
      • “held public hearings – to examine institutional responses to child sexual abuse
      • “built a policy and research program – to increase our understanding of the nature, cause and impact of child sexual abuse and look at ways to improve children’s safety into the future.”
copy of cover letter sent to Steven Unthank introducing the Final Report (Click to enlarge)

 

To coincide with the release of the Final Report on 15 December 2017, the Chief Executive Officer of the Child Abuse Royal Commission, Mr Philip Reed, issued a letter and information pack to all organisations and individuals who worked or contributed towards the inquiry over the five years. Included with the information pack was a limited release USB version of all volumes of the Final Report and “a DVD of nearly 4000 de-identified stories of survivors of child sexual abuse told to the Royal Commission during private sessions.”

The USB version of the Final Report contained a 1.2GB searchable database that included all 17 volumes of the report, supplemental reports and almost 4000 private session narratives. A non-revocable copyright licence was issued with the database which has allowed Say Sorry to reproduce the searchable database, and all 3955 private session narratives, and to share them with law enforcement agencies, government organisations, and law firms around the world who are investigating institutional child sexual abuse, particularly within the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower Society.

Child Abuse Royal Commission information pack sent to Steven Unthank with a limited release USB version of all volumes of the Final Report and “a DVD of nearly 4000 de-identified stories” as sent out to organisations and persons who contributed to the inquiry over five years.

FINAL REPORT DOWNLOADS

Child Abuse Royal Commission Final Report Volumes 1 – 17 (zip file) 101mb

Child Abuse Royal Commission Case Studies (zip file) 49mb

Child Abuse Royal Commission Supplemental Reports and Papers (zip file) 154mb

National Redress Scheme and Jehovah’s Witnesses

The National Redress Scheme has been created in response to recommendations by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

According to the National Redress Scheme website:

“The National Redress Scheme:

      • acknowledges that many children were sexually abused in Australian institutions
      • recognises the suffering they endured because of this abuse
      • holds institutions accountable for this abuse, and
      • helps people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse gain access to counselling, a direct personal response, and a Redress payment.

“The National Redress Scheme involves:

      • People who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse who can apply for redress.
      • The National Redress Scheme team — Commonwealth Government staff who help promote the Scheme and process applications. They have made this site.
      • Redress Support Services — free, confidential emotional support and legal and financial counselling for people thinking about or applying to the Scheme.

“Participating Institutions that have agreed to provide redress to people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse.

“Independent Decision Makers who consider applications and make recommendations and conduct reviews.”

The Australian Government Budget Papers, published on 9 May 2017, stated that:

“The Government will provide $33.4 million in 2017–18 to establish the Commonwealth Redress Scheme for Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (the Scheme). The Scheme has been designed in close consultation with the Independent Advisory Council on Redress appointed by the Prime Minister in December 2016. The Scheme will commence in March 2018 and start receiving applications from 1 July 2018 from people who were sexually abused as children in Commonwealth institutions. The Commonwealth will continue to engage with States, Territories and non-government institutions to encourage them to join the Scheme to promote a nationally consistent approach to redress. Redress payments will be exempt from income tax.” – Commonwealth of Australia, Budget paper No 2 – Budget measures 2017–18, Canberra, 2017, p 146.

Say Sorry submission to the Joint Select Committee on oversight of the implementation of redress in relation to Jehovah’s Witnesses

In line with the above, the Australian Government extended an invitation to all non-government institutions to join the scheme, including over 800 Jehovah’s Witness religious charities operating within Australia. Not surprisingly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have refused to join, or even indicate whether they will join, the compensation scheme for child abuse survivors.

On 18 March 2019 Say Sorry made a formal submission to the ‘Joint Select Committee on oversight of the implementation of redress related recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’ in response to the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation. The submission discusses a number of reasons why the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their worldwide parent organisation, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc., will not join a redress scheme.

Say Sorry Submission 52 – Senate committee on Redress Scheme – pdf

About ‘Say Sorry’

‘Say Sorry’ exposes and holds accountable the Watch Tower Society and those leaders within the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization that disregard and violate the laws of the land, or that cause religious harm to sections of the community.

Accountability and change has been achieved by the Say Sorry Team through a range of activities including: awareness, education, campaigns, public speaking, conferences, submissions to parliamentary inquiries, assisting with the Australian Child Abuse Royal Commission, working with governmental and statutory authorities, advising law enforcement agencies, lobbying, legal action, and prosecutions.

For the past 11 years the team behind ‘Say Sorry’ have provided up-to-date factual and unique content to international law enforcement agencies, government departments, politicians, inquiries, royal commissions, law firms, and the media. We also provide advice for investigations, civil lawsuits, and prosecutions involving the Watch Tower Society and the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Continued in Part 3 | Private Session Narratives