MEDIA RELEASE | National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse

20 October 2018

Canberra, Australia

On Monday 22 October, Steven Unthank and Lara Kaput, representatives from SaySorry.org and ex-members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have been invited to attend the formal apology being made on behalf of the Australian Government to victims and survivors affected by institutional child sexual abuse.

During the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, journalist Sandra Sully reported that the commission had “…exposed what might be the worst cultural sexual abuse cover-up within a church that we’ve ever seen. That church is the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”[1]

The commission’s findings attributed the Jehovah’s Witnesses failures to harmful high control policies, a lack of females in leadership roles, and extreme shunning.[2]

Worse than the Catholic Church? “Yes,” according to Lara Kaput.

To coincide with the National Apology, SaySorry.org has published on its website ‘44 Stories of Child Sexual Abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia’ at https://saysorry.org/stories/. Released by the commission, the stories are from people who spoke with a Commissioner during a private session of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Quote attributed to Lara Kaput (spokesperson for SaySorry.org):

“The Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia had a reported 1,800 child sexual abuse victim files[3] within a membership of 68,000. By contrast, the Catholic Church in Australia had a reported 4,444 child sexual abuse victim files[4] within a membership of 5.3 million.”

Quote attributed to Steven Unthank (spokesperson for SaySorry.org):

“The Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd., and the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses have refused to apologise or say sorry to the child abuse victims within the religion in Australia. They have still refused to join the Redress Scheme. Adding further pain to child sexual abuse victims, the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses have publicly declared allegations of child sexual abuse ‘apostate-driven lies.’”

FOOTNOTES

[1] https://youtu.be/0uSeuWneHUA

[2] Final Report: Volume 16, Religious institutions Book 1, page 53. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/religious-institutions

[3] https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies/case-study-29-jehovahs-witnesses

[4] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-06/child-sex-abuse-royal-commission:-data-reveals-catholic-abuse/8243890