Daisie’s story of Child Sexual Abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia
| ‘I couldn’t heal, I couldn’t forget what they did to me.’
Born overseas in the early 1970s, Daisie was about 11 when she and her family arrived in a small town in Queensland. Not long after their arrival, the family joined the local Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation and Daisie’s father became an elder.
The family home was ‘not a happy place’, and Daisie described her father as ‘power hungry, authoritarian and dictatorial’. He was often violent especially towards his wife, who Daisie thought was ‘weak’ and who often overlooked problems within the family. When their father began to sexually abuse both Daisie and her sister, their mother ‘shrugged her shoulders’ and did nothing.
Over a three year period, Daisie and her sister were sexually abused by their father. They couldn’t tell anybody, partly because they were afraid of their father and also because Daisie’s paternal grandfather had previously sexually abused her.
However Daisie’s sister did disclose the abuse to a friend, after which the friend’s mother telephoned Daisie’s mother and recounted what she’d heard. Following this, three church elders came to the house to interview Daisie and her sister, but in spite of the girls being ‘interrogated’, nothing was done except that their father was removed from the house for one week.
‘[The Jehovah’s Witnesses are] attracted to their ethos which is, “It’s private, we’ll sort it out and you can do whatever you like and you’ll only face our justice”. Their justice is the Jehovah’s justice and all the wrongdoing can be sorted out in their organisation. All they have to do is suffer a bit of shame and indignity for five minutes and it’s forgotten.’
Daisie was told by the elders that her father had been ‘attacked by the devil and had now repented and been forgiven’. Her father continued to attend the church and her family refused to speak about the matter further. The sexual abuse, however, continued.
At the age of 13, Daisie disclosed the details of the abuse to her friend and neighbour, Fiona. But instead of notifying police, Fiona dropped her off alone at the police station. Daisie told an officer about her father but ‘shut’ down after he called her parents. They responded to the officer by saying that Daisie was an ‘attention seeker’ and spoke lies. The police officer told her if she didn’t go home he’d lock her in a cell and she would be put in an ‘awful children’s home’.
When she was in her mid-teens, Daisie was sent to live with her grandparents. She believes church elders advised her parents to do this because they were afraid she’d have further contact with police.
She never returned to her parents, but lived ‘here and there’ and was passed from ‘man to man’. Daisie described her late teenage years as a ‘blur’. When she was 17, she was raped by three men and said she was ‘lucky to have not been killed’. She then married a ‘drug-addicted, violent man’, and eventually left him and got as far away as she could.
Throughout her adult years, Daisie has experienced panic attacks and flashbacks, as well as depression and anxiety. She’d tried to end her life when she was in her mid-20s, and explained that she’d had a ‘wild’ lifestyle and didn’t ‘calm down’ until she was in her 30s when she met her current partner and they ‘started a life together’.
Daisie made a decision in her 20s to sever all ties with her family and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She maintained an ‘on and off’ relationship with her sister but it’s been difficult because despite being ‘so damaged’, her sister still maintains a close relationship with their mother.
In the early 2000s, Daisie’s sister reported their father to the police because she believed he was abusing her daughter. He was charged with child sexual abuse, but took his own life before court proceedings commenced.
Daisie said she didn’t want anything further to do with making reports to the police or to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
‘I’m not against religion. I’m against cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses that exist, in my mind, for control and authority … [The religion] is not a spiritual place to heal. It’s manipulation in every way.’