Rainie’s story of Child Sexual Abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia
| Rainie was not brought up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church but came into the religion himself when, as a teenager, he wanted guidance and structure in his life. It was at a church in Western Australia that Rainie met Arnold, an elder who took him under his wing. ‘I didn’t have any guidance from my parents and that, and then somebody took me in and sort of gave me the discipline needed … I was pretty all over the place. My mum had issues herself and my dad [had] died.’
Arnold was ‘eccentric, everyone knew he was a bit strange’, but he was attentive to Rainie and provided him with a job and the authority that was missing in his life.
‘He took me under his wing and now looking back on it I can see that he groomed me. Gave me a job, gave me everything. And he took advantage of that.’
When Rainie was 15 years old Arnold began molesting him. Rainie started avoiding Arnold but the abuse continued, usually at Church events. When Rainie was 16 years old he reported the abuse to elders of the Church but was told nothing could be done because their policy stated there had to be two witnesses to the abuse for there to be a formal investigation. ‘They basically told me to keep quiet. They said if I spoke about it, it would be slander.’
The abuse escalated until Rainie was 17 years old, at which point there was an incident that he found so traumatising he has been unable to recount it. After this incident the abuse ceased. Not long after, Rainie found the courage to report the abuse to the elders again, this time with a second victim, and because Rainie had been speaking to other Church members, the elders finally acted. Arnold admitted to his offending and was subsequently disfellowshipped from the Church.
‘Back then I was seeing his actions with someone else and because of that it made me stand up and say something … He upgrades young guys. He gives them a job and then that’s the next individual [abused].’
Although Arnold admitted to molesting more than one boy and was subsequently disgraced, there was no apology or compensation provided to Rainie by the Church. ‘Overall the elders didn’t care about me. They were just concerned with protecting the Church. There was no help whatsoever.’ Rainie left the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church not long after.
‘Everyone saw it all around us, happening all the time, they saw him touch me. I even told people that he was touching me and they didn’t do anything about it.’
For nearly 20 years Rainie continued with his life but experienced a breakdown a year ago, and began to talk about what had happened to him. ‘I’m seeing a psychiatrist now and he thinks I’ve got post-traumatic stress disorder.’ Rainie is aware of four other victims of Arnold, and as he understands the elders never reported Arnold to the police, he has made a statement. The matter is now pending.
‘I’ve had time to deal with it and when I broke down I felt so free by being able to actually tell someone about it. And then once it came out I felt really good.’
As a result of the abuse Rainie suffers from insomnia, anxiety, intimacy problems and is a self-confessed ‘workaholic’. ‘Some days I go two or three days without sleep and then I have to go see a doctor … I believe my personality is now a little bit harder to deal with. I have to work for myself, I’m not a big fan of authority. I haven’t got a girlfriend. I’m 35, still single.’
‘My mum still doesn’t know until this day, she still doesn’t know. I haven’t told her yet, I don’t think I should but only because she’ll think it’s her fault, that she didn’t look after me when I was younger.’
Rainie has recently sought advice from a compensation lawyer as he believes the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church were remiss in their duty of care to him and other children in their congregation. The lawyer, however, has warned Rainie that pursuing the Church would be a very difficult task which may not lead to a satisfying outcome.
‘I’m now looking not for compensation, but I was wanting to hold these guys accountable. And yet the lawyer said “No, there’s nothing there really. It’s a lot of work for the same compensation from Victim Support”… I had so much evidence against these guys but it was just an uphill battle. They’ve got so much money that they’ll throw back at trying to deny and avoid all ultimate responsibility.’
‘They still don’t have a policy. I don’t know if you’ve looked in Jehovah’s Witness. Catholics have a policy, they have it on the bottom of their website. Jehovah’s Witnesses, their policy is “Contact the Legal Department”. That’s it, that’s their policy.’
‘It’s only looking back that I actually saw that he was grooming me and all that. You don’t know this when you’re young. It’s only when you hit that adult point, you look back and you go “Wow! Why didn’t the other adults step in? Why didn’t they stop? Why didn’t they do something? Why didn’t they get me help?” None of that.’