Ruben Eli’s story of Child Sexual Abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia 

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| ‘My daughter was sexually abused when she was six years old by the son of the pastor of the community church … which my family attended at the time. When my daughter disclosed the sexual abuse, she was disbelieved and told by the Church [that] she was demonised. When my daughter disclosed to the police, she was disbelieved.’

Ruben told the Commissioner, ‘[My daughter] is hurting badly … The mother has told her in no uncertain terms, not to [divulge] the truth to the Royal Commission or to anyone. [The mother] even said to me recently … “Why are you so insistent on going to the Royal Commission?” I said, “Well, it’s the only place that the story is going to be heard and believed”. And she said, “Why don’t you learn to forgive”’.

In the 1960s, when he was 19, Ruben joined a community church. In his 40s he joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses. After 15 years with them, he spent seven years as a member of a Seventh Day Adventist church. He now belongs to a Home Fellowship group.

Ruben has experienced, ‘ongoing persecution from the community church … and subsequent experiences with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventist churches reinforced my concerns regarding child sexual abuse of children, and inappropriate responses and cover up’.

When Ruben tried to report the sexual abuse of children in all three institutions, he was victimised by elders and congregants. ‘My house was monitored … two of the [Jehovah’s Witnesses] elders came into the Seventh Day Adventist church, when we were having a full service, demanding that I came with them …’

Ruben believes that the actions by members of these churches led to him experiencing severe financial difficulties, and his character has been tainted.

When he left the Jehovah’s Witnesses church, ‘two of the members came from the governing body, without even letting me know, and they grilled me there in my home’. Ruben told the Commissioner that the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that there is a passage in the Bible that permits them to lie, in order to cover things up, for the greater good.

In a written submission to the Royal Commission, Ruben wrote, ‘Overall I feel let down by the response of the community church, police, Child Protection, the legal system and the government, that despite my daughter’s and others’ disclosure of sexual abuse occurring within the church, it was denied and covered up …

‘Despite numerous attempts by me, to seek justice for my daughter and others, nothing was done. The perpetrators were not brought to justice, and relief was not offered to those who suffered.’

The stress of fighting for justice for his daughter has had significant impacts on Ruben. It has led to a marriage breakdown, and has affected his physical health. ‘My doctor commented to me, “It’s a miracle you are still alive”.’

When he was involved with the three churches, Ruben ‘was approached by various individuals expressing their concerns of child sexual assault occurring within these churches. Their voices were stymied because … if they came forward they would be disfellowshipped and ostracised’. Ruben was disfellowshipped by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

‘I have experienced feelings of helplessness and powerlessness in my ongoing search for acknowledgement and justice from the church, police, Child Protection, legal system, and government officials.’

Ruben told the Commissioner, ‘Somebody said to me once, “You can never talk the talk unless you’ve walked the walk”. When you get your own daughter molested, and I’ve heard so many people say, “Oh, yes, but maybe your daughter deserved it”, you know … She was six … Nobody deserves to be [sexually abused]’.

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