First child sexual abuse case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses won today

A woman who suffered horrific sexual abuse from age 4 to age 9 by a Ministerial Servant in the Jehovah’s Witnesses has been awarded significant damages in a civil case against the organisation.  Her abuse was brought to an end when the perpetrator, Peter Stewart, now dead, was sent to prison for abusing two other children.

Prior to abusing Amelia the perpetrator had admitted to the sexual abuse of another child in the congregation.  No protective measures were put in place by the local congregation or the Watch Tower Society of Great Britain, the body that governs congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the UK, to prevent other children from coming into contact with him. If proper safeguarding steps had been taken Amelia would have been saved from years of severe sexual abuse by a known perpetrator.

Amelia says: “The procedures the Jehovah’s Witnesses follow for dealing with child sexual abuse are the same as it was when I was abused.  Even having a Ministerial Servant sent to prison was not enough of an incentive for them to implement change.  This sends a clear message about the importance Jehovah’s Witnesses place on child protection.  The one thing I would like to come from this case is that they will feel forced to change their child safeguarding procedures.”

Ann Olivarius, Managing Partner of AO Advocates who represented Amelia in the case, said: “This is the first case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the UK.  What is perhaps most striking is not just the level and frequency of the abuse but the fact that Peter Stewart admitted sexually abusing another child to the elders in Amelia’s congregation before he began abusing Amelia. Yet the elders did nothing to prevent him from having contact with Amelia and as a result her ordeal lasted for several years”.

Read the full story and an interview with Amelia (not her real name) and, Kathleen Hallisey a Senior Associate at AO Advocates on the BBC website.