AO Advocates recently campaigned alongside AAWA and a number of survivors of abuse to raise awareness of child sexual abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses organisation. They handed in a letter to 10 Downing Street highlighting the Jehovah's Witnesses' reliance on the so-called ‘two-witness rule’, which means the leaders of the group will only act on allegations of child sex abuse when there are at least two witnesses – which by definition excludes almost all acts of abuse. The letter calls for Ministers to introduce mandatory reporting to the police whenever an allegation of child sex abuse is made within the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Kathleen Hallisey, Senior Associate at AO Advocates, said the Royal Commission that examined institutional child sexual abuse in Australia revealed thousands of victims - and said she expected there to be hundreds of ‘silent’ victims within the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the UK due to the two-witness rule. While the government should not intervene in private religious matters, child abuse is a crime whoever commits it; and mandatory reporting to police of any reports of abuse, among Jehovah’s Witnesses or other religious groups, would help counteract the impulse for organisations to cover up scandal and for survivors to feel fear and shame.
Press coverage of the campaign can be viewed here.