Holly Folk Speaks to Child Sexual Abuse Among Jehovah’s Witnesses.
February 14, 2021
Out of nowhere a scholar has appeared who talks dispassionate sense on the subject of child sexual abuse as it relates to Jehovah’s Witnesses and is unswayed by secular jingoism. Are/were you a Jehovah’s Witness who was abused as a child? That is very bad, Holly Folk agrees, but she cautions such ones that they must be on guard not to be abused a second time. It may happen at the hands of those who mostly feign interest in their trauma so as to enlist them in their greater goal of taking down a religion they hate. “All I ask is that you consider, for a moment, that you might be being used again, by people who care little about achieving justice for victims,” she says.
“Both official reports and media often confuse ‘institutional’ abuse in religious settings and abuse happening in families that happen to be religious.” It is a statement as pithy yet complete as anything I have written in several chapters of TrueTom vs the Apostates! She instantly cuts to the chase of the matter, whereas I pussyfoot around forever before arriving at an echo not quite so well put.
She pinpoints the flaw of the ARC’s Case Study 29, which I also attempted, but did not put it so concisely. Every other case was an investigation of institutional abuse within an agency, sometimes religious, sometimes secular. Case Study 29 was the only investigation of a religion itself. It is unique. It was rammed into the ARC agenda mostly at the behest of ex-Witnesses who hounded them relentlessly until they overrode their normal sound judgment. It plainly doesn’t fit into the overall program. JWs have no institutional settings, as did all the other agencies on the hot seat. Next move will be to hold Walmart responsible for abuse that has occurred among their shoppers.
It’s why you don’t sign on to a redress scheme tailor made for situations of institutional abuse that you don’t have. You wait for a redress scheme tailor made for situations of abuse that occur among Walmart’s customers. That you can sign on to it as a reasonable parallel.
In a second article (it is a four-part series) she criticizes the studies of the Netherlands and Belgium. I hadn’t gone there, assuming they would be no more than a rehash of the ARC. They were all that and less, she writes, so slipshod and lacking in any sound methodology of social science that it will be a scandal if they are relied upon for policy. Yet they might be, she opines, goaded on by the sheer noise that comes from Witness detractors, mostly ex-Witnesses settling the score, and given false credibility by the prestige of the Atlantic journal.
As a dispassionate outsider, not a Witness herself, she can do what is very difficult for any Witness to do, self included. She can bypass the reputation of a religion as something immaterial and focus on the greater affront to fight child sexual abuse. It is all diluted, she charges, when ex-members redirect rage against child sexual abuse to a target that is essentially a non-factor. The Witness religion overall does pretty well at fighting the perversion, she writes. I mean, who else [my contribution, not hers] gathers every member in the world (at the 2017 Regional Conventions) to consider detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse might occur so that parents, obviously the first line of defense, can be on their guard? If there are sleepovers, if there are tickling sessions, if there are unsupervised trips to the restroom, if anyone displays unusual interest in your child—all these things were identified as potential red flags, not conclusive in themselves, but things to keep you eye on.
Witnesses will find her tack hard to copy. Their first response will be violent indignation at these patent efforts to undermine the religious organization they hold in high regard, and in the process, they are likely to come across as tone-deaf to the suffering of victims. But Ms. Folk has no skin in the game, so she can focus directly to how this vendetta of ex-JWs undermines efforts to fight child sexual abuse. She can express indignation that those with an anti-religious agenda squander resources that could be far better employed elsewhere.
Some villain on Twitter accosted me the moment I put the subject out there: “So, NO child is EVER separated from its parent(s) for ANY reason for religious purposes (or within a religious setting) by JWs... is that what you are saying?”
Well, duh—no. But NO child EVER separated is a far cry from ALL children ROUTINELY separated, which is the case with other groups Witnesses are compared to, as though apples to apples. Sunday Schools, youth camps and clubs—alas, they have proved to be breeding grounds for child sexual abuse. Witnesses do not have such settings. What! Do they chain their children at home so that no outside contact is possible? Does any balanced person? Imagine the uproar if they did.
Holly Folk also carries the “advantage” of being a survivor herself. “How would you know what it feels like to be abused?” people can (and have) said to me. I don’t. But she does. It gives her a freeness of speech that no non-victim will possess.
The closest I ever came to abuse was when I was walking up and down auto dealer row prior to my 16th birthday, anticipating the used car I might buy once I had my license. A certain slimeball approached and tried to befriend me. “They keep the really good cars in back,” he told me, eager to go there. Even as I evaded him, it was not due to my street smarts or lack of naïveté. I was as sheltered a lad as ever existed, with no specific knowledge of even what a child abuser was. (an ignorance not uncommon at the time.) I just knew that you don’t put the really good cars in the back—you put them up front where people can see them.
They are very thorough articles that Holly writes. Press on the links:
I like it also that Holly Folk does not fear to take on the “money tree” that is lawyers. This doesn’t speak for or against victims in itself, of course, just the inherent possibility for abuse of such as system. In my community, there are so less than 7 accident injury firms that constantly advertise. Not to mention about twice that number that advertise over various carcinogens, medical treatments, devices, and of course, sexual abuse claims. Almost always the Catholic Church is targeted, and the Boy Scouts. Sometimes I hear a catch-all of any abuse in any religious setting.
I get it that injured people seek redress. Still, the sheer cacaphony of legal noise will strike most as overkill—a massive societal transfer of funds with lawyers netting a third. Don’t think the profit motive is absent with the Witness situation, Ms. Folk says, just like it is not in any other. It is no different than defense companies cooking up scenarios of peril so as to sell their goods, or pharmaceutical companies overplaying threats to our health for the same reason, or for that matter, any merchandiser doing whatever it must to expand the market for its goods or services.
”My lawyer got me 5 million dollars, 23 times what the insurance company said.” Such are the ads that I hear. What I do not hear is, “My neighbors all celebrated with me. Then they opened their insurance premium bills.” Where does anyone think the money comes from? The insurance company itself? They just pass the cost along. They have to, in order to survive.
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