Sexual Abuse, the Watchtower Society and Out-of-Court Settlements

Lee Marsh

Many survivors of sexual abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses opt to sue the Watchtower Society and the congregation where the abuse happened. This is a very difficult and trying decision to make and subsequent action to take.

These kinds of lawsuits are not tried in a criminal courtroom, although at one level I think they should be. These kinds of cases are filed as civil law suits against agencies that not only hid the abuse but threatened the victims and their families with disfellowshipping if they reported the abuse to the police or others in the congregation. Many of them were told that if they reported the abuse they would cause divisions within the congregation and would not be submissive.

This effectively acted as a gag order. Victims and their parents are not even permitted to tell extended family members about the abuse, leaving the abuser free to find other victims. When the  abuser is a direct family member, who lives with the victim, the child often winds up being further abused and knows that going to the elders will not stop the abuse; it might make it worse. So there is no protection, not for them and not for others.

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Life After the Cult: Struggles and Successes

Victims to Victors

Panel Discussion form the 2016 ICSA Conference in Dallas TX

Life After the Cult: Struggles and Successes

Families: Then and Now

Growing up in a cult forces people to define family in two ways. First there is the biological family one is born into. Like most people, that family cares for the physical, educational and spiritual needs of children. Sadly, often the emotional and psychological development are ignored as well as any integration into the larger community outside of the group.

The second definition of family in broadened to the family of cult members, where often people are referred to as brothers and sisters. Socialization outside of the biological family is limited to members of the cult group. There is strong pressure that socialization will not be permitted outside of this group.

It is within these two families that most cult children are raised. Their beliefs and values are controlled by the larger group and those who break the rules about associating outside of the larger group can be disciplined or even cast out. This serves to control the young and maintain their allegiance to the group. They get very little information from outside the group other than what they might pick up in school. Children are taught from a very young age to ignore any information that counters the cult beliefs they are being raised with. And they are taught to shun other children within the group who are not meeting certain standards of behavior. Recently there has been a greater move towards home schooling which serves to isolate the children even more from the larger community outside of the cult.

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What is Spirituality?

I am not talking about religion or a religious belief. Although I sincerely hope you will carefully think about any belief system you choose to get involved with.

Spirituality is something quite different from religion or a religious belief. In fact, there are many definitions of spirituality. The University of Minnesota reports:

Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all. People may describe a spiritual experience as sacred or transcendent or simply a deep sense of aliveness and interconnectedness.

Some may find that their spiritual life is intricately linked to their association with a church, temple, mosque, or synagogue. Others may pray or find comfort in a personal relationship with God or a higher power. Still others seek meaning through their connections to nature or art. Like your sense of purpose, your personal definition of spirituality may change throughout your life, adapting to your own experiences and relationships. (1)

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Family after Leaving

So often after leaving the Witnesses, we believe that we are alone. We have left all our Witness friends and family and because we had no one outside, we really feel alone in the world. I know when I left in 1985, I felt very alone.

Some of us had extended family who had never joined the Witnesses or for some who had left before us. We may feel shy about contacting them, especially if we avoided them or even shunned them while we were Witnesses. We may still believe we are required to shun those who left before us. We may feel ashamed about leaving, especially if we were disfellowshipped.

I think though, that we are ignoring a great untapped source of support. Extended family

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Sexual Recovery after the Cult

Lee Marsh Oct. 19, 2016

In college I took several course on human sexuality. The very first course was on the psychology of human sexuality and the professor started it off by saying that people were much more comfortable having sex than they are talking about it.  She then proceeded to ask the class for all the names for sexual bodies parts that they could name. Whoa. I had probably only heard of 10 of them while she went on to cover the two boards at the front of the class and moved on to another 1 ½ boards along the side of the room. Needless to say the course was an eye-opener for me especially since I was newly out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

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Undue Influence and Watchtower’s Blood Transfusion Policy

By Malcomb Landis with help from Lee Elder (first posted on Open Minds Foundation)

arm-with-needle_wwp40xnlPeople are far more influenced by situations and social pressure than they realize. In fact, the power of our free will can evaporate when someone is being unduly influenced by a cult-like group, or, in my case, the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs). To help you understand why I believe this, I want to share my story about Watchtower’s blood transfusion policy.

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Helping Families Cope with a Cult Member

Just Like the Watchtower
Interesting things that I learned at the 2016 ICSA Conference
By Lee Marsh on August 16, 2016

One of the most interesting things I learned at an ICSA conference this summer was that 80% of cult members leave between 5 to 7 years after they were recruited into the cult. This statistic was shared during Rachel Bernstein’s presentation.

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Special Needs for Second Generation Ex-Cult Members

By Lee Marsh on July 20, 2016

One of the highlights of the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) conference that I attended in July 2016 was Lorna Goldberg’s presentation about the unique needs of second generation ex-cult members, which includes ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. The title of her talk was Some Considerations Working with Former Cult Members.

Lorna was quick to remind her audience that in the ex-cult member community there is a growing awareness about the special needs of second generation ex-cultists (SGAs) – those who were born in or raised in a cult compared to first-generation former cultists (FGAs) – those who joined.

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