New Allegations Of A Church Keeping Quiet About Child Sexual Abuse

SEATTLE - There are new allegations of a Church keeping quiet about child sexual abuse. But this time, it's a different church -- the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Members from Puget Sound and across the country are beginning a campaign to put pressure on Church elders to change.

They call themselves silent lambs -- Jehovah's Witnesses who say they were sexually molested and then forced by Church elders to keep silent.

"Both my sister and I were abused by my stepfather," says Betty, who only wants us to use her first name.

Jehovah's Witnesses require two witnesses to any alleged crime or sin. So as a child, Betty never told anyone. She kept quiet until she found out her little sister was also being molested.

"I knew that if I didn't speak up, nobody was going to help her," says Betty. "I kept having nightmares that she was being molested and I couldn't move, I couldn't help her so I had to do something."

But Betty says when she told church elders she was going to the police, they forced her to stay silent. Although that incident took place in another state, she says now that she is talking about it here in western Washington, she will be kicked out and shunned by her friends and family.

"And it hurts," sobs Betty, "because I really believed in it."

Members of the Ravenna Kingdom Hall, where members of Silent Lambs gathered to protest, did not return phone calls. The Jehovah's Witnesses' New York headquarters says it is reviewing the situation. A spokesman referred us to their Web site, which says it is a victim's right to report abuse to police.

But former elder Bruce Baker says church attorneys pressured him not to report child molestation. He is now part of a national movement trying to force Jehovah's Witnesses to change.

"They basically, in a sense, have protected pedophiles within the group," says Baker. He says Jehovah's Witnesses simply excommunicate members who have molested, rather than turning them over to police and, he says, "they continue to molest children. They should have been reported years ago and they weren't."

The Silent Lambs group hopes Jehovah's Witnesses will take a lesson from the Catholic Church and deal with the issue of sexual abuse openly.

Silent Lambs announced plans Thursday for a nationwide march on Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters to protest policies on child rape cases. The march is scheduled for Sept. 27 in New York City.

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