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Views on Child Abuse

Baptist on Incest

Sin and the sanctity of human life

In Leviticus 18, God clearly states his hatred of incest. He points out that incestuous relationships typified the degradation of the societies God was driving out before the Israelites and actually defiled the very land they lived in. Israelites who practiced incest were to be cut off from their people. The Apostle Paul in his letter to a New Testament church (1 Corinthians 5) presents a parallel idea. The brother involved in an incestuous affair was to be handed over to Satan - cut off from the church until he truly repented.

According to the same Mosaic law, the raping of a married or engaged woman was punishable by death. (God does not, however condemn the woman who is truly innocent - the one who cries out to no avail, Deuteronomy 22:23-27.) If an unmarried woman was raped, the man was to marry her and provide for her as long as he lived (Deut. 22:28-29).

Clearly, God detests rape and incest, as well as any other form of sexual immorality. Yet nowhere does He condemn the offspring of sexual immorality.4 Rather, they are the recipients of blessing. Moab and Ben-ammi, the sons of Lot and his daughters, grew into mighty nations. Perez, the son of Judah and his daughter-in-law, stands in the blessing on Ruth and in the genealogy of Christ. In fact, God stresses the principle that "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin" (Deut. 24:16).


Catholicism on Incest

(Latin in, not, and castus, chaste).

Incest is sexual intercourse between those who are related by blood or marriage.

Its specific malice is contracted by such unlawful commerce between those related within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity, as computed by canonists. The guilt is incurred not only by those sinful acts which are, as theologians say, fully consummated, but also by incomplete acts.

The particular deformity of incest comes not merely from the violation of the virtue of chastity, but also from the offence against the mingled affection and reverence with which parents and, proportionately, other relatives should be regarded.

It is certain that this crime has its distinctive enormity from the prohibition of the natural law, where there is question of the first degree in the direct line, for instance, between parents and children. For the other degrees it is probable that recourse must be had to the ecclesiastical law which invalidates marriage within those limits.

It is commonly held, with regard to those related by consanguinity or affinity, that with the exception of the first degree in the direct line all forms of incest are, morally speaking, of the same species, and therefore for the integrity of confession there is no necessity to distinguish between them. It must be noted, however, that carnal sins between those who are spiritually or legally related within the degrees that would render their marriage invalid, are separate species of incest.

A decree of the Holy Office, 25 June, 1885, declares that in applications for matrimonial dispensations it is no longer necessary to make mention of the circumstance of incest relations between the petitioners.


Rape & Incest: Islamic Perspective
Uzma Mazhar

Incest and rape are not new in this day and age; these problems have always existed and will continue to exist if not confronted face on.  If you have ever worked with an incest, sexual abuse or rape survivor you will never be able to forget the devastating impact it has on all aspects of their life, nor will you be able to sit back and do nothing about this issue.  These are serious crimes that corrode the fabric of family and society and cannot go un-addressed, since these problems do exist in Muslim families it is about time that we address it openly and take action to put an end to it. <O:P> </O:P>

To fully understand this issue we need to examine what Islâm teaches us about the value of human life.<O:P> </O:P>

Islâm views human life as a sacred gift from God. The Qur’ân repeatedly stresses the sanctity of life (hurmat al hayat). The life of every single individual regardless of gender, age, nationality or religion is worthy of respect.  In verses referring to the sanctity of life, the term used is ‘nafs’ (soul, life); and there is no distinction made in that soul being young or old, male or female, Muslim or non-muslim. <O:P> </O:P>

Sûrah al An'am 6.151:
"Do not take any human being's life, (the life) which God has declared to be sacred - otherwise than in (the pursuit of) justice: this has He enjoined upon you so that you might use your reason."
(Also check: Sûrah al Isra 17.33 & Sûrah al Ma'idah 5.32)<O:P> </O:P>

Qur’ânic teachings encompass every aspect of life; hence it does not limit the definition of life to the physical body only, but includes the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects as well.  There are about 150 verses that define the term ‘nafs’ in various ways making it clear that the concept of ‘life’ is not limited to mere physical existence.<O:P> </O:P>

Historically, Islam has addressed serious issues openly and sought to correct actions that constitute harm or ‘zulm’ (ie: cruelty and abuse) to the dignity of humankind.  Human life and respect for it has been stressed unstintingly, regardless of age or gender.  As a general rule, Islâm forbids all ‘zulm’, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual:<O:P> </O:P>

Sûrah al An'am 6.120
”Abandon all harm (ithm), whether committed openly or in secret.” 
(Check Sûrah al A`raf 7:33)<O:P> </O:P>

Sûrah al 49:11-12 points out categorically that emotionally abusive language and behavior is not acceptable.
"You who believe do not let one (set of) people make fun of another set. Do not defame one another. Do not insult by using nicknames. And do not backbite or speak ill of one another."<O:P> </O:P>

In the last address to his community, the Prophet (saw) said: "Your lives and properties are forbidden to one another till you meet your Lord on the Day of Resurrection… Regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust… Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you... You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity."  The Prophet (saw) did not prohibit only the unlawful encroachment of one another’s life and property, but also honor and respect. <O:P> </O:P>

Considering that human life is to be valued and cruelty is forbidden, what is the Islamic perspective on incest and rape?<O:P> </O:P>

According to Islâm, a woman has to be respected and protected under all circumstances, whether she belongs to your own nation or to the nation of an enemy, whether she follows your religion or belongs to some other religion or has no religion at all.  A Muslim cannot outrage her under any circumstances.  All promiscuous relationships have been forbidden to him, irrespective of the status or position of the woman, whether the woman is a willing or an unwilling partner to the act. The words of the Holy Qur’ân in this respect are: "Do not approach (the bounds of) adultery" (17:32). Heavy punishment has been prescribed for this crime, and the order has not been qualified by any conditions. Since the violation of chastity of a woman is forbidden in Islam, a Muslim who perpetrates this crime cannot escape punishment. (Maudoodi)<O:P> </O:P>

The Quran has, in various ways and in different contexts; impressed on men that they must observe the limits set by God (Hudûd Allah) in respect to women and must not encroach upon their rights in either marriage or divorce. In all situations it is the men who are reminded, corrected and reprimanded, over and over again, to be generous to women and to be kind, compassionate, fair and just in their dealings with women.  Even in divorce, when the chances of anger and vindictiveness are high, it is stressed that men are to separate with grace, equity and generosity.<O:P> </O:P>

Forbidding cruelty against children and women is apparent from rulings against female infanticide and rights of inheritance given even to an unborn child; and the kindness mandated even when divorcing your wife.  There are numerous ahâdîth about the rights of children to respect and dignity.  The same holds true for respect and the unprecedented rights given to women. <O:P>  

Relevant verses from the Quran:
Sûrah an Nâs 4.119
'O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will...'

Sûrah an Nûr 24.33
'... And do not, in order to gain some of the fleeting pleasures of this worldly life, coerce your slave women into whoredom if they are desirous of marriage, and if anyone should coerce them, then, verily, after they have been compelled (to submit in their helplessness), God will be much forgiving, a dispenser of grace (to them).</O:P>

During the time of the Prophet (saw) punishment was inflicted on the rapist on the solitary evidence of the woman who was raped by him.  Wa'il ibn Hujr reports of an incident when a woman was raped.  Later, when some people came by, she identified and accused the man of raping her.  They seized him and brought him to Allah's messenger, who said to the woman, "Go away, for Allâh has forgiven you," but of the man who had raped her, he said, "Stone him to death." (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud)

During the time when Umar (raa) was the Khalifah, a woman accused his son Abu Shahmah of raping her; she brought the infant borne of this incident with her to the mosque and publicly spoke about what had happened.  Umar (raa) asked his son who acknowledged committing the crime and was duly punished right there and then.  There was no punishment given to the woman. (Rauf)<O:P> </O:P>

Islamic legal scholars interpret rape as a crime in the category of Hiraba.  In ‘Fiqh-us-Sunnah’, hiraba is described as: ‘a single person or group of people causing public disruption, killing, forcibly taking property or money, attacking or raping women (hatk al ‘arad), killing cattle, or disrupting agriculture.’<O:P> </O:P>

The famous jurist, Ibn Hazm, had the widest definition of hiraba, defining a hiraba offender as: ‘One who puts people in fear on the road, whether or not with a weapon, at night or day, in urban areas or in open spaces, in the palace of a caliph or a mosque, with or without accomplices, in the desert or in the village, in a large or small city, with one or more people… making people fear that they’ll be killed, or have money taken, or be raped (hatk al ‘arad)… whether the attackers are one or many."<O:P> </O:P>

Al-Dasuqi held that if a person forced a woman to have sex, his actions would be deemed as committing hiraba. In addition, the Maliki judge Ibn ‘Arabi, relates a story in which a group was attacked and a woman in their party was raped.  Responding to the argument that the crime did not constitute hiraba because no money was taken and no weapons used, Ibn ‘Arabi replied indignantly that "hiraba with the private parts" is much worse than hiraba involving the taking of money, and that anyone would rather be subjected to the latter than the former.<O:P> </O:P>

The crime of rape is classified not as a subcategory of ‘zina’ (consensual adultery), but rather as a separate crime of violence under hiraba. This classification is logical, as the "taking" is of the victim’s property (the rape victim’s sexual autonomy) by force. In Islam, sexual autonomy and pleasure is a fundamental right for both women and men (Ghazâlî); taking by force someone’s right to control the sexual activity of one’s body is thus a form of hiraba. <O:P> </O:P>

Rape as hiraba is a violent crime that uses sexual intercourse as a weapon. The focus in a hiraba prosecution is the accused rapist and his intent and physical actions, and not second-guessing the consent of the rape victim.  Hiraba does not require four witnesses to prove the offense, circumstantial evidence, medical data and expert testimony form the evidence used to prosecute such crimes.

Islamic legal responses to rape are not limited to a criminal prosecution for hiraba. Islamic jurisprudence also provides an avenue for civil redress for a rape survivor in its law of "jirah" (wounds). Islamic law designates ownership rights to each part of one’s body, and a right to corresponding compensation for any harm done unlawfully to any of those parts. Islamic law calls this the ‘law of jirah’ (wounds). Harm to a sexual organ, therefore, entitles the person harmed to appropriate financial compensation under classical Islamic jirah jurisprudence.  Each school of Islamic law has held that where a woman is harmed through sexual intercourse (some include marital intercourse), she is entitled to financial compensation for the harm. Further, where this intercourse was without the consent of the woman, the perpetrator must pay the woman both the basic compensation for the harm, as well as an additional amount based on the ‘diyya’ (financial compensation for murder, akin to a wrongful death payment).<O:P> </O:P>

Islamic law, with its radical introduction of a woman’s right to own property as a fundamental right, employs a gender-egalitarian attitude in this area of jurisprudence. In fact, there is a hadith specifically directed to transforming the early Muslim population out of this patriarchal attitude of male financial compensation for female sexual activity. During the time of Prophet Muhammad, a young man committed zina with his employer’s wife. The father of the young man gave one hundred goats and a maid as compensation to the employer, who accepted it. When the case was reported to the Prophet, he ordered the return of the goats and the maid to the young man’s father and prosecuted the adulterer for zina (Abu Daud 1990, 3: Bk. 33, No. 4430; Bukhâri 1985, 8:Bk. 81, Nos. 815, 821, 826).<O:P> </O:P>

Early Islam thus established that there should be no tolerance of the attitude that a woman’s sexual activity is something to be bartered, pawned, gossiped about, or owned by the men in her life. Personal responsibility of every human being for their own actions is a fundamental principle in Islamic thought.<O:P> </O:P>

Marital Rape
The Quran is very clear that the basis of a marital relationship is love and affection between the spouses, not power or control.  Rape is unacceptable in such a relationship.

Sûrah al Baqarah 2.223
'Your wives are your tilth; go then unto your tilth as you may desire, but first provide something for your souls*, and remain conscious of God, and know that your are destined to meet Him...'
* Note in Muhammad Asad's translation: 'a spiritual relationship between man and woman is postulated as the indispensable basis of sexual relations.'

Sûrah ar Rum 30.21
"And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that your might incline towards then, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think!

Sûrah al Baqarah 2.187
"... They are as a garment for you, and you are as a garment for them."

Sûrah al Nisa 4.19
"... And consort with your wives in a goodly manner, for if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something which God might yet make a source of abundant good."

"Is there recognition of marital rape in Islam?
In the context of jirah, it would appear so: where there is any physical harm or disease caused to a spouse, there may be a claim for jirah compensation. The law of jirah provides for compensation for physical harm between spouses, and supports Islamic legislation against domestic abuse.  Even in these discussions of appropriate jirah compensation, the question of the injured party’s consent plays a central role.  Some Islamic jurists considered consent to be presumed by virtue of the marital relationship, while others maintain that where harm occurs, it is an assault, regardless of the consent, and therefore compensation is due. In our modern era, one might take these precedents and their premium focus on consent and apply the Islamic principle of sexual autonomy to conclude that any sex without consent is harmful, as a dishonoring of the unwilling party’s sexual autonomy. Thus, modern Islamic jurists and legislators, taking a gender-egalitarian perspective, might conclude that Islamic law does recognize marital rape, and assign the appropriate injunctions and compensation for this personally devastating harm." (Qureshi)<O:P> 

An often misquoted and abused hadith that is used to tyrannize women is that women cannot and should not say no to their husband when he approaches them  Women are advised not to turn away from their husbands except if they have their period or any other reasonable excuse.  So much so that she is to break her voluntary fast if her husband approaches her.  And if they do angels will curse them.  However, this hadith is not quoted with the complementary one that advises men of the same consideration.<O:P> </O:P><O:P></O:P>

In the same manner men are advised that meeting the needs of their wives takes precedence over voluntary worship.  Narrated Abdullah bin Amr bin Al-As: "Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “O Abdullah! I have been informed that you fast all the day and stand in prayer all night?” I said, ‘Yes, O Allah's Apostle!’ He said, “Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave them at other times, stand up for the prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you and your wife has a right over you.” (Bukhâri)

To a certain degree these ahâdîth are used to confuse and distract from the issue, since rape does not have anything to do with permission or lack of permission.  In a marriage abusive or forced sexual activity cannot be justified by abusing this hadith.  Rape is defined as unwanted, violent and forced sex, whether this occurs in a marital context or outside it.  The definition of rape does not change because of the relationship.

It is important to not confuse the issue of mutual rights that a couple has on each other with the misguided, distorted and misogynist assumption that women become a husband's property.  Islam does not allow for or tolerate ownership of human beings.  Human dignity does not allow that any one person has the right to own, mind/body/soul, another human being... and Islam demands that all human beings respect the humanity of everyone.<O:P> </O:P>

Incest & Child Abuse
The Quran clearly outlines those with whom marriage is not permitted, we can extrapolate from it that any sexual relation with these would be unacceptable.  

Sûrah an Nisa 4:23: 
Prohibited for you (in marriage) are your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, the sisters of your fathers, the sisters of your mothers, the daughters of your brother, the daughters of your sister, your nursing mothers, the girls who nursed from the same woman as you, the mothers of your wives, the daughters of your wives with whom you have consummated the marriage - if the marriage has not been consummated, you may marry the daughter. Also prohibited for you are the women who were married to your genetic sons. Also, you shall not be married to two sisters at the same time - but do not break up existing marriages. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

This includes your foster parents, siblings and children.

Al Hasan reports: ‘If somebody commits illegal intercourse with his sister, his punishment is the same as for any other person who commits such a crime’. (Bukhâri Vol. 8 pp 526)<O:P>  

Thus, these same laws mentioned above in cases of rape would be equally applicable, and incest can be prosecuted as a crime within the bounds of Islamic law.   </O:P>

According to Islam, all aspects of life, ie: the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, are sacred and must be respected.  No gender or relationship has been given the power or right to hurt or harm the other. Domestic violence, rape and incest are all violent and criminal abuses that are outside the bounds of what is permitted in Islam and there is absolutely no justification for it whatsoever.  

 <O:P> </O:P>

-Ghazâlî; “Ihya Ulum ud Din”
-Hasan, Riffat; “Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective: Religious Perspectives” John Witte, Jr. and  Johan D. van der Vyver Eds. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996
-Maudoodi, Abu al Ala; “Human Rights in Islam” The Islamic Foundation  UK 1976, 1993
-Qureshi, Asifa LLM;  “Her Honor: An Islamic Critique of the Rape Laws of Pakistan from a Woman-Sensitive Perspective”
-Rahman, Afzal ur; "Role of Muslim Women in Society"  Seerah Foundation, London, 1986
-Rauf, Muhammad Abdul;  “Umar al Faruq”  Al Saadawi Publications, 1998

Abridged version of article published in the September issue of 'Islâmic Reflections 2002'

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Child Abuse - Taboo in Judaism

Hadass Golandsky

I do not want to hurt or blame anyone with my observations, rather much more, to direct attention to this grave problem. The only ones who can make changes, who can intervene and help, are those who are aware.

Imagine that your rabbi or his wife beats their children. Would you do something to help the children? Would you speak with the rabbi? Call in the youth office or even the police? Most of us would simply do nothing. After all, it's about our rabbi. Many would think "He has good qualities too that" to find a reason not to get involved. We also think that it is definitely a case of exception, that the rabbi or his wife feels stressed, that it's not easy to be a rabbi in Europe, etc., etc. In this way, we have created a taboo. Because we cannot and do not want to imagine at all that child abuse is wide spread in Judaism.

What is child abuse? The spectrum is nearly endless: it reaches from bodily to psychological - and from violent to "soft" abuse. For the victim - children, in this case - every form of abuse profoundly undermines his/her sense of security: it damages body, spirit and/or soul and often brings devastating consequences for further development. Children who fall victim to abuse are people who are unable to provide for themselves. The are dependent on the help and support of adults (at first, mainly their parents). The perpetrators are people (chiefly adults), who either consciously or unconsciously exploit the helplessness of their children to their own advantage. I will deal with sexual abuse of children here as an example, and with the help of biblical citation, will show that this problem does not only exists in Judaism, but also that it is a great taboo.

Sexual abuse of children may not be equated with rape - even though when many people want to believe that. With sexual abuse, the perpetrator uses the child to become sexually aroused and to attain sexual gratification for hin/herselve. The most difficult situation is the one in which the perpetrator is a member of the child's family (incest). A father who lets his daughter dance for him and

becomes sexually aroused or masturbates, without telling the child to stop, has already abused her sexually. A mother who caresses her son's genitals while diapering him, and becomes sexually aroused, or, has an orgasm, sexually abuses her child. Those are just two examples for more or less unconscious sexual abuse. But what does that have to do with Judaism? Sexual abuse of children is taboo everywhere. And yet sexual abuse of children is widespread in our modern society. It is generally assumed that every third girl and every fifth boy is sexually abused, mostly in their own families. In Israel, the talk is of every fifth girl. Boys are hardly mentioned, and in orthodox cities in Israel, according to statistics, sexual abuse of children hardly exists. Among the Jews in the Diaspora, the numbers are unclear. Is Israel really "better" than the rest of the Western world? Are we Jews really spared this problem? Or is sexual abuse of children so taboo in Judaism that we actually believe it doesn't exist?

How is it that sexual abuse of children is more taboo in Judaism than in other Western religions and societies? First, we generally characterize the People of Israel, positively, and in so doing tend to cover up our human weakness. As the "Chosen People", as "Light of the Peoples", we should be an example for all the other nations. As such, something like sexual abuse of children cannot exist. The Jews are also named "The People of the Book". The Torah is not only our doctrine, but also our book of law. In it, we find many prohibitions and laws that gove them impression that sexual abuse of children doesn’t exit and severe punishments that made incest taboo.

Lot and his Daughters

Let us begin with the famous story of Lot and his daughters (Gen. 19.30):

"And Lot went up out of the Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar; and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the first-born said unto the younger: 'Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth. Come let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.' And they made their father drink wine that night. And the first-born went in, and lay with her father; and he knew not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the first-born said unto the younger: 'Behold, I lay yesternight with my father. Let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.' And they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose, and lay with him; he knew not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus were both, the daughters of Lot, with child by their father. And the first-born bore a son, and called his name Moab - the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. And the younger, she also bore a son, and called his name Ben-ammi- the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day."

At first glance, the story appears to be completely clear: the daughters were desperate because they believed there were no men in that land, and they outwitted their father into having sex with them. That is also the usual interpretation. Yet, is the story really so simple? Let's go into it more deeply: Lot, Abraham's nephew, lived with his wife and two daughters in Gomorra, a city that, together with Sodom, formed the cities of sin that God completely annihilated (Gen. 19, 24-25). It is not clear exactly what happened in Sodom and Gomorra, only that the citizens of both cities were extremely evil. But evil in what way? The name of the city Sodom can give us a hint, because sodomy means sex with an animal. In modern Hebrew, the word means anal rape. This brings us to the assumption that forbidden sexual practices were carried out in Sodom and Gomorra. Although Lot was represented as the only just man in Gomorra (Gen. 19,1), and together with his wife and daughter, was the only one to be saved, we must still ask why he had lived for so long in such a city at all. Was Lot perhaps nice only once to the guests, the messengers of God who had come to the city, but otherwise evil like all the other inhabitants? Verse 29 in the same chapter gives us one indication that Lot was actually not so good: And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the Plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the destruction, when He destroyed the cities in the area where Lot dwelt." That means that God saved Lot not because he was the only just man in Sodom and Gomorra, but because he was related to Abraham!

As we know, Lot's wife froze into a pillar of salt while fleeing out of Gomorra (Gen. 19, 26) and Lot was left alone with his two grown daughters. He was afraid to settle in Zoar and moved with his daughters into the mountains, where he lived alone with them in a cave (Verse 30). Why was he afraid to live in a city that God had recommended to him? One has to simply wonder why he could live fearlessly in Sodom and Gomorra, but not in Zoar.

It is not known how long Lot and his daughters lived in the cave. One day, in any case, the older daughter decided to sleep with her father because there were no men in the land (Verse 31). How did she arrive at that conclusion? The daughters were certainly not born in the cave, away from civilization. They didn't only know men and women in Sodom and Gomorra, but they certainly must have also seen and met men in Zoar and on the way into the mountains. The daughters had their father drink wine until he noticed nothing more (Verse 33). That means, that Lot must have been so drunk that he lost consciousness. In such a state, he couldn't have been physical capable of having an erection! At the end of the story, each daughter then brings a son into the world (Verse 37). But that his daughters became pregnant doesn't seem to have surprised Lot at all. If he really hadn't noticed anything, and if there actually had been no men in the land, he must indeed have been quite astounded!

This closer look at the story brings us thus to the conclusion that Lot was for some reason protected, perhaps because he was Abraham's nephew, or perhaps because in Biblical opposed to post-biblical times, as the family line stemmed from the father, and his children and grandchildren founded two important tribes. (Verse 37).

Prohibition on Incest

Incest was not only hushed up in stories, but also tabooed by laws, bans, commandments and repetitions. Most of the laws of the Torah are found in the Third. Book of Moses, including the prohibition on incest (Lev. 18 and 20.) Many of the laws in chapter 20 are repeated from from chapter 18, for example, the prohibition on homosexuality (Verse 22.) In Israel and in progressive Judaism, (Reform and Liberal Judaism), homosexuality is currently no longer taboo. Unfortunately, mention of incest still is.

We find the prohibition on incest in greater detail in Lev. 18,6-17. In the following list, the specific prohibitions on incest are given. The perpetrator is always the one to whom the prohibition applies:

- General prohibition on incest, Verse 2;

- Sex with parents, verse 7, perpetrator: child;

- Sex with the mother, respectively, step-mother, Verse 8, perpetrator, child;

- Sex with the sister, respectively, half-sister, Verse 9, perpetrator: child:

- Sex with the aunt, Verse 12-13, perpetrator: child;

- Sex with the uncle, Verse 14, perpetrator: child.

- Sex with the uncle's wife, Verse 14, perpetrator: child;

- Sex with the sister-in-law, Verse 15; perpetrator: child;

- Sex with the daughter-in-law, Verse 15, perpetrator: child;

- Sex with the granddaughter, Verse 19, perpetrator: grandfather;

- Sex with the step-daughter, Verse 17, perpetrator: step-father;

- Sex with step-granddaughter, Verse 17, perpetrator: step-grandfather.

In most of the cases (7 from 11), the perpetrator is the child, who doesn't have to be a minor. The first detailed prohibition refers to sex with the parents. There is, however, no prohibition that refers to sex with the daughter or son. The biological father and biological mother, are not denoted as perpetrators. There is no woman as perpetrator.


Unfortunately, I do not have an explanation for these phenomena. Yet, if the incest prohibitions to do not apply to the parents, it means that they must never have been perpetrators. Parents who sexually abuse their children are therefore taboo! And if a sexual act occurs with the father or the mother, the child is guilty and not the parents.

After the prohibitions follow the warning, the repulsion and the choosing of the people of Israel: "Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things; for in all these the nations are defiled, which I cast out from before you. And the land was defiled, therefore I did visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land vomited out her inhabitants..." (Lev. 18, 24-25). The punishment was announced at the end: "For whosoever shall do any of these abominations, even the souls that do them shall be cut off from among their people" (Verse 29). In chapter 20, the punishment for these atrocities is death. Next to murder and idolatry, incest is one of the three main atrocities in the Torah.

It is often maintained that because of the forceful and repetitive warnings and threats of death penalty, incest does not exist in Judaism. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

An additional taboo – related to incest may be inferred one of the 10 commandments, which - like the prohibition on incest - is listed twice in the Torah (Ex. 20,1-17 and Dtn. 5,6-20). The 6th commandment: "Honor thy father and mother, as the Lord thy God commanded thee..." obligates the child to honor his parents, regardless of what they have done or do to him. This commandment is further enforced by the obligation to God, in which the child who is abused by his parents can in no way act against them. A commandment "Honor thy children" doesn't exist.

Abuse by Circumcision

What role does the Torah play in our lives? Which commandments and laws do we keep and which not? The commandment to keep Shabbat or kashrut is not observed by many. The commandment to circumcise is kept by nearly all Jews, and in my eyes, that is the greatest taboo related to sexual abuse of children in Judaism. Questioning the commandment to circumcise is so deeply tabooed in Judaism, that it's neither talked about nor criticized.

Circumcision appears first in Genesis 17, 10-13, where God enters the first covenant with Abraham: "This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt Me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations..."

There is hardly a Jew worldwide who is not circumcised and hardly a circumcision carried out without religious ritual. There are hardly any Jews who would dare to question (publicly) circumcision or to call it child abuse. I am not in any way talking about the act of circumcision. Many people think that removing the foreskin is healthier and more hygienic. That may be. But circumcision because of disease can be carried out at a later point in time, when the child is already able to understand the necessity of such an operation. In few cases is a circumcision necessary for reasons of health directly after birth. I refer here to the religious act, that is performed on all Jewish boys at the age of eight days. It can be debated whether an infant of this age experiences sexual sensation, but the assumption that at eight days a baby is not as sensitive to pain as is an older child, is simply wrong. A baby cannot speak out "that hurts!".

Circumcision is a violent intervention and a wounding of a child's genitals, which purely physically is a form of sexual abuse, of sexual maltreatment. Yes, it is very difficult thing for many of us to accept, because it could mean that all Jews who have their sons circumcised are sexual perpetrators. As mentioned above, it is neither my intention to blame anyone nor to present all Jews as people who mistreat children. I merely want to break every form of taboo about child abuse and to stimulate discussions so that we can better deal with the subject. We can do it through attentiveness, by questioning and by learning.

Biblical citations from: The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, Edited by Dr. J.H. Hertz, C.H., London.

Hadass Golandsky, born 1962 in Haifa, studied photography and pedagogic. 1987 she moved to Vienna, where she works as a secretary at the Institute of Jewish Studies at the university of Vienna. Besides she is a painter and a singer (under the name Haddi Golan). She teaches "Basic Judaism" at Or-Chadasch in Vienna and leads services.

Translated from German by Madelon Fleminger



Christian perspective 700 Club

Keys to Powerful Living: Overcoming Child Abuse

By - Breaking Through The Veil Of Shame

Silent, uncontrollable sobbing ... Bruises and beatings ... Shoving and slapping ... Children so traumatized they're afraid of their own shadows. And the endless string of lies ... "He fell down." "It was an accident." But child abuse is no accident. It violates God's fundamental purpose for man. And parents and children around the world find themselves ensnared in its cruel clutches.

From Taboo to Truth

When people hear the term "child abuse" they may think it only occurs in under-educated, poverty-stricken families. However, this epidemic occurs in all types of families.

In America alone, reported cases of child abuse exceed 1 million each year, and some experts say the actual number of abuse victims may be far greater.

Types of child abuse include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Affected children often suffer physical injuries, emotional scars, malnutrition, and sadly, even death. Child abuse also spiritually cripples precious young lives. These children may struggle to accept God as their loving heavenly Father ( Matt. 18:5-6). Other family members often suffer silently. Even the offender suffers, increasingly bound by the shame and secrecy of the addictive behavior.

But as many have already discovered, there is hope. The vicious cycle of abuse can be broken, especially as we present our wounds to the Gentle Healer, Jesus Christ.

What Drives the Sin of Abuse?

So what causes child abuse? Often, parents who abuse their children have been victims of abuse themselves. Driven by years of repressed hatred, these parents continue the cycle.

Sometimes even the most dedicated parents can momentarily lose control -- frustrated by a child's actions or simply overwhelmed by their own sense of failure or frustration. But an isolated incident or two, left unchecked, can become a destructive force, tearing apart a family.

God's View of Abuse

The Bible gives much practical advise on the subject of child-rearing. "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it," says the writer of Proverbs ( 22:6). Parents are clearly cautioned to take steps to correct foolishness which "is bound up in the heart of a child" ( Prov. 22:15).

Parental discipline is essential, but some parents view these Scriptures as giving absolute control over their children. This is not true. God's Word should never be used as a license for abuse. Parents need to discipline their children, but they must keep their own emotions and actions in check ( Eph. 6:4, Col. 3:21). In God's eyes there simply is no justification for abuse.

Finding Help

If you are trapped in the unrelenting cycle and sin of child abuse, don't leave this webpage until you have made a commitment before the Lord to break this destructive pattern. It won't be easy, but it could be a matter of life and death. Understand that you are not alone. Jesus knows you better that you could ever know yourself (see Psalm 139), and He is willing and able to help ( Heb. 4:15-16). But you need to ask for His grace to share honestly your struggle with a trusted brother or sister in Christ, or with your pastor. Follow these steps to get help.

1. Acknowledge the problem. To receive healing, admit that you have a problem. Once you've broken the silence and confessed your sin of abuse, God's grace and forgiveness can begin to restore you ( Psalm 32:3-7). 2. Acknowledge your weakness. Allow God to minister in your weakness, for in it He can make you strong ( 2 Cor. 12:9, Heb. 1:32-34). 3. Take action. Pray with other believers and share your struggles, seeking the help of pastors, or other appropriate counselors ( Prov. 15:22, James 5:16).

If You've Been Abused

If you have been the victim of abuse, you need to know that God has not abandoned you. He is "intimately acquainted" with all your ways ( Psalm 139:3). He knows your pain, and He has a plan for complete healing and restoration for your life. Consider these simple steps as you seek the Father's healing.

1. Face the abuse. The shame associated with abuse is unbearable. You can hide the pain for a season, but eventually, the wounds will surface. But take comfort, for God knows the horror that you have unjustly endured (see Psalm 139, Matt. 10:29-31). Ask God for the strength to face your nightmare of abuse.

2. Forgive and release. As difficult as it may sound, you need to begin by forgiving the perpetrator for his or her actions against you. It may seem impossible, but the consequences of unforgiveness can produce even further destruction ( 2 Samuel 13:23-29). Instead, ask God to give you the grace you need to forgive ( 1 Samuel 1:15-17, Psalm 42:3-4, Psalm 62:8).

3. Seek shelter. If you are still in an abusive situation, immediately seek shelter. Consider turning to family members, your church family, or perhaps authorities if necessary. Ultimately, rest in God's shelter. Turn to His Word (the Psalms offer much encouragement for the downcast).

4. Move on. Once you have taken steps to forgive, ask God to help you pick up the pieces, and seek again the abundant life in Jesus that He has for you ( John 10:10). Press on and leave the past to God ( Phil. 3:13-14).

As You Pray

If your life has been devastated by child abuse, turn to Jesus right now, and, on bended knee, ask Him to take control of your life: "Dear Lord. I have never been confronted with a deeper, more urgent need than right now. Please minister to me and my family members in Your perfect love and compassion. Break the chains which bind us. And restore us to the joy of Your salvation as we receive forgiveness and healing in Christ Jesus. Amen."

God's Word on Child Abuse

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." ( Eph. 6:1-4)

Scriptures for Study

Matthew 18:5-6, Mark 13-16 -- Jesus' attitude toward children

Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21 -- Proper attitudes for parents

Psalm 32:3-7 -- Acknowledging the problem

James 5:13-20 -- The church and restoration

Hebrews 12:15 -- How to avoid bitterness

We're Here for You

Through our daily inspirational television program, The 700 Club, and other outreaches, CBN ministers to millions every day. To learn more about the Christian life send us an e-mail. Or you can call our CBN Prayer Counseling Center at (800) 759-0700. We would love to talk with you and send you some literature to help you in your walk with the Lord.

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible.

More CBN Teaching Sheets

More from Spiritual Life

Jehovah's Witnesses' Child Abuse Policies

The Watchtower Society, a not-for-profit organization headquartered in New York City is the main legal entity used by Jehovah's Witnesses religious faith; It is often referred by them as The Society or The Organization. This organization usually holds copyrights to literature published by Jehovah's Witnesses, which is considered by it members as current doctrine, policy and 'the direct channel of communication with Jehovah God.'[3]

In recent years, Jehovah's Witnesses have published information on how to protect children from sexual molestation. This includes articles such as "Protect Your Children" in the October 8, 1993 edition of Awake! magazine, the article Help Your Children to Thrive in Awake! of August 8, 1997 and the series "Keep Your Children Safe" in the November 2007 edition of Awake! magazine and chapter 32 of a book for children entitled Learn from theGreat Teacher. These articles focus on prevention by helping children understand what sexual abuse is, to say no to molesters and to tell their parents about attempted abuse. Jehovah's Witnesses' policy does not apply solely to those holding appointed positions, but to everyone associated with the organization.[4]

Two Eyewitnesses Policy

Jehovah's Witnesses' congregational judicial policies require having the testimony of two eyewitnesses to establish a perpetrator's guilt in the absence of confession.[5] This requirement is based on a number of Biblical passages (Deut. 17:6; Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:15; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19) that refer to matters being established at the mouth of two or three eyewitnesses. The Watchower public information department specifies that this two-eyewitness policy concerns only how the congregation handles the sin and not whether the matter is reported to the authorities. The requirement of two eyewitnesses to establish an accusation is claimed to be a protection against malicious accusations of abuse.[citation needed] To establish proof by two eyewitnesses, it is not necessary that both have been present at the same instance of child molestation. Starting in 2002, statements by two victims could be accepted.[6] Jehovah's Witness spokesmen state that if two persons are eyewitnesses to separate incidents of the same kind of wrongdoing, their testimony may be deemed sufficient to take action[7] and internal sanctions imposed.

In cases where there is only one eyewitness, the victim, to an allegation of child abuse, elders are instructed to 'monitor' the accused very closely. If there is some valid reason to suspect that the alleged perpetrator is still abusing children, a 'warning' may have to be given (to the congregation for its protection).[8] Testimony based on one person's repressed memories is not considered reliable enough to form the basis for an internal action. Repressed memories are not viewed as true or false, simply as insufficient proof. Elders are encouraged to treat persons reporting this type of memory with kindness[9] and dismiss the case unless further proof is found.

It is important to note that the two eyewitnesses policy is applied solely to congregational discipline and has no bearing on whether the crime is reported to the police, which is most often the case. A serious problem with this policy is the fact that elders have no professional training in child sex abuse investigation or forensic science. Evidence given by forensic experts/police is acceptable as a second "eyewitness".

Three year rule

Crucial to legal actions taken against the Watchtower Society has been the “Three Year” rule. This allowed for known sex offenders to continue serving as elders, provided any known offences were committed at least three years prior to confession. The 1972 book Organization for Kingdom-Preaching and Disciple-Making stated:

“If a person was serving as an elder or a ministerial servant when he committed a serious wrong, even though it was some years ago, he bears a degree of reprehensibility, for he continued to serve in that position though knowing that he had, for the time at least, disqualified himself, not being then “free from accusation.” (1 Tim. 3:2, 10; Titus 1:6,7) He should have informed the judicial committee that he did not adhere to the requirements and should have stepped down from his position. In view of his failure to do this at that time, he would now be removed from that position.”

The term “some years ago” was clarified shortly afterwards in Our Kingdom Ministry October 1972, p.8, as a time period of three years:

“What was meant by “some years ago” on page 170, paragraph two, in the “Organization” book? This indicates more than a year or two. It may be noted that it did not say “many years ago.” So it is not the exact number of years, but more like two or three years. It was not intended to have a brother go back into the distant past to bring up wrongs of which he repented years ago and that have evidently been forgiven by Jehovah and are not practiced now.”

This position was re-confirmed at the 1991 two-day Kingdom Ministry Schools.[citation needed] It was not until the 2005 Kingdom Ministry Schools that it was clearly stated that hidden acts of “porneia” (sexual sins) were to require an internal judicial committee.[citation needed]

Questioning the Victim

Elders have specific direction to follow if a child reports abuse such as not ask probing or intimate questions. This is very important as it has legal implications. Elders are instructed that however surprising the allegations, the elder should not indicate disbelief in any way. Nor should he express any criticism of the complainant.[10] In fact, elders are 'spiritual shepherds' and are not qualified to investigate or evaluate an allegation of child abuse. The Watchtower Society claims that abused victims are not required to face their abuser to make an accusation and it was only in 1998 that elders were advised that if children are victims of molestation, the victims should not be required to confront the accused.[11][12]

Whether to seek help from a counselor or other mental-health professional is considered to be a personal decision for the victim (or parents) to make but victims are advised to ensure that any counselor consulted will respect the Jehovah's Witness doctrine.[13] Likewise, elders are instructed that there are times when an emotionally distressed member may seek professional help. Whether or not a victim pursues treatment from psychiatrists, psychologists or therapists is a personal decision as long as the therapy does not conflict with their religious doctrine.[14]

Congregation Discipline

Jehovah's Witnesses have a disciplinary system that applies to all congregation members who commit child abuse, not merely to employees.[15] In the UK, elders are now instructed to investigate promptly all allegations of child molestation, although they have no professional training to do so. Policy states that child sex victims urgently need to be protected from further abuse, and abusers need to be prevented from finding additional victims.[16] This would involve having two elders investigate allegations of child abuse and, if these are deemed to have a sound basis, forming an internal judicial committee. At this point, the accused is relieved of all positions of responsibility in the congregation.

Anyone found to have sexually molested a child and failing to demonstrate repentance is to be disfellowshipped (excommunicated) from the congregation.[17] Numerous Jehovah's Witnesses who have committed child molestation have been subjected to disfellowshipping, a strong sanction that is virtually unknown in most other faith-based groups. – See Cases of abuse below.

Those judged repentant by a committee of elders are given 'public reproof'. Their names are announced to the congregation, although their crime is not announced.[18] Some time later, a talk is given to the congregation, discussing the type of sin and the need to be on guard against it, although this time nothing is said to connect the person to the type of sin committed.[19]; This sidesteps the acknowledgment that child sex abuse sins are crimes. For a considerable period of time those reproved in this way are not permitted to participate in meetings by commenting in group discussions or making presentations from the platform.[20] They are immediately debarred from serving in any appointed position in the congregation, usually for life (see below for exceptions).

Restrictions to Child Molesters

Former child molesters, including those who molested children before becoming Jehovah's Witnesses, those eventually reinstated into the congregation after being disfellowshipped and those who were deemed repentant are subject to a number of symbolic restrictions, which normally remain in place permanently. The policy is rehashed in this 1997 Watchtower article: "For the protection of our children, a man known to have been a child molester does not qualify for a responsible position in the congregation. Moreover, he cannot be a pioneer or serve in any other special, full-time service."[21] According to an internal document sent out in 2002, former sex offenders are not assigned to read paragraphs during congregation studies, and are not assigned even minor responsibilities in the congregation, such as practical duties in the Kingdom Hall (looking after microphones, supplying members with books or magazines) and not offering public prayer. The person's home may not usually be used for congregation meetings.[22] Those known to have engaged in child molestation in the past are not permitted to participate in the congregation's house-to-house preaching, unless accompanied by a responsible adult. According to the Watchtower Society spokesman J. R. Brown, sex offenders are restricted from working with minors and must also be with a well-respected church member when they go door to door.[23] Commenting on the effect of these symbolic restrictions, Jehovah's Witness legal representative, Mario Moreno is quoted as saying that because of the church's structure, the fact that a sex offender, who would have fewer rights in the congregation, would alert members that 'he obviously lacks spiritual maturity.'[24] A fax sent by the Jehovah's Witnesses' Office of Public Information to the producers of the BBC's Panorama TV program stated that at least twenty years must have passed before an individual who committed an act of child sex abuse could even be considered for appointment to a responsible position in the congregation, if ever.[25]

If a former child abuser moves to another congregation, elders from the previous congregation must send a letter to the new congregation's elders, outlining his background and providing needed cautions,[26] but only if that abuser currently is still under the symbolic 'restricted privileges'. Also, under no circumstances are previous communications from the organization's Branch Office regarding the abuser to be forwarded[27] and except for the elders, the new congregation members remain unaware to the abuser's criminal past.

Reporting Policy

Since in recent years the Jehovah's Witnesses religion has been exposed for numerous child sex abuse scandals and their headquarter, the Watchtower Society, was forced to develop detailed child abuse policies to be released to the public media and to their congregations; As an example here is a press release from 2003: "The elders may be required by law to report even uncorroborated or unsubstantiated allegations to the authorities. If so, we expect the elders to comply."[28] The Watchtower magazine has outlined the following policy: "Depending on the law of the land where he lives, the molester may well have to serve a prison term or face other sanctions from the State. The congregation will not protect him from this."[29] The policy followed is, as stated in a 2002 memo to their congregations: "Our position is that secular authorities deal with crime while elders deal with sin."[30] If there is no mandatory reporting requirement, the victim or anyone else must not be discouraged from reporting it. In Great Britain, elders have now been instructed that "all in the Christian congregation will want to consider their personal and moral responsibility to alert the appropriate authorities in cases where a serious criminal offense of this type has been committed, or there exists a risk that one may be committed."[31]

In Canada, the following advice is provided to elders: "There is a duty to report when one has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that there is abuse or a substantial risk of abuse and parents have failed to protect the child. The report shall be made forthwith to the local child welfare authorities. […] Elders must be aware, however, that once they have knowledge, they have an obligation. They cannot just hope that someone else will report. They must follow through quickly, and be sure that it is done."[32]

In 2000, elders in Great Britain were instructed: "The elder approached must encourage the complainant to consider his or her responsibility to report the matter to the authorities without delay and should also explain that he himself might have a duty to report the matter to the proper authorities."[33] The Elders' Manual states: "Though it is not the responsibility of the Christian congregation to enforce Caesar's laws, the very nature of some crimes demands that they be reported to secular authorities."[34] A 1995 memo to elders stated: "When a member of the congregation is accused of child molestation, the elders should contact the Society's Legal Department immediately. Many states make it mandatory that elders report an accusation to the proper authorities but other states do not. In those states where such is required, oftentimes the parent, the guardian, or the accused person himself can do the reporting."[35]

The New York Times, though, has commented: "The shape of the scandal [in Jehovah's Witnesses] is far different than in the Catholic church, where most of the people accused of abuse are priests and a vast majority of the victims were boys and young men. In the Jehovah's Witnesses, where congregations are often collections of extended families and church elders are chosen from among the laypeople, some of those accused are elders, but most are congregation members. The victims who have stepped forward are mostly girls and young women, and many accusations involve incest."[36]

 Reporting to Civil Authorities

The effective direction given to congregation elders may be summed up as follows: child abuse is reported only if required by law. Therefore, reporting sexual abuse is often difficult for members, who weigh their loyalty to their religion against that of law enforcement. The Biblical injunction against taking fellow believers to court (1 Corinthians 6:1-6) has consistently been explained in the Watchtower magazine publications as having to do with civil or business disputes, but there are numerous claims and lawsuits stating that it has been applied to criminal cases, which prevented reporting child molestation to civil authorities. The Biblical injunction against taking fellow believers to court (1 Corinthians 6:1-6) has consistently been been used during civil or business disputes, but there are numerous claims and lawsuits stating that it has been applied to victims of child sex abuse.

In an attempt to draw the least attention possible from the media, congregation elders are now required to first contact the organization's legal department in such cases to establish whether there is a legal duty to report the sex crime to the civil authorities or not. In recent law suits where it was claimed the Watchtower Society failed to report child sex abuses, the Watchtower Society's defense lawyers argued that it is a confidentiality protected by ecclesiastical privilege. This “ecclesiastical privilege” means that the Jehovah's Witness going from door-to-door to talk about the Bible may in fact be a known sex offender among his elders, but has never been prosecuted by the law.[37]

Even where there is no statutory requirement for elders to report a crime, they are now instructed to not discourage the victim (or their relatives) from reporting it, but the elders are still not required to report the crime themselves, as The Watchtower stated in 2005: "The victim has every right to report the matter to the police. In this way the proper authorities can punish the offender. And if the victim is a minor, the parents may want to initiate these actions."[38]

By doctrine, the Jehovah's Witnesses handle all matters internally, which in recent years prompted accusations and lawsuits of a systematic sex offender cover-up. Therefore recent policies sent to elders in 2002 state: "Child abuse is a crime. Never suggest to anyone that they should not report an allegation of child abuse to the police or other authorities. If you are asked, make it clear that whether to report the matter to the authorities or not, is a personal decision for each individual to make and that there are no congregation sanctions for either decision. That is, no elder will criticize anyone who reports such an allegation to the authorities".[39] This has been the Watchtower Society's position since at least 1993, when a memo to elders stated: "It is also a personal decision if the alleged victim chooses to report such accusations to the secular authorities."[40]

Particularly since around 2000, the Jehovah's Witnesses organization has been accused of covering up cases of child molestation committed by their members. In February 2001, Christianity Today – an evangelical journal that also disagrees with the theological perspective of Jehovah's Witnesses - printed an article reporting allegations that Jehovah's Witness policies made reporting sexual abuse difficult for members, and did not follow legal norms on the issue. The article also included a response by Jehovah's Witness representatives.

The BBC reported on the controversy around Jehovah's Witnesses child abuse in July 2002, in the Panorama (TV series)|Panorama program "Suffer the Little Children"[41] Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters published their response to many of the allegations made in the program, the substance of which is found in the article Jehovah's Witnesses and Child Protection on their official website.

According to Witness spokesman J. R. Brown, "Jehovah's Witnesses are not required to report crimes to elders before calling civil authorities. Victims and their families are free to call police at will, he said, although some don't choose to."[42] It is apparent that victims or their relatives must report the abuse, rather than the elders doing so. A circular sent to elders in the USA stated: "In those states where such is required, oftentimes the parent, the guardian, or the accused person himself can do the reporting. In this way the confidentiality protected by ecclesiastical privilege is not violated."[43]

The Watchtower Society still refuses to change their policy and report all child abuse cases to the authorities automatically. Elders are instructed that reports should be made to the police only if required by law.[44]

Current Watchower's policy requires that the elders first contact their legal department for instructions on child abuse. Resistance to contact police stems from their position that an automatic reporting policy to the police would entail reporting abuse that took place decades ago, even when the molester is repentant or rehabilitated. The current policy also prevents an automatic reporting to police claiming to avoid overriding the objections of the victim over confidentiality. When in court, the Watchtower Society's legal defense effectively has claimed that such reporting to the authorities violates the confidentiality of confessions made to the elders and violates their freedom of worship.

Another common criticism is the policy on having the testimony of two eyewitnesses to establish a perpetrator's guilt. This requirement is allegedly based on a number of Biblical passages that refer to matters being established at the mouth of two or three eyewitnesses. The Watchower public information department claims that the two-eyewitness policy concerns only how the congregation handles the sin and not whether the matter is reported to the authorities. This policy is felt to be a protection against malicious accusation of sexual assault. A serious problem with this policy is the fact that elders have no professional training in child sex abuse investigation or forensic science, and even if found guilty, there is no guarantee the elders will report the crime to the authorities, only to the Watchtower Society.

 Jehovah's Witness Sex Offender Database

The Jehovah's Witness headquarters, the Watchtower Society , requires all local congregations to submit details of child abuse allegations and maintains a database on all cases of child abuse reported to them. Watchtower Society representative J. R. Brown stated in May 2002:

  • "We do not apologize for keeping such records here in the United States. Apart from being legally needed, they have been very helpful to us in our efforts to protect the flock from harm. Christian parents can rightly feel secure in the knowledge that such efforts are made to screen out possible child abusers from appointment to responsible positions within the congregation."[45]

The Watchtower Society has repeatedly refused to submit this sex offender database to authorities, claiming confidentiality based on ecclesiastical privilege. The American victim rights organization known as Silent Lambs figures this secret sex offender database names 23,720 Jehovah's Witnesses.[46]


  1. ^ Press Release
  2. ^ Letter to All Congregations in Britain, July 11, 2002
  3. ^ 'The Watchtower is the direct channel of communication with Jehovah God':[1]
  4. ^ A letter about child abuse to Jehovah's Witness congregations stated: "Everyone in the organization is expected to meet the same requirements, namely, to be clean physically, mentally, morally and spiritually." Letter to all congregations in Britain, July 11, 2002
  5. ^ Position on child molestation
  6. ^ Letter to All Congregations in Britain, July 11, 2002
  7. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses Office of Public Information, Press Release "Jehovah's Witnesses and Child Protection," 2003. Elders' 1991 textbook: "If there are two or three eyewitnesses to the same kind of wrongdoing but each one is eyewitness to a separate incident, their testimony can be considered. Such evidence may be used to establish guilt". Pay Attention to Yourselves, page 111
  8. ^ The Watchtower, November 1, 1995, page 28
  9. ^ The Watchtower, November 1, 1995, page 28
  10. ^ Letter to All Bodies of Elders in Britain, December 1, 2001
  11. ^ Victims may make their accusation by letter or telephone if they prefer.The Watchtower, November 1, 1995, page 28
  12. ^ Pay Attention to Yourselves, page 118-19
  13. ^ Awake!, October 8, 1991, page 9; The Watchtower, September 1, 1996
  14. ^ Letter to All Bodies of Elders, March 23, 1992
  15. ^ Child Protection Policy in the UK
  16. ^ Letter to all Bodies of Elders in Britain, December 1, 2000
  17. ^ Organized to do Jehovah's Will, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 2005, page 153
  18. ^ Organized to do Jehovah's Will, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 2005, page 152-3
  19. ^ The Watchtower, December 1, 1976, page 735
  20. ^ The Watchtower, September 1, 1981, page 27
  21. ^ The Watchtower, January 1, 1997, page 29
  22. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses Child Abuse Policy -- Dispelling the Myths
  23. ^ Louisville Courier-Journal, 1-4-01.
  24. ^ Paducah Sun, January 28, 2001
  25. ^ Fax sent to Betsan Powys, BBC Panorama, May 9, 2002
  26. ^ Our Kingdom Ministry, October 1999, page 7
  27. ^ "Letters of Introduction", to All Bodies of Elders, July 1, 2006
  28. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses Office of Public Information, press release "Jehovah's Witnesses and Child Protection," 2003
  29. ^ The Watchtower, January 1, 1997, page 29
  30. ^ Letter to All Congregations in Britain, July 11, 2002
  31. ^ To All Bodies of Elders in Britain, December 1, 2000
  32. ^ To All Bodies of Elders in Canada, July 29, 1988
  33. ^ Letter to All Bodies of Elders, December 1, 2000
  34. ^ Pay Attention to Yourselves, page 138
  35. ^ To all Bodies of Elders in the United States, August 1, 1995
  36. ^ Laurie Goodstein, Ousted Members Say Jehovah's Witnesses' Policy on Abuse Hides Offenses, The New York Times, August 11, 2002.
  37. ^ Non-disclosure, an ecclesiastical privilege: [2]
  38. ^ The Watchtower, August 1, 2005, page 14
  39. ^ Letter To All Bodies of Elders in the United States, February 15, 2002
  40. ^ Letter To All Bodies of Elders in the United States, February 3, 1993
  41. ^ Powys, Betsan (July 14, 2002). Suffer the Little Children.
  42. ^ Tubbs, Sharon (Aug. 22, 2002), "Spiritual shunning", St. Petersburg Times.
  43. ^ To all Bodies of Elders in the United States, August 1, 1995
  44. ^ On one occasion, Witness elders encouraged a perpetrator to hand himself in to the police:"A clergyman from the Jehovah's Witness church urged him to go to the police."; "Advised sensibly" by the elders to go to the police.
  45. ^ Fax from J. R. Brown, Office of Public Information, to Betsan Powys, dated May 9, 2002.
  46. ^ Silent Lambs.Database names 23,720 men: Panorama documentary: "Suffer the Little Children".

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