July 26 marks our annual Watchtower Victims Memorial Day. This is a worldwide day of mourning and respect for all victims of the hurtful and hateful policies of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, commonly known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The idea for the Day was conceived because the shunning experienced by many former Jehovah’s Witnesses is so severe that they often feel as if their family members have died, yet these ones have no grave site to visit, no day for mourning their loss and separation. The Day was then expanded to honor and respect all victims of this religion, including those still trapped within its walls or who have officially left, and those who have lost their lives due to its policies.
UNDERSTANDING THE VICTIMS
What is meant by victims of the Watchtower Society? Note some general information about their policies and practices to better understand why those practicing their religion, and those who have left, could rightly be called “victims.”
- Jehovah’s Witnesses adhere to a “two-witness” rule in cases of child molestation or pedophilia, demanding that the victim in these cases produce a witness to their molestation before they are heard by elders and their molester is removed from the congregation.¹
- Until their official policy was rewritten in 2010, parents were outright forbidden from filing police reports in these cases so as to avoid “bringing reproach” on the organization.
- Confessed pedophiles may be put into positions of authority over others, including children, without parents being warned of their past actions.¹
- Parents and others who know of a pedophile’s behavior are also forbidden from telling other congregants, so as to protect the confidentiality of these ones.
- Women who are victims of domestic violence are encouraged to stay with their husbands in the hopes of converting them. They are also told to “be more submissive” and “be more loving” to their abusive spouses. See this website for more details.
- Little to nothing is said in the pages of Jehovah’s Witness publications about the effects of this home environment on the women or the children.
- Rape victims are required to scream, fight, and resist during an attack and if not, they may be disfellowshipped (excommunicated) and subsequently shunned for “consenting to the violation.”²
- Elders are told that “discernment is needed” in considering claims of rape, taking into account the “mental disposition” of the woman, circumstances surrounding the incident, and any “delay in reporting.” Note that these elders have no training in psychology, criminology, post-traumatic stress disorder, or rape counseling.³
- Jehovah’s Witnesses practice a severe form of shunning, forbidding members to speak to non-family who are excommunicated and also being told to “not look for excuses” to communicate with excommunicated family members, not even through email.*
- This shunning includes children, parents, siblings, and grandparents, and even “young ones.”
- A person may be excommunicated and subsequently shunned not just for “immoral” behavior but also for disagreeing with the religious teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses or speaking out about their practices and policies. They are also shunned if they officially and formally leave the religion.³
- Many excommunicated members have been lost to panic, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and even suicide because of being cut off from family and friends.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not allow blood transfusions even in emergency situations and even for children. See this website for details.
Children are often disciplined severely, and even infants are expected to sit quietly through long sermons and may face physical punishment for simply acting out. Congregants are encouraged to avoid anyone, including teenagers, who do not live up to harsh, dogmatic standards that include constant preaching and bible study.** This can lead to a sense of isolation even for faithful congregants.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have strongly encouraged members to forego higher education in favor of preaching work during what they have called the “last days,” making it difficult for many of their followers to support themselves financially. Many have also given up the privilege of having children, believing the world was soon to end based on these promises. See this website for details.
The Watchtower Victims Memorial Day is meant to honor all these and other victims of the hurtful and harmful policies of this religion. The Day is a peaceful sign of respect for all those who have suffered because of this religion, including friends and family members and those still inside.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
To participate, on July 26 it’s encouraged that you leave a flower, small teddy bear, or another memorial along with a card or note at a Kingdom Hall. For those who do not wish to visit a Kingdom Hall, you can leave a memorial in a public park, at a bus stop, or on the beach.
Sample cards have been uploaded to this page, however, participants are certainly free to create their own note or memorial. It’s encouraged that you include this website so others can know what this day is about, and if possible, take a photo of your memorial and share it on Facebook.
The Day is not limited to former Jehovah’s Witnesses but is also an opportunity for anyone who opposes their practices to show support and solidarity for the victims. We strongly encourage other churches and religions, rape crisis counseling centers, victim support organizations, and other individuals to become involved and show their support with a small memorial during this Day.
Please share this video with others so that they too can participate in our special Day.
Images from 2016
Images from 2015
Images from 2014
¹October 1, 2012 Letter to All Elders worldwide
²January 15, 1964 Watchtower magazine
³”Shepherd the Flock of God”
*January 15, 2013 Watchtower magazine
**July 15, 2012 Watchtower magazine