Children sexually abused by Jehovah’s Witnesses were encouraged not to tell police, it has been claimed.
Victims have accused the religious organisation of trying to cover up attacks in order to protect its reputation.
They claim the group’s rules, which require two witnesses before an incident can be investigated by elders, have protected perpetrators.
Victims of abuse by Jehovah’s Witnesses say they were silenced by the organisation
Louise Palmer, whose family are Jehovah’s Witnesses, was abused by her older brother Richard Davenport for six years from the age of five.
He was jailed in 2015 for 14 years, later reduced to ten, for two charges of raping his sister and three of indecently assaulting her.
Mrs Palmer, 41, of Evesham, Worcestershire, who has waived her anonymity, said: ‘They strongly advised me not to go to the police because it would bring reproach on Jehovah.’
Another woman, also from Worcestershire, told the BBC she was sexually abused as a child by a friend of her brother. She said she told elders what happened and they advised her not to report it. The BBC said it has also spoken to other victims from Birmingham, Cheltenham, Leicester and Glasgow, who make similar claims about the group. The Charity Commission is carrying out an inquiry into child safeguarding procedures at Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain – the UK’s main Jehovah’s Witnesses group – after a number of historic incidents of abuse.
A separate Charity Commission inquiry into the Manchester New Moston Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses found it had ‘badly let down’ victims of child abuse in its handling of allegations against elder Jonathan Rose.
He was convicted of abusing two girls in 2013 and it later emerged that following his release from jail, he was allowed to interrogate his victims at a meeting arranged by the group.
Separately, the group has paid compensation to a woman who was abused by another elder, Peter Stewart, over five years in Loughborough.
The organisation said the latest claims were ‘unfair and misleading’. A spokesman said: ‘Congregation elders do not shield abusers from the authorities… Any suggestion that Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child abuse is absolutely false.’