Religious Studies Professor Highlights Challenges Faced by Jehovah’s Witnesses Sexual Abuse Survivors

Mathew Schmalz, professor of religious studies. Photo by Avanell Brock
Mathew Schmalz, professor of religious studies


It's been months since the New York Child Victims Act was signed into law allowing adult survivors of child sexual abuse to sue an abuser or a negligent institution regardless of when the abuse took place, and hundreds of new cases are still flooding the courts, many of them targeting members of the Jehovah's Witness organization.

In a recent VICE article, Mathew Schmalz, professor of religious studies at Holy Cross, comments on the unique challenges faced by sexual abuse survivors within the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith, especially given its controversial "two-witness rule."

"Child abuse doesn’t happen out in the open," Schmalz said. "It happens in secret and so forth, so it’s unlikely that you’re going to have two witnesses.”

This can be an insurmountable challenge for survivors, and just one of the many organization policies believed to be aimed at covering up wrongdoing committed by members of their clergy and protecting "God’s organization on earth," according to Schmalz.

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