Dutch government launches hotline for sexual abuse in Jehovah's Witnesses

NL Times, Netherlands/August 30, 2020

By Janene Pieters

The government is expanding the 'Break the silence" hotline of Victim Support Netherlands so that there is a special hotline where victims of sexual abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses can get the help they need, Minister Sander Dekker for Legal Protection announced. The Jehovah's Witnesses refused to set up its own, low-threshold internal hotline, so the Minister decided to do so himself.

"I expect every community or organization to do everything possible to combat sexual abuse and to help and support victims. That is not happening with the Jehovah's Witnesses and I find that extremely bad," Dekker said. "That is why we are reaching out now and victims from this community will soon be able to contact the 'Break the silence' hotline of Victims Support Netherlands. Victims are entitled to professional help and a listening ear, it cannot be that they run into a wall of reluctance."

The government agency for scientific research WODC investigated sexual abuse and the willingness to come forward in the Jehovah's Witnesses, following calls from Foundation Reclaimed Voices to do so, and concluded that there is evidence that coming forward is complicated by the closed nature fo the community. The WODC said it was essential for a low-threshold hotline to be created, and the government is doing so now after repeated instructions to the board of the Jehovah's Witnesses to create such a hotline were ignored.

The government will also give Reclaimed Voices financial support so that they can continue to help the victims of sexual abuse in the Jehovah's Witnesses community.

Minister Dekker said that he will "look seriously" at introducing a legal obligation on organizations to report sexual abuse. "No organization can close its eyes to abuses in its own club. Victims of sexual abuse must be able to count on help in taking steps towards the police and aid agencies. You can not keep that secret," he said.

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