The Guardian and a warning to EUHARLEE GEORGIA: Jehovah´s Witnesses´ silencing techniques, as terrifying as child abuse
Growing up in a Jehovahs Witness family is different. As a child, I didnt celebrate birthdays, Christmas or July 4. Nor did I, or anyone I knew, mix with non-Witness families in Little League or Girl Scouts. Instead, I spent much of my time sharing the good news. I used to go door-to-door on my own with a big, strong, well liked man in my congregation, named Jonathan. I was just 9 and 10 when he repeatedly sexually abused me.
It is really hard for kids to speak up when theyre abused. But the Jehovahs Witnesses make it a lot harder.
They have a 2 Witness rule, which says that anyone who accuses an adult of abuse must have a second witness. If there is no second witness, the accuser is punished for a false accusation - usually by ordering that no Witness may talk with or associate with the false accuser. This is called dis-fellowshipping. For a kid raised only with other Witnesses, it was horrifying. Even your parents would have to ignore you. It was more terrifying than Jonathan.
It was the elders of my congregation who had assigned Jonathan to team up with me. When we separated from the others, he forced me into his pick-up truck and drove us to his house. Then he would say Lets play. It happened too many times. Like everyone else in the congregation, my parents liked Brother Jonathan and trusted him in our family.
My parents were consumed with some really huge problems in those years, and later divorced. I was emotionally alone - and wanted to be the best Jehovahs Witness I could be. Thats why I went out to field service - the door to door ministry that Witnesses are known for.
What my parents didnt know, was that Jonathan had sexually molested another girl in our congregation. The elders knew this and had kept it a secret. They were following orders from Watchtower leaders, based in the world headquarters in New York, who in 1989 had issued a top-secret instruction to keep known child sex abusers in the congregations a secret. This instruction became Exhibit 1 at my civil trial.
The elders and the Governing Body all knew that child molesters hide in religious groups and often are people who are likeable and friendly - like Jonathan. They knew molesters would likely do it again. But they chose to ignore the safety of the kids, in favor of protecting their image - and their bank account - from lawsuits. It was all in that 1989 letter.
A recent report by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that they have continued to issues directives urging silence around child abuse. Last November, elders were instructed to avoid taking criminal matters like child abuse to the authorities. Instead, they were told to handle them internally in confidential committees. The report also showed that Jehovahs Witnesses evoke the First Amendment to hide sex abuse claims.
It took me learning about Jonathans other victims for me to speak up. In 2009, I looked on Californias Megans Law website, the states official list of registered sex offenders. There, I found he had been convicted a few years before for sexually abusing another 8-year-old girl. I felt horribly guilty that I hadnt spoken up about him earlier. Now, I need to stop predators from doing this again.
The only way to end this abuse is by lifting this veil of secrecy once and for all.
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Giving Every Young Person in EUHARLEE GEORGIA a Path to Reach Their Potential
Our nation’s most basic duty is to ensure that every child has the chance to fulfill his or her potential. This isn’t the responsibility of one individual or one neighborhood: it’s up to all of us to pave these paths of opportunity so that young people — regardless of where they grow up — can get ahead in life and achieve their dreams.
That’s why My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) is such an important initiative. Launched by President Obama last year, MBK brings communities together to ensure that all youth — including boys and young men of color — can overcome barriers to success and improve their lives. I got to see this work up close during a recent trip to Oakland, California. I joined Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Council President Lynette McElhaney, and other stakeholders for a conversation about efforts that are making a difference in the lives of local youth.
One of the participants was a teenager named Edwin Manzano. The son of a hard-working single parent, Edwin found encouragement and support at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC). Thanks in part to the academic and mentoring services offered by the EOYDC, Edwin will become the first member of his family to attend college when he begins his studies this fall at San Francisco State University.
Edwin is grateful for the opportunities that EOYDC afforded him. “Everyone needs a support system,” he says. That’s true whether you are a teenager or HUD Secretary. I was lucky when I was growing up on the West Side of San Antonio. Although it was a modest community in terms of resources, it was rich with folks who took an interest in my future. I had family members, teachers — and even policymakers — who paved a path that allowed me and other young people like me to succeed.
Unfortunately, not every child is as fortunate. That’s why My Brother’s Keeper is so close to my heart. The future of every young person in America should be determined by their heart, their mind and their work ethic. It should never be determined by their zip code.
In Oakland, I talked with 17 young people who have big hopes and aspirations for the future. It’s in our nation’s interest to help them achieve their goals. And we’re committed to doing our part at HUD.
For example, we’ve introduced a Jobs-Plus pilot program that will provide public housing residents in eight cities with intensive employment training, rent incentives and community building focused on work and economic self-sufficiency.
We’re also working on a broadband initiative to ensure that students living in HUD-assisted households will benefit from the life-changing opportunities available through high-speed internet. This project will provide the access to online resources that young people need to succeed in the 21st century global economy.
On the housing front, we expect the recent expansion of our Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) initiative to aid HUD-assisted properties in raising billions of dollars in private sector investment — funding that will be used to secure our nation’s affordable housing future. And recently, our Federal Housing Administration lowered its Mortgage Insurance Premiums to make homeownership more affordable for responsible families, helping them put down roots and build wealth for the future.
But I know HUD alone won’t solve the issues facing America’s youth. These challenges require our Department to maintain longstanding, effective partnerships with other federal agencies and key stakeholders. Most importantly, President Obama understands that My Brother’s Keeper will only succeed if local leaders take his call to action into their own hands.
Folks in Oakland are stepping up to answer this call. During the Community Conversation, I spoke with leaders from Oakland’s nonprofits, philanthropic institutions, and faith-based organizations that are putting our young people on the path to success. Groups like the East Oakland Youth Development Center, the East Bay Foundation, and the Allen Temple Baptist Church are using promising and proven approaches to make a real difference in their communities.
This kind of work is happening all across the nation and will benefit generations of Americans. We’ve got to keep it going by continuing to support our young people. When they succeed, our nation grows stronger, and our future becomes brighter. And by giving everyone an opportunity to reach their goals, we can ensure that the 21st century is another American century.
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