Child Abuse & Jehovah’s Witnesses

According to Tusla, the Child & Family Agency, child abuse is categorized into four different types: neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse. A child may be subjected to one or more types of abuse at any given time. 

Definition of Neglect

Neglect can be defined in terms of an omission, where the child suffers significant harm or impairment of development by being deprived of food, clothing, warmth, hygiene, intellectual stimulation, supervision and safety, attachment to and affection from adults, and/or medical care.

Definition of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is normally to be found in the relationship between a parent/carer and a child rather than in a specific event or pattern of events. It occurs when a child’s developmental need for affection, approval, consistency and security are not met. Unless other forms of abuse are present, it is rarely manifested in terms of physical signs or symptoms.

Definition of Physical Abuse

Physical abuse of a child is that which results in actual or potential physical harm from an interaction, or lack of interaction, which is reasonably within the control of a parent or person in a position of responsibility, power or trust. There may be single or repeated incidents.

Definition of Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when a child is used by another person for his or her gratification or sexual arousal, or for that of others.

Definition of Child Abuse by Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Awake! magazine, dated 2007, Oct 7 pages 3-11 focused solely on child sexual abuse. It’s definition is similar to the definition of Sexual Abuse referenced above, except that it goes into further detail:

Sexual abuse of a child occurs when an adult uses a child to gratify his or her own sexual desires. It often involves what the Bible calls fornication, or por·neiʹa, which could include fondling of genitalia, sexual intercourse, and oral or anal sex. Some abusive acts—such as the fondling of breasts, explicitly immoral proposals, showing pornography to a child, voyeurism, and indecent exposure—may amount to what the Bible condemns as “loose conduct” or “uncleanness . . . with greediness.”

A letter from the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses sent to All Bodies of Elders, dated October 1 2012, defined child abuse this way:

What is child abuse from a legal standpoint? Child abuse includes the sexual or physical abuse of a minor (a person less than 18 years of age). It would also include the extreme neglect of a minor by his parent or guardian. Child sexual abuse generally includes sexual intercourse with a minor; oral or anal sex with a minor; fondling the genitals, breasts, or buttocks of a minor; voyeurism of a minor; indecent exposure to a minor; soliciting a minor for sexual conduct; or any kind of involvement with child pornography. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it may also include “sexting” with a minor. “Sexting” describes the sending of nude photos, seminude photos, or sexually explicit text messages electronically, such as by phone.

There is no reference to emotional abuse. Although physical abuse and neglect are mentioned, they are not defined.  The letter relates to child abuse but tends to focus solely on child sexual abuse. Let’s investigate as to why Jehovah’s Witnesses are focusing solely on child sexual abuse.

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