Former Jehovah’s Witnesses are speaking out about allegations of sexual abuse within the denomination in Oxygen’s latest special, The Witnesses.
The two-night investigative special, airing Saturday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m., features the stories of four former Jehovah’s Witnesses, who claim they suffered from sexual abuse during their time within the organization.
Specifically, former Witnesses Debbie McDaniel, Deloris Lyles, Sarah Brooks and Chessa Manion will bravely share their first-hand accounts to highlight the flawed system within the denomination. Leading this investigation is journalist Trey Bundy from The Center for Investigative Reporting, who has spent half a decade investigating this matter.
“If you ask a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses how child abuse gets handled in their congregations, it would come as a total shock to them that it’s not supposed to be reported to police,” Bundy notes in the footage above.
This isn’t the first time the sect has made headlines regarding sex abuse claims.
Back in 2019, The Atlantic reported that the organization had a decades long list of accused predators within its membership. Still, this past week, Montana’s Supreme Court reversed an earlier $35 million decision against the sect for failing to report to authorities a girl’s sexual abuse. According to Justice Beth Baker, “clergy are not required to report known or suspected child abuse if the knowledge results from a congregation member’s confidential communication or confession and if the person making the statement does not consent to disclosure.”
“No child should ever be subjected to such a debased crime,” Joel Taylor, an attorney for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, said in a statement to the AP. “Tragically, it happens, and when it does Jehovah’s Witnesses follow the law. This is what the Montana Supreme Court has established.
Yet, those interviewed in this special allege that “the elders know” of the sexual abuse and are “knowingly protecting the identities of pedophiles.”
“In this organization, the predator has more rights than the victims,” one victim states. “They think they are above the law.”
As seen in the footage above, Bundy is even turned away from one Kingdom Hall amid his investigation.
“I absolutely believe in religious freedom,” Bundy defends in a confessional. “But, as soon as their conduct puts kids in danger, that’s when they become my concern.”
Per one voice-over claim in the first look, without access to the organization’s database, investigators may never know the “true scope” of the issue.
Will The Witnesses uncover important information regarding this case? For that answer, be sure to catch the two-night special, starting Feb. 8 at 7p.m.
(E! and Oxygen are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)