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Home > Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyer > Pennsylvania Jehovah's Witness Sex Abuse Lawyer

Pennsylvania Jehovah's Witness Sex Abuse Lawyer

Recent investigations have shown that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have become a haven for child molesters and rapists, whose identities are shielded from authorities while victims are pressured to stay silent. Instead of reporting the abuse to law enforcement, the church enables it. If church members have sexually abused you, our Jehovah’s Witness sex abuse lawyers can help you hold the church accountable.

Our experienced Pennsylvania sexual abuse lawyers can help you or your child get justice for the lifetime of effects that sexual abuse can cause. Contact us today to learn how we can help you recover substantial compensation from the Jehovah’s Witness church so you can restore your life to the fullest extent possible.

Why Should I Trust Cordisco & Saile With My Jehovah’s Witness Sex Abuse Case?

Our nationally recognized Pennsylvania injury lawyers have helped thousands of sexual abuse victims stand up to religious institutions like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Catholic Church, and the Southern Baptists, and youth organizations like the Boy Scouts.

We have the resources and experience to hold large organizations like Jehovah’s Witnesses accountable while also being small enough to provide you with personalized care and support.

Our consistent record of successful case results has won the respect and admiration of the legal community, which has awarded us with prestigious national recognitions, including Super Lawyers and Top 100 Trial Lawyers. What we are most proud of, however, are the client testimonials we regularly receive, such as the following:

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"I found Cordisco and Saile as a referral from a friend. From the very beginning to the end, the entire staff from Barbera to Michelle and then, of course, Mike Saile, my entire experience was terrific. They went out of their way to make a bad incident in my life as easy as possible. They made me feel comfortable right from the beginning. They kept me in the loop the entire time. My whole experience was great at Cordisco and Saile, and I would highly recommend them."

If you or your child has experienced sexual abuse in any Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Pennsylvania, call or text us today at (215) 372-0574 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

Why Hire a Child Sex Abuse Lawyer?

A child sex abuse lawyer in Pennsylvania is an advocate and an ally who can help you navigate the complex of holding a large organization accountable for sexual abuse. When you contact our caring and experienced Jehovah’s Witness sexual abuse attorneys, you can count on us to do the following:

  • Complete a full investigation of your perpetrator’s conduct and the church’s role in enabling the abuse.
  • Obtain internal documents to prove that the church failed to protect you from abuse.
  • Provide moral support and refer you to local resources that offer additional support.
  • Work with forensic psychologists who can support the credibility of your account and address the profound impact on your life.
  • Protect you from retaliation by the church through court orders and any other means necessary.
  • Prepare your case as if it is going to trial while skillfully negotiating for a generous settlement to compensate you for your pain, suffering, trauma, lost earnings, and other harms.
  • Prepare you for any deposition or trial testimony you may be required to give and stand with you to circumvent unnecessarily inflammatory questions by the defense.
  • Support you in your decision to file criminal charges or not. If you choose to file charges, we will assist in any way possible with the prosecution.

If you try to handle the case alone as a current or former Jehovah’s Witness, the church may attempt to bully, threaten, or manipulate you. The church will be unlikely to resort to such tactics when dealing with our Jehovah’s Witness sexual abuse attorneys. We will ensure you are treated fairly and that your case is heard.

The Coverup of the Jehovah’s Witness Church

According to The Atlantic, this database could be the world’s largest database of undocumented child molesters—most of whom have never faced consequences. This database is allegedly maintained in a Microsoft SharePoint file by the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society, the parent organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It is not publicly known how many child molesters’ names are listed, but in 2002, a former church elder reported that the number was 23,720. It is estimated that 18,000 are from the United States alone. Many of those listed are still church members, and some are leaders. Most have not been reported to the police.

Instructions From the Top to Keep Abuse Quiet

In March 1997, the Watchtower sent a bulletin to all the Jehovah’s Witness churches in the United States and worldwide with explicit instructions on handling child sex abuse. It instructed elders to write a detailed report and send it to the Watchtower headquarters in a designated blue envelope. The Watchtower also instructed them not to report abuse to the police.

Thus, the database contains more than just names. It also contains detailed accounts of the sexual abuse of minors. Despite receiving multiple court orders to release this information to law enforcement, the Watchtower has refused. It has been reported that it has paid millions of dollars in donation money to keep victims quiet.

young person sadly looking outside of window

Threatened Into Silence While Child Molesters Are Protected

Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught, often from a young age, that everyone outside the church will perish in Armageddon. Involving outside authorities or having relationships with outsiders is discouraged because doing so could harm the church’s reputation.

Members who violate the church’s religious tenets can be “disfellowshipped”—a harsh punishment that involves being shunned by all Jehovah’s Witnesses, including immediate family members. For many, this means losing the support of the only family they have ever known.

The Watchtower has disfellowshipped people for small infractions like stealing candy bars, but child molesters often receive minor discipline, such as a private reprimand and loss of minor privileges.

When child abuse victims or their parents report abuse to the church, they are discouraged from reporting it to the police. Their loyalty to the church is questioned, and many have been threatened outright with being disfellowshipped if they spoke up.

Humiliation by the Elders

According to the Guardian, young girls who reported sexual abuse were forced to describe it in front of their abusers without their parents present. Sexual abuse survivors in the Jehovah’s Witness church were often revictimized when they reported the abuse to elders.

Humiliation was a tool used for control. Young girls who engaged in sex before marriage were also forced to describe the sexual encounters in detail in front of male elders.

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Did the Jehovah’s Witness Church Break the Law?

According to Pennsylvania law, religious leaders are mandatory reporters of child abuse. Leaders of Jehovah’s Witness congregations in Pennsylvania who failed to report child sex abuse could face felony charges.

In fact, according to a report by WGAL News in Lancaster, a complaint has been filed with the Pennsylvania attorney general, who could issue subpoenas for church documents and initiate a criminal prosecution. This would be in addition to the church’s civil liability. According to the report, the Jehovah’s Witness church allegedly failed to report 775 instances of sexual abuse from 1997 to 2001 alone.

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Sexual Abuse Lawsuits?

Under a 2019 Pennsylvania law amending the statute of limitations, child sexual abuse survivors abused before age 18 have until their 55th birthday to file a lawsuit. The 2019 law also gives individuals who were between the ages of 18 and 23 when the sexual abuse occurred until their 30th birthday to file suit.

However, the 2019 law was not retroactive and only applies to sex abuse occurring after December 31, 2018. For abuse occurring earlier, the civil statute of limitations is 12 years after the survivor reaches adulthood, which is until age 30 for most people. For sex abuse victims who had already reached the age of 18 at the time of the abuse, the statute of limitations is just two years.

Thus, many survivors who had already turned 30 by 2019 are time-barred from filing lawsuits.

Proposed Legislation to Extend the Statute of Limitations on Sexual Abuse

House Bill 963 would open a two-year lookback window, which is a time frame during which survivors can file a lawsuit if they were previously unable to do so because the statute of limitations had expired

Senate Bill 540 has also been introduced, and if passed, would abolish the statute of limitations for all survivors of sexual abuse, whether it occurred while you were a child or an adult. It would also create a two-year lookback window similar to House Bill 963.

Both bills are still pending.

How Is Sex Abuse Defined?

Sexual abuse is any sexual conduct forced upon an individual of any gender without consent. Children are not legally capable of consenting to sex, which makes any sexual conduct towards a child sexual abuse. Sex abuse can occur with or without physical contact or penetration.

The Pennsylvania Coalition to Advance Respect lists the following examples of sexual abuse:

  • Touching a child’s genitals or forcing a child to touch someone else’s genitals
  • Penetrating a child’s genitals, mouth, or anus with any object or body part
  • Exposing a child to pornography
  • Exposing genitals to a child
  • Photographing a child in sexual positions
  • Engaging in sexual activities in a child’s presence
  • Watching a child undress with or without the child’s knowledge
  • Using technology to expose a child to sexual topics or solicit a child

What Are My Legal Options?

If you have been sexually abused by anyone in a Jehovah’s Witness congregation, you may be able to pursue criminal and civil remedies. To file a criminal case, you must report the abuse to law enforcement. Our Pennsylvania sex abuse attorneys can help you file a report if you wish to press charges.

Whether or not you pursue a criminal prosecution, you can seek monetary compensation by filing a civil lawsuit. Sexual abuse in the church can cause severe physical, emotional, and financial harm.

For example, it could prevent you from enjoying healthy relationships later in life. It may prevent you from attending college or starting a career. You may have physical damage from the abuse that causes you pain throughout your life. You may have developed post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety.

While financial compensation cannot replace the stolen innocence or take away the betrayal of trust, it can bring a sense of justice, help you access resources that can aid in the healing process, and provide some financial security. Sex abuse compensation may include the following:

  • Loss of earning potential
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Emotional trauma
  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical expenses
  • Psychological therapy costs
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • Humiliation

You may also qualify for punitive damages. Punitive damages are only awarded in Pennsylvania when the defendant’s conduct was outrageous.

In the case of sexual abuse by Jehovah’s Witnesses, church leaders violated the law by enabling the abuse. We will set out to prove that this conduct meets the standard for punitive damages.

Large religious organizations and institutions have very rarely faced criminal prosecution for enabling sex abuse. A civil lawsuit may be your only avenue for holding them accountable for their actions.

How Do I Proceed With a Sexual Abuse Claim?

Due to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ record of poorly handling sexual abuse claims, we recommend you contact an experienced sex abuse lawyer before you report it to the church. We can deal with the church for you and hold the church accountable to follow the law. We will also protect you from harassment or threats by church leaders. When you are ready to report sexual abuse by a Jehovah’s Witness member anywhere in Pennsylvania, contact our Pennsylvania Jehovah’s Witness sex abuse lawyers now by calling or texting us at (215) 372-0574 or by reaching out to us on our easy online contact form.
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