The Dangers of Watchtower Domestic Violence Advice

Over the years the Watchtower has doled out advice to victims of domestic abuse.  This advice is and always has been dangerous and damaging.  The latest example of this is in the Study Edition of the Watchtower December 2018.  I examined this article in detail in my blog post The Disposable Life of the Jehovah’s Witness Wife.  The Watchtower article on page 10 entitled “Honor ‘What God Has Yoked Together’”[1] will be studied by Jehovah’s Witnesses at their meeting during the weeks 11-17 February 2019.  At these meetings there will be numerous wives and children who are affected directly by abusive marriages and who are being told to obey this dangerous advice: that although you could live an abusive marriage, if you are a “loyal Christian” you really shouldn’t.  In addition, if you do leave, you are making your children “unclean”.[1]

This article for Ex-JW Sisters is not just in my own words.  I shall let those who have also been affected directly by domestic abuse and those who have seen the effects first hand explain in their own words why the Watchtower’s advice is dangerous and highly damaging.  I shall also let you see the Watchtower’s advice in its own words so you can make your mind up if they are being loving and responsible in their treatment of those being abused. [2]

Before continuing with the body of this article, I would personally like to thank every single person who got in contact with Ex-JW Sisters.  I felt the pain and the anguish in every word and have nothing but admiration for your strength and perseverance.   Here you will read the raw and unfiltered emotions.  Every one of these experiences is unique to the person, however, they all have one thing in common – that they didn’t escape the abuse sooner directly as a result of listening to the advice given by the Governing Body via the Watchtower publication.

This is a very long article – so many people contacted me with their stories, the stories of people they knew, with confessions of pain and suffering.  I thought of splitting the article, but honestly – this needs to be said in one big chunk of REAL TRUTH.  The truth is that the Watchtower organisation perpetuates horrendous abuse and this continues every day in many different ways and we need the world to wake up to this!**

*please note that some of these experiences are very graphic and may be triggering for some.

When my ex husband had shaken our son, his parents kept it hush-hush, when he would beat my son with a belt, nobody did a thing, I begged him to stop!  When I told the elders he had done this AND choked me, they asked me if I feared for my life, and admonished me to stay.  How is that OK?  How is it OK to publish experiences of women who stay with their abusive spouses for 30-40 years?  Why is it OK to encourage that?  Why WOULD anyone encourage that? – Paige

I was returned to my abuser by my mother as she said I was married and my duty was to my husband. – Nicola

My mother was abused by my disfellowshipped father for years. She was told to stay, be submissive, the good wife… the usual rhetoric.  He finally left for someone richer.  That has affected me, my entire life, his actions & her reactions.  The organisation has a lot to answer for. – Sarah

This is only one of many such incidents that I have come across. Posting from India.

My father is an elder and was assigned to a domestic violence case where he had to conduct an “investigation” of sorts into a couple who were having marital problems.  By that I mean this “brother in the congregation” thought his wife was having an affair with a policeman next door.

The incident(s): One night, he beat up his wife after an argument to the point where she was bleeding and her face was black and blue.  She was then thrown out on the street at night, in the cold.  It started to rain, so she tried to go back to her parents’ place.  Her parents shunned her because they don’t approve of her shift to the “truth” and they didn’t like her choice of husband, they were from a different religion.  She had nowhere to go, so she ended up at her husband’s doorstep, bloody, bruised, cold and wet from the rain.

At a later date, the husband came home early one morning after a night shift (he was a security guard) and found the policeman leaving his house just before sunset, in full uniform.  He explained to the husband character that there was a burglar on the loose and that he was visiting every house in the neighbourhood as part of a sweep, there were other cops in the area as well, he said.  The husband started beating the policeman and his wife had to come and separate them after which she was also slapped a few times.

There were several such incidents most of which ended up with the wife getting beaten up—a classic domestic violence case with enough evidence for the wife to get her husband thrown in prison for a long time.

The investigation: My father, (no training in family therapy, investigations, or knowledge of any family law) and another brother, both elders, take a copy of “the secret to family happiness” and go to the couple’s house.  They pray and the husband breaks down in tears.  Two bible verses were read (I’m not even joking here) after reading those two verses, another prayer was made.

The outcome: The husband made significant progress and took up pioneering the following month.

He didn’t even get a slap on the wrist.  The police were not at all involved.  He got away with beating the shit out of his wife on multiple occasions.

Source: I proofread the letter sent to the Branch committee.  Reading the entire account in the letter was one of the things that made me break away from the organisation.  Can’t do it any more. – Mannington 

2018 quote

My parents’ relationship was abusive, they were told to stay together and endure. My childhood was full of domestic violence and domestic abuse… it was normal for me to have bruises from being grabbed, to be hit with a wooden spoon repeatedly, to be knocked across a room. My parents should have separated years ago… but Watchtower policies meant they were repeatedly pressured to stay together or go back to one another. It damaged them, and it damaged me and my sister.  And I witnessed similar or far worse happening to more than half the families in each of the five different congregations I attended.  And no these were not unbelievers… these abusers were baptised Jehovah’s Witnesses usually elders or ministerial servants. (Sometimes like in my household the mother was the abusive one but that is a whole other thing.)  In most cases these families were held up as model families. – Pain’s Daughter

Stay well away – had an abusive husband and one who has sexually abused my daughter and possibly grand-daughter. – Susan

The abuse started three weeks after we married.  He told me I wasn’t attractive anymore to him after I had my Monthly cycle.  He told me he really just wanted someone to cook and clean for him.  Mental and emotional abuse were his specialities, but there was also an atmosphere of violence that permeated our household.  His temper tantrum resulted in things being thrown, holes punched in walls, and screamed demeaning words. I’m ashamed to say I stayed in that toxic, abusive marriage for almost two decades solely because of JW doctrines. – Transplanted Buckeye

My Aunt stayed with her alcoholic abusive husband for 40+ years until he died.  He never changed.  He only treated her increasingly worse over the years as his alcoholism progressed.  She had to hide money in curtains or bury it in her yard just so she and my cousins would have money for food, utilities, or other necessities.  He destroyed their house looking for hidden cash many times over the years in drunken rages and his physical abuse on them was relentless.  She wanted to leave many times through the years, but she felt leaving would compromise her faith. – Kim L

wedding rings

I know too many women, including myself, who have remained in emotionally abusive marriages for years.  Some of these turned physically abusive.  While the elders in my situation did not tell me I had to stay with him, I knew I was not allowed to divorce him.  This gave my husband control.  I could separate and raise our child on my own with none of the benefits of being single, or I could stay with him, which is what I chose to do for years.  He was so accustomed to having this control over me, that when I finally did have scriptural grounds for divorce, he continued to control me.  It wasn’t until he went to prison for murdering my fiance three years later that he gave up control.  During the time period when I was leaving the organization, shortly before the murder, the elders communicated with him about me, despite his being disfellowshipped and despite my telling them that he was stalking and harassing me.  Not only did they not protect me, but they put me in more danger. – Anna

When I finally worked up the courage to approach an elder about the abuse, he excused himself and returned with a WT publication and presented me with ‘how to be a better wife’.  I was utterly defeated.  A few years later, my husband was arrested for attempted murder.  I was shunned, as I must have provoked him. – Christy

2012 quote

My JW husband’s father who was an elder verbally and physically assaulted me while I was pregnant leaving bruises on both arms for a week where he physically grabbed me and shook me.  The reason being – because I refused to listen to him scream at me because I had to get my other two children ready for school, and I had to go to work.  The elders and my husband sided with my father in law despite seeing my bruises and I was accused of being disrespectful to a man and just because he was an elder he was an imperfect man.  My then husband physically beat me on several occasions while six months pregnant and again at eight months.  I was told unless he beat me to the point of almost dying I had no scriptural grounds to separate so when I did separate it was announced before the congregation that I was publicly reproved for doing acts unbefitting of a Christian – they’re are more stories these are just a few, sincerely – Wanda

My Jehovah’s Witness husband was physically, verbally, and mentally abusive to me.  I went to the elders several times. I was read scriptures about “being in subjection” and “the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does,” as well as be “submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”  They questioned me each time as to whether or not I had been placing HIM under stress.  I begged them to listen to me.  I had three small children.  They of course, did not.  I was a woman after all, and a “weaker vessel.”

As soon as we left the final meeting with the elders and went home, my husband slammed me into a wall and told me if I ever called the elders again I would be sorry.  That was enough for me to file for divorce (even though I endured several more beatings because of it) and leave the religion for good.

Alas, I had no education (taken out of school right before 1975 because Armageddon was ‘right around the corner’ and married at 16 so as to avoid fornication), small children, and no job.  I was a good stay-at-home wife cooking, cleaning, and going to meetings and out in field service.  But I went back to school, got my diploma and went on to college where I received a BS degree in psychology.  However, after all these years, it’s still difficult to get rid of all the ‘cult’ brainwashing. – April N

In 1995 I met who would become my future husband.  I was 17, he was 18.  In the course of our courtship he was extremely “touchy feely”, and I would ask him to pray with me to Jehovah to keep us strong because I did not want to go against Jehovah’s wishes of no sex before marriage.  He kept pushing and I did end up pregnant.  I had previously been in compromising situations as a child with a predator/paedophile, so I would freeze at times of fright.  My parents reacted with extreme displeasure to my pregnancy and I was told that I would have to be responsible for my actions and marry him.  I told them I did not love him and didn’t want to marry him.  My mother increased her pressure on me to marry him, so I decided that I would have to as my unborn child deserved to have both parents.  We were married and within three years I gave birth to another beautiful baby.

I had been suffering from major anxiety and depression since I was 15 and it had become unbearable after 5 years of marriage.  I decided I needed to separate from my husband, and he was extremely abusive and angry towards me.

My parents and his parents were also unsupportive and decided that I must be Bipolar now because of my decision.  I was told that I was not permitted to have a divorce as the only basis for that in the bible is adultery.  I had only ever been with him so I had no idea what to do.  When I did manage to leave him my parents helped to take my two young children from me and made it impossible for me to contact them.  I had never felt so powerless or fearful in my life.  This was the start of a decade long battle to prove myself an adequate parent, at the same time as having absolutely no support and being disfellowshipped.

I was very strong, but eventually I could no longer support myself and afford suitable accommodation for my two children and I, and he was able to trick me into taking the children, telling me that I had two weeks to get a home.  The day after he told me this he contacted social services and informed them that he was the sole carer, which left me with $250/fortnight to live off.  I was suicidal, and could not secure accommodation for myself and two children.  I left my home town in an effort to seek employment in another city, hoping to save enough money to come home and get my children back.

I was gone for a decade and have only just returned back to the coast to be near my children.  My family and my ex husband have successfully brainwashed my children into disrespecting me as their mother, even though I have only just stopped paying full child support to them and now because of this could afford to travel back to be near them.  It’s a living nightmare, and I struggle every day with hopelessness, as even people in the ‘world’ have no perception of what I have lived through and still cope with day-to-day. What the Jehovah’s Witnesses and my family have done to me and my children and now grandchildren is irreversible, and I feel that the egotistical judgements will never cease. Thank you for giving me a platform to voice my experiences, it was not easy at all to write this. – Bonnie

My mother was beaten by my father my entire childhood!  My sister married a JW and was beaten too!  It was a pattern I broke by refusing to marry a JW that was raised to hit women.  My husband said his father said real men do not hit women.  I raised my sons to know that too.  Break the pattern before it is too late. – D Lawson

Being counselled for not having deep respect for my abusive husband while having separation papers in hand was one of the most confusing messages I ever received. “We can’t decide for you but Jehovah says it’s your fault”. – Michele O

My husband was a ministerial servant and pioneer.  I was told repeatedly that the reason for my husband’s abusive behaviour was because I was not in subjection.
After a particularly abusive time while I was pregnant I spoke to the elders about an affair my husband was having with a guy from the next town.  They spoke with him and he denied it and they said without two witnesses to what I said was happening at home they couldn’t help me.  He decided I had betrayed him by speaking to the elders.  Everything was much worse after that and every minute of my day and every word I spoke was accounted for and monitored.  I couldn’t make eye contact or speak without permission.  I had a miscarriage and he decided it was a judgement from Jehovah on me and justified his behaviour.  The only place I could sleep was on the floor with the dogs and I didn’t deserve money or clothing or to sit on a chair unless I did exactly as I was told.  The only sex I remember was very violent and only used as punishment.  I’ve blocked most of that out.  I wasn’t allowed to have friends and my daughter wasn’t allowed to see other children.  I was allowed out to work three jobs and to go to meetings but I had eight minutes from the meeting or work finishing to getting home or he would know I had spoken to someone and everything would be much worse.  He took my name off of the bank accounts and tenancy so I had no money or rights to our home.  Walking too slowly, serving food set on the plate wrongly, breathing too loudly, anything could trigger him.
The elders met with us regularly as a couple to help us.  He was charming in front of them and the talks focused on how I could be a better wife.  I had to say exactly what he wanted and make him look good to protect the children.

For seven years I didn’t tell a soul and stuck to his ridiculous, unachievable demands because a JW wife should obey her husband.  He had all the scriptures and Watchtower magazines to prove it.  I actually believed I had no choice until I found out he was trying to sell my preschool daughter’s virginity online and ran away barefoot in the middle of the night carrying my children in my arms.

The elders still said I should work at my marriage and if I put Jehovah first he would help me with it but the domestic abuse liaison officer from the local police station told me that if I went back my children would be taken into care.  I stayed in homeless accommodation with the children and we went through the courts who decided he should not get unsupervised access to the children until they are adults. My children are safe.

I am gradually finding my courage and who I am. – Me

I was married to an abusive man.  He would use the “headship arrangement” to force me to do things that I didn’t want to do.   When I did not immediately submit, he would say that his death threats and abusive behaviors were my fault and that I was a bad wife.

It was my responsibility to stay with him and try to bring him into “the Truth.”  (I married an unbeliever.)  My family and the elders thought that would fix everything.  He briefly studied the Bible with an elder which only served to make him better-equipped to use the “headship arrangement” to control me.

I didn’t think that I could leave.  During a talk, an elder had said that women can choose to leave only if they are being physically abused to such an extent that their lives are in danger.  I thought that staying was what God wanted and that I deserved no better, especially since I left “the Truth” for a time and married an unbeliever.

He threatened my life many times, forced me to do things I didn’t want to do, hurt me, and destroyed my self-esteem to such an extent that, for a long time, I only sought to keep the peace and gave up most of my selfhood.

Leaving “the Truth” and my husband were the best choices I ever made. – Viola

My grandmother stayed with her abusive non-JW husband in hopes of providing a ‘good witness’.  He was mentally ill, verbally and physically abusive until the day he died.  My mother stayed with my abusive alcoholic father so myself and my sibling would have two parents in the household.  She finally left after more than 10 years of abuse and only then did my anxiety subside.  I am now in my late twenties and still have anxiety and depression due to being raised in a house where domestic violence was present. – Meagan

2007 quote

I was told to pay more, study more, comment more, give wifely duties when the husband wanted.   The problem was: I WAS ALREADY doing all that and the husband was not even going to the meetings and did not want to have sex with me.
I was scolded like a child by elders AND the husband.

I suffered mental, verbal, emotional, sexual, financial abuse. – Lea


My mother was abused for over 20 years.  I saw my father try to kill her.  My father attacked and abused me and my siblings.  There were few elders who tried to help.  Mostly they told my mother it would bring shame on God to go to the civil authorities for help… My father was an elder when this was happening.  There was another elder in the hall terrorizing his family too.  This needs to end now! – Lydia C

Someone I know fled a violent abusive drunk and stayed with her unbaptised friend who was the only person who helped her.

Elders turned up and told her if she didn’t return to her husband and stop aggravating him, they wouldn’t allow her friend to get baptised for “sheltering her” and “interfering” in her marriage.

She was told to return to him and “wait on Jehovah” because a man who drinks and beats his wife will “inevitably” cheat and then she could have a “scriptural divorce”
And the victims own daughter wouldn’t speak to her for years because she had been told her mother was being “unscriptural”. – ValF

I witnessed my Mum getting bashed by my non-Jehovah’s Witness Dad, threatened, bruised, emotionally wrecked, chased with fire a poker, broken tables, ruined furniture.  I watched my Mum slowly disintegrate into a broken woman.

All the while she spoke to the Elders.  She had multiple meetings with them after the congregation meetings.  I would watch them sit with her, talking for a long time, and she would tell me some of what they said.   She had to try harder.  She had to win him over.  She had to please him.  She had to let him come home to lovingly prepared meals.  She had to make him feel like a man.  She had to be subject to him as head of the household.  She needed to be a good wife, without reproach.  She needed to go out of her way to prevent his outbursts.

On our last night with Dad, there was a great climax.  My brother and I watched as Dad attacked Mum so violently, her face burst into an explosion of blood. My brother and I were 10 and 15.  I watched as Dad jumped on my brother next and started hitting him repeatedly in the head.

We ended up escaping the house and running to the police. We then went to the hospital and they cleaned up Mum’s face and treated her broken nose.  We never went back.

I spent the rest of my life reliving that night. I spent the rest of my life watching Mum trying to build some esteem, some semblance of being a whole human again.  I spent the rest of my life, trying to learn how to really be treated by men. That everything I had learned of men’s rights and how women are to be treated was all wrong. I spent the rest of my life trying to bring back a sense of self-worth back for all the times I stood there watching and felt entirely helpless.

The Elders helped us find a place to live.  I have reached a place of healing, where I try to tell myself that these men were just doing what they had been taught.  In their JW ways, they had been trained that this was how a woman should respond.  That this was acceptable and that it was the woman’s responsibility to try to change the man.  They didn’t realise that all along, the more they placed the responsibility on her, the further each incident broke her into little pieces.

I wonder at how people could be so invested in a set of beliefs, that none of them thought enough of my mother to research how to respond to domestic violence?  Their policies prevented them from using any other advice other than from the Jehovah’s Witness organisation.

I wonder at how people could be so invested in a set of beliefs, that none of them thought enough of my mother to suggest she go to a specialist or psychologist?  This is because their policies advises against such professionals.

I am not sure how my brother has coped all his life, because the shunning policy has left me unable to speak to him for the past 22 years.   I try not to blame individuals, although which normal human stands by, putting policy ahead of humans?  How could those Elders stand by, sending her home, sending us kids home, knowing that Dad could again hit, bash or severely injure someone?

The policy makers have a lot to answer for and I hope that one day they will be held accountable for the policies that dismantled my mother’s beautiful soul, and for the damage they caused to all of the kids that had to go through this. – Renee

I was married to an Elder.  He was verbally, mentally and physically abusive.  I was never believed when I complained.  Instead I was accused of wanting a divorce because he was getting older and fat.  I went to court and got a restraining order.  The courts believed me but not my own Elders didn’t.  Slap in the face.  That was the moment I woke up and left the organization. – Maddy


My mother stayed in an emotionally and sometimes physically abusive & controlling relationship because she listened to the elders and to WT teachings to “remain submissive to her husband.” She finally found a “scriptural” basis for leaving. This religion is harmful in so many ways, but the subjugation of women via their covering up rape, domestic violence, etc. via their “doctrine” is truly appalling. – Endwtabuse

My mum was forced to stay with her physically and emotionally abusive husband for 20 something years, putting all 4 of us children at risk.  When finally our schools got involved bringing with them the police and social services, she finally found the courage to leave him and take us with her.  She was punished for over a decade by having certain ‘privileges’ taken away from her – not being allowed to participate in a wide range of activities within the organisation and community, and branded as ‘bad association’.  The elders knew of every detail throughout the whole ordeal as she had sought help from them countless times both whilst in the abusive relationship and during the pretty rough going aftermath.  He never received any inkling of a punishment.

She has lived happily and in peace for a while now, but will never be allowed to remarry, date, or even be left alone in a room with a man.  Watching her internalise all this as her fault breaks my heart.  This awful organisation robbed her of a huge chunk of her life, of her free will, of her peace and joy, not to mention the effect it passed on to us as children in that environment.

Every time an article like this comes out in the Watchtower, which is every few years, I could feel her sink in shame next to me as they stand on that platform and ridicule people for leaving unhealthy marriages.  I’m sure she could feel the eyes on her as the only sister in the congregation to have actually left her husband.  She deserves so much better, so much more support and kindness from her supposed ‘brothers and sisters’, so much more recognition for her bravery. It’s so sad how common this story is. – SC

1988 quote

My aunt stayed in a physically abusive marriage for 20 years.  And I myself, and my little sister endured 18 years of sexual abuse by my father who was an elder. – Taylor

My mother has stayed with her physically and emotionally abusive husband for 25 years despite me pleading with her to divorce him. She won’t leave because she says it would be displeasing to Jehovah.   He has hit her, thrown her, refused her medical care, insulted and belittled her, and has literally left her stranded and abandoned on the side of the road.  He has also done these things whilst being an elder. – Rachel

My father was verbally and emotionally abusive to my mom and my brother and myself.  Often justifying it with being the ‘head of the household’.  The stock answer was to be more submissive.  And of course, verbal and emotional abuse wasn’t ‘real’ abuse.  And physically abusing the children fell under ‘parental rights’.

A friend of a friend was abused physically by her father.  She went on to an unhappy marriage with an abusive man.  Neither of these cases were taken seriously by the body of elders. – Alice

Abusive partners and parents as well.  People who have taken measures to protect themselves by going to the police are treated coldly and cruelly by the people surrounding them.  But when these people went to the elders for help, all that was given was counsel to both parties.  The “be slow to anger” scripture is read for the aggressor and the abused party is told to be more submissive and try not to make the abuser angry. – Anonymous111

My mother was told to stay with her abusive JW spouse for years.  We brought the elders restraining orders, and police reports.  They didn’t care.  They blamed us for his disgusting behavior.  He didn’t even get reprimanded.  We fled home on several occasions in the middle of the night to escape his rage.  It came to a head when I turned 17.  My mother finally left him, and got her much-needed divorce.  The elders decided that wasn’t okay.  They tried to bully her into a judicial committee.  She declined.  People from the hall won’t even look at her when they see her in public.  The elders that told her to stay are responsible for the loss of my childhood.  They need to be held accountable for their actions.  I suffer from PTSD, because of the abuse.  My mother still struggles with relationships… – Sierra


1982 quote

The mental health damage is devastating and has led to alcohol dependence. Watching a loving person all but wipe themselves away is heart breaking.  No reproof from elders to the wicked JW husband who for thirteen years was sexually, physically and verbally abusive.  The kind, loving wife who for years and years was so obedient, this owing to the knowledge of what lay ahead should she speak up.  Disfellowshipped from “deaf-eared” elders and shunned. – Rosalind

… In my 6th month of pregnancy with our daughter, my husband and I had a terrible fight!  He snapped!  He put his hands around my throat and started choking me.  As we fell on the bed it was the grace of God that there was a mirror on the headboard.  He saw himself and stopped.  He fell to the floor and sobbed.  I called the elders, I was still a bible study, I told them what he did to me.  They came the next day.  Even the pictures of my bruised back weren’t enough for them to say get away!  They told me Satan was attacking me because I was serving Jehovah.  Yup! And I believed them! Looking back now I can’t believe how much mind control I was under.  I couldn’t even protect myself let alone my unborn child.  What they taught me that day was no matter what he does to you, you will stay by him or you will be going against Jehovah!  I was 23 when this happened.  I went forward with getting baptized and having our daughter.  When our daughter turned 4 I decided to stop going to meetings.  Two years later I left all together.  Mainly because I realized, if what men say to me is more important than my or my child’s well-being then something is very wrong here.  I could not teach my daughter to live in this religion. Ladies please do not be led by fear, guilt or shame! … – Regrets

It’s been 30 years since I left my 18 year marriage.  I was only 18 when we married, he was 27.  He had converted a couple of years before, and in hindsight, just wanted a “servant with benefits”.  His abuse was verbal, psychological, emotional and financial, though there were two incidents of physical abuse.  He definitely did not “spare the rod” with our three sons, particularly the eldest son.  I remember him holding him up in the air by one arm (my son was only about four) as he took him to the back of the Kingdom Hall to thrash him.  I have just gone through a couple of years of physical and emotional breakdown (Complex PTSD) and the issues in the marriage were part of it.  The estrangement of my younger two son who absorbed his disrespectful attitude towards me as a woman was the trigger which ended in my recent breakdown.  I am out of the other side now and I did achieve much after leaving him including a Degree and living/working in the UK for 4 years. – Life after Sixty-Five


Dear December of ‘89,
It’s me.
April ‘90.

We wrote our names in the high, right corner of your closet together the day you and your family moved away.  Our adolescence was over.  We spent our childhood together, our friendship prearranged by parents who shared the Witness faith.  I remember being five and spending the night with you.  Under the covers of a bunk-bed we cowered, your little brother crying above our heads, when your parents started shouting from the living room and your mother said she wished she were dead.

Your father was an Elder, his wife a Pioneer.  She pulled you out of school because he didn’t want you there.  From fourth grade beyond, you stayed home across the street, with nowhere else to go and not a moment of relief. I waved to you on mornings when we briefly crossed paths; I was on my way to private school, and you to a morning service meeting.  I didn’t stay the night anymore, though I never told my parents why.  By then, I had already learned “the truth” would be seen as a lie.

Our next heart-to-heart would be months later, as I took a tour of your new bedroom.  We sat on the bed and you said, “It’s so bad, yesterday my baby brother had a breakdown and shaved his head,” with your voice a soft whisper, tears twinkling but unshed.  We spoke softly, afraid someone beyond the closed-door would hear.  Sometimes we looked at noises that may not have been there.  You told me your mother was back on diet pills.  Your dad hated fat girls, and she knew.  You wanted her to get help, but she insisted she didn’t need to.  Sometime last week, she ransacked your room.  She shook you while screaming, “Don’t marry a man like your father. I wish I never did!”

He hurt her, so she took her anger out on you.  I know how much you suffered, because I suffered too.  We talked about it rarely because it was hard to be alone, and when we were together, our parents were around.  Soon, I moved far across the USA, but seeing your face that last day made me hesitate.  I still saw you as that girl from first grade, cowering behind me while I shoved the boys who bullied you away.

Hey, December ‘89, do you remember the time you called me after I had moved?
I was standing in the hallway of a hotel, very far away.  You asked me if it was wrong for you to leave your home, even though you had been saving up for so long.  Things were worse than ever between you and your mom.  You asked your father for help, but received none.  I called my dad after we ended our call, for surely he would help you; he was an Elder now, after all. “I can’t do that. It would cross a line,” he said, even though we both knew you could wind up dead, “and her dad’s an Elder, so it’s not my call.” “But dad,” I pleaded, “isn’t she one of your sheep, too?”

You had nothing.  No one.

You did it all on your own. You saved up the money and moved away from home. Not once did I ever hear you say, “Jehovah will make it turn out okay.” Maybe, by then, you also knew that He was a lie—or at least not what Watchtower had told you and I. Once, through streaming tears, you gripped my hands and said, “At conventions, people tell me it looks like my family walked off a cover of Awake! April ‘90, it’s all fake!” It hurt you so deeply when people praised you for being the perfect daughter of a perfect father, who was the reason his wife was wasting away.

Dear December ‘89,

By now, it’s been a long time. You moved to Oregon and settled down with a husband of your choosing, who your family disapproved of even though he was a Ministerial Servant in good standing. Your father walked you down the aisle and whispered, “You can still stop this,” remember?

December ‘89, I’m writing this a few days past your birthday. I hope if you read this, you know I’m glad that you got away. Your dad gave the talk at my mom’s funeral this past June. I thought about your mom for a moment, but in a different way. I thought about her sitting without my mom, her friend. I wondered if there was someone else she could be around and not pretend.

December ‘89, do you remember when you said to me, “No matter what, April ‘90, I’ll love you like you love me.” December ‘89, in my heart I know that’s still true, even though we haven’t spoken in years and Watchtower still owns you. I hope you’re just as happy as I.  I hope your husband is as good of a man as my wife.  If we have the chance, further down the line, we might meet up and become even greater friends this time.

If this open letter finds you, please know that I wrote with love. Not to harm or scorn you, but show how much I care—not just for the girl who I spent first grade protecting, but for all of us who couldn’t sleep at night because our parents gave no happy endings. – April 1990

1975 quote

A sister had an unbelieving physically abusive husband.  We had the Tuesday night study at our house and one night he accompanied her and became belligerent.  We were told to remain seated by the elder conducting the meeting.  In my own home.  He forced her to leave and beat her that night.  She was counselled to stay as she was setting a fine example.  It chills me today to think what if he had a gun.  We were instructed to stay seated and remain vigilant. – Angela

Married to brother with schizoaffective disorder ( bipolar 1 and schizophrenia with violent tendencies).  The elders knew how abusive he was to me and my children.  He knocked me and my son into wooden furniture which left a scar on my sons brain and caused seizures for life.  I’ve gone to the elders on multiple occasions who told me not to nag him so much and be more submissive.  Most of this came to a head last month. – Lilly

I was a Witness from 1968 to 1993 and married to a Witness from 1987 to 1994. My husband and I belonged to the North Park congregation in San Diego, California, where elders informed me that I needed to go out in service more when I went to them for help, desperate after my very young marriage became more than I could handle, and I was terrified.  My husband had been abusive from the start, doing something so vile on our wedding night that I regretted marriage within hours of the ceremony, which my uncle, an elder, performed.  We moved to another state the next day and I was isolated and in an unfamiliar congregation when the real horrors began. I was abused emotionally, physically, and spiritually, since my husband used very well all the scriptures and Watchtower articles on ‘good wife’ requirements to justify his behavior.  He had it all memorized.  I was a slave, a human dishrag, a savior when he felt bad, and a mother when he momentarily repented.  I had been born into a multi-generation Witness family, all the men in my family were elders or ministerial servants, I had been a pioneer in my home state, my grandmother claimed to be one of ‘the annointed’; I was devoted to proving myself a worthy wife in the congregation, a shining example, and knew I would be blessed…right??

It took me a long time to even consider getting help or getting out because I was very thoroughly programmed to take what was given me and be grateful to Jehovah for whatever it was.  That I had ‘made my bed so I must lay in it’ played over and over in head as the abuse accelerated.  This went on for several years when my husband became seriously disillusioned with his faith, began to miss meetings, started smoking, going to bars all night, no longer cared about keeping up appearances.  This was when the elders finally took serious notice of me, in that I was blamed for not supporting my husband enough to keep him faithful to Jehovah.  When my husband started sleeping around in a very high risk party scene, I told the elders my health was in danger, what should I do?; they informed me my only recourse was to be extra vigilant in my activities in the congregation so my husband would follow my lead, even though I was already very active. “Remain faithful to your marriage, to Jehovah and the congregation, set a good example, and Jehovah will reward you.”

I eventually started to miss meetings and stopped going in service in order to hide the signs of abuse, and I was quickly reprimanded by the elders for ‘slipping up’ in my duties. By the end of 1993 I had finally had enough and started to stand up for myself and acknowledge that I was completely and utterly on my own.  I was really sure I didn’t want to go back to the elders, who were no different from the group of elders I stood before as a little girl accusing a ministerial servant of sexual abuse and was told it was because I had developed breasts too early.  That was me then and it was me later, and I should have never expected anything different by way of personal support – shame on me. I finally woke up. I left my husband and the congregation in complete disgrace.  I finally was offered help by my parents, but only to prevent me from excommunicating myself and bringing shame on what was a really large and extended Witness family.  My grandpa was a Circuit Overseer, what would people think?!  It was never about me or what I needed and had been through.

I decided to walk away from everything, because it was all a lie: their love, loyalty, compassion, and assistance only went as far as my membership in the ‘Truth’. I took whatever I could pack in my car and was homeless for a brief time before a ‘worldly’ friend took me in and I started a new life. I was broken, but I was finally free.  I never went back and have been shunned thoroughly since then.  This part of my history has been a constant source of trauma and anguish in my life no matter how far I get from it, and has negatively impacted my mental and physical health in incalculable ways.  My distrust of men after being sexually abused as a child, and then as a wife, continues to wreak havoc in my current marriage.  I may never sort it out completely, but it’s still better than what I endured while being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I hold the Governing Body and congregational elders responsible for what happened to me, for telling me it was my fault, that I could fix it with faith, that it was my duty to take whatever men dished out because they were my ‘head’ and my superior, and for enabling the men in my life to believe it was proper to treat me like inferior second class property because Jehovah set it up that way.  What a laughable and terrifying idea. – Pam

1971 quote

My Mother refused to leave my abusive father because “Jehovah hates a divorcing”.
She later did divorce him, and remarried a slightly less abusive man.  And to this day she is in therapy learning how to live in harmony with her emotionally abusive husband because “Jehovah hates a divorcing.”

In fact one of the few reasons he improved was because I threatened to involve the elders when I became an adult and was no longer under their roof.

I was physically and emotionally abused because my mother was too scared to make God angry, which is what this religion taught her. – Lilian

I was disfellowshipped for leaving my abusive husband, who I married at 18. – RP

My mother was hit by my father and then told to remain in the marriage.  She did not and we were then treated poorly for the remainder of our time in the organization – 10 years. We were seen as less than because of it. – AngryExJW

I am 3rd generation JW and spent most of my life in a small town congregation.
There were “older” sisters who knowingly were abused by believing and/or unbelieving husbands.

A very close sister to me was a perfect example of a submissive “kept” wife. She never had a driver’s license and lived in the boonies. Her life consisted of being a full-time mother (to three homeschooled children).  Her husband was originally descended from Germany and he served in the military there. Once he moved to Canada he was introduced to the “truth.”  He was a control freak and quickly moved to elder rank.  Her family was so smitten by this man who reached out for these special privileges.  He moved her provinces away from her family where they started raising their family.

After years of being a sex slave my friend could not handle the torment any longer and went to the elders for help.   The sadistic sex slave acts she had been repeatedly forced to perform all her married years was taking it’s toll on her mental and physical well-being.  Her husband had lived in a brothel in Germany before she knew him.  Of course the untrained elders did not know what to do with this other than counsel her, reminding her of her “duties” as a wife and that this was not a scriptural reason for leaving.

As you can imagine, her life spiralled into a full-blown tailspin. Long story short he always remained an elder, she eventually left him when her kids were relatively young and she was disfellowshipped.  This was years ago.  Her kids are all adults and have so far remained in “the truth” and have not spoken to her in years, nor has she EVER been allowed to see/meet her grandchildren.  Her ex remarried some other submissive sister and has always remained an elder.

Funny thing…the first time my mom and I ever met him he made our skin crawl.
I was molested by a family member when I was very young and I can smell “perverts” a mile away.

Thankfully, I married a man who was not raised in the “truth” and abuse NEVER crossed his mind. Sadly many of my friends that married in the organization were married at 18, children shortly after, and with abusive “Christian” husbands.
Makes me sick! This organization allows men to bathe themselves in cesspools of despicable acts!!


1963 quote

Years ago after I had seen my father treat my mother unfairly while she was caring for him when he had a stroke, I told my elder and missionary brother that we needed to put an ultimatum to his behavior when he was released from the hospital (he only stopped being physically abusive recently).  He told me I was being a bad daughter raising such a subject in a sensitive time, that there were alcoholics out there who actually put their wives in the hospital, and I was creating division within the family. – Rocio

I personally knew an abused JW wife and what she endured was horrific!  She lived a life similar to Julia Roberts character in the movie, Sleeping with the Enemy.  Everything had to be orderly and ‘just so’ or there’d be hell to pay.  He (was divorced when he was in ‘the world, and as a JW stalked his ex & children) controlled who she talked to, where she went and what she did.  His anger exploded one day and he tried forcing her to drink bleach.  I was horrified by what she shared with me and urged her to leave him, to no avail.  Her JW parents felt they couldn’t get involved because she’d gotten married and was “one flesh” with her husband.  This was over 26 years ago and she’s still with him. – Anna


Ex husband/ministerial servant was a violent rager.  I finally worked up the nerve to talk with elder.  He directed me to the ‘how to make your family life happier ‘ publication, specifically ‘how to be a better wife’.  I lied about having an affair, hoping he would leave me, thus divorce.  It backfired.  Punishments increased.  Finally ended with a 911 call from our daughter.  There’s so much more to the story. – Christy

My mom was persuaded by the elders to stay with my abusive, alcoholic, disfellowshipped father so that she might be “a good example” to him.  Her life, my sisters’ lives, and my life we’re put in danger because of this policy.  When my mom went against the council of the elders and divorced my father, she became a pariah in our small congregation and lost privileges.

Recently, my uncle (who is an elder) became mentally unstable and lost his job.  He became abusive toward my aunt, and they lost their home.  When my aunt left him and reached out to the other elders for help, they only assisted her when she promised to stay with him.

This policy is inhumane and outrageous. Women aren’t pawns in a game of recruitment.  If anyone is suffering, it’s the responsibility of the elders to help them into better situations, not advise them to persevere within a dangerous situation. – Rachel

My biological sister was abused by her JW husband for 10 years from the day she was married. She eventually got disfellowshipped for leaving him. Because of this policy her 3 children were also subjected to living with the abuse which has caused them long-term psychological damage. As a child I was aware of sisters having to live with abusive husbands. Being taught that this was acceptable and somehow their fault played a major part in my determination to leave the religion. – Tilly Von B

Grew up in the house of a narcissistic, sociopathic father whose only aim was to be an elder, because status was everything.  Along the way he beat my mum, my two brothers, my sister and I and argued with anyone and everyone who dared to disagree with him.  The elders knew what he was and he was still made a Ministerial Servant and had several privileges in the congregation, including giving public talks at other congregations.  It was all for show, because he so desperately wanted to be made an elder.

It never happened. He’s dead now, and other than my life, his death was the greatest gift he could have given me. – Steph

In my own family my aunt was physically abused and told she had to stay with her husband. The elders said that she could leave but she could never divorce or remarry, so she stayed for another 40 years depressed, unhappy and beaten down. My mother was psychologically coerced, controlled and manipulated as well as being insulted and belittled her whole married life by her husband, my father. My father did all of that to me in addition to being physically abusive. Many years later after I had left home and stopped being a Witness, my mother confessed to me that she was sorry that she had put the Watchtower teachings and my father ahead of me, she knew the damage that had been caused and she wished she could turn back the clock and do things differently. – Evelyn De L’Ombre

** For those who submitted entries, please note that we have only included those experiences that directly relate to domestic abuse as otherwise the length of this article would be too long.  We are not ignoring other issues raised and will happily deal with those in future articles.

[1] The Watchtower Study Edition – December 2018
[2] Please note that we are not ignoring that women can be the abusers, however, Watchtower advice is always directed to the woman being both the victim and responsible for changing her abusive husband’s behaviour by being a “loyal Christian”.

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