Charity Watchdog launched a probe into a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where a church elder allegedly sexually abused girl children. After the investigation, 53-year-old pedophile Mark Sewell was convicted for his crimes and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Sewell, who is a businessman and has also served as a former Butlins holiday camp driver, was convicted for sexually abusing two young girls at the Barry congregation during the 1980s and 90s. He was also convicted for raping a fellow churchgoer, who was left pregnant after the attack.
Weeks before Sewell was finally convicted, there were reports of how Jehovah’s Witnesses had failed to cooperate with investigators because they had destroyed all records of abuse claims. During the hearings that led to Sewell’s conviction, his victims were compelled to face him so they could defend the truth while Jehovah’s Witnesses tried to cover up his crime several times. According to prosecutor Sarah Waters, Sewell contacted all his witnesses repeatedly in a desperate attempt to stop them from telling the truth before the judicial committee.
The victims claim that after they reported Sewell’s abuse to church authorities, they were instructed by Jehovah’s Witnesses not to mention the incidents to anyone.
“… We had been told not to mention it to anybody, not to tell anyone about it… All of us were told we were not allowed to talk about it,” said one of the victims who cannot be identified.
A friend of the victim’s said for any problem faced by a Witness, elders within the congregation were expected to deal with it.
“If there was a big problem you would have sermons to deal with and trust what elders said. It was very, very strict… You could be disciplined as a Witness for gossiping,” she said.
The girl who was raped by Sewell in a violent attack, which saw her knickers being “shredded,” said church elders grilled her when she reported the crime to them years later.
“I had to go through everything that happened to me just as you are doing now… They asked me some questions as to what led up to it, why he did what he did, why I didn’t report it… They also asked me what position my legs were in when Mark attacked me – why, I don’t know… I had to explain how far apart my legs were which I found excruciatingly embarrassing… In the end it was Mark’s word against mine and Mark denied everything and that nearly sent me over the edge,” she said.
The girl, now in her 30s, said there were 12 elders at the time of her complaint and not one of them stood up for her. Not only was she made to feel disgraced for what she had not done but she also had to witness Sewell walking around with his head held high.
A spokesman from the church said: “As Jehovah’s Witnesses we have an absolute and unequivocal abhorrence of child abuse and [offer] our support for any victim or parent who reports this crime to the authorities. This is in line with what the Bible says at Romans 12:9.”