Survivors guess there could be several hundred unacknowledged cases in New Zealand, where Jehovah’s Witness believers number 14,000 out of a global following of eight million.
A video of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ headquarters records a manager telling elders everywhere to destroy documents was leaked last year to the Philadelphia Inquirer paper; in it the manager refers to judicial authorities as the devil, Satan.
“We know that the scene of this world is changing and we know Satan’s coming after us. And he’s going to go for us legally. We can see by the way things are shaping up. So the organisation has said we’ve run into difficulties in the past because of the records that we have.”
Draft records with personal comments had done particular damage in lawsuits against the church, the manager told fellow elders.
The edicts do not specifically include or exclude documents relating to abuse, but New Zealand survivor network organiser Shayne Mechen, who spent years in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is in no doubt child sex abuse records are in jeopardy.
“There is already evidence that destruction of those documents has happened, they are no longer complete. They go to court and seal up all records.”
He has given leaked church documents to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, including a recent letter to elders.