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Robins Kaplan Files Three Lawsuits Against the Jehovah’s Witnesses Parent-Organization in New York on Behalf of Survivors of Child Sex Abuse
May 18, 2021
Kings County, New York – On May 18, 2021, in New York City, Robins Kaplan LLP filed three lawsuits against the Jehovah’s Witnesses parent-organization, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. (“Watchtower”), on behalf of survivors who were sexually abused when they were minor members of two different New York State congregations. These cases join several Child Victims Act cases against Watchtower and its affiliates, where sexual abuse of minors is alleged to have been pervasive for decades. The New York Child Victims Act, along with its one-year extension, allows victims of child sex abuse until August 14, 2021 to file previously time-barred claims.
The lawsuits allege that for many years the Jehovah’s Witnesses promulgated harmful policies that facilitated child sex abuse and protected perpetrators from criminal prosecution. Two of these lawsuits involve allegations of child sex abuse perpetrated by the same individual, a Ministerial Servant of a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Upstate New York. Although New York law allows survivors of sexual abuse to file complaints anonymously, using a pseudonym, these two child sex abuse survivors, Daniel Owen and Pearl Grape, have decided to come forward publicly. Mr. Owen opined that publicly pursuing his lawsuit will “help bring closure, even though the abuse will still be with me.”
Plaintiff RKJW1 Doe, who is proceeding under a pseudonym, believes she was re-victimized through shunning after coming forward with allegations of abuse against a Ministerial Servant: “I was a 12-year-old sex abuse victim. After coming forward against a Ministerial Servant, I received no sympathy. No one talked to me anymore. I became socially isolated. I knew what he did was wrong, but it’s like I was the only one who knew it.”
“In representing survivors like Mr. Owen, Ms. Grape, and RKJW1 Doe, we are grateful for the opportunity to create lasting change by holding the Jehovah’s Witnesses parent-organization accountable, and to help our clients finally be heard,” said Robins Kaplan attorney Ian Millican. “We hope that by these brave survivors sharing their stories, Watchtower will do the right thing and come to terms with the ugly history that has plagued their community for far too long.”
All three cases filed today allege acts of child sex abuse perpetrated by Ministerial Servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations. In past court filings, Watchtower has claimed that there is no “agency relationship” between Watchtower and Jehovah’s Witnesses Ministerial Servants, arguing that Watchtower has no legal duty to sex abuse victims of Ministerial Servants. Information on "Establishing Duty in Child Sex Abuse Cases Against the Jehovah’s Witnesses" can be found here.
Rayna Kessler – 212.980.7431 (office), RKessler@RobinsKaplan.com (email)
Ian Millican – 212.980.2364 (office), IMillican@RobinsKaplan.com (email)
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