A nine-year-old was molested by a church leader many years ago. The church knew about it, but kept it a secret. The victim is now 26. It’s taken that long for this case to run its course. But the church leader was found guilty of the abuse and the church was found guilty of covering it up.
A jury has just rewarded the victim $21,000,000 in punitive damages and $7,000,000 in compensatory damages. The church will owe $23,800,000 of that amount while rapist Jonathan Kendrick owes the rest.
The most surprisingly part of the story?
The woman sued Watchtower, the Fremont, Calif., congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Kendrick in 2011. She contended church elders acting under the authority of Watchtower knew about the risk of child sex abuse in their midst but kept it secret.
The lawsuit alleged that Watchtower had a policy that instructed elders in its Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations to keep reports of child sex abusers within the religious group secret to avoid lawsuits.
“I once wanted to be the best Jehovah’s Witness I could be. Now I feel I’m doing more to help other children in Jehovah’s Witnesses than I ever did walking door to door to spread the ‘good news,’” the woman said in a news release issued by [attorney Rick] Simons.
The woman added that she tried to get the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Southern California and in Fremont to change their policy but they wouldn’t listen to her. Suing them publicly was the best way she knew to expose them.
It worked. Let’s hope more people abused by JW leaders now have the courage to go public with their stories.