My name is Ava.  I became a baptized Jehovah’s Witness in 1973, because I thought I had found the true religion that represents Almighty God.  Unlike so many of you raised in the organization, I grew up in a home that had no spiritual direction whatsoever, except being told I was a Catholic, because my non-practicing father was one.   I can count on one hand the number of times our family even attended a Catholic Mass.  I knew nothing of the Bible, but at age 12, I began my search for God within organized religions.   My search for purpose, meaning, and why there is so much evil in the world, was relentless.  By age 22, married, and the mother of twins—a boy and girl—I was a clean slate to indoctrinate, and JWs had the answers—so I thought.  My husband didn’t agree and was able to get access to the published works of Russell and Rutherford through an elderly JW sister at that time, and so he challenged the brother and sister that studied with me.

I remember, at that time, questioning them about those many failed prophecies, but was met with an attempt to divert and frighten me by the idea that Satan and his demons were at work interfering with my receiving of the truth—grieving the spirit so to speak.  They ordered me to throw our whole collection of music into the garbage, since they were convinced those records were the problem; those and a small number of other items that may have come into our home from people possibly involved with spiritism.  I mean, what did I know?! They seemed so knowledgeable.  That was the first time I heard of Satan and his demons.  Of course, with such convincing scriptural backup, why would I challenge them further.

A year later, I was attending all meetings and participating in service.  I remember well the 1975 fiasco.  Everything—the book study material we covered, our magazines The Watchtower and Awake—focused on that date.  I remember hearing Fred Franz at the first convention I attended.  I was an outsider listening in at that time.  To say now that the organization did not teach and indoctrinate the rank and file with that belief is an unconscionable lie.

Being new, I was easily swayed into their mindset of that time, even though I was not completely convinced.   Because I was a babe in the truth, they instructed me to shelve it until the spirit gave me the true understanding.  I trusted that, on the premise I would be given insight as I progressed in the truth. I blindly obeyed.

I was trying to fit into an organization that seemed centered around established families.  I was different and felt I just didn’t fit in, and I used to believe if only my husband would see the ‘truth’ and make it his own, my prayers for happiness would be answered.  I could enjoy the close relationships that these families had with their inner circles of other dedicated families. I remember feeling like an outsider wanting to have that warm fuzzy, secure feeling that I thought others had. I wanted to belong to my new family, since I left my own family for the truth. (Mine wasn’t particularly warm and fuzzy)

Somehow, I was always struggling—never measuring up.  I believed I was the problem.  Also, I had a serious problem that I never revealed to anyone at that time.   I was terrified of doing the door-to-door work. I was in a panic until that door opened, not knowing what was behind it. I dreaded it. I really thought there must be something seriously wrong with my faith, since I could not control the panic that set in when I was expected to take a door in service.

Little did I know this problem had an extreme trauma-based origin that stemmed from my childhood.  One very unkind elder noticed it and mocked me for my inability to overcome my fear.  He visited me and suggested the Holy Spirit was not operating in me, and that I may be evil, under the influence of Satan.    I was so devastated.  He then told me not to speak of his visit to others.  This ignorant elder was elderly and extremely judgmental.  At a much later date, I did report him to an elder I respected, but only after leaving the organization.  He was dealt with at that time.  Honestly, I see it as a situation where the blind are leading the blind.  We all were blind and ignorant.

My four children saw the religion as a stigma that caused them to suffer the feeling of not belonging.  They were different than all the other (non-JW) children they went to school with.  They turned away as soon as they came of age, (early teen years) because they did not believe in it at all.  My children are very bright and excelled in school, and the idea of not getting an education past high school and just becoming a labourer to make a living was, to their minds, insanity. Of course, my educated husband felt the same.   Growing up in a divided home had its share of problems, and they felt they were denied a normal childhood.

I had felt overwhelmed and asked for help from the elders when the kids were younger.  A wonderful couple, missionaries that returned home from Pakistan, took my children under their wing and faithfully studied with them, cared for them as though they were their own, and aided me always while I struggled through my life to measure up.

So yes, there are sincere, beautiful people that truly love the Father and his son and sacrifice their time in a labour of love.  Because of them I stayed longer.   Eventually though, I began to see the light. Especially after I moved to Kelowna. B.C.  I came into the organization with the belief that I would experience the “love” that is the identifying mark of true Christians.  This has not been the case.

I recognize that there were wonderful people, and because of those sincere and honest individuals, I stayed 23 years in the organization, thinking I will just try harder, and it will all work out if I just wait upon Jehovah.  I attributed the behaviour around me to imperfect humans, never considering this special organization could be totally false.  Even after 20 years of being completely away from it, I would never say a word against the Governing Body, for fear I was wrong about my assessment of it, and I would never be forgiven.  Fear of being an apostate.

That all changed when I learned, a few years ago, that the Governing Body has a de facto policy of not turning pedophiles over to the authorities.  Many victims now want it out in the open to protect others like themselves. They are demanding accountability and money to pay for the badly needed trauma therapy that will, in the end, cost them a small fortune. It takes years to recover depending on the situation.  That certainly caught my attention as you will see.

Prior to learning that, I would not even look online to read what the others were saying about the organization.  Brother Raymond Franz caught my attention, due only to his non-judgmental manner and complete honesty when he spoke about others, including the Governing Body.  I dared to look one day at a number of the quotes from his book and was amazed at the level of honesty and humility of his comments.  This was no apostate.  This was a truth-seeker; a man who fearlessly stood up for what is right, no matter the cost.

I finally left in 1996 and quietly stopped attending without saying why.  When visited about a year later by an elder I respected, along with a circuit overseer, I responded with, “I just don’t fit in. I cannot even do the door-to-door work because of my problem.”  I said that the brothers and sisters are rated on how much time they spend in field service and are judged to be weak if they can’t keep up with the rest.  Then they tried to reassure me how much I’m missed and loved, I said, “That is not what I have experienced; not while I attended the meetings, and not now.  I am shunned by almost all members just because I stopped attending the meetings and assemblies. That is not love.”

I did nothing wrong, and yet I was judged unworthy of even being acknowledged.  Wow! That was an eye opener for me.  Some of the most judgmental people I have ever known are Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I can remember being out in service with a highly respected pioneer who, after walking out of a driveway of a “not at home” that had an unkempt carport, said, “Oh well, we really don’t want messy people like that in our clean organization now, do we?” I was shocked!

I never mentioned the failed prophecy of 1975, or the failed generation doctrine of 1914, or the fact that a child abuser sat right across the aisle from me at a District Convention, after a young teenage victim brought her abuse to the attention of the elders in our congregation—something they failed to report it to the authorities!.  That horrified me.  I was told of the abuse through a close friend of the family of the victim. I knew this girl and her attacker (whom I sensed was untrustworthy, from the first day I met him). So there he sat, with an entire assembly of brothers and sisters and their children who knew nothing about it. But I did.

I walked out of that convention in tears, never to return   That man stayed in the congregation and no one knew, except a few who were told not to speak of it to others.  That was in the Westbank congregation, a small town outside of Kelowna.  I was already living in Kelowna at that time.  After I left, I discovered why that incident triggered such a reaction in me and caused me never to enter an assembly hall or Kingdom hall again.

Because I could afford it, I entered into psycho analysis to get to the root of my fears.  I delayed this for 25 years because JWs were discouraged from going to worldly professionals such as psychiatrists or psychologists.. They were not to be trusted. Unless there is a need for medication to function normally.

Fast Forward.

I have never told anyone what happened to me at the tender age of five—just my husband, who stood by my side, then my siblings, as I unravelled the unthinkable.  I had lived in the tiny town of Langley B.C. on a five-acre farm and played regularly in the surrounding woods with my brother and sister in the early fifties.  As you may know, in those days no one talked about child molesters to their children—at least mine didn’t.  Who would even consider such a terrible thing could happen in a tiny rural town like Langley.  We all felt so safe.

One day, with my brother and sister in school, I was walking home alone from our closest neighbours along a dense woodland path when a man jumped out from behind a large tree and grabbed me. The neighbour, an old man, heard my screams and came running or should I say hobbling.  This action saved my life, but not the horror of what that predator did to me before this neighbour could rescue me. The man ran off.

Fast forward.

My mother went into a state of denial, because she was afraid of how people would see she failed as mother protector. She was home at the time.  So, she hushed the whole thing up as though it had never happened—no police, no doctors, no therapy.  Not even my family knew until 2003.  They knew something awful was wrong because my whole personality changed. I was so traumatized that I was shaking violently in a fetal position and could not speak, as I learned later from my mother.

Fast forward.

The result of that experience left me deathly afraid of being alone outside, in my home, and in numerous other situations.  I had changed. Normally a very warm and friendly little girl, I became shy and terrified of the dark.  Fear was my constant companion.  My psyche blocked it from my memories to even survive the horror and pain of it, to be able to go on living. I lived it somatically, unconsciously over and over.  The unspeakable had happened to me.  That man was a very sick individual.

Fast forward.

He went on to grab another small girl that lived a mile down the road; picked her up in his car, took her to his house, beat, raped and then killed her, hiding the body in the forest only a few miles from our home. That man’s name was Gerald Eaton, and he was one of the last men to hang by the gallows in 1957 for murder in B.C.

It took me 20 years to unravel this and heal it.  So many children in this world suffer the traumas of war, rape and sexual slavery.  They are so damaged that the only hope of complete healing will come from our Lord Jesus Christ. It was when I turned solely to Jesus Christ for my own healing that my fears became a thing of the past.  Those lost and tortured little ones throughout history and on until Christ’s return will all have their unbearable stories for us to hear one day.  I consider my experience nothing compared to others. Children that are repeatedly sexually abused basically shut down as human beings.

Right now, child sexual abuse is at the forefront of religious organizations.  Finally!

I still cannot fathom the lack of action against these predators within the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, nor how the congregations today continue on as though nothing has happened, in spite of all the evidence online.  The actual trials are there for all to hear and read about.  Where is compassion or love to be found in this picture? These predators may not be murderers, but the damage that they inflict upon a victim’s psyche is lifelong.  They destroy lives.  That is common knowledge.

Doesn’t this all sound similar to my story when you read the ARC final report into Jehovah’s Witnesses?

When I confronted my mother in 2003, she acted so much like the Governing Body.  It was all about her.  Then she pointed her finger at me and said “I told you not to ever let anybody touch you!” (She hadn’t told me that as a child, but blaming me somehow, in her mind, made her behaviour much less culpable?) She was more concerned about herself and how she would look.

Of course, what happened to the 7-year-old Caroline Moore may have been prevented had my mother reported Easton to the authorities and they, in turn, alerted the tiny community.  In those years it was common practice to blame a woman when she is raped, I’ve been told.   She asked for it.  And then it is covered up, if possible. That was also the defense of the brother who sexually abused the young teenage girl in Westbank.  That brother was in his forties, a family man. Also, didn’t one of the abusers in Australia blame his victim for the pajamas she wore around the house?  “Too revealing”, he said.

I may have left an organization, but never did I leave our Father Jehovah, nor His Son.  I am so happy to have found the Beroean Pickets sites.  After examining just some of the wealth of articles on doctrinal matters, I excitedly expressed to my husband “These are my people.  They think like me!  They are tenacious truth seekers.”

I have spent a fortune on different therapies over the last 20 years, and the only comfort I can give to others that have suffered related trauma such as mine, is this: Yes, healing is possible and the only therapy that truly aided me to overcome such entrenched relentless and unconscious fear was a highly specialized Psycho Analyst with a PHD in that field. And it is very costly.  They are few and far between.

After all that, I found it was my complete surrender to the will of our Father and the unconditional love of our Lord Jesus Christ that has truly transformed who I am today: my awakened Self.   My heart went out to those women who bravely spoke out at the trials in Australia. The devastation they have endured at the hands of ignorant, blind men is hard to fathom.  But then again, we were all blind, weren’t we?  Good thing we don’t get to judge others.

Your sister

Ava