Bringing Abuse to Light, London. Reporting from Spain, Dr. Guillém Sánchez (El Periodico de Catalunya)

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Text of the reporting given by Dr. Guillém Sánchez (http://www.elperiodico.com/es/autor/guillem-sanchez/), from El Periódico de Catalunya

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The real extent of the problem regarding the sexual abuses suffered by Spanish minors among the Jehovah’s Witnesses is still a mystery. We have no approximate numbers or percentages of the victims, we are almost completely unaware. As in the majority of the world’s countries, we have a lot of work to do.

For the Spanish government, neither was a priority figuring it out nor discovering which were the sexual abuses suffered by minors who studied in religious schools in the past, when the Catholic Church had a lot of power in Spain.

However, in Spain and among the Spanish citizens, this attitude of indifference is changing little by little. More and more children come forward and confess that they were assaulted by paedophiles. Save the Children shows that in Spain, that counts forty-six million inhabitants, ten reports of sexual assault of minor are presented each day. Despite that, experts say that the real number of victims is greater than the one who has been discovered.

Generally, the Spanish index of sexual assault is below the Swedish one. According to Eurostat, in Spain, the sexual index (sexual crimes reported per inhabitant) is 19 out of 100.000 inhabitants. In Sweden is 177. This does not mean that in Sweden there are more sex offenders than in Spain, but that in Sweden people are more likely to report an assault. This also means that in Spain the victims keep silent.

El Periódico de Catalunya, the paper for which I work, revealed throughout 2016 the biggest case of paedophilia in Spanish religious schools by now. More than 40 victims came forward and 12 professors of the Marist Brothers where reported for sexual assault. Event though this journalistic investigation has been recognized with the Ortega y Gasset award, the most renowned Spanish-language award for journalism, things still must be changed.

Eleven out of the twelve professors reported in the Marist Case will not be prosecuted because the crimes they committed are statute-barred. Sex crimes on minors in Spain become statute-barred too early: the law in order must be modified so that the victims can get the justice they deserve. As of now, the Spanish government has not planned to do so.

Spanish public authorities, despite the substantial number of victims we mentioned before, have not promoted a single measure to compensate the victims of those eleven professors that will not be prosecuted.

If compensating the victims that were sexually assaulted in the Church schools is not a priority for the Spanish government, taking action to unveil the crimes endured by the minors inside an organisation like the Jehovah’s Witnesses is even less important.

El Periódico de Catalunya has published in Spain the only cases of sexual assaults occurred inside this religious institution that we officially know of and they are still very few. The most important is the one regarding Noelia Piris, a child raped at the age of eight by a senior of her congregation. It happened in 1994. Noelia reported it to her mother and the aggressor admitted the facts. However, the congregation pressured Noelia and her mother into shutting their mouths.

“If you report it, you will stay out of Paradise”, the seniors told to Noelia. She was menaced with the worst nightmare for a Jehovah’s Witness to shut her mouth. They also denied her the psychological help she needed, they left her alone. Because of that institutional abuse, her psychological health has been damaged for ever. After this interview, Noelia has presented a report against her aggressor 21 years later, but the crime had recently became statute-barred, so the aggressor will not be prosecuted.

El Periódico de Catalunya, with the help of ex-witnesses like Miguel García who is a part of this meeting today, has also revealed the parallel justice inside the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, the terrible consequences that entail their judgments, since they can even be able to separate entire families, and the intolerable persecution against homosexuals.

In November 2016, El Periódico published also the senior’s letters giving specific instructions on how to deal internally with the sexual assaults of minors that were occurring in Spanish congregations. The same letters were received by the congregations of the rest of the world. They were written in New York, as Barbara Anderson knows very well. Those letters prove that also in Spain exists a secret archive that guards all the cases of paedophilia occurred in this organization. The institution itself confirmed it in a phone conversation with El Periódico.

This is happening not only among the Spanish organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s a global phenomenon. That’s why Trey Bundy’s initiative is so important: the petition to publish the secret archives of sexual abuses on minors must be collective and international, because as long as The Watchtower from New York does not order it, it will not be published in Spain. The Spanish government, as of now, has showed no interest in taking any action. Maybe this collective and international claim will not change the mind of The Watchtower, but it will surely make governments like the Spanish one realize that the fight against paedophilia starts with the knowledge of the real extent of the problem.

Thank you very much !

Guillém Sánchez (Twitter)