When New York’s Child Victims Act went into effect on August 14th, hundreds of child sexual abuse lawsuits were filed, and many more are expected to be filed over the next year. Among the many individuals and organizations that were named by victims in the first few days was a lawsuit filed by sisters Lynn Haggan and Tara Bird against the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and its Watchtower Bible and Tract Societies of Pennsylvania and New York, as well as their father, Donald Nicolson. The sisters have accused the religious organization of a“widespread and massive scheme to cover up childhood sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses institution and its officers.”
The sexual abuse lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey but relies on the New York law in making claims for abuse that dates back decades. The women tell a harrowing tale of their father being an Elder with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and being found guilty by their New Jersey congregations of being a child predator. Despite the fact that his next congregation was warned about this, they made him an Elder, allowing him access to other girls and turning on Lynn when she accused her father of having repeatedly abused her. Though he was later turned into the police and served time in jail when he was released the Jehovah’s Witnesses continued to shield him and allow him to remain an Elder and abuse Tara and other young girls.
Jehovah’s Witnesses Accused of Covering Up Hundreds of Cases of Childhood Sexual Abuse
A recent news report by the Hearst Television National Investigative Unit highlighted several child sexual abuse victims who told similar stories of their abuse when they were minors, and of the church’s internal policy of shielding abusers from accusations and from being reported to the authorities. One woman recently filed a lawsuit against the organization that resulted ina $37 million award, and it is expected that as other states across the nation enact laws similar to New York’s Child Victims Act, more victims will come forward who had previously been unable to seek justice as a result of the statute of limitations.