Sam Hollands’s Story: Child Abuse Survivor Threatened With Disfellowshipping

This is the personal and true account of Sam Hollands (Real name) from United Kingdom. He is an active or inactive member and made this submission on July 25, 2021 at 11:53 am by completing the survey on the web page, Tell Your Story.

Me and Jehovah’s Witnesses

The highest position I reached in the organization is Ministerial Servant.

I am faded and have been so for 2 years. Other positions I’ve held in the religion include Regular Pioneer.

I was baptized in 1989 when I was 15 to 17 years of age. Looking back, I was too young to be baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness.

If I could start over, I would not get baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness.

I was an unbaptized publisher for more than 20 years before I got baptized.


Even though, I’m considered faded, I was never disciplined previously.

To Shun

I have shunned the following person(s): close friend(s), someone in my congregation.

Congregation Member

A person in my congregation was disfellowshipped. I don’t know if the person in my congregation agrees or disagrees with being shunned. The person is reinstated now as a Jehovah’s Witness.

To Be Shunned

I think long-term shunning has a detrimental effect on a person’s emotional, mental and/or physical well-being. I am being shunned by Parent(s), Sibling(s), Aunt(s), Uncle(s), Cousin(s), Best Friend/Close Friend(s), Congregation Friend(s), Others.

I disagree with Jehovah’s Witnesses’ practice of shunning.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ practice of shunning has given me anxiety or depression.

I would like Jehovah’s Witnesses to end shunning.

To Shun

Even though I’m shunned, I am shunning Cousin(s), Best Friend/Close Friend(s), Congregation Friend(s), Others due to Jehovah’s Witnesses practice.

I would reach out to those I shun if Jehovah’s Witnesses ended the practice.

Shunning Experience

My wife and I started to be soft shunned a few years ago. In 2013, my wife recovered memories of horrific childhood abuse by her father and others, possibly also JWs.

We went to the elders (we were living in Australia at the time) they told us that we should try to forgive, citing the account of Manasseh. I was disgusted by the inadequacy of their response.

Both of us wrote to the organisation about the problems with their CSA policies.

When the notorious Watchtower article, “Love and Justice in the Face of Wickedness” came out, my wife posted criticism of it on social media, encouraging her Jehovah’s Witness friends to look up the ARC as an objective comparison, even posting screenshots of the text.

She happened to do this at time the Circuit Overseer* was visiting. Within a few days of her post, the elders rang me to arrange a meeting with both of us. I said they could meet with me but, because of my previous experience with how clumsy and ineffective elders had been with my abuse survivor Wife in the past, she would not be present. They insisted that they particularly had to talk to her. I said no.

At the meeting, two elders were present, both of whom I had known from childhood. They showed me a printout of my wife’s post and asked if I agreed with her. I said, “Yes, absolutely.”

They went on to tell me that the CO had called a meeting of all elders in the town ( three congregations) and it had been unanimously decided that my wife’s post constituted apostasy. I argued that the organisation itself would lose Jehovah’s approval if it continued to protect pedophiles and treat abuse survivors as if they were apostates.

They said if we didn’t take the post down they would form a judicial committee. I said I’d discuss it with my wife and get back to them.

Later I found out that an emergency local needs** item was given and my wife’s closest were told to attend. They even rang one friend who was on holiday in Wales and told her to phone in. They also visited everyone who had commented supportively on the post, including one of my son’s friends who was 14 at the time (he had thanked my wife for her honesty). Finally the elders talked to two brothers that I worked with warning them of the danger.

When I compare how they respond to an abuse survivor speaking out about her abuse publicly, with how they have a total lack of response or even report an active predator at loose in the community, shocks and disgusts me.

Because our kids only had Jehovah’s Witness friends at this point, we decided to take the post down, essentially doing a deal with the elders to avoid a judicial committee meeting. I said on the phone to them that it was meaningless because we still felt the same way about the issues. They responded that we could think whatever we wanted, as long as we weren’t public about it.

From this point on, we have been gradually more and more shunned. My daughter’s best friend was told not to spend time with her.

We have not formally disassociated from the religion, but because our position on the issues of abuse is inflexible, my own family is shunning us. My mum even said to me, “You are attacking people we really love.” She was referring to the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I said that a wealthy powerful global organisation didn’t need protection but that damaged and vulnerable abuse survivors really did. I have not seen her since.

My older kids both had text exchanges with her where she repeated this sentiment. They asked her how she expected them to feel about an organisation that tried to punish their mother for speaking out. She accused them of being disrespectful, leading them to cut her off .

We were soft-shunned for being “too negative” but when it came down to brass tacks ,we had to remove ourselves from a community whose values with regard to how they view and handle child abuse are so toxic and distorted.

Final Comments

I am conflicted about shunning because I have had to cease contact myself with my Jehovah’s Witness family to protect myself and my own family.

JWs who shunned us made a personal decision based on where they thought we were spiritually. Although this hurts me, I can understand why it makes sense from their perspective.
However, shunning as part of a congregational procedure, where you don’t even know why the person is to be shunned, allowing the elders to make that decision for you, is inhumane. The organisation basically weaponises an individual’s community against them making the community complicit in what is essentially psychological abuse.
I still can’t believe I was part of it for so long.

Thanks for reading,
Sam Hollands

* Equivalent to a Bishop, abbreviated as CO.

** A local needs is a sermon given by an elder to his congregation that is to address an immediate issue/concern at the time of giving it.

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