Jehovah's Witnesses member gets 18 months for sexually assaulting girls

The Star Phoenix, Canada/November 21, 2008

Almost 19 years after elders of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation learned a member of their church had groped and fondled two adolescent girls, a Queen's Bench judge sentenced the man Friday to 18 months in jail.

"Even if the sexual assault did not include intercourse, in my opinion a sentence of imprisonment is necessary to denounce this type of crime upon children and deter others from committing similar acts," Justice Neil Gabrielson wrote in his decision handed down at Court of Queen's Bench.

The 45-year-old man pleaded guilty last month to two counts of sexual assault against the extended family members between 1987 and 1991, when they were between 12- and 15-years-old.

The man, whose name cannot be published because it might identify the complainants, was also sentenced to two years probation, during which he is not allowed to be alone with anyone younger than 18, except for his son, who is 16.

He will be added to the national sex offender registry for 20 years and his DNA profile will go into the national data bank. He is also prohibited from owning firearms for 10 years.

The two women grew up in a town of about 500 people, east of Saskatoon, and were not allowed to associate with anyone outside their religion except during school hours. They frequently spent time at the home of the older relative and his wife, who were church members in their early-20s at the time.

The victims' father told the preliminary hearing: "We trusted them, as Witness families would . . . We assumed (the girls) were in a safe environment."

During one such visit, the man took one of the girls, who was 13 or 14 years old at the time, to the couple's bedroom for a massage. He straddled the girl, who was lying face-down and naked from the waist up. The massage included his fondling her breasts repeatedly.

The man also molested the girl's sister from the time she was 12 until 15. He touched her breasts and vagina on several occasions when she was at the couple's home.

The girls were also given alcohol on some of their visits and were invited more than once to try on pieces of lingerie belonging to the man's wife, who sold it as a source of income.

After telling each other about the abuse, the two sisters informed their parents. Their father confronted the man, who did not confirm or deny what had happened, and the matter was subsequently reported to church elders.

No one reported the matter to police at the time. The victims were adults before they felt able to make their own formal complaints.

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