On Thursday, the judge ruled on whether a report on sexual abuse could be published within the community of Jehovah's Witnesses. An important moment for the 33-year-old Maria Kramer *. She was abused for years by a person who held a high position within the community.
Kramer grew up grew up in a family of five in one, as she calls it, "average" Jehovah's sense. Her parents were members of the community, which meant that she was raised with faith. "I went past the doors when I was still in the pram."
The family lived in a place near Rotterdam, where at that time between three and four hundred Jehovah's witnesses lived among three so-called Jehovah municipalities. Kramer was sent by her parents to a public school, where she was supposed to seize every opportunity to spread the faith to peers.
There was no room for a social life outside the community. "I was working on nothing but faith," says Kramer. "I was not allowed to interact with other children from outside the community or to play a team sport, because outside influences would be dangerous."
Sexually abused by an elder
But it was precisely within the community that danger appeared to be lurking. Kramer was sexually abused by an elder, someone with a high position in the community. The abuse continued for years.
"When I was fifteen, I dared to share this story with my mother. She also turned out to be abused," says Kramer. We have never talked about how she experienced the abuse. She would rather not talk about that. "
Kramer, together with her mother, raised the abuse with the community. After this, two other elders came to visit to listen to her story.
"I got my driver's license as quickly as possible and found a job to live on my own." Maria Kramer, victim of abuse
Elder was allowed to remain active as a member of the congregation
"The men asked about all the details of the abuse," Kramer says excitedly. To be honest, after the actual abuse, this is the worst thing I've ever experienced. I've never felt so naked. "
The elder was thrown out of office, but was allowed to remain active as a member within the congregation. His wife was allowed to continue to receive small children at their homes to look after.
The reason for his dismissal was not disclosed in the community. "I was instructed not to talk to anyone about it. I could only go to the elders for my story."
Apart from the abuse, Kramer could not agree with her interpretation of the Bible and life. Finally she decided to leave the community. "I got my driver's license as quickly as possible and found a job to live on my own."
Parents broke contact
Building a new life proved to be very difficult, because Kramer had no relationship with people outside of the faith. Her parents also broke contact with her. "Family and friends were supposed to be out of contact with me. I was dismissed by everyone I knew in one go."
The last fourteen years have been tough for Kramer. But after she became depressed last year, she says she has found the right help and almost processed the past. "But I still have a huge problem with trusting others."
Kramer hopes that the judge will decide on Thursday that the report may be published. "I hope that internal handling as it is going to be prohibited, so that other victims receive adequate assistance."
She never reported the matter to the police, because the community advised against it. "That is the essence of the story: everything had to stay internal. And when I left, I wanted to leave it behind."
* Maria Kramer is a fictitious name. Her real name is known to the editors.