Utrecht University is launching an independent inquiry into sexual abuse by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in the latest in a series of investigations focused on the church.
The university said it wanted to clarify how the church deals with incidents of abuse within its own community and whether this affects the likelihood of victims coming forward, the Telegraaf reported.
There are currently nine investigations ongoing into allegations of abuse in the community, the public prosecution service has said. Justice minister Sander Dekker has called for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to set up their own independent inquiry, but the church declined.
In a letter to parliament on Monday, Dekker said researchers at the university wanted to speak to victims and church leaders about allegations of abuse. The university hopes to conclude its inquiry in the autumn.
MPs from all parties have called for an independent inquiry into allegations against the church, which has around 30,000 followers across the Netherlands. A foundation set up by victims of sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses has registered 276 potential cases.
Dekker said last year that the church should follow the example of the Catholic church in dealing with complaints of sexual abuse. In total, 3,712 people have reported being victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic church to a special hotline set up in 2010.