Former Jehovah's Witness Takes on Church Over Sex Abuse Allegations

Candace Conti says the church failed to protect her from a predatory pedophile, which Jehovah's Witnesses has denied.
10:34 | 03/13/15

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Transcript for Former Jehovah's Witness Takes on Church Over Sex Abuse Allegations
You're about to meet a young woman raised jehovah's witness who says she was molested by a fellow church member and the church had been protecting pedophiles within their midst. Now alleged victims from across the country are coming out with claims of their own. With a religion under siege, here's "Nightline" coanchor Dan Harris. I can remember feeling like -- you know, the inside of me is screaming out to the people in the congregation for help. Reporter: This is the story of Candace Conti, a young woman stepping out of the shadows to take on the all-male leadership of a wealthy, secretive religion. On behalf of the north Fremont congregation of jehov jehovah's witnesses -- Reporter: Who she says failed to protect her from a predatory pedophile. Screaming out for somebody to come protect me. Reporter: What most of us know about the jehovah's witnesses is they may have knocked on our door as part of their global proselytizing campaign celebrated in church videos like these. Bringing solace to millions in a troubled world. Reporter: But now Candace Conti is out to prove that there is a dark side, that church leaders ensconced in their new York City headquarters, known as the watchtower, have fostered a policy of silence on child abusers. Do not reveal the confidential talk of another. Reporter: Some of whom have gone on to repeatedly reoffend. Do you remember your first impression of Jonathan Kendrick? He's just a big person. Very scary. Reporter: When Candace was 9 years old she says she was abused by a well-liked member of her small congregation in Fremont, California. While door-to-door evangelizing which Candace would do without her parents, she says Jonathan Kendrick began taking her to his house and molesting her. I don't really want to go into everything else. Because I don't want to have nightmare nightmares. Right, understood. Reporter: She testified that he abused her several times a month for what she says felt like two years. When you were a kid, why did you feel like you couldn't come forward? Bringing that up just would demolish the only people that I knew. I was scared to. Reporter: Candace had nowhere else to turn. She says because of her beliefs, she grew up isolated. Do you remember what the church taught you about the world? Everybody outside of the jehov jehovah's witnesses are pretty much walking dead. Reporter: Like all jehovah's witnesses she was taught armageddon is coming soon. There will be a new Earth, a paradise Earth. Reporter: And that the only survivors will be true believers who will live in a heaven on Earth. Growing up as a jehovah's witness, Candace didn't celebrate birthdays or Christmas and she didn't make friends outside of the church. Anybody outside of the jehovah's witnesses could be used as a tool by Satan to pull you away from your Christian family. Reporter: So it was only years later after she'd grown up and left the church when she found Jonathan Kendrick on the second sex offender fridge tree for abusing another child in a different congradation gation and she decided to act. I felt really guilty for not doing anything so that this wouldn't have happened. To somebody else. Reporter: She went to local church leaders and told her story. They wouldn't listen to me unless I proved my case. How do you prove that you've been abused? You have two witnesses to the crime. Reporter: According to the religion's internal system of justice it's believed the bible require there to be at least two witnesses in order for a crime to be punishable. Who abuses children with two witnesses? Nobody does. And that was precisely the point. Reporter: Though she went to the police instead, but with Kendrick denying the abuse the police never brought charges, although they continue to investigate. Her next move was to sue the watchtower itself. She hired a lawyer, Rick Simmons, who had spent many years representing the victims of pedophile priests in the catholic church. If ever there was a group that needs the sun to shine on them, it's this one. Because when your doorbell rings on Saturday morning and your kid answers the door, you don't want that guy to be a child molester. Reporter: When can Cass and her attorney began conducting depositions with local church leaders, known as elders, they learned something astonishing. Do you recall becoming aware at any time of sexual abuse of a child by Jonathan Kendrick? Yes. Reporter: Even before Candace was abused, the elders knew that Jonathan Kendrick, who then held a leadership position in the congregation, had molested his own stepdaughter. His first known victim. He confessed to touching her one evening when he came home. Reporter: Yet the elders did not call the police and did not warn the rest of the congregation. Did that make you furious? Yeah. I was disgusted. I was absolutely disgusted. It was more damage control at that point than saving somebody. What was the reason that the congregation was not notified? We don't make that public to the congregation. That's confidential. Reporter: A confidentiality policy set by the church leaders back in New York. In a series of letters to elders across the country on the issue of child abuse, the watchtower made its policy clear. Though they acknowledged that some states have child abuse reporting laws, they said allegations should otherwise be kept secret to all but church leaders. Because worldly people are quick to resort to lawsuits if they feel their rights have been violated. We kept an eye on his actions. While he was in the congregation. Reporter: They also removed Kendrick from his leadership position per watchtower policy on the grounds of uncleanness. The members of the north Fremont congregation of jehovah's witnesses abhor child abuse of any form. Reporter: In court attorneys for the church argued it's not the responsibility of a religious organization to protect children from sexual abuse by other congregation members. The jehovah's witnesses are not a youth group. Reporter: They said the church provides education to parents on the risk of sexual abuse but they argue that Candace's alleged abuse never took place on church property and they also questioned whether she was specifically assigned by the elders to go door to door preaching, known as field service, with Kendrick. The elders did their jobs spiritually. I think that's all we can ask of these men. Reporter: The watchtower denied our requests for interview but sent us a statement peppered with bible citations that said victims of child abuse have the right to report to governmental authorities, and that the church won't stand in their way. Adding that they do not shield abusers from authorities or the consequences of their actions. The jurors sided with Candace. In a landmark verdict in 2012, she was eventually awarded more than $15 million. The watchtower is appealing the case. I felt wrong and I felt dirty. Reporter: Candace Conti's victory has opened the flood Gates. I just want him to be behind bars where he belongs. Reporter: Apparently inspiring around two dozen other alleged victims from across the country to file lawsuits accusing church leadership of covering up charges of abuse. Absolute silence. To protect itself from scandal. Reporter: But as these alleged victims muster the courage to tell their stories, their alleged abusers, like Jonathan Kendrick, are steering clear of the spotlight. Going up to his house. Reporter: He was absent from the trial and he denied our repeated requests for an interview. So we went to see him. Mr. Kendrick? My name is Dan Harris, I'm from ABC news, can we talk about Candace Conti? My statement is this. I've never been alone with Candace Conti. I've never molested Candace Conti. Do you really think she's just making this up? What do you mean, think? I just told you. You never did any field service with her alone? Never. I've never -- okay. Get this right. I've never been alone with Candace Conti, ever. Never have I been alone with Candace Conti. Kendrick strongly denied it. I'm sure that's the smart thing for him to say. But do you expect honesty from a child molester? Really. When you told church officials about what happened with your stepdaughter, do you think they should have told the rest of the congregation? That's not -- hey, you know what? I'm calling the police. Did they tell you to keep it secret? No, of course not. Wa you please send the police to -- Reporter: This woman is Kendrick's current wife. There's newspaper people here trying to get a story. Reporter: You may remember that Candace only decided to step forward after learning that Kendrick had abused another child. A crime that landed him in jail for seven months. That child, Kendrick's third alleged victim, was his wife's 7-year-old granddaughter. Can we ask about the case of your granddaughter? No, you can't. Why not? Because it's none of your business. He paid for that crime. Reporter: Candace is now trying to move on with her life. She graduated from college and recently got engaged. But she says she will continue fighting on behalf of all of the victims of child abuse. It's not just me. I don't hold a monopoly on pain. And if we can change that momentum instead of being victims, we can have our words speak for change. This pain might be a little bit worth it. Reporter: Since Candace's verdict, the church appears to have made some adjustments to its confidentiality policy when it comes to child abuse. But critics, including Candace, say it's not enough. And Jonathan Kendrick? He says he's still a member in good standing of the jehovah's witnesses. You know what? If -- Reporter: For "Nightline," this is Dan Harris in San Francisco.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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