Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Shannon Rowland on the JW paradox: ‘You’re set up for failure, but too terrified to leave’

We were really impressed by Shannon Rowland’s appearance on the Aftermath Jehovah’s Witnesses special, so we decided to ask her about it.

Did it go as well as she was hoping?

Shannon: We only had two hours, but I’m very happy that so many stories unfolded to make such an impact.

The Bunker: Two hours is an eternity on TV! We were amazed that they got A&E to give them that much time, actually.


Shannon: So much was covered and each story is so important. I was amazed doing hours of taping how well the producers put it together. It gives me a far greater appreciation for all the work done behind the scenes.

The Bunker: Help us understand what your expectations were going into it, based on what you’ve been through.

Shannon: Well, I was born and raised in it and of course you heard many of the elements of my story. For me when I left I knew no one and had no support and that is the hardest part for anyone who chooses to leave everything they have ever known. I went to the hospital for depression and even called my father to see if I could stay with him for a week, and he told me to go to a homeless shelter. It was a make-or-break moment for me and a huge turning point. I got a cab and when I walked into my home I know I could fall into a puddle and die or I could gain insight and strength. I literally called a suicide hotline and spoke to someone for two hours. They were so impressed with my story, they asked me to contact NAMI. I then became a public speaker for them and traveled all around the country. It became my new path. I ended up writing Leah a letter and I was called a week later and flown out there the week after that. It’s kind of miraculous I was even picked to be on there.

The Bunker: So you have been a public speaker for a while.

Shannon: Specifically about surviving and thriving after losing all the people I loved and coming to terms with the fact that all I had to leave was a lie. My mother committed suicide and I had suffered depression because of JW as well. So I initially stood up for those suffering no matter what their circumstances. Now it has led into a greater capacity to help those specifically leaving JW.

The Bunker: The show seemed to cover a lot of territory, but on Facebook we saw a lot of ex-JWs saying that it only “scratched the surface.” If that’s the case, what are some other areas that the show could have gone into?

Shannon: There were even more quotes from The Watchtower regarding my own situation that could have been brought up. I also wish I could have had the portion of my child custody case brought out which regards a JW stance called “Theocratic Warfare.”

The Bunker: What kind of effect did that have on you?

Shannon: My conscience hurt all the time, it was so intense on my psyche to wear that facade each day! It breaks you when are a mere human. You never are perfect enough and are set up for failure but you don’t leave because you’re terrified you will die in Armageddon.

The Bunker: So what’s next? Is there some goal you are all working towards?

Shannon: I personally simply want to keep getting the word out so that no one else joins and hopefully our loved ones’ eyes will be opened. I hope to start a foundation for those who come out to get the therapy and emotional support as well as help starting their lives since no one will help them once they have left. I myself have fought homelessness and without higher education have to live very frugally and carefully but I am making it and I lived in a tent about 10 years ago

The Bunker: That’s incredible. What do you think ex-JWs in general would like to see happen?

Shannon: I think some of the same things the ex-Scientologists want. Government action. I know that JW is really coming under fire because of the molestation accusations.

The Bunker: We were astounded by the number that the Australian inquiry found.

Shannon: Elders are instructed not to even report confessed murders. Put several countries together and if each of them had a thousand and six molested kids, how many children have been subject to such sick atrocities? And often, if a victim pursues court proceedings they are disfellowshipped and considered unfaithful to the organization. So when a victim is needing support and healing, everyone they trust never looks at them again as if they did something wrong for taking their “brother” to court. It’s heartless.

The Bunker: We’re glad you did the show.

Shannon: I was terrified, to be completely honest. But when I saw all of us gathered together in the spirit of fighting for our loved ones it just felt right.


Posted by Tony Ortega on March 7, 2019 at 12:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Tony Ortega is a journalist who was formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He’s written about Scientology since 1995, and in May 2015 released a book about Scientology’s harassment of Paulette Cooper titled ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely,’ and more recently a compilation of his stories, ‘Battlefield Scientology.’ He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world, as well as other subjects such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. You can reach him by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.)


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email