Dealing with Abuse in the Church

February 2, 2005 | 84 comments
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Over the last few years, there has been a barrage of accusations, civil suits, and settlements involving child sex abuse that have crippled Catholic dioceses all over the country, both financially and spiritually. Our Church has experienced the same types of issues, but, so far, on a much smaller scale. It appears to me that the decentralized natured of Church administration, the use of a lay clergy, and the clergy-penitent privilege have minimized Church liability in civil suits accusing the Church of failing to adequately respond to abuse (though there have been many millions paid out in settlements). The spiritual damage to the Saints as a result of these cases, on the other hand, is profound and probably unavoidable.

Abuse by Church members, or by those that use the Church to gain access to victims, is not a new problem, of course. Back in 1985, Gordon B. Hinckley addressed the issue in General Conference:

There appears to be a plague of child abuse spreading across the world. Perhaps it has always been with us but has not received the attention it presently receives. I am glad there is a hue and cry going up against this terrible evil, too much of which is found among our own. Fathers, you cannot abuse your little ones without offending God. Any man involved in an incestuous relationship is unworthy to hold the priesthood. He is unworthy to hold membership in the Church and should be dealt with accordingly. Any man who beats or in other ways abuses his children will be held accountable before the great judge of us all. If there be any within the sound of my voice who are guilty of such practices, let them repent forthwith, make amends where possible, develop within themselves that discipline which can curb such evil practices, plead with the Lord for forgiveness, and resolve within their hearts henceforth to walk with clean hands

In 1994, President Hinckley addressed a similar theme:

And then there is the terrible, vicious practice of sexual abuse. It is beyond understanding. It is an affront to the decency that ought to exist in every man and woman. It is a violation of that which is sacred and divine. It is destructive in the lives of children. It is reprehensible and worthy of the most severe condemnation.

Shame on any man or woman who would sexually abuse a child. In doing so, the abuser not only does the most serious kind of injury. He or she also stands condemned before the Lord. …

If there be any within the sound of my voice who may be guilty of such practice, I urge you with all of the capacity of which I am capable to stop it, to run from it, to get help, to plead with the Lord for forgiveness and make amends to those whom you have offended.

These remarks are addressed to the perpetrators of abuse, and I hope and pray that they reached at least some of their intended audience. But the Church has also addressed the problem from another angle: establishing policies to help local leaders deal with abuse when they become aware of it. In 1995, the Church established a 1-800 hotline to counsel priesthood leaders in situations involving sex abuse. The hotline staff tells leaders to protect and arrange help for victims, and and discusses the leaders’ legal obligations. According to a 1999 interview with Church attorney Von Keetch, the Church has now established a system to ensure that if an abuser confesses to his bishop, his Church membership record is annotated to indicate such. The annotation is intended to prevent the abuser from ever having a position involving children. Bishops and Stake Presidents are also now trained to immediately report any knowledge of abuse to local authorities, except in the case when their only knowledge of the crime is from an ecclesiastical confession by the abuser. They are also taught that normal repentance counseling is rarely able to “cure” a pedophile, and that professionals are better equipped to deal with this problem.

There’s only so much the Church can do, however, by way of condemning this evil and promulgating policy to prevent it. Abusers are incredibly resourceful, and priesthood leaders sometimes fail to do their duty. Ultimately, it is up the members — each of us — to be vigilant in protecting our children and making sure church policy is being followed. From my experience, we have a long way to go in this effort — we tend to be a trusting, optimistic, and forgiving people, which is precisely the type of community in which pedophiles thrive. Yet we certainly don’t want to lose these commendable qualities. So I would like to open up a dialogue here on the topic. What can we all be doing better to prevent and address abuse in the Church? How can we help our leaders to deal with this problem appropriately? How do we better show compassion and facilitate healing for the victims of these crimes? In your comments, please avoid discussing specific incidents.

84 Responses to Dealing with Abuse in the Church

  1. Stephen M (ethesis) on February 2, 2005 at 9:32 pm

    On thing that helps is to both avoid false accusations and to take true ones seriously.

    Which, of course, is the rub.

    Another thing is to teach people more about co-dependence.

  2. Katie on February 2, 2005 at 10:06 pm

    This is an interesting issue and I am glad to see the topic brought up. I recently heard about a story where a primary teacher (male) was accused of abusing the 5 and 6 year olds in his class. He would reach under their dresses while they were praying and other such things. This story once more brought to my mind a question that has always plagued me when hearing such tales. If callinsg come by inspiration, why on earth are men like this called to positions like that? What explains this phenomenon? I always wonder what kind of crisises of faith erupt in the ward where the crime occurs. Can ward members ever place as much trust in their bishopric again?

  3. Deborah on February 2, 2005 at 10:09 pm

    Apparently, bishops and stake presidents receive training on handling abuse issues. I commend the church for providing this, but the scope of training could be much larger — at least in terms of recognizing the signs of abuse. The primary, youth, and Relief Society leaders have a direct line of sight for spotting the warning signs.

    As a professional teacher, I am under legal obligation to report any suspicion of abuse. Accordingly, I receive regular instruction (and reinstruction) on this topic via workshops, meetings, pamphlets, etc. Perhaps we assume that primary teachers will report suspicious bruises, suddent changes in mood and behavior, “red flag” comments to their leaders, but is there a defined protocol? If a home or visiting teacher suspects abuse, do they go to their priesthood/Relief Society leaders first? Directly to the bishop? If such defined channels exist, I haven’t heard about it in my years as a primary and YW leader. It’s worth being explicit — people may be reluctant to share their suspicions because they don’t like to believe that it would happen “in this ward” or feel it is unChristlike to “judge our neighbor.”

    Similarly, one concern I have about overzealous “chastity” lessons in YW (especially when they over-emphasize sin and uncleanliness) is the perhaps unintended messages they could send to the victims of sexual abuse who may already carry feelings of shame and unworthiness. I’d love to see the YW leadership manual address this topic.

    Other thoughts: Does the FHE manual offer suggestions for teaching children about how their body belongs to them and no one else (and other safety techniques)? I haven’t checked . . .

  4. Julie in Austin on February 2, 2005 at 10:28 pm

    I wonder what would happen if all doors (possible exception: bishop’s office) in Church buildings had glass panels in them. I can’t think of a reason that you would need visual privacy in a Church classroom. (Of course, student’s backs would have to face the door to limit distractions . . .)

    I was in a ward council where a pro forma training on abuse was done. I was deeply upset that the general sentiment was, “Don’t get the law involved unless you are *absolutely* sure there is abuse” followed by stories of innocent parents being harrassed by CPS. My thought, as an innocent parent, is that I would accept being ‘harrassed’ by CPS if it meant that a guilty parent would be caught. These good people kept approaching the problem from the perspective of the innocent parents (which they were) instead of the abused child. I think this might be the biggest hurdle to overcome as we think about abuse in the church.

    Deborah, I like your idea about FHE training.

  5. Kaimi on February 2, 2005 at 10:55 pm

    Hmm, we need to:

    1. Be a lot more willing to get the law involved. Sex offenders generally won’t be put in jail or lose privileges unless they’re guilty — the state has to show proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    2. Not cluster around sex offenders and suggest that they just need repentance. Sex offenders are very likely to be recidivists. They need professional help, regular monitoring, and a real threat of legal sanction.

    3. Refuse to blame the victim.

    4. Provide better training to bishops and priesthood leaders. Provide unequivocal remedies for specific acts.

    5. Create some credible, monitoring for instances in which a church leader decides not to involve the law, so that they don’t repeat themself. If for some reason a church leader feels that “one strike and you’re out” would be inappropriate in some case, well, let’s make _certain_ that the person does strike out on the very first repeat offense.

  6. Kelly Knight on February 2, 2005 at 10:57 pm

    I’m trying to remember specifics, but my recollection is somewhat fuzzy. It seems that at one time I was approached regarding an incident and, following the instructions in the Church Handbook of Instructions, contacted the Church Legal Department for guidance. I was instructed that I was to refer the individual(s) to LDS Family Services where psychologists specifically trained to handle such cases would take over, and that, in the interest of my position as bishop, I was not to conduct any further interviews with the individual.

    In this manner, the Church can direct the victim and perpetrator to the proper legal outcomes.

    As for “proper channels” in the ward for suspected cases of abuse by one member against another, it becomes very delicate. In today’s society, the mere suggestion of guilt can taint the reputation of an individual indelibly, guilty or not. If a teacher suspects abuse by someone against a child in the ward, or even another member, it is important to go directly to the bishop. Involving anyone else, in my opinion, will only fuel a fire that does not need to be started. From there, the bishop would call in the purported victim and parents, and try and bring out only enough information to substantiate the claim. From there, Church Legal must be contacted to follow the scenario I discussed above.

    It is essential, however, that in the intitial discussion with the reporter of the suspected abuse, that the bishop make it very, very clear that this person is under an obligation of privacy and must protect the names of everyone possibly involved. It is not that person’s responsibility to make it known to anyone other than the bishop, and then let go of it.

  7. Kaimi on February 2, 2005 at 11:07 pm

    Kelly,

    That raises an interesting point. What should a member do if she feels that the bishop is not responsing properly to her complaint? I.e., she thinks that a girl in her primary class is strongly indicating abuse at home; she refers it to the bishop; nothing seems to happen. At some point, should she independently go to the authorities?

  8. Clark on February 2, 2005 at 11:09 pm

    I agree with Deborah that some quotes on chastity end up uncharitably stigmatizing victims. I’m sure the people making the comments did so out of ignorance. But I think the church could do better dealing with it. Especially since some of the books are still popular and in print.

  9. annegb on February 2, 2005 at 11:10 pm

    I was in foster care eons ago, a ward of the court, along with my three sisters, in the actual legal custody of the LDS Social Services. It was pretty awful.

    Now I tell people that if a sociology student graduates at the bottom of his class or can’t get a job anywhere else, he goes to work for LDS Social Services. Although, you know, this is true, Victor Brown, Jr., was the boss at the first agency who took us in. He was a nice guy. So there may be exceptions.

    But you know, I have to give our church credit for trying. They may, no, they probably do, have morons attending meetings, also perhaps those who have truly suffered from false accusations. This is very real. Because once accused, guilty. You don’t wash that stain off. But the brethren are aware and working on the problem.

    On the other hand, I tried to educate my bishops and while they were kind, they were uninterested in deep understanding. I feel they tend to somehow empathize with the abuser rather than the (hell, I hate this word) victim. I have no answers for that attitude, I don’t understand that.

    But I heard something once where this big cheese was counseling a new bishop and he said, “If you must err, err on the side of mercy.” God will take care of a lot. I’ve seen a lot more lives ruined by constant re-living of abuse experiences and family’s ruined by a selfish nurturing of a wounded inner child, than I’ve seen ruined from unpunished offenders. It’s a very complicated and difficult situation, and I’m grateful that we have leaders who are aware and working on it, albeit stupidly at times.

  10. Amira on February 2, 2005 at 11:19 pm

    I personally like having two adults in every type of class. This works great in large wards, but small wards just don’t have enough people to always have two adults everywhere.

    And, regarding bringing in law enforcement, there *are* innocent people who have been put in jail because of false accusations of abuse. I won’t go into it, but I know it has happened.

  11. annegb on February 2, 2005 at 11:26 pm

    Amira, this is a very good suggestion. And you know, the church is trying to do this, especially in scouts. My husband is a blazer leader and they are very careful to always have “two-deep” leadership, and they never stay in the tents with the boys. Which sort of worries me, too, because there are probably incidents of boys abusing other boys. Any ideas on that one?

  12. MDS on February 2, 2005 at 11:55 pm

    Eliminate the tents! Make them be real campers and sleep under the stars, in clear view of the leaders tents.

    On a serious note, the current training materials of the church, both video and text, are adamant that calling the church’s abuse hotline is absolutely mandatory for EVERY report received by a priesthood leader. No exceptions.

    And the “two deep” leadership is a BSA policy. You can’t get a tour-permit approved, and therefore can’t go camping, without proof you will be two deep at all times.

  13. buckeyebob on February 3, 2005 at 1:11 am

    regarding the question kaimi asked. what does one do if one sees that leaders at the Ward or Stake level are not doing anything, but are hoping that keeping quiet about the problem, or praying about it will just “make the bad stuff go away”? Happened at a Ward I attended, where the Bishop and other leaders chided the members of the EQ who brought a certain situation to the leadership’s attention. This wasnt a case o sexual abuse, but, the person in question was allowed to go ahead and marry a Sister who had newly moved into the Ward, and the leadership blessed the whole thing, never mentioning to the bride that her prospective groom was a dangerous, violent, severely mentally ill person. The Bishop in question and others in that Ward just t hought that denial of the problem was the best course of action. And the results of that were very ugly, and a lot of good people were hurt, both physically and psychologically.

  14. danithew on February 3, 2005 at 6:47 am

    Sorry for the extended quote but I just want to examine the following and then ask a question:

    According to a 1999 interview with Church attorney Von Keetch, the Church has now established a system to ensure that if an abuser confesses to his bishop, his Church membership record is annotated to indicate such. The annotation is intended to prevent the abuser from ever having a position involving children. Bishops and Stake Presidents are also now trained to immediately report any knowledge of abuse to local authorities, except in the case when their only knowledge of the crime is from an ecclesiastical confession by the abuser. They are also taught that normal repentance counseling is rarely able to “cure” a pedophile, and that professionals are better equipped to deal with this problem.

    My question is whether the scriptures provide much support for the idea that bishops should serve as counselors to ward members for their personal problems. I’m not saying the current Church practice is wrong — I have certainly benefited from the great leadership and inspired counsel of bishops. However, my understanding is that the scriptures seem to portray bishops as those who collect offerings and provide from the storehouse for the needs of those who are poor or needy. I’m not entirely aware that the scriptures set bishops up as those who should provide the counsel and guidance that we naturally expect from them these days. Does anyone know differently?

    It may be that the current role of bishops has evolved over time and has been supported and codified by the Church leadership (which also counts as revelation and scripture). I will be studying this matter (the role of bishops) to understand this question but thought I’d just ask what others know about it.

  15. Ivan Wolfe on February 3, 2005 at 8:01 am

    Julie:
    My thought, as an innocent parent, is that I would accept being ‘harrassed’ by CPS if it meant that a guilty parent would be caught.

    I’m a bti ambivalent on this, as 1. – My parents are currently caring for a kid that CPS should have taken away from his mother years ago – and everyone knew it and had reported it to CPS several times, and CPS did nothing for years.

    On the other hand, I know families where CPS did more than just “harrass” – based on only anonymous suspicion, I’ve seen CPS take children away from families for months on end, and the families become financially and emotionally exhausted fighting legal battles against CPS to get their kids back.

    This website http://www.fightcps.com/ is a bit overblown and paranoid, but in my experience, not too far from the truth in the cases it reports on.

  16. Mary on February 3, 2005 at 8:22 am

    There’s also the situation where abust occurs within a family. How does a bishop deal with that? If a brother or sister comes into the bishop’s office to prepare to go on a mission and that person confesses to abusing a sibling, how is that handled? I’d hope the bishop would talk to the person’s parents or something. Is there anything specifically mentioned in the Handbook about sibling and parent/child abuse? It may not get as much attention because it doesn’t involve someone outside of the family.

  17. Mark B. on February 3, 2005 at 8:58 am

    I’m surprised at Kaimi’s glib assurance that the law will get things right. The case of the McMartin Preschool in Southern California, and of the Fells Acre Day Care in Massachusetts, are two prominent cases where it seems that the law–prosecutors, judges, juries–got it wrong and innocent people were locked up for years based on false accusations of abuse.

    In addition, there are too many stories of government agencies taking “abused” children from parents on mistaken evidence and causing serious damage to healthy families.

    All this suggests caution in getting the state involved.

  18. Kelly Knight on February 3, 2005 at 9:11 am

    Buckeyebob- I once had a bishop who encouraged me to stay away from a particular sister in our singles’ ward. Of course, I did not. We dated for several months, and even got engaged. Then things started falling apart, and we eventually split. Mind you, she was not a bad person, but was simply going through a bad breakup and had some things she needed to work out. The role of a bishop is not to help a person, or dissuade a person, from marrying or not marrying, but rather to get to know a person, make their decisions based on prayer, and encourage them to stay close to the Lord. For instance, what if your bishop thought, for some unknown reason, that you were a “bad” guy. Would you be pleased if he went around telling members of the ward to stay away from you? While my bishop had inside knowledge and made his recommendation based on concern for me, it was probably inappropriate for him, even to divulge that she was on probation.

    Mary, sibling/parent/spouse abuse is absolutely no different than any other abuse. The bishop, if it comes to his attention, is obligated to contact LDS Legal Services for direction. Most likely, Legal will instruct the bishop to turn the case over to those licensed and trained to handle such cases, and step away from it.

    anneb- Sometimes it may appear that nothing is being done by the bishop, and not without reason. As I have mentioned, Legal will ask the bishop to step away and let licensed professionals deal with the problem. The bishop, on the other hand, is somewhat obligated to keep things in the ward on an even keel, and not make any outward appearances that there is a problem with any particular person. So, while events may be transpiring in the background to solve the problems, you may never see it on the ward level. This is not to say that the member in question might not be released from a calling, but the ward should really not be privy to the reasons why the release may happen.

  19. Kaimi on February 3, 2005 at 9:25 am

    Mark, others,

    I know that sometimes the law will get it wrong. But the likelihood of a false positive is pretty low. And nationwide and locally, there are really not a lot of sex abuse cases even prosecuted.

    Meanwhile, there is a very large number of incidents that go unreported.

    There’s a four-alarm fire here and a little kitchen-sink blaze. I’m aware of the kitchen sink blaze, but I think it’s proper to prioritize the four-alarm fire, even if it means that the itchen sink gets a little bit worse.

  20. Jim Richins on February 3, 2005 at 10:12 am

    In my experience, a false positive seems to be a very real – not remote – possibility. I have first hand knowledge of a case of “abuse” where the accusor was later found not to have been truthful. Too late to destroy a man’s family and nearly ruin his life.

  21. Ivan Wolfe on February 3, 2005 at 10:27 am

    False positives are a very likely possibility. The numerous fake child abuse scandals (such as the Amiraults) in the 90s (read all about them in Pulitzer prize winning author Dorthoy Rabinowitz’s book No Crueler Tyrannies) should show that false positives are an all too real threat and a four alarm fire all their own. (And then look into the mess that in New Jersey’s CPS and tell me that CPS nearly always gets it right).

  22. annegb on February 3, 2005 at 11:09 am

    I believe that this memory recovery movement among professionals is a tool of the devil. I do not personally know anyone, and trust me, I know a lot of people in therapy, who was better for it. I have seen it ruin lives, not just of the victim, but of their families.

    There are just no pat answers. But again I say: If you must err, err on the side of mercy. Jumping in with a baseball bat and throwing it around unnecessarily can do a lot more damage than passivity.

  23. Kristine on February 3, 2005 at 11:48 am

    Figuring out which accusations are true and which are false is not our job. Our job is protecting kids, which means reporting suspected abuse–full stop! If you report your suspicions to the bishop and he doesn’t do anything, then you ABSOLUTELY should call the police. While they may make mistakes, they have a lot more training than the bishop. I’m frankly amazed at how quickly this changed from a thread on protecting children to a thread on making sure no one is falsely accused.

  24. Ana on February 3, 2005 at 11:58 am

    I think the Church has taken and continues to take steps that will help to minimize occurrence of abuse in church contexts, some of which might not seem obviously aimed that way. One of these is the much-heralded raising of the bar for missionaries. It sickens one to think of it, but there have been situations where full-time missionaries abused children in the areas where they served. I’ve been acquainted with someone who was a companion to an abuser. Horrible, horrible situation. The abuser had a record before his mission, but “repented” and was sent out. I think–I hope–that would not happen under the new standards.

    Regarding inspiration in callings, I think that’s a very good question. Where was the inspiration for the bishop, the stake president, the missionary department sending that missionary into the field? The person I know who was that missionary’s companion is no longer active in the Church, partially over that issue. Similarly, what does it mean that one friend of mine felt she received confirmation from the Spirit of her decision to marry a man who ended up beating her? She is furious with Church and maybe with the Lord over that.

    One way I can think to explain it is that sometimes inspiration can take us to a certain place, calling, or relationship, and then the misuse of agency can twist it all around and make it go horribly wrong. That can be difficult to accept when the consequences of agency are so utterly miserable.

    Another possible explanation is that sometimes leaders–like all of us–can’t find the inspiration they need or don’t take seriously enough their responsibility to seek it. There are times we are all just doing the best we can with our human judgement. Of course that’s not good enough, and we should all be held to a higher standard, not just Church leaders.

    Back to the child abuse topic: On a local level, I’ve also seen some excellent education for parents. Back when it was Homemaking, I went to a very enlightening Homemaking meeting in a BYU married student ward where a local counselor talked about how to recognize signs that a child is being abused and what to do if you find out it’s happening to your child. That was years before I had kids, but I kept the handouts. Sometimes I wish more of our meetings contained such practical information. I certainly think that should be a topic for Enrichment in any ward where there are mothers or grandmothers to learn the information.

  25. DavidH on February 3, 2005 at 12:00 pm

    My recollection of the abuse prevention training was that we were counseled to advise the bishop of concerns in that area, and that he was to contact the hotline people. I don’t recall ever being counseled in the training not to contact the authorities.

    Another denomination has paid millions of dollars in judgments, and suffered much damage to its reputation and spiritual influence, because of policies that abuse issues were to be handled primarily on an internal basis. There was a perception, and apparently some basis for it, that the internal-handling procedure led to coverups and continuing perpetration of abuse.

    As a matter of common sense and order, it makes sense for the handling, including contacting of legal authorities, to be done, at least initially, through the bishop and the hotline. But I do not think it is inappropriate for a concerned member to followup with leadership, or even contact the authorities after a time, if he or she thinks that is appropriate. Were the Church to teach otherwise, that could be perceived as encouraging “internal handling”, leading to the perception of “coverup.”

  26. Julie in Austin on February 3, 2005 at 12:11 pm

    Kristine–

    That was my point exactly! The ward council training on protecting children took a few minutes (and in this thread, a few comments) to change to ‘protecting the parents.’ What is up with this? Why do (some) Mormons do this so quickly?

  27. annegb on February 3, 2005 at 12:21 pm

    Maybe I started that with my bias against memory retrieval based on personal experience of false memories.

    But, you know, this topic has been sort of worked to death, smack me if it’s a thread breaker, but there is the issue of unrighteous dominion and priesthood supremacy. I have encountered that attitude (as a big mouth broad) among leaders. They will take the word of man over mine. It’s happened. I have yet to get an apology from my bishop who believed the perpetrator’s denial over mine (I wasn’t the one abused, just knew of it). He rewarded my efforts by giving that guy the Melchizedek Priesthood and making him an elder in Stake Conference! That was a hard pill to swallow.

    That guy has since left the church and the true has come out. But my bishop has never acknowledged that and I am still left to feel as if I were the bad guy in the deal. The guy’s sister-in-law loves my guts, but my bishop hates my guts. What’s up with that? I think it’s his basic personality trait of chauvinism. That will bite him someday. This is a case of knowing the individual is imperfect, but that the church is still true.

    And I am secure in the knowledge (because near death experiences are another field of study) that God is going to get them both so bad when they die and have their life review and they see how they wounded me to the heart. Plus one of these days…the ex-lax will go into the brownie.

  28. Mark B. on February 3, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    Since I am the responsible party (Julie’s “most Mormons”–or at least their agent provocateur) that derailed this thread into concern about false accusations of abuse, let me try to explain the reason for my post.

    I was responding to a specific comment by Kaimi, that, upon rereading, still appears to put too much trust in the ability of the government to get it right. And, his “offenders generally won’t be put in jail” is cold comfort for those who do. Furthermore, the separating of children from parents who have allegedly abused them does not wait for a “beyond reasonable doubt” adjudication. It appears that CPS acts upon a lower threshold of suspicion, and then hearings are held to determine if the separation of children from parents was justified. (I realize that CPS is in a “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” situation, but that doesn’t make the consequences of a foster care placement any easier for the innocent parents.)

    I do not believe that complaints or signs of abuse should be ignored, or that the person making the accusation should be accorded less credibility than the alleged abuser. I believe that priesthood leaders (bishops in particular, since they are most often the one on the point in these matters) should get help immediately thru the Church’s abuse hotline, and should report any abuse to the authorities as required under applicable law. (This of course excludes reporting of matters learned only in a confession.)

  29. Mike Heninger on February 3, 2005 at 12:47 pm

    probblem

  30. Sheri Lynn on February 3, 2005 at 12:50 pm

    I was called to teach 8-11 year olds and I wouldn’t have a clue how to recognize any signs of anything amiss; I hope the Spirit would help me do the right thing. I’ve received no guidance or training in the matter.

    I have, however, known many adults who were abused as children. Every single one of them is walking wounded, unable to get past it. They are fine when life is going well. However, when interpersonal conflict happens, they over-react. Their forgiveness mechanisms are messed up, and they don’t even know it! They will massively retaliate for the smallest slights against their self esteem, almost as if that lets them have vicarious revenge against the adults who harmed rather than protect them. The principles of charity go out the window, and once offended, they almost eagerly seek to justify their anger by expanding the offenses past, present, and future. “You said this hurtful thing now, and furthermore, eight weeks and two days ago you said…”

    When things are going well or the opposition in their lives is impersonal, they appear perfectly normal and rational, and I can only assume that any abused child in a class I am teaching will likewise appear normal and rational in a safe setting.

  31. Jim Richins on February 3, 2005 at 1:16 pm

    I concur with Mark. My comment was merely intended to refute Kaimi’s overly simple expectation that “the system works” by relating the existence of first hand knowledge where it did not work.

    Far from “protecting the abuser”, my feelings about the matter are that earthly punishments meted out for child abuse are not nearly severe enough, and are probably not in line with the severe punishments that await such a person in the world to come.

    I do agree with the sentiment that I am feeling from Kristine, Julie, and other’s posts, which is that their was, and probably continues to be, an institutional bias that prevents leaders from recognizing a severe problem and acting on it.

    Lastly, don’t let my uncharacteristically short postings on this thread imply that I do not have strong feelings on this matter. I’m just extraordinarily busy creating a new build of the program we are working on, it is very complicated, I am under time constraints, and I am having trouble pulling all of my thoughts together on this.

  32. Greg on February 3, 2005 at 1:18 pm

    Lots of great suggestions here.

    I think Deborah is right that those that deal with children should be vigilant and alert to signs of abuse, and training in that area would certainly be helpful. I also like her point (supported by Clark) about taking care that lessons on chastity emphasize that victims of abuse have not sinned, and are pure in eyes of the Lord and his Church. And I also like her suggestion that we address these issues in our FHE, whether it is a lesson in the manual or not.

    Julie raises an interesting idea about privacy in Church classrooms. Short of more glass in the doors, couldn’t we also encourage teachers to leave their doors open when possible?

    While I acknowledge Mark B.’s concern about the shortcomings of the State, I agree with Kaimi, Kristine, and others that said we need to be willing to get the law, and other professionals, involved. Our lay ministry simply does not have the tools or training to provide much in these situations other than spiritual counseling.

    Amira and others raise an interesting point about having two adults with the children at all times. Certainly in wards where there are adults without callings this should be seriously considered. And where there are simply not enough adults in a ward, couldn’t we double up some of the smaller classes and have them team taught? I don’t have much experience in Primary, so maybe those of you who do can see problems with this possibility, but it seems helpful to me.

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned (maybe because it’s so obvious) is that Primary and nursery leaders should not let children wander through the building unsupervised when their classes let out before the adult classes. I’ve been in a few wards where chaos reigned for those 5 minutes while parents searched for their kids.

  33. Kristine on February 3, 2005 at 1:23 pm

    Greg, that last point is really important. I’ve brought it up multiple times with the Primary presidency and in Ward Council, but other parents in my ward think I’m just nuts to be so worried about it–“it’s church; they’re fine!”

  34. Steve Evans on February 3, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    Unfortunately, I believe it is simply a matter of time before Greg’s concerns are resolved through lawsuits.

  35. annegb on February 3, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    The Presbyterian church here has a two way window in their nursery. I think that’s a good idea. I know I’d be glad to help pay for that. Also, if they put two teachers, they could combine classes. Our ward is quite small, and it would work. I don’t know about the larger wards.

    Keeping the door open is a good idea, I think, too.

    But who keeps the door open at home, where most abuse occurs? Most children, the overwhelming number, are abused by a loved one. That “stranger danger” is an important message, but the truth is that strangers abusing kids are in the minority. It’s usually their mom or dad.

  36. cooper on February 3, 2005 at 1:57 pm

    It’s good that this topic has been vrought to light again. Jeff Lindsay’s earlier thread regarding this very topic is the best I’ve seen in ages. Jeff specifically talks about training leadership to prevent these types of problems from occuring.

    This is definitely a “head in the sand” type of problem in the church. There are specific laws that must be followed and certain individuals in the church that are mandatory reporters (policemen, doctors, nurses, social workers etc.).

    However, the real problem lies when you have a possible offender and nothing has happened, but there is the likely hood of something happening. No one can do a thing until after a crime has been committed. This is serious. There are people who come to church that are offenders. If the bishop says anything to anyone that this person has been suspected of commiting a crime in the past, yet has paid his debt to society, the bishop can be in trouble for slandering this person. Until the offender actually commits a crime, the bishop has no recourse. It’s creepy. I have seen it in a stake I was once in, I wouldn’t have wanted to be that bishop for anything.

  37. Greg on February 3, 2005 at 2:37 pm

    Annegb,

    I’m sure you’re right that most abuse occurs in the home. With good home and visiting teaching, and by earning children’s trust so that they feel comfortable telling us if something is wrong, we may be able catch some of these situations. Most of the recent suits against the Church, however, have involved not abusive parents, but Church members who gain access to children through their calling, or leaders that fail to report abuse when they become aware of it. Hopefully we can do better in addressing each of these scenarios.

  38. camille on February 3, 2005 at 2:45 pm

    I think all parents and future parents need to think about whether or not they will allow their children to participate in “sleepovers”. This was the norm for me growing up and I have many fond memories of spending the night at friends houses and vice versa. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a wise practice. We need to be careful about what situations we put our children in where abuse could occur as well as the situations we put ourselves in where false accusations could occur. Just something to think about.

  39. Ana on February 3, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    Cooper, I think the problem of going to church with a potential offender could be addressed at least partially by educating parents about how to use tools like online sex offender registries and how to establish safe practices for families (like avoiding sleepovers, etc.). Then they can find information for themselves and protect their families appropriately. This is something that could be done in a Relief Society or quorum setting.

  40. Greg on February 3, 2005 at 3:02 pm

    Good point Ana. Here is a site — http://www.klaaskids.org/pg-legmeg2.htm — that has links to online sex offender registries, state by state. I know that in California, you can put in your zipcode and get a map of your neighborhood, with the convicted sex offenders indicated. If you click on the indicated location, you get a picture of the person, and a list of what crimes they were convicted of, and whether they are meeting their monitoring obligations.

  41. cooper on February 3, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    It can be dealt with if he shows up on an offenders list. If not, the parents are still at risk. The case being, a lea bargain first offender may not always show up on a list. There’s where the bishop saying something gets dicey.

  42. Mark B. on February 3, 2005 at 3:36 pm

    A word about training:

    There needs to be much more of it. Greg’s reference to a lay ministry should be amplified by the rapid turnover that we experience in some areas of the church–in the district where I serve there is not a single branch president who was serving in that capacity 12 months ago–and none of them ever served as a bishop or branch president before. So, that’s something to put on the agenda for the next training meeting.

    Man, there’s a lot to do. Guess I’ll have to quit reading this blog.

  43. Mike Heninger on February 3, 2005 at 4:14 pm

    Here is an interesting collection of old cases of sexual abuse that have been collected by the Mormon alliance. I realize that these people are very critical of the church and not reliable in some areas. But I think that if we are going to prevent this problem in the future, it might be wise to pay attention. If only 10% of what is reported here is accurate, then I think it is worth it.

    http://mormonalliance.org/casereports/volume1/part1/v1p1c04.htm#ROBERT%20MICHAEL%20TUBBS,%20SLATERVILLE,%20UTAH,%201991-92

  44. Mathew on February 3, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    Cooper,

    I’m not sure whether you are using the term “slander” in the colloquial sense or the legal sense. As far as the legal sense goes, truth is a defense to slander, so if someone has been convicted of a crime or investigated for a crime and I accurately report that fact, I am not engaged in slander and have a working defense in any defamation suit (oral defamation=slander; written defamation=libel).

  45. LoneWriter on February 3, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    This is a topic with strong emotions for me.

    As a child, I was abused by my father. He was active in the church off-and-on, and never held any high-profile callings. I was actually a teenager before I knew what he was doing was wrong; I thought it was just something that daddies did. I suffered much guilt in my teens because I didn’t know how to stop the abuse.

    Twenty years ago, someone I know was accused of abusing his stepdaughter. The charge was not true, but as soon as the charge was made he lost his job, his home, and his family. A lawyer wanted $10,000 for a retainer to defend him; without any money or resources (his wife took everything he had) he chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge which earned him 20 days in jail. Now, 20 years later, he is still listed as a convicted sex offender and prohibited from certain occupations as well as being listed on state websites. Interestingly, the law that allows him to be listed on these sites was not even in effect at the time of his conviction; a charge of “streaking” in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s in our state would also have been converted to a sex offense when the new law was passed.

    And, in our state, once you are placed on this list you can NEVER get off. It doesn’t matter that his record was absolutely clean before and after the offense, and that the girl who accused him was later charged with drug offenses. Girls always tell the truth; men always are “in denial.”

    I now serve on the ward council. Once a year or so, we receive training on what to do when we suspect abuse. But, more training is definitely needed on how to recognize the abuse. Children, especially, need to know from a young age that certain behaviors are wrong.

  46. Greg on February 3, 2005 at 4:45 pm

    As I mentioned in my original post, let’s stay away from discussing particular cases. I suspect a lot of us have strong feelings on this issue because of personal experience with it, but it seems to me that facts of individual cases are not really amenable to constructive online discussion. I do hope that we can share the lessons to be learned from our individual experiences.

    LoneWriter, I fully agree that children must be taught at a young age that no one — immediate family, relatives, family friends, or peers — should be touching them inappropriately.

    Mark B: Sorry to add to your list of things to do. I know you work tirelessly for that District, and they are lucky to have you.

  47. Now I Know on February 3, 2005 at 4:50 pm

    I just checked the list for my zipcode in response to comment #40 .
    A member of my ward is on the list. I had no idea…

  48. HL on February 3, 2005 at 4:58 pm

    Obviously this is a very emotional subject. However, I am mystified by the desire some people have to shroud abuse and abuse allegations in silence. In my experience abuse thrives in silence. Specifically responding to Kelly, I think allegations in a ward should be made public within the ward more often than not. Obviously there needs to be a threshold level of proof but parents need to know of dangers or even suspected dangers in the ward setting. As far as ruingin poepl’s lives with false accusations/convictions etc. I think this fear is far over blown. I would like to see an empirical study looking into this phenomenon. In my small anecdotal experience, which is as unscientific as the anecdotal false conviction stories others have mentioned here, false accusations and stories of such are often not true, a person covering for a true accuasation or some such. I realize that there are well documented cases of false accusations and convictions. My friend was directly invovled in the wrongful convictions in Washington state. However, I think these are a vast minority and are overblown in the public conscience because they make big news. Anyway, my opinion is that the best way to fight abuse is with information. The more you can take any of it out of the shadows the better.

  49. cooper on February 3, 2005 at 5:12 pm

    In response to comment 47. Yep, they’re everywhere. A bishop cannot go about telling fellow ward members to stay away from them. It just cannot be done. The bishop is then interfering with this person’s life.

    Mathew, I knew someone would question this use of the term. What I am trying to carefully say is: someone has gone to a Bishop or member of the bishopric, engaged in conversation that would show that he has unrighteous desires of small children. He has not yet acted upon these thoughts. However, there is still a clear threat to the young of the ward. Where then does the bishopric member go? Obviously the answer would be to report it to Salt Lake. Salt Lake’s answer is “until a crime has been commited, we can do nothing.” Slander.

  50. Charlene on February 3, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    Hmmm…training would be good. The BSA has a video that they strongly urge all troops to show to their scouts (one is for the younger Cubs, the other for 12+yrs) Last month we previewed this video at our Troop Committee Meeting. Almost overwhelmingly the parents were opposed to showing it to their boys. It used explicit language (like “group sexual behavior”)! Parents preferred “inappropriate behavior” (like loud burbing?) The video discussed the problem of older boys initiating “inappropriate behavior” or abusing younger boys. Oh no, no, no! Our boys are *priesthood holders*! They would NEVER do that, we don’t want to give them ideas. etc etc. It’s doubtful this tasteful and accurate video will be viewed by our boys or their leaders, so the blissful ignorance continues.

    I know of a ward where a registered sex offender began attending. The bishop knew but kept quiet about it. He was upset when others found out and spread the word. He thought the man needed “a chance to repent” and “not be judged”. He felt this man’s sensitivites trumped parents’ and leaders’ need to know –knowledge neccessary to take precautions and protect the children.

    Already stated, but I’ll reiterate: There are two simple things the church could do to add a huge layer of proteciton: Install windows in all classrooms and do not dismiss children from class until they are in the hands of a parent or other adult. The first would only cost a few hundred dollars per building, the second doesn’t cost a penny.

  51. Greg on February 3, 2005 at 5:47 pm

    Cooper,

    I think the situation you’re talking about is difficult. But generally if you know someone poses a risk to others and do nothing about it (I am assuming there is a “duty” here, all you lawyers), and that harm occurs, you may be held liable for the damages incurred. I would think that a Bishop in this situation should at least (1) call the social workers at the Church hotline and see what they advise; (2) ensure that the confessor is not put in a calling or other situation where he could act upon his thoughts; and (3) ask the confessor himself, as part of his repentance process, to be proactive by taking himself out of situations that may lead to temptation, and to seek out professional counseling; and (4) meet with the confessor often, or even discuss his progress with his professional counselor, to ensure that progress is being made; (5) ensure that the children and parents in the ward are aware of the general problem and are not being complacent. None of these would compromise the confidentiality of confessions. Salt Lake may be able to do nothing in this circumstance, but the Bishop most certainly can, and should.

  52. Jordan on February 3, 2005 at 5:59 pm

    Why has nobody suggested the most obvious approach? Anyone accused of any sort of sex abuse should just be summarily excommunicated. If the accusation was false, then the accuser will have the guilt of that on his/her head come judgment day. Sure there will be some falsely accused, but they will in time be exonerated, even if they have to wait until the hereafter.

  53. cooper on February 3, 2005 at 6:00 pm

    It was done. They moved the guy to another ward. Nothing else took place. Of course it is quietly part of his record to not extend a calling where he would be with children.

    Asking a person who is in a situation of this sort to take themselves out of the mix is dicey. These are mentally ill people. They cannot control their urges, and it’s kind of like asking a cat not to attack a mouse upon seeing the opportunity. Seeking professional help is an option, if they view it as a problem. However, most do not think rationally and do not see the object of their affection as a problem.

    The bishop can meet with him to counsel him. However, as it has been clearly stated, most bishops are equipped to handle this type of problem and will quickly feel inadequate to deal with the issue.

    The ideal situation is that the bishop or couselor is a mandatory reporter. Then the report is filed, notes made and Salt Lake notified. Still because of the way the law is with confidentiality issues until the crime is commited the perp can sue if someone goes public with his story. Greg, how does a bishop over-ride Salt lake’s legal team?

    These are the types of issues the church deals with ona daily basis. They are not unique. All the brethren out there should make sure they know how they would react, legally and spiritually if they encounter a situation. Needless to say, there is a lot parents need to do to protect their children. The law cannot be compromised, and the church finds itself in these types of “catch 22″ situations more often than they would like.

  54. cooper on February 3, 2005 at 6:09 pm

    I actually meant most bishops are ill-equipped.

  55. Greg on February 3, 2005 at 6:17 pm

    Cooper,

    I never suggested that the Bishop “go public” with the confessor’s unacted-upon desires. Only that he take great pains to ensure that his flock is protected. The confessor has no grounds to sue for any of the actions I suggested that a Bishop should take, and he would not be “over-riding Salt Lake’s legal team.”

    I really don’t see much of a catch-22. If a bishop suspects a crime has been committed, it must be reported immediately. If someone is only confessing inappropriate attraction to children, he or she should be referred to a professional and immediate steps should be taken to protect the children in the ward from the person (without broadcasting the private confession).

  56. Mark B. on February 3, 2005 at 6:20 pm

    I trust, Jordan, that you have never sat in a position where a person’s membership in the church depended on your decision (and where you prayed that you would do the right thing). If you ever do, I trust that you’ll not speak so flippantly about summarily excommunicating people.

  57. Kristine on February 3, 2005 at 6:22 pm

    Jordan, the trouble I see with your solution (besides its being a little Draconian) is that excommunicating someone probably makes it harder to keep track of them if they move and try to insinuate themselves into a new ward.

  58. Jim Richins on February 3, 2005 at 6:28 pm

    A slight quibble with Charlene – the windows on the doors would easily cost many thousands per building, depending on the size of the windows, the quality of the new doors, the number of doors to replace, etc. Given the Church’s preference for using the highest quality materials, it would likely be one or two hundred per door, not building.

    I’m just saying, it would not be a trivial thing. Probably worthwhile, but not easy.

    Our ward already utilizes the suggested rule for picking up Primary kids, although not for the reason of protecting children from abduction or abuse. We do it out of necessity to maintain some sense of reverence and order in the hallway, partly because we share our building with two other wards, and also because the area where the primary classrooms is located suffers from chronic traffic jams all day long on Sunday.

    In a hypothetical situation where a sex offender attends Church, and the ward finds out via a state website or other means, I do not believe a Bishop should try to protect the man’s privacy (assuming the person is male). If that person is truly penitent, then A) he will not hide from his mistakes, but be willing to confess them – even at length and publicly, and B) if he truly has repented, then the fruits of repentence will be evident, and other ward members will (eventually) forgive him.

    This does not mean, however, that he can be trusted in the future to be called as Scoutmaster or to teach Primary.

    Some sins are so serious that they may not be repentable in this life. The Lord says he will remember them no more, but that is *after* full repentence. For a sin such as child sexual abuse, full repentence seems to require turning altogether from the sin, _for_the_rest_of_his_life_. A person who has offended one of His “little ones”, if he is truly penitent, will be willing to accept the consequences of the sin, and the attending repentence.

    So, a Bishop that attempts to help “smooth over” repentence for a former abuser may actually be unintentionally working against full repentence. I’m sure a similar effect may occur for other sins, as well.

    Abuse of this nature can only exist in secret. Secrets are kept out of fear or stigma. Both fear and stigma can be dispelled by bringing things out in the open. I’m thinking of the stigma that surrounds even normal, healthy sexuality, and the fear that may accompany opening up uncomfortable or embarrassing topics. The fear of a YW leader to talk about sexuality, the fear of a child to report inappropriate behavior to a parent early, the fear of a parent to make an accusation based on hearsay from a child, the fear of a Bishop to confront the accused…

  59. Jordan on February 3, 2005 at 6:29 pm

    You’re right. But abuse upsets me so. And most of the time, the allegations are probably true. The victim, however, is the only one made to suffer. This happened to several people near and dear to me.

  60. danithew on February 3, 2005 at 6:32 pm

    Our elders quorum has done babysitting for the monthly homemaking meeting — so that all the sisters can attend without any problems. For the sake of precautions (which we don’t really discuss) our last bishop asked that a minimum of four elders be present to perform this task. It seems odd but it is better to be sure and safe than to take any risk at all. It’s sad really that its necessary for this sort of thing … but we live in a time that we have to be super-conscious of anything that could make the church liable or responsible for something going terribly wrong.

  61. cooper on February 3, 2005 at 6:32 pm

    Greg, I am not suggesting that you said to go public. However, think of it in the catch 22 situation. The bishop knows this guy. He has seen him in action. He has a good heart. He has interacted with many in the ward. He is accepted. He then tells someone he is having these urges. This someone goes to the bishop. The bishop pales. Calls him in to talk with him. He innocently tells the bishop what he is thinking. The bishop seeks the advice and cousel of Salt Lake. He is not a mandatory reporter. Salt Lake tells him not to do anything. He talks with the Stake President. SP calls Salt Lake, they suggest moving guy to another ward. “Do not say anything to ward members.”

    Greg, I am not criticizing you, the church or anyone else. We have a world filled with confused and metally ill people. What can we do? They have rights that cannot be violated either. We can only teach our children, and advise ward members to do the same.

    Kristine is right about the excommunication problem too.

    Think of this problem as a scenario in your ward. You are the bishop. Short of telling everyone to stay away from him what do you do? It is a difficult problem. Your ideas of counseling are good. However, if you have worked with the mentally ill you know that, counseling does not always keep them from commiting a crime.

    I am sorry I cannot stay online. I’ll check back later.

  62. Jordan on February 3, 2005 at 6:37 pm

    These issues have not only caused much pain to victims who I know and love, but have also turned me into a paranoid wreck around children. I will not touch anyone else’s children, hold other people’s babies, etc., unless I absolutely HAVE TO- i.e. to protect them from some imminent harm. Some people probably assume I hate kids- not so. I just don’t want to ever even be thought of having done anything improper.

  63. Greg on February 3, 2005 at 6:41 pm

    Cooper,

    My point was that a Bishop can and should do a lot (including my (2)-(5) in comment 51) to prevent abuse without having to disclose unacted-upon confessions. I think the more common scenario a leader deals with, though, is that someone reports that they or their loved one have actually been abused by someone in the ward or stake. At that point, there should be no dilemma, no wrestling, no worries about privacy or slander — it should be reported to the authorities immediately.

  64. annegb on February 3, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here, Jordan. Suppose some oh, let’s make it middle school, girl goes to her mom and says “My teacher, Brother Jordan, grabbed my breast.” The mom goes to the bishop, and at that point you are accused. That would put you out there in your ward as a sex offender, people are looking at you like you’re a pervert, then you want to be excommunicated? Believe me, I would look at you differently, even though we are such good friends now :). And you are proven innocent and the girl fesses up that you yelled at her and made her mad. Think anybody would truly trust you again?

    I dislike the word victim. Survivor is okay. Triumpher is better. I think people can choose victimhood, and celebrate that and become drastically high centered on the attention and drama. This can do worse damage than the abuse did, in the long run, to the spirit. I know this is true, from personal experience.

    “Accused” is not convicted. If a person is convicted, then the church is bound to act. A repeat offender, or someone on the registry, is in the category of their own and I would completely quibble with the bishop who urged forgiveness. You can forgive a snake, but you don’t put your hand next to its mouth again. In this case, I believe that God is the ultimate authority and that forgiveness is His to grant. If you have been so wounded, triumphing isn’t necessitated by forgiveness. And, when you have been abused, and someone is telling you to forgive, it’s like a slap in the face. That’s way easy to say if you’re safe and comfortable in your abuse-less world.

    This is such a difficult and painful issue. Also involved in this is the feeling of betrayal a victim can have when the authorities do not believe them. There is a book called “Confronting Abuse” printed by Deseret Book, which is a really great book on the topic. I highly recommend it. I tried to get 4 of my bishops to read it, to no avail. Ignorance isn’t an endangered species, nowhere, nohow.

    Jordan, I mean no offense in disagreeing with you, please don’t be offended. There is a huge part of me that’s is highly gratified and validated by your strong feelings, and if I were ever in this position, I’d like you on my side. But I’ve seen this issue from all sides and again I say, “if we must err, it should be in mercy.”

  65. Ana on February 3, 2005 at 7:33 pm

    I can envision this kind of solution in the situation of a person — as yet innocent of any actual crime — confessing a sexual attraction to children.

    The bishop could have a meeting with the auxiliary and quorum presidents. Arrange for education for parents and children in the ward about safety and appropriate vs. inappropriate touching. Institute rules of safety such as having parents pick up their children from Primary. Make random, friendly visits to Primary and youth classes. Assure the auxiliary presidents that no actual crimes have been committed and everything possible is being done to protect the children of the ward. Do not mention any names.

    It’s not that unusual for organizations to have situations where they cannot share information but need to solve problems, fulfill needs or increase safety. It can be done. In the Church we might actually be particularly well suited to do this, given our emphasis on following direction from our leaders, even when we don’t know all the information behind that direction.

  66. Jordan on February 3, 2005 at 7:33 pm

    No offense at all taken to cogent and wise words.

    That hypothetical is why I hope I never have to teach children or teenagers alone. Or ever be alone with them. That is why I go to great, sometimes obsessive lengths to never EVER be alone with a minor, or hold or even touch somebody else’s kids in any way whatsoever. My wife thinks I’m uptight. I think I’m playing it safe, but I am probably also uptight.

  67. Greg on February 3, 2005 at 7:42 pm

    Thanks for the terrific suggestions, Ana.

  68. cooper on February 3, 2005 at 7:46 pm

    Greg, I completely agree with your responses 2-5 in your previous comment. And yes, the average offender can be dealt with in those manners. However, by bringing the scenario to the table it brings it to light. The scenario I present is not common at all. It does however exist. We need to learn how to properly help each other through these things. That’s why in my very first post I mentioned Jeff Lindsay’s post. His was very well done.

  69. cooper on February 3, 2005 at 8:10 pm

    Ana, I too appreciate your comment.

  70. Sheri Lynn on February 3, 2005 at 8:44 pm

    I don’t think my primary class could pay attention at all if the door were left open or if there were glass in the door. I would LOVE it if primary would hold on to the children until the parents get them, but I think that may take a directive from SLC and even then, it might be hard to get the culture to change. After three hours of sitting still, even the adults turn rather disorderly, don’t they?

    I thought that the way the Lutherans end their services, marching people out row by row to loud organ music, was too regimented, but now I wonder.

  71. Eric on February 3, 2005 at 11:55 pm

    This is a sensitive subject for me; my wife was abused by her bishop when she was growing up. He told her it was his right as her bishop, that Salt Lake knew all about it, but that they would deny it if she ever went public.

    She reported it to Church authorities (including Elder Ballard) years later, but since it was so many years previous, there was no evidence, and so nothing Salt Lake could do to take action against him. Almost nothing. Several years ago, there was an article in the Ensign about emotional abuse. He and his wife were the models in the picture. The Church identified him as an abuser, but in a way they could deny doing so.

  72. Kelly Knight on February 4, 2005 at 2:46 am

    I am curious to know if anyone on this thread has first hand experience as a branch president, bishop, or stake president who has had to deal with allegations of abuse, or with members who are ex-con abusers, or with branch, ward, or stake members who are survivors or abuse, whether it be physical, emotional, mental, or sexual.

    I want to assure you that until I was a bishop, and had to deal with all of these issues (literally), I had no idea what was involved, how the Church instructed bishops, and the devastating affects it could have on the victim, the perpetrator, and the ward.

    Absolutely, we all should be concerned about abuse, and the protection of members of the ward, whether family or other ward members. The Church does have a very strict policies in place that bishops are to follow, and the wise bishop will follow them.

    Jordan, I am certainly grateful that I am not a member of your ward, and that you are not my bishop. A hard fast rule that the mere accusation, guilty or not, should bring excommunication, is a devastatingly ignorant response. Not only are you affecting the membership of the individual accused, but of his or her entire family. You are taking away temple blessing and sealings that perhaps should never be touched. You may be driving an entire family into inactivity or estrangement from the Church. Trust me, I understand your reluctance to even touch other people’s children. I virtually never changed my own daughter’s (I have two of them) diapers for fear of accusation. Now, I am looked upon by many of the kids in the ward as a grand-fatherly figure and have kids sitting on my lap all the time. Never, however, will I be alone with any of them, period.

  73. Just an onlooker on February 4, 2005 at 4:31 am

    Which is more harmful to the Church: an individual scholar who disbelieves–and publishes–private beliefs about doctrine which contradict the norm, or the knowlege that a child abuser can retain his Church membership and standing in the ward and Church up until the point he’s hauled off to jail?

  74. Jordan Fowles on February 4, 2005 at 8:01 am

    Jordan, I am certainly grateful that I am not a member of your ward, and that you are not my bishop. A hard fast rule that the mere accusation, guilty or not, should bring excommunication, is a devastatingly ignorant response.

    I know it was, and I apologize. That is not really how I feel. It was just a reactionary thing to say, and I regretted it the moment I pressed “make comment”. Believe it or not I am actually quite a reasonable person. Sorry if I gave offense- the internet sometimes makes it possible to publish a rash “first reaction” without really considering the words written.

    I think one of the reasons for it is that someone close to me was affected by such abuse, and the abuser never had to face any consequences. But of course that is not an excuse for a rash decision in someone else’s case.

    If, heaven forbid, I ever am called to be a bishop, I hope I may be blessed with more wisdom than I exhibited in that reactionary sentence. And like Kelly before he was called as Bishop, I really don’t know much about this topic- except that it sickens me and makes me very sad.

  75. Kelly Knight on February 4, 2005 at 9:22 am

    Jordan, apology accepted- thank you.

  76. claire on February 4, 2005 at 7:54 pm

    annegb mentioned the notion that stranger danger is real, but that most abuse is by people close to the child. I don’t think that this point can be made too often- mom’s boyfriend seems to be the most common, followed by uncle/grandpa/big brother with scoutmaster/priest/coach/’mentor’ following close behind. These people seek out opportunities to be with children.

    Charlene, it’s really too bad that scout video won’t be shown. When I worked in a mental health clinic speciallizing in sexual abuse, we had a perfect example of how the abuse cycle works: we were treating to separate offenders, one who was abused by the other in scout camp and who both went on to abuse children as young adults. The initial perpetrator had of course also been abused as a child.

    How about tents with one way glass in them? :-)

  77. claire on February 4, 2005 at 7:55 pm

    oh, I meant two-way glass. There goes my attempt at humor to lighten things up.

  78. claire on February 4, 2005 at 7:55 pm

    wait, I must be really tired. One way glass it is.

  79. Stephen M (ethesis) on February 5, 2005 at 12:57 am

    my wife was abused by her bishop when she was growing up. He told her it was his right as her bishop

    When I was just a little tyke, around 1960 or so, when we lived in Newfoundland, (I was there from Kindergarten to 2nd grade) a guy beat his wife in the trailer park were I lived. All the men marched over to his house and beat him silly and told him not to do it again. So, he waited until everyone was at work and did it again. A Mexican guy who worked nights heard it going on, drug him out of his house and beat the “living tar” out of him. Mid-way through a Royal Mounted Police shows up. He just watches.

    When asked why he hadn’t done anything, he replied “The Mexican had the matter well in hand.” The wife-beater, a bloody pulp on the ground never repeated after that.

    I grew up thinking that physical violence was the appropriate social norm whenever faced with abuse of women or children. I didn’t realize until law school that it was not normal, acceptable or legal — I’d always somehow assumed from watching that as a young child that it was the duty of any man to just react with full throttled violence.

    Been a while since I’ve actually felt that way, law school changed me (though I was on the board of a Child Advocacy Center, the local Rape Crisis Center and currently serve on the board of the Children’s Medical Clinic). But a Bishop acting that way:

    (a) probably abused a large number of people
    (b) probably needs a visit from all of their fathers and brothers and husbands, just to talk.

    Just talking to someone in a large group like that … just has an effect that nothing else matches.

    The biggest problem with violence is that it harms the giver and not all of it is “righteous” (a technical term referring to justified violence against a deserving target). My favorite story is of the American martial artist in Japan, hoping for a righteous encounter. A violent drunk on a train seems to present it. Just as he is about to step forward to stop the drunk’s abuse, an old man intervenes, distracts the drunk and gets him talking. Before long a story of loss and shame spills out. The drunk has lost his wife, morns her death, morns his inability to cope without becoming drunk and is beside himself with grief and uncontrolled emotion.

    I look at false accusations, such as the one Nibley’s daughter makes against him. I don’t doubt that someone abused her at some time (if nothing else, the therapist who recalled or created her memories). But I suspect that she has falsely mapped her memories to Nibley as he doesn’t have the history of abuse that usually trails after such people, so he is an extremely unlikely source of her ills. And she lost her one chance at reconciliation when she wasted the time trying to validate false memories and set him up — what a hopeless endeavor for anything but a gut wrenching introduction to her book — something done to create a setting for a hatchet job. What did she gain? What did she lose? What a waste.

    Recovered memories are like multiple personalities. Much easier to create than to find. Nothing is so depressing as to have a large multi-regional state mental hospital in your practice area and get appointed to represent the inmates at mandatory reviews. Though I did have the blessing of actually getting a lady in her 40s (boy, she seemed so old then, now I’m 49), getting that lady properly treated. She had actual multiple personality disorder. Only the second non-therapist created case they had encountered in the institution’s history. Identified, then she was treatable with a successful outcome after years of failed help.

    Anyway, when I was a child things seemed so clear, so direct, so obvious. Nothing a fist or a baseball bat could not solve. Now I’m older and blunt force seems such a crude and inaccurate weapon. I’ve seen the innocent in jail, and see them stay there for over a year, refusing to accept bail because they could not accept the sacrifice of others. I’ve seen the guilty go free, not to mention seen the innocent go free. I’ve seen bad dna evidence in prosecution (they averaged samples to get a match). I’ve gone to work and heard on NPR as I drove about the execution of a guy whose case I consulted on (yes, he was innocent of the crime he was convicted of, no, I didn’t feel bad, he raped and murdered at least 5-10 other women where the arrests and evidence were in those cases clean).

    I no longer have certainties about things within the walls of the world, other than I believe God when he suggests that it is better to have a millstone hung about one’s neck … and that co-dependent spouses are in a twisted mental realm of bondage from which they need God’s grace to escape.

  80. Stephen M (ethesis) on February 5, 2005 at 1:02 am

    Oh, yes, btw, the bad DNA evidence case (where they had to average samples to get a match) did not result in an acquital at that time. I was contacted about it post conviction and pointed out that averaging is not how it supposed to go (this sample has this trait (a long strand), this sample has that trait (a short strand), average them and they match the accused ‘s DNA (an average sized strand on the particular marker).

  81. annegb on February 5, 2005 at 10:09 am

    My sister-in-law’s husband hit her once in a drunken rage. She waited till he passed out, tied him in the sheets and took a 2×4 to him. He never hit her again. If you think about it, the mean drunk in the bar is not going to pick on somebody bigger than him. They’re basically cowards.

    This subject gets me at a visceral level as well, and I instantly go to lobotomies or castrations.

    However, God, thank God, looks at this from His eternal point of view and the very sad point of view is that the abuser is His child, as well. My nephew molested (a nice word) his sister for many years, I won’t go into the whole sordid story. Today: do I hate my nephew? No. I love him. I still see that sweet little boy. Do I think somebody should have done something? Sure, of course.

    In this life, horrible things happen. We could go back to Auschwitz and ask why God permits these things to even exist. I have no answers. On the whole, I have found very few cases of actual justice in sex abuse cases. So we need to try even harder to make the survivors resilient and strong and positive, so their lives are not wasted in bitterness. Ultimately, the correct price will be paid, ultimately, the correct price was paid, 2000 years ago.

    Did I miss any points of view on this subject? :)

  82. Stephen M (ethesis) on February 5, 2005 at 11:32 am

    annegb — nicely said.

  83. Sheri Lynn on February 5, 2005 at 11:45 am

    Here on this thread everybody takes the issue seriously. Then there’s another thread’s title in which the word “incest” is used lightheartedly about people who post on more than one blog. I have a feeling nothing is going to change until the Christ changes it for us. :sigh: I may sound as if I have no sense of humor, but sin is sin is SIN and I don’t like the words that label it used in ways that diminish the seriousness of what separates humanity from our Father. I don’t buy ice cream with “sinful” in the name or advertisements, either.

  84. Sheri Lynn on February 5, 2005 at 11:47 am

    Annegb said: So we need to try even harder to make the survivors resilient and strong and positive, so their lives are not wasted in bitterness. Ultimately, the correct price will be paid, ultimately, the correct price was paid, 2000 years ago.

    I just thought that bore repeating, and am glad I took a moment to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Those are golden words.