newsroom.churchoflatterdaysaints.org. , “How the Church Approaches Abuse”. “…generally, someone who abuses others is skilled at deception and hiding his or her actions….”.
If you are a Mormon, you may or may not find the discussion of sexual abuse very disturbing. However, a problem cannot be resolved if it is ignored. Our country has tried that and it certainly did not work. Victims of abuse use to be seen as the guilty party and were advised to stay quiet. Often, the fate of the accused appeared to be much more important that the accuser.
I would guess that the Mormon Church is behind the Catholic Church in its resolve to clean up its child abuse problem. Every organization can expect to have a child abuse problem (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc.). In the 1980’s the Catholic Church came under attack for the abuse of children by the clergy. This was not a new problem. In the 1500’s there was an issue with Priests taking advantage of women during confession. That is one reason the confessional came into being. There were other forms of abuse written about that took place in the 1500’s.
A decade or two ago I noticed a phenomenon that occurred every decade as regards the Catholic Church and child abuse. In the 1990’s there was an uproar regarding the child abuse “problem”. This occurred again in the 2000’s and 2010’s. It’s as though this problem was brand new. I have found these “new” revelations to be tiring and troubling. I think the problem may be getting better. A Priest was actually kicked out of the church. That is a start.
I looked up the Mormon Church and child abuse. Abuse cases did not appear to reach the newspapers until the 2000’s. However, there was a case where abuse happened in the 1980’s. It was reported to the church, but was never reported to the authorities. An abuse hotline was established in 1995. It is for Bishops or other clergy to call if they hear of any cases of child abuse. However, the Church has been criticized because the Bishops have not been required to report the abuse to the authorities. Mormons may be sensitive to this issue and still not want to face up to the fact that abuse happens in every organization and culture.
There are some hurdles in the way the Mormon Church handles abuse problems. These hurdles stand in the way of victims being able to find justice and be able to heal emotionally (as much as one can). One hurdle is that the Church has preferred that the victims report the incidents to the Bishops and often the incidents are not reported to the authorities (Note: this has changed recently. There is a statement by the Mormon Church asking victims to contact church personnel and authorities). See references to “newsroom.churchoflatterdaysaints.org” down below.
Another hurdle has been that Bishops or other Church members have taken the word of the accused over the word of the accuser. Bishops often knew both parties well. Also, the Bishops would know the parents are other parties involved. In an organization where reputation and goodness are so important, it would be difficult for a Bishop to be able to see a perpetrator for what he is. Perpetrators, particularly in a setting like a church, are known for having the ability to be charming, act like an outstanding church member, and have the ability to falsely report events.
During the 1980’s, school teachers were told that they were required to make reports in cases of suspected child abuse. I was recently pleased to learn that training on child abuse is now taking place in the Mormon Church. The training has to do with not allowing a child to be alone with one adult. This is a great first step. However, the last online training I took could have taken me four hours if I did not know any of the information. It probably took me a few hours. The training use to take me about an hour – a new section was added. This training is called Mandated Reporter Training. If a teacher does not report a SUSPECTED case of child physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, a teacher might (probably would) have their credential rescinded. A teacher and other mandated reporters can be sued by the victim or the victims parents. If a report is made, the teacher has met his or her obligations and is protected from being sued. The Mormon training is 1/2 hour. Advocacy groups are saying that they are pleased, but that this training is not enough.
A third hurdle has to do with the way the Church views church doctrine. Unfortunately, the reputation and future of the accused perpetrator often is the main concern of the persons who become aware of the abuse. There was a quote by a leader in the Mormon Church. Basically, it said that there is concern that the accused will not be able to receive the rewards promised him if he is taken to court. It would be better for the accused to pray, and ask for forgiveness. Parents were very upset by this reaction by the Church. However, recently, the Church has made some very good strides towards informing members what to look out for, how to report abuse, and how to prevent abuse.
In “The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints”, and the article: “How the Church Approaches Abuse? “ : abuse in any form is condemned. Any form of abuse is condemned. The article states that “It is also forbidden by the commandment of God. No one should abuse another, and not one should have to endure abuse….The Savior warned his disciples: ‘Whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea’ (see Matthew 18: 1-6).”
This is a very important guideline and it comes from newsroom.churchoflatterdaysaints.org, “How the Church Approaches Abuse”, 2019: “The Church encourages families to talk with their children about abuse and to educate themselves on how to recognize and prevent abuse. Parents are also encouraged to be engaged in their children’s activities and to make time to establish open and trusting lines of communication with their children. … Generally, someone who abuses others is skilled at deception and hiding his or her actions. Churches, youth organizations, families, and society as a whole must be vigilant.”