Mormon Church Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is a widespread problem in many religious communities, and the recent Mormon Church sexual abuse crisis is another example. Many legal and mental health resources are available to those victimized within their church community. Individuals and loved ones of those who have experienced sexual abuse in the Mormon Church should contact Helping Survivors to get connected with available resources and sexual abuse attorneys who are ready to help.
Many communities have recently had serious allegations of sexual abuse come to light, including many connected to religious institutions such as the Mormon Church. The extensive recent examples of sexual abuse cases connected to the Mormon Church show that many religious leaders, clergy, and church members have used their positions of influence and authority to prey on victims or shield abusers. Meanwhile, religious institutions have too often acted to protect their organizations’ reputations while ignoring the harm to victims.
People who have experienced sexual abuse related to their involvement with the Mormon Church have options for reporting abuse and accessing the support they need. Helping Survivors is ready to help connect survivors of Mormon Church sexual abuse with legal resources to help them get justice.
Sexual Abuse in the Mormon Church
Unfortunately, sexual abuse in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly called the Mormon Church, is a widespread problem.
The church operates a helpline for church officials who learn of sexual abuse incidents to call for guidance. It has recently come to light that the helpline has a history of directing local bishops and church officials to keep the abuse a secret from law enforcement.
This helpline keeps all its operations a closely guarded secret, sometimes destroying call records at the end of every day, so it is difficult to know how prevalent reports of sexual abuse within the Mormon Church are.
Historical Cases of Sexual Abuse in the Mormon Church
There have been several recent cases related to sexual abuse that happened on Mormon church property or perpetuated under the cloak of church policy and shaming tactics.
For example, in April 2023, a California jury awarded $2.3 billion to a woman who sued her stepfather, who sexually abused her for nearly a decade. Also named as defendants were the woman’s mother and the Mormon Church. The church was implicated in the lawsuit when it was shown the local bishops were aware of the sexual abuse but did not act to report it. These local officials allegedly also used intimidation and shaming to prevent the survivor from telling her story to anyone else.
Additionally, in 2022, a judge denied an attempt by the Mormon Church to settle sexual abuse claims associated with the Boy Scouts of America for $250 million. The judge ruled that allowing the settlement would provide too much cover to the church and would not adequately allow victims of church sexual abuse connected with scouting to get justice.
Why Does Sexual Abuse Happen in the Mormon Church?
Like other institutions with a hierarchy involving authority figures, power dynamics within the Mormon Church enable sexual abuse. There have been many documented instances of church leaders ignoring or covering up sexual abuse by clergy and community members to protect the church’s reputation.
The church also generally promotes a view of leadership as being appointed to their positions by God, which makes it challenging for victims or church members to question leadership when they decide to cover up instances of sexual abuse.
What Has the Mormon Church Done in Response to Allegations of Sexual Abuse?
The Mormon Church’s reaction to recent allegations of sexual abuse has been defensive. Leaders have continued to lobby against new regulations that would require church leaders who receive a disclosure of sexual abuse to report the incident to law enforcement or child protective services.
So far, the Mormon Church has taken little action to prevent sexual abuse in its community.
How Can the Mormon Church Respond Better to Sexual Abuse?
The Mormon Church could significantly improve its helpline for sexual abuse allegations. Recent cases have shown a tendency among helpline staff to discourage callers from reporting sexual abuse to law enforcement. Reforming the church’s helpline policies to help survivors get justice would be a good first step toward improving how the church responds to sexual abuse.
Support and Resources for Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Mormon Church
If you or a family member has experienced sexual abuse in the Mormon Church community, the choice of what to do next is a very personal decision that can be overwhelming. Whether you contact law enforcement or use support and resources outside of legal options, no path is one-size-fits-all.
A survivor of sexual abuse within the Mormon Church can make a report to local law enforcement, either over the phone or in person at a police station. Another option is contacting the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN, which operates a support hotline and web chat that connects survivors with trained counselors.
It is essential to keep records and evidence of abuse whenever possible, including the dates and times abuse occurred. If the abuse happened recently, undergoing a forensic exam may still be possible. Such an exam can collect and preserve DNA and other evidence.
What To Expect During the Legal Process
The legal process following a report of sexual abuse typically involves the following steps:
- Reporting to law enforcement: By calling local law enforcement or visiting your local police station, you can initiate an investigation into the sexual abuse that you or your loved one experienced.
- Review and investigation: The case will be assigned to detectives. You will likely be interviewed by investigators familiar with handling sexual abuse cases. Law enforcement may also collect any forensic evidence that is still available, including clothing, DNA, and other physical evidence that will help supplement the testimony and answers you give in your interview.
- Criminal proceedings: Law enforcement may use your report to bring criminal proceedings against the perpetrator. Ultimately, the prosecutors in your area will decide whether they have enough evidence to bring criminal proceedings against the perpetrator.
- Civil legal proceedings: Even if the prosecutor does not bring criminal charges against the perpetrator, it may still be possible to bring a civil suit. These non-criminal proceedings can help you to get monetary compensation for the abuse you or your loved one experienced.
The criminal justice system can provide victims with a sense of justice. However, churches and religious organizations have rarely faced criminal prosecution for sexual abuse. Also, criminal prosecution does little to compensate the victim for the harm done.
Civil sexual abuse lawsuits compensate victims with the resources needed to ensure they get the help and resources they need to recover and move on with their lives. In addition, victims may be able to hold the church or religious institution that enabled or concealed the abuse liable.
In a civil lawsuit, a victim can seek compensation for their losses, including the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Lost businesses opportunities
- Therapy costs
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Psychological trauma
Victims do not have unlimited time to file a lawsuit. Each state has a statute of limitations that sets the deadline for filing suit. Recent legal reforms have extended the time for filing lawsuits, allowing more survivors to seek justice even years after the abuse occurred. Still, acting as soon as possible is important to preserve evidence and comply with the applicable deadlines.
The legal process is often complicated and overwhelming. An attorney skilled in handling sexual abuse cases can help you understand your legal options and navigate either criminal or civil legal proceedings.
Legal Support for Survivors
If you or a loved one has experienced sexual abuse connected with the Mormon Church, plenty of resources are available to give you emotional, psychological, and legal support.
Helping Survivors can connect you with resources and supply any additional information you need. We can also connect you with experienced, knowledgeable, and skilled attorneys who can provide counsel regarding your legal options. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist and support you.