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More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.
More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.

Mormon Church Sexual Assault: Speaking Out & Seeking Help

Video Transcript

Over the last few years, numerous cases have come to light involving leaders and members of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church. These allegations have revealed a disturbing pattern of abuse and alleged coverups designed to protect the church. From former bishops to youth leaders, the range of accused spans widely within the church hierarchy. Recent investigations, criminal charges and civil lawsuits have highlighted several cases of alleged abuse within the church. One recent case involved a former bishop in Idaho whose daughter alleged for years that he sexually assaulted her as a child. He evaded criminal charges for years, allegedly in part due to church officials, and in December, 2023, the Associated Press investigated these allegations, including an alleged $300,000 offer by a church official to the victim to not pursue a case against the church. In January, 2024, John Goodrich was arrested in Virginia on multiple felony charges, including forcible rape, forcible sodomy, and aggravated sexual battery by a parents of a child.

Shortly following the publication of the Associated Press and Mother Jones investigation in April, 2023, a separate victim was awarded $2.3 billion by a California jury after filing a civil lawsuit against her stepfather and the church after she reported for nearly a decade that she experienced sexual abuse. The lawsuit implicated that local bishops were aware of sexual abuse, but did not act to report it or stop it from happening. Like other institutions with a hierarchy involving authority figures and forced ideologies and practices, power dynamics, and a culture of silence within the Mormon church has enabled sexual predators to groom abuse and threaten individuals. But let’s be clear, sexual abuse happens because individuals choose to facilitate or cover it up. The practices and ideologies in the Mormon church, especially around abstinence and sex education in general, have created a culture of secrecy and unknowingness regarding sexual relationships, what is and what is not grooming, what is sexual assault or what to do if someone harms you.

Given the overall views of sex and abstinence in thoughts, words, and actions before marriage within the Mormon church, individuals within the faith who were sexually assaulted often feel immense, confusion, guilt, shame, and fear. This often results in individuals not telling anyone, including not even disclosing to those around them, like close family and friends or church leadership. This also goes with alongside not reporting to law enforcement due to immense fear of retaliation being shamed by their community or even being removed from the church. However, many individuals have started to come forward to use their voices to help protect the next victim and let them know they are not alone. This includes sharing their stories on social media, including YouTube and TikTok, filing civil lawsuits against the church and their abusers for the harm that happened to them, and talking about the problems with the media. Whether you experience sexual abuse or assault by church leadership, another member, or while on your mission, you have different legal rights and options available to you to seek help and healing.

Some of your options may depend on various state laws, including the statute of limitations, which are laws that dictate how far back a crime can be prosecuted or a civil lawsuit filed. While the church operates a helpline to report sexual abuse allegations, investigations and lawsuit documents show allegations of the church sponsored services, discouraging callers from reporting sexual abuse to law enforcement. This is why we recommend contacting us at Helping Survivors so we can put you in touch with a local law firm experienced in religious sexual abuse cases. They can help answer your questions, let you know your legal rights and options, provide an explanation of the process, including your ability to keep your information private throughout the process. If you or someone experienced sexual abuse by a church leader, or you reported allegations of sexual abuse to church leadership and they did not take actions to report to law enforcement or prevent future harm, you have rights and we can help you understand them. Get in touch with us today.

Featured in this Video

Kathryn Kosmides

Survivor Advocate of Helping Survivors