Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Sex Abuse In The Mormon Church!


Joseph L. Bishop - book endorsed by the Seventy that he confessed to while a Mission President
Thinker Of Thoughts
Published on Mar 22, 2018

Child Sex Abuse In The LDS Church

Published on Aug 24, 2017

Interview with Ryan McKnight: Mormon Sex Abuse Files
Thinker Of Thoughts
Streamed live on Aug 19, 2017

Mormon Bishop defends sexual questions to 8-year-old when confronted by dad
Thinker Of Thoughts
Published on Aug 12, 2016

Mormon Stories #636: Rape in Mormon Culture
Published on May 12, 2016

LDS Utah Child Molestation Cover-Up

Published on Feb 13, 2016

Former Boy Scout sues Mormon church for sexual abuse
Published on Mar 23, 2015

Mormon Church in UT State Supreme Court CHALLENGING Reporting about Sex Abuse Victims
Published on Apr 5, 2013

Child Molestation and the Mormon Church....So Sad
Published on Oct 4, 2011
Instructor at Mormon church sexually abused children as young as 2, Texas police say
By Kristine Phillips
April 2, 2018
A young man who served as an instructor at a Mormon church in Texas admitted that he sexually assaulted children, authorities said.
Police said 22-year-old Noel Anderson, who was a primary instructor at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Dallas suburb of McKinney, Tex., abused four children between the ages of 2 and 6. The crimes happened over seven years, during which time Anderson met the children through church meetings and other activities, according to the McKinney Police Department.
Noel Anderson (McKinney Police Department)
Anderson has been charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, a first-degree felony, and indecency with a child, a second-degree felony. He was arrested last month and is being held on a $200,000 bond, online records show. His attorney did not immediately return a call Monday.
Police suspect that there might have been more victims and are urging parents to speak with their children if they had been in Anderson’s care.
The Washington Post was unable to reach the McKinney congregation Monday, but church officials said in a statement to NBC affiliate KXAS-TV that they are cooperating with investigators.
“Children are precious, and our hearts go out to the victims and their families. We stand ready to offer love, emotional support and professional counseling for them. We are grateful for their courage in reporting this to law enforcement, and we support the efforts of legal authorities to ensure justice is served in these cases. … Anyone who engages in such behavior is rightfully subject to criminal prosecution and will also face discipline from the Church, including loss of Church membership.”
[ Sexual abuse case against Mormon Church begins in West Virginia ]
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, has several congregations throughout the country and worldwide. The Texas case comes as the church faces other allegations of sexual abuse.
In West Virginia, families sued church officials for failing to act while a once-trusted member of a tightknit Mormon community preyed on children. Michael Jensen is serving a prison sentence for sexually abusing two boys while babysitting them. But six families say the much larger Mormon hierarchy in the state should also be held accountable.
The lengthy legal battle that began in 2013 ended last week, after the parties reached a settlement, the details of which were not disclosed.
In Utah, a former Mormon mission leader was accused of trying to rape a young woman more than 30 years ago. Joseph L. Bishop admitted that he took the woman to a small room at the Mormon Church-owned Brigham Young University and asked whether he could see her breasts, the Salt Lake Tribune reported in March. The woman told police that Bishop kissed her and tore her clothes, but she managed to escape.
The allegations resulted in petitions calling for an end to one-on-one interviews between church officials and young Mormons. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that church leaders have since announced new rules allowing a parent or another adult to sit in when church members are interviewing or meeting with women and children.

Julie Zauzmer contributed to this report.
LDS women say Church leaders encouraged them to stay with their abusers
by Hannah Knowles
Tuesday, February 13th 2018
(KUTV)- After the spousal abuse allegations against White House Staff Secretary, Rob Porter went public, many Mormon women are now saying their Church leaders encouraged them to stay with their abusers for the sake of the marriage.
According to an article from cnn.com, both women Porter had previously been married to shared how "the unique role the Mormon church played in their troubled relationships."
For many Mormons, the first line of help for any issue or advice outside the family is often the local bishop or the home teachers. In a recent article by BuzzFeed News, 20 female members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said they "had been victims of marital abuse and confided in their Church leaders for help."
The BuzzFeed article claimed that in response to women's requests for guidance, "they were told by their bishops to stay in abusive relationships, that their eternal salvation could be jeopardized by leaving violent partners, and that they were to blame for their marital problems."
The article also stated that many other women were told by their clergy that "abuse was their fault, that they needed to work harder to satisfy their husbands’ sexual desires, and that they should pray or read their scriptures more often in order to deal with violence at home."
Holly Richardson, a Utah Legislator who has been an active voice in the Utah community, took her opinion on this issue to Twitter Tuesday afternoon.

Holly Richardson
 “As a prosecutor I have seen bishops many times come in and speak on behalf on defendants,” she said. “I have never seen one talk in support of victims. Never in 26 years.” Something not right here. https://twitter.com/michellelquist/status/963541995674206208 …

6:58 PM - Feb 13, 2018
15 people are talking about this
Twitter Ads info and privacy

KUTV reached out to the Church for a statement regarding domestic abuse within Mormon relationships. The church spokesman, Eric Hawkins, provided this statement that was also issued when the Rob Porter story first came out:
It is difficult to speak to specific circumstances without complete information from all involved, but the position of the Church is clear: There is zero tolerance for abuse of any kind. Church leaders are given instruction on how to prevent and report abuse and how to care for those who have been abused.
Donna Kelly, a prosecutor at the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office gave comment to Buzzfeed on this issue. "I think what we have in a lot of clergy cases is people, leaders, who are very well-meaning, who are trying to handle a problem they don’t understand.”
“In other words, they don’t have the training to solve domestic violence. They don’t have the training or the background or the information to be able to adequately deal with the problem.”
Free and confidential help and support for victims and survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence are available 24/7 at 1-800-897-LINK (5465) and udvc.org

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, or in an emergency, please call 9-1-1 immediately.
Sexual abuse case against Mormon Church begins in West Virginia
By Julie Zauzmer
18 January 2018
Michael Jensen preyed on children in the close-knit Mormon community around Martinsburg, W.Va. At least, that’s how law enforcement officials and at least half a dozen families see it now.
But for years, Jensen was a trusted member of the local church community, a young man whom Mormon leaders praised as a role model for youths — and recommended as a babysitter for one child after another, even as reports allegedly came back to some church volunteers that Jensen was sexually abusing boys and girls as young as two.
Five years ago, Jensen went to jail for abusing two children.
But a group of parents say now that it’s not just Jensen who should be held responsible; it’s the much larger Mormon hierarchy in West Virginia that they believe failed to respond appropriately to complaints about Jensen. The six families, who all say their children were abused by Jensen, are suing local Mormon leaders and the global church.
Like the Catholic Church, these parents say, the Mormon Church needs to be exposed for working to cloak the crimes of a community member against young children. For its part, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints argues — in a case that goes to trial in Martinsburg this week — that Mormons have a strong tradition of reporting all suspected child abuse to law enforcement.
[ The Mormon Church has appointed its next president. Here’s what to expect. ]
Jensen, the church will say, was a troubled young man whose crimes simply went undetected at first, not a beneficiary of church protection.
“Despite Plaintiffs’ misleading rhetoric, this is not a clergy-abuse case. There is no correlation between this case and the terrible clergy-abuse scandals that have dominated the headlines,” lawyers for the church wrote in a court filing. “Rather, this case involves a mere teenage congregant … who committed sexual abuse in settings with no connection to the Church.”
Due to a court gag order, the lawyers and witnesses involved in the case are barred from speaking publicly about it before trial, and many of the court filings are under seal. The Post attempted to reach the defendants and their lawyers; all either declined to talk due to the gag order or did not respond.
Clergy in the Mormon Church are not full-time ordained professionals like Catholic priests; instead, local congregations, called wards, and groups of congregations, called stakes, are helmed by volunteer lay leaders who generally are married and have day jobs outside the church.
Across the country and internationally, a handful of Mormon lay leaders have been found guilty in sexual abuse cases, including bishops found guilty in Utah and in California of sexually abusing girls in their wards and a youth leader in Australia convicted of abusing boys in his youth group.
In this case, the families suing the church say they believe that church leaders knew about Jensen’s abuse of children and recommended him as a babysitter anyway; the defendants dispute the timeline of when they learned of the abuse.
The record of crime committed by Jensen — a son and grandson of very involved church members, and a faithful teenage church attendee who became a missionary for the church — is horrible, both sides agree.
The case that he was criminally charged in, and for which he was eventually convicted and sentenced to at least 35 years in prison, involves brothers who were three and four years old when Jensen forced them to perform sex acts.
The parents say in their lawsuit that Jensen, now 26, abused at least nine children in total, and that at no point did church leaders act to stop the abuse. One alleged victim described in the suit was a four-year-old boy whom Jensen reportedly would put inside a cabinet or pin under a blanket weighed down with DVD players, until the boy performed a sex act. The boy’s mother says that when she repeated what her son had described to Donald Fishel, who was then the bishop of the family’s ward of the church, the bishop said he thought the four-year-old might have learned about the scene he described from a porn video, not from his own experience with Jensen.
In another instance, parents of a two-year-old boy who was born with one arm missing and the other arm shortened allegedly came home on a night that Jensen was babysitting to find abrasions and swelling that suggested their son had been sexually abused. The suit claims that the boy’s father — one of the defendants in the lawsuit accused of protecting Jensen — told several church leaders about his son’s injuries under Jensen’s care, according to the suit. The suit also claims that the child’s mother, a registered nurse, knew that a medical provider would be required to report suspected abuse if the couple took their son to a doctor with those symptoms. To avoid reporting to the authorities, they didn’t seek medical care for their son, the lawsuit alleges.
The church sharply contests the allegations that leaders in the Martinsburg Stake were aware of Jensen’s crimes for as long as five years and did not report the suspected abuse to police.
Many of the children, the church’s lawyers point out, did not tell their parents about the abuse until 2012 or 2013, years after it occurred. “Plaintiffs’ far-fetched conspiracy theory is utterly implausible,” the lawyers wrote.
[ ‘Mormon and Gay’? The church’s new message is that you can be both. ]
The Mormon Church has had a national 800-number for bishops and other leaders to report child abuse since 1995, the church said. Any member suspected of child abuse has his church record flagged so that he can’t work with children, and members found guilty of child abuse can be excommunicated, according to the church.
Jensen was excommunicated after his sentencing in 2013.
In addition to the global church as a body and Fishel and the unnamed parent of the disabled 2-year-old as individuals, the suit names as defendants Steven Grow, who was president of the Martinsburg Stake of the church, and Jensen and his parents Christopher and SandraLee Jensen.
When Jensen was under criminal investigation in 2012, the church called him back from his service as a missionary to return to West Virginia. He didn’t tell people why he left the customary period of mission service for young Mormon men; instead, he told at least one friend that he left because he was in a bicycle accident, according to the lawsuit. Jensen went to stay at the home of a friend.
The friend’s father claims in the lawsuit that he told Fishel and Grow that Jensen was staying with him. He says Fishel told him it was a “good idea,” because the man had health problems, and Jensen could help him around the house. Plus, Grow said Jensen would be a good role model to the man’s teenage son, who had missed church for several weeks, the friend’s father said in the lawsuit.
Neither church leader mentioned the ongoing investigation, according to the father, who is one of the parents suing the church. While Jensen was staying in the house, he allegedly abused the man’s three young children.
In their court filing, the church defendants argued that Grow knew too little about the investigation at that point to discuss it, and that the alleged abuse of two of those children was actually just a few instances of touching the children over their clothing that the victims initially considered accidental. They did not address allegations about the third child.
Jensen couldn’t stay at his own house. The Jensen parents kicked him out of their home and made him start sleeping in the back yard around 2006 or 2007, when he was 15 or 16 when they caught him abusing one of his sisters, the lawsuit claims.
At the same time, allegedly, his mother started recommending him to other Mormon families as a babysitter.
This story has been updated.
Julie Zauzmer is a religion reporter. She previously covered local news at The Washington Post and at the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Follow @JulieZauzmer
Sex abuse case against Mormon Church leaders to go to trial
By Associated Press
Posted: Friday, Dec 29, 2017
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — A jury in West Virginia will hear the evidence against the Mormon Church in a lawsuit accusing local church officials of covering up allegations that the son of officials abused 12 children over more than five years.
The Journal reports that the lawsuit, filed by children who were between the ages of 3 and 12 when they say they were sexually abused by Christopher Michael Jensen, will go to trial Jan. 8 in Berkeley County. Jensen was sentenced in 2013 to 35 to 75 years in prison for sexually abusing two minors.
The lawsuit was initially filed in 2013, and accuses the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and its leaders of covering up the abuse, enabling Jensen to commit further acts and trying to intimidate plaintiffs' families.
The family’s attorneys in the civil case believe local church leaders discussed the allegations of abuse by Jensen as early as 2007 and that no one reported the allegations to law enforcement. The lawyers also claim that church leaders in Utah knew Jensen was convicted of other sex-related crimes in Utah back in 2004.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided this two-paragraph statement to WJLA:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not tolerate abuse of any kind. We take seriously our role as a recognized national leader in ensuring that child abuse prevention efforts are in place and followed – as happened in this case. In fact, it was the Church that first encouraged the parents to report the abuse and then made their own report as a confirmation. While the Church is, and will always be, heartbroken about the terrible actions of this individual, we are thankful that he is behind bars, where he should be. We encourage parents to come forth immediately to authorities when they believe their child has been the subject of harm.”

“The Church cannot comment specifically on pending litigation, but will present a solid case reaffirming its commitment to not only keeping children safe, but also taking action when there is reason to believe that harm has occurred.”
LDS church responds to questions about interviews with children, sexual topics
by Larry D. Curtis, KUTV
Monday, December 11th 2017
SALT LAKE CITY — (KUTV) An online movement, including a petition, asking the LDS church to change its practice of interviewing children about sexual matters, drew a response from the church Monday, to questions from KUTV.
"Personal interviews are an important part of ministering to those in a congregation. They offer an opportunity for a leader to know an individual better and to help them live the gospel of Jesus Christ," church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement to KUTV. "Leaders are provided with instructions in leadership resources and are asked to review them regularly.
"Our belief is that interviews should be meaningful and sacred opportunities for an individual to counsel with priesthood leaders, who represent the Savior in their ministry," the statement said.
An online petition gathering signatures, including from active LDS members and former members who were interviewed as children, believe one-on-one, closed-door interviews with an adult leader is not an appropriate place to talk about sexuality of any kind, including masturbation.
Sam Young, who was a bishop for five years in Houston, Texas, is the man behind the petition asking The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to stop the practice. Comments from the petition, calling for an end to the practice or sharing negative experiences, can be viewed on the petition's signature page. He said he didn't ask such questions while conducting church interviews and he knows not all leaders do.

Kylee Awiech
 So I want to talk about sexual assault and LDS culture. See, seven years ago this week, I was assaulted on a date. Problem is, I didn’t even realize this until a month ago, thanks to all the women coming forward and reporting predators in Hollywood.

He recently visited Salt Lake City and set up a table across from Temple Square to gather more signatures -- a strategy he said worked.
"Every non-member we talked to (about the interviews) was appalled," Young said. "People not in the church hear about a pastor and a 12-year-old girl or a 13-year-old boy being asked about [sexual matters, including masturbation] behind closed doors are highly disturbed by that."
He said many members he spoke with denied that the practice was happening at all. Others thought it is a good idea and is needed to assess worthiness. The LDS church statement seemed to support that position.
"Interviews are held for a number of reasons, including for temple recommends, priesthood quorum or Young Women class advancement, callings to serve in the Church or when a member requests to meet with a priesthood leader for personal guidance or to help them to repent from serious sin," the statement said.

The LDS Church
 "Because of the benevolence of a loving Heavenly Father and a beloved Savior Jesus Christ we are the recipients of a continuous flow of heavenly gifts—every day." #ElderDuncan #ChristmasDevo

The statement said each congregation's bishop meets with young members at least annually to "teach, express confidence and support, and listen carefully. These interviews should be characterized by great love and the guidance of the Holy Ghost."
Young said the idea behind the position started when he learned that a friend’s son was not only asked about masturbation but was asked if he was having sex with other boys. Young was shocked, and believing such questions were rare, he asked his adult daughter this past summer if she had ever faced similar questions as a teen.
She reported that she had been asked about masturbation every year while in the LDS youth program. Worse news for Young, as a 12-year-old his daughter didn’t know what the word meant, so when she asked her friends, and they didn’t know either, she searched for, and found, her information on the internet.
“When I found that out, I was incensed,” Young said. “The church has been my life. I dedicated my life to the church, but at that point and time I began getting serious about ‘there is lots of harm’ and ‘it is wrong.'"
Those experiences are contrary to the church's statement of what the interviews should be:
"In these interviews, Church leaders are instructed to be sensitive to the character, circumstances and understanding of the young man or young woman. They are counseled to not be unnecessarily probing or invasive in their questions, but should allow a young person to share their experiences, struggles and feelings."

Jazz. #2 pencil. BYUNLVfan
 Yeah.. it's high time for the LDS Church to end 1on1 interviews with minors. Parents should be in the room  http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/lds-bishop-arrested-by-mapleton-police-on-reports-of-sexually/article_e3545f6c-2cf4-5e06-be82-56a8b7fa282b.html …

10:29 AM - Jun 23, 2017 · Riverton, UT

LDS bishop arrested by Mapleton police on reports of sexually abusing two underage males
Officers with the Mapleton Police Department arrested a man Wednesday on reports of sexually abusing two underage boys.

The statement also addressed questions from KUTV about allowing parents into one-on-one interviews with bishops or other church leaders.
"When a church leader meets with a child, youth or woman, they are encouraged to ask a parent or another adult to be in an adjoining room, foyer or hall, and to avoid circumstances that may be misunderstood," the statement said.
Young said parents should be involved.
"The church could set up a choice to let the parents decide if the bishop can take a child behind closed doors -- then fine," Young said. "Allow us to choose that there will be no discussion about sexuality, period. How would that be if you had a choice?"
A LDS writer, with a pen name of Tracy M, wrote about how she and her husband handled this issue with their bishop at a website for church members called By Common Consent:
My husband and I spoke with our bishop before he interviewed our children and specifically requested he not ask them any sexual questions beyond “do you obey the law of chastity.” We explained our concerns over the potential impropriety—even as a bishop—and assured him that in our stewardship as parents, our children understood the law of chastity.
Young believes putting the children in a situation with an authority figure without clinical training is grooming them to allow other authority figures or other adults to pry into their sexual lives.
"That grooming is one of the big problems of doing this. When they are not groomed, they are much better prepared to answer [sexual questions] as adults," Young said. "They can decide as adults to say 'it is none of your business' or open up and get help."
A Mormon Discussion podcast, hosted by a believing member, also tackled the issue recently. Young's petition has increasing attention to the conversation online with a lot of opinions on the topic that is increasingly associated with the church.
Young said he is not an enemy of the LDS church and he attends services regularly with his adult children and supports his wife's full, active membership. He said that while he is focused on the practice ending for the sake of children, he believes it will also help protect the unpaid local clergy and take away a "black eye" from the church.
"If missionaries are teaching a family and they get wind of this, it is going to make the missionaries' job a lot harder," he said.
Young's goal was to collect 10,000 signatures. At press time, he has collected 6,962. He said there is no doubt in his mind, the church will eventually change its interview practices.
RELATED: The entire statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be found here.
Report: Mormon Masturbation Interviews Damage Children
By Michael Stone
November 21, 2017
Protect the children: The aggressive interrogation of children about masturbation and sex by Mormon church officials constitutes child abuse.
The Mormon church has a dirty little secret most outsiders know nothing about: Children as young as eight years old are often aggressively interrogated by local church officials about masturbation and sex. These interviews are almost always conducted by an older man, alone, with a vulnerable and frightened child.
The interrogation and shaming of children and teenagers by the Mormon church is a routine ritual conducted in semi-annual “worthiness interviews.” In these interviews children are pressed to discuss their sexuality while alone with an untrained church elder, who is almost always an older man.
new petition calling for an end to this alarming and dangerous practice reports:
For decades, it has been common practice for Bishops, Bishopric Counselors, Stake Presidents, and Stake President Counselors to pose questions of a sexual nature to children. There are reports of this happening to children as young as age 8. These questions are being asked by an older man, all alone with the child, behind closed doors and often without the knowledge or permission of the parents. Almost universally, these men have no comprehensive training.
The Mormon Curtain reports similar findings concerning the dubious but widespread practice:
Children as young as 8 years old are asked if they masturbate. Children as young as 12 years old are asked if they masturbate or have “petted” or have “necked” with a partner. Many Mormon children have no idea what any of these terms are. If the child has committed any of these “sins”, they are pressed for details. Many are then scorned and told that their acts will lead them to hell. Those who have masturbated are then denied the sacrament and must then be interviewed by the Bishop on a weekly basis until the masturbation has stopped. Mormon children grow up sexually repressed and many grow up emotionally insecure about their own sexuality.Parents are not allowed in the room at the same time these sexual questions are asked. Mormon parents are not allowed to question Mormon Priesthood authority and do not hesitate to turn their male and female children over to men behind closed doors.The Mormon Curtain firmly believes that adult men asking sexual questions of minors behind closed doors is a criminal act.
The new petition calling for an end to the Mormon masturbation interviews reads in part:
Here is a list of potential harm. All the risks below are actual consequences that have been experienced from sexual interviews with LDS children.
1. Suicide.
2. Attempted suicide.
3. Suicidal ideation.
4. Inappropriate shame and guilt.
5. Childhood filled with self loathing.
6. Adulthood filled with self loathing.
7. Normalizing children to sexual questions by adult men. (Grooming)
8. Sexual abuse. (Pedophilia)
9. Impaired sexual relations after marriage.
10. Years of recovery from childhood shaming. Often lasting decades.
Society-at-large recognizes that the Mormon practice of sexual interviews with children is wholly inappropriate. It’s a dangerous and damaging practice.
It’s time for us, as Mormons, and friends of Mormons, to stand up for our children…to stand up and require that children be protected.
The petition concludes:
We call on the LDS Church to immediately cease the practice of subjecting children to questions about masturbation, orgasm, ejaculation, sexual positions or anything else of a sexual nature. This applies to all children up to and including age 17.We call on the LDS Church to publicly disavow this practice.We call on the LDS Church to insure that all congregational leaders, as well the general membership, are informed that this practice is prohibited.
Bottom line: Mormon masturbation interviews damage children. They are inappropriate, and perhaps even criminal in nature. They must be stopped. It is time to protect the children.
Mormon Church Being Sued for Sexual Abuse of Navajo Children
Telesur TV
Published 8 June 2016
The now-defunct church foster program already has four Navajo victims involved in lawsuits, with more that have come forward.
A fourth person is suing the Mormon Church for enduring sexual abuse by his foster father while he was a part of a church program that placed Navajo children with Mormon families, ABC News reported.
The man, identified as L.K. in the lawsuit, said that when he reported the abuse that occurred in the 1970s in northern Utah to workers in the Mormon program, they took no heed to his concerns.
"It's horrible. You relive it. You see the person who did this. You see their silhouette," he said about the abuse that occurred when he was a seventh-grader, as published in ABC News Tuesday. "It broke me. When a Native American is broken, he has to fix himself."
L.K.’s attorney, Craig Vernon, said L.K.’s abuser has died. Vernon is representing another Navajo woman who has also sued, and said that more lawsuits could be coming, as more possible victims have come forward.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spokesman Eric Hawkins said none of the alleged perpetrators were church leaders, but people associated with host families and that the alleged abuse of the four victims occurred before the church created a program to address abuse.
"As awareness of the scourge of child abuse has grown in society, the church has been at the forefront of efforts to combat it," Hawkins said, as reported by ABC News.
Thousands of Native American children participated in the program from the late 1940s till 2000, when it ended.
Vernon said he's looking for monetary compensation for his two clients, for the Mormon church to change its policies so suspected abuse is always reported, and a formal apology from the religion to Navajos for the program.
David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said to ABC News, "Church officials often try to make all this about the past. But those of us who are survivors believe it's about the present and the future. We're talking a very real threat to the safety and well-being of boys and girls today."
Mormon statement on child abuse: Move along, folks; we don’t have a problem
By Jana Riess
February 2, 2016
Yesterday the LDS Church added a resource to the Mormon Newsroom called “Effectiveness of Church Approach to Preventing Child Abuse.” (* See end of post for an update on this resource.)
It has ignited something of a firestorm.
The statement was apparently first written in 2010 by Von G. Keetch, who was at that time chief outside legal counsel for the Church and is now a Seventy. Elder Keetch has represented the Church in several cases about child and sexual abuse.
We might think that such experience would position him to speak frankly about the problems that the LDS Church, like many other religious organizations, has experienced with members and leaders abusing children. Given that the Mormon-dominated state of Utah now ranks fifth in the United States for cases of child abuse—and the highest of any state for child sexual abuse—it’s clear that there is a real dilemma here.
Yet you wouldn’t know that from the statement. Some choice lines:
“No religious organization has done more” to prevent and respond to abuse.
“The Church’s approach is the gold standard.”
“While clergy-abuse cases continue to grab headlines, the Church has had almost no child abuse problems with its clergy.”
Really? That’s what we’re going with?
If Mormons are setting the “gold standard” for the rest of society in how to confront child abuse, then the rest of society is in trouble.
Why is the Church recycling this statement now? My guess is that the alarming case of the San Diego abuser “Mr. Wonder,” which has been in the news over the last week, has put the Church on the defensive. This man fled Louisiana in 1979 when officials there had a warrant for his arrest on charges of child sexual abuse. He has eluded capture for nearly four decades, first in Brazil and then in California.
I’m not sure how the LDS Church in California could be expected to know this man’s history and discipline him for it, since he changed his name and forged an entirely new identity after fleeing Louisiana. I don’t think it’s really fair to accuse the Church of mishandling this.
But the question is: if the Church had known the history in this particular case, what would it have done? There have been enough examples of local LDS leaders—who are not, like other clergy members, professionally trained in how to deal with child and sexual abuse—sweeping matters under the rug that it’s entirely reasonable for us to wonder.
What’s especially weird about the “Effectiveness” statement is that it’s factually incorrect on several key points. These are enumerated blow by blow in an excellent response on Feminist Mormon Housewives, but let me recap a few of the most glaring errors.
No, Mormons are not leading the charge here. It’s disappointing that an LDS statement would make sweeping and self-aggrandizing generalizations to the effect that “child abuse by clergy may be a problem in other religions, but it’s never a problem with us, no sir! And if it were, our church has the absolute best practices and policies in place for addressing it.”
This is just insulting. Many other faiths are way ahead of us on this score: See here for the 2012 PC(USA) policy statement “We Won’t Let It Happen Here: Creating a Child Safe Church,” building on earlier General Assembly resolutions dating back to 1991. Here is the policy in Reform Judaism. Here is the Child Protection Policy in the ELCA. Heck, even the Southern Baptists, that loosest of confederations, have now adopted a centralized policy on child abuse. We could go on and on about the proactive ways that other faiths are getting out in front of this issue.
Note one feature that all of these religions have urged to bolster child protection: background checks for every person who works closely with children and youth. So far, Mormon leaders have not followed this lead.
No, “preventing and responding to child abuse” is not “the subject of a regular lesson during Sunday meetings.” Where does this assertion even come from? I’ve never been in a church meeting that was devoted to issues like learning the signs of abuse, counseling victims, documenting cases, and reporting suspicions to the police. And I sure don’t see this in our Sunday curriculum.
No, we don’t have a policy that prohibits an adult male from ever being alone with a minor. The so-called “two-deep” policy the “Effectiveness” statement boasts of isn’t mentioned anywhere in the 2010 church handbook for bishops and stake presidents, and in fact that handbook states that “worthiness interviews should be private” (7.1.1). In the section for youth, there’s a mention that parents are encouraged “to stay close to their children and counsel them,” but it’s not clear whether that parental involvement is specifically supposed to occur during a teen’s worthiness interview with the bishop or is just general advice about parents being involved in their kids’ lives (7.1.7).
In practice, I don’t see Mormon parents accompanying their teens for their annual interviews; if this has begun to happen, that’s good news that I’d love to hear more about. (Here’s a powerful post at Doves and Serpents about how inappropriate youth interviews can be, offering concrete recommendations for change.)
No, we don’t always call the authorities. On the contrary, some of the documented cases of Mormon abusers show church leaders keeping quiet about the abuse and encouraging victims to handle it privately, if at all. That’s one of the most disturbing facets of the Frank Curtis case, for example. There’s no record that LDS leaders reported Curtis to the police for the abuse and pedophilia that caused his excommunication. And it gets worse: when an apparently penitent Curtis was later rebaptized, he was given another calling with children!
Overall, it’s strange to me that the “Effectiveness” statement insists on the one hand that there’s nothing to see here, that abuse rarely or never occurs in the Church, while on the other puts forward an equally vociferous insistence that LDS authorities have addressed the problem dozens or even hundreds of times from the pulpit.
The second part of that is correct: even a cursory search of the General Conference archives shows the tremendous uptick in mentions of abuse from the 1980s onward.
Mentions of "abuse" in LDS General Conference, 1850-2015. There's a sharp spike beginning in the 1980s, only some of which can be attributed to language (i.e., a century earlier the same problem would have been referred to as "beating").
But the reality is that issues only get addressed that often when they are, in fact, issues. Mormon leaders haven’t begun to speak frequently about child abuse because it’s a phantom issue affecting other people in allegedly inferior religions far away; they do so because the problem is already right here in our midst. There are wolves among our sheep.
I would like to see a different kind of statement from the Church, one that acknowledges the real pain of survivors of abuse.
One that says, “Yes, we understand there have been serious problems in the past, which is why we are implementing the following best practices gleaned from the wisdom that modern psychologists, social workers, religious leaders, and police have to offer.”
Instead what this statement offers is flat-out denial coupled with a blame-the-victim mentality and inexplicable claims about all the great things we’ve done to prevent a problem that — did we mention? — never existed among our people anyway.
Update: After posting this I was made aware that the Newsroom just added the following qualifier to this statement:
“The following article was published in 2010. Some bloggers have written that the Church ‘re-released’ this article on February 1, 2016. The article was not intended to be re-released. Because of a technical error on the website, some past articles have been showing up with the current date. Because of that issue, some understandably saw this as a current release from the Church.”
I’m glad to hear that this was a mistake, and I applaud the Church for admitting it. Now can we just take this damaging statement off the official LDS website altogether?
RNS columns are direct-published opinion pieces. They are not always edited and reflect the views only of the author.
One Man's Brutal Encounter With Sexual Abuse In the Mormon Church
Transgressions involving Mormons, Scouts, and children remain a well-kept secret.
By John Metcalfe
Tue., May 29 2007
Shortly after Robert Rinde was born in 1969, his father, Robert Larry Leroy Pitsor Sr., decided that the infant would grow up as a Mormon. It struck him as a fashionable religion to be part of.
"It was part of the Western machismo," says Anne Rinde, the mother. "He had it in his mind that all Western men were Mormons and he was going to be one, too. It's cowboy crap." It hardly mattered that Larry—the name Pitsor went by—initially wasn't a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "He told me he was," adds Anne, now 63 years old. "It turned out he wasn't, but he became one later. Larry was not the most honest of human beings."
Nevertheless, young Robert thrived as a Mormon. Growing up in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood as part of the local church's First Ward, Robert spent many happy days as a boy engaged in church-related games and activities. On weekends, he helped can foodstuffs in the warehouse of the church's Relief Society, and joined a Mormon-sponsored Boy Scout troop. "He was just Mr. Sunshine," says Anne. "He was the kid everybody wanted. He was willing to do anything for anybody."
Robert's three brothers seemed to enjoy being in the church as well, says Anne. But his sister, Kimi Kai, didn't. Robert and his lone biological sibling had a special bond—Robert's first word was his sister's name—but they differed in a critical respect: Religion didn't stick to Kimi Kai. "She made the proper noises," says Anne, "but she wasn't interested." Kimi Kai eventually ran away from home.
It seemed like she made the right choice by getting out early: In a deposition given last July, Anne said her husband was a drunk with a mean streak. "He'd pound the crap out of me given any available chance," she said. Robert described his father, who's now dead, as "sadistic" during a 2005 psychological evaluation at a Missouri psychiatric hospital. He also aired issues about his mother, saying she "is emotionally needy and is addicted to food. She weighs 600 pounds."
There was also a poverty issue: The Rindes were on welfare, and when they left Magnolia for Bellevue in the early '80s, they settled into subsidized housing. If young Robert was given presents, "he only had them a few days, and then they got taken away from him, to be returned for the money," Robert's therapist wrote during a 2003 session. "He hated getting gifts and still does not know how to accept them gracefully."
The church did what it could to bring harmony to the Rinde family through home teachers, or Mormons who are assigned to attend to certain families' spiritual and physical needs. Robert's home teacher for a time was Gordon Conger, a bright young man who would later become president of the church's Seattle Washington Temple in Bellevue, as well as a partner at a prominent law firm and a KIRO-TV executive.
Conger referred questions for this story to a lawyer for the church. In a deposition given this February, though, he recalled the Rindes requiring more commitment than the average family on his list. "[Anne] unfortunately, because of obesity and other health issues, was very minimally functional. She could barely walk around, and so that household needed a lot of help," he said. Every so often, a group of Mormon women would gather "to clean the place up and to give her a lift with household needs." Conger recalls being struck by "all of the sadness, of which there was way, way, way too much in the [Rinde] household."
In 1983, the Rindes learned the whereabouts of Kimi Kai, who had fallen out of contact for almost a year. A coroner brought the news: The 16-year-old girl's skull had been found near a cemetery in Auburn. She had incurred "homicidal violence of an undetermined nature," according to a report in the Associated Press. A decade later, her name reappeared on the long list of victims claimed by the Green River killer, Gary Ridgway.
The death hit the family hard. Later, they would change their name to Anne's mother's maiden name, Rinde, to avoid reporters. Robert was especially devastated, but didn't have much time to dwell on his sister's demise, as soon he was wrapped in his own tragedy.
Robert, who was maybe 13, went out one day to baby-sit the children of his Boy Scout troop leader. He returned wearing a mask of shock. "Robert looked like he had been shot," says Anne. "He had no color in his face—none." For the next couple of weeks, he remained unusually reserved, ignoring his mother's questions about what had happened.
Later, while rummaging around the house, Anne found some pants stashed in a closet that Robert had been wearing the day of his baby-sitting trip. They were a pair of white jeans, or at least they used to be white. "These white jeans were so soaked with blood," Anne later told lawyers, "that they could have stood on their own."
Confronted with the bloody pants, recalls his mom, Robert opened up. He told her that his Scoutmaster had assaulted him. This was quite a trip for Anne: The Scoutmaster directed the local Mormon choir and had kids of his own.
"He was a very good organist," recalls Anne of the "very short, very dark, very persnickety" Scoutmaster, who, because he could not be located for comment, will be referred to in this piece by the pseudonym "Joe." Anne says she remembers Joe publicly spanking one of his children after they wouldn't sit still at church. And now, it appeared he'd used his authority to rape her son.
A lawsuit Robert recently filed against the Utah-based Mormon church in Washington federal court alleges that Joe violated him in an apartment room, a swimming pool, a steam bath at Sand Point Naval Air Station (the Scoutmaster was in the Navy), and a Motel 6 in Issaquah. That last locale was the setting for the most sadistic attack, according to the language of the suit: "[Joe] used physical violence against Rinde, sodomizing him and forcing Rinde to orally copulate [him]. [Joe] then took a wire coat hanger and forced it into Rinde's urethra causing him to hemorrhage and causing chronic and irreparable injury to his penis and urogenital system."
Robert is now one of roughly 1,314 people residing in Starbuck, Minn. Through his live-in platonic girlfriend, he declined to comment about Joe or the church.
Speaking from a nursing home in Graceville, Minn., Anne says, "[Joe] knew what kind of a basket case Rob was—everybody did." Kimi Kai's death had received some press coverage, and the story was well known in the local Mormon community. "Robert was emotionally needy at that time, and [Joe] took advantage of it, bottom line."
After the motel attack, Anne filed a police report. She also contacted her longtime support group, the Mormon church. She informed her bishop, who was in charge of overseeing her ward, as well as Conger, who by that time had become something of a father figure to Robert. Conger had legal training—he'd go on to become a partner at the firm now known as K&L Gates—and Anne figured he'd know better than anyone how to handle her son's case. So that's what she had him do: take Robert to King County Superior Court so he could tell his story to a government lawyer.
On the morning of Robert's court date, Conger, the bishop, and another church member pulled up outside of the Rinde household. In her deposition, Anne recalls Conger saying something along the lines of, "[It] didn't seem like it was going to be too—just a minute—too difficult to handle, too painful, that we would be able to manage it, take care of it." The men drove to court, but when they came back, they had little news to report, according to Anne. And when she asked her son what had happened, he "sat down and he looked a little puzzled and not quite with the program. And he said, 'I'm not sure what is going on exactly, but they told me not to talk about it, not to you, not to anybody,'" with "they" being "Gordon Conger and the other ones."
Anne waited for Robert's case to move through the legal system. She didn't bug the court clerks or the cops; but when nothing happened, she got worried. Then she says she got a letter from the county saying it hadn't found any direct evidence of an attack at the motel.
Robert later informed his mother that he never spoke with the government lawyer. "Robert told me that Gordon said that he would not allow Robert to be talked to alone, that he stood in the place of a parent. . . . And that he would stay with him while he was being questioned," said Anne in her deposition. The meeting then dissolved, according to Robert's federal suit, which claims that Conger and his companions "shielded [Joe] from the law" with the consequence that the Scoutmaster was able to "evade criminal prosecution and to move to another state." The Mormon church has since excommunicated Joe for unspecified reasons.
The church's lawyers claim the church isn't responsible for Robert's trauma. "The alleged abuse was not by a member of the clergy of the church," says Charles Gordon, a partner with Gordon Tilden Thomas & Cordell, who's defending the church in the Rinde case. As for Conger, he's "a very well-respected member of both the community at large and the legal community." In his deposition, Conger said that after taking Robert to the court, he and the bishop waited on uncomfortable wooden benches while the boy talked with the prosecutor. "I would never tamper with a witness," Conger said.
In the early '90s, Conger left his law firm to become editorial director for KIRO-TV, which was then owned by a fiduciary arm of the Mormon church. The Seattle Times quoted a source claiming Conger was hired "to restore the conservative corporate image KIRO once had." In 2001, Conger assumed the presidency of the Seattle Washington Temple, a position he held until 2004. He's now retired from the legal profession and living in Bellevue, where he acts as a local public-affairs director for the church.
Robert, however, struggled to recapture any sense of normalcy. Around the time he was being abused by Joe, Robert was caught naked in a bathtub with children he was baby-sitting. The incident earned him some "aversion therapy" with a Mormon doctor hired by the church, according to Anne, who drove him to his weekly appointments for nearly two years.
This therapy, as Robert described it to another therapist in 2003, consisted of talking "about sex and how bad and dirty it was, how terrible you are, and associating the whole thing with puking in the toilet with shit and every bad thing you could imagine and having rats crawl all over, forcing yourself to throw up." Robert was given a tape recorder with instructions to describe such vile mental scenes in his free time, and his doctor reviewed the tapes each week to make sure he was doing his "homework."
"They sent him to a doctor that screwed him up so bad mentally that he's just now beginning to come to grips with the stuff that was done to him there," says Anne, who also underwent an unconventional form of therapy. Around the time Kimi Kai died, she made an agreement with a psychologist to use an unoccupied room at his office, she said in her deposition, where she "could go in there and he'd close the doors and he'd go away for 15 minutes, and I could scream myself sick."
The Mormon church hasn't received the flogging that Roman Catholics have over the abuse of children. That could be because of the church's efforts to identify and quash predators in its ranks. In 1989, the church created an educational program about child abuse for its elders. It also established a 1-800 "abuse help line" in 1995 that connected Mormon congregation leaders with professional therapists and lawyers. The church also began tracking Mormon sex offenders by flagging their records, ostensibly to keep them away from children.
"Cases involving child abuse brought against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are far lower than other religious denominations," says church spokesperson Kim Farah in an e-mail. "The programs and protections the Church has put into place to combat child abuse has reduced this number even further." (Farah neglected to provide the specific number of lawsuits.)
No less a personage than the national Mormon church president, Gordon Hinckley, has expounded on the danger of church child predators. In 2002, the 96-year-old president, whom Mormons consider to be God's prophet, had this to say to his roughly 13 million–member world congregation: "I regret to say that there has been some very limited expression of this monstrous evil among us. It is something that cannot be countenanced or tolerated."
Apparently, juries in the Northwest agree: Since 2002, eight lawsuits have been filed against the church in Washington and Oregon, some yielding striking judgments. Two sisters from Federal Way received more than $4 million in 2005; and last year, a federal jury awarded $1.4 million to a Kent man abused as a child by his Mormon Scoutmaster (although it decided the church was only responsible for paying a minimal portion of that amount). The Scoutmaster had molested several boys, reportedly making plaster casts of their genitals; church officials who heard of his travails reportedly suggested that he merely repent and pray. Three other former Scouts also recently settled with the church for an undisclosed amount.
Becoming a Scout is a right of passage for nearly every Mormon boy. "The Mormon church has accepted the Boy Scouts as a program within the church," says Gregg Shields, national spokesperson for the Boy Scouts of America. The Mormons are one of the largest chartering organizations of Scout troops in the States, says Shields, approached in number only by the United Methodist Church.
But it isn't just Mormons who love the Scouts: Pedophiles have also been drawn to the organization's focus on children. And a lack of criminal background checks for Scout volunteers until 2003 gave scores of so-inclined Scoutmasters face-to-face access to young men. Timothy Kosnoff, an attorney for Robert Rinde, declined to comment on record about the Scouts, but Kosnoff made some pretty harsh accusations in a 2004 lawsuit involving three former Scouts who claimed they were molested by a Scoutmaster in King County about 30 years ago. (The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.)
The Scouts provide molesters "access to boys alone and away from their parents in secluded settings like camp-outs and overnight hikes," the suit alleged. There's a culture of "strict obedience to the Scout Leader and a bonding mechanism that pedophiles crave," as well as the promotion of "the idea of secret ceremonies, rituals and loyalty oaths, all of which help facilitate the pedophile's efforts to keep his victims silent and compliant." Moreover, San Francisco lawyer Diane Josephs, who has tried roughly a dozen child sex-abuse cases against the Scouts, reports that many incidents have involved "a lot of alcohol, let alone marijuana."
"One of the most striking things I found [was] that [the children's] first exposure to alcohol was through the Boy Scouts," says Josephs.
Mark Honeywell, a lawyer at Seattle firm Gordon Thomas, which is working with Kosnoff on Robert's case, has 40 boxes of internal Scouts documents that show the organization was well aware of its allure to pedophiles. "There was a time in the '70s and '80s when they were kicking guys out for sex abuse at a rate of three a week," says Honeywell. (Spokesperson Shields wouldn't "confirm or deny" that statistic.) Court documents from this era show Mormon Scout leaders enticing children into homemade "sweat lodges," crawling into the sleeping bags of boys, and fondling children after supposedly hypnotizing them with the code phrase "aliza may daikonoshi."
In one of the most bizarre cases, a Mormon Scoutmaster in Sierra Vista, Ariz., David James Borg, invented a Dungeons & Dragons game to entice at least five prepubescent boys into having sex during spelunking expeditions. "His characters used enlarged penises as weapons, and sometimes the boys' characters had to cut off the penis of opposing characters, eat it, etc," wrote a Scouts official in a 1988 internal report. "In other words, what other pedophiles do with pornography, in tearing down inhibitions, Borg did with D&D." The official noted that Borg had previously been caught in bed with an underage boy in New Jersey, but because at the time "the church apparently [had] no 'Confidential File' it was easy for him to move to Sierra Vista and become involved with the youth program in that new ward."
The days when men like Borg could get wholesale access to Boy Scouts seem to be dwindling, according to Honeywell and Josephs, who acknowledge that the organization has been getting better at keeping its charges safe. "In the 1980s, they hired people to do studies and developed a Scout-protection program," says Honeywell. Kids entering the Scouts now read a guide about child abuse, watch movies with titles such as It Happened to Me, and theoretically have two adults hovering around them at all times.
"We promise to take swift action and remove people we suspect of being child abusers," says Shields. "We don't need a criminal conviction; we can act on suspicion or a report."
To hear it from those who have gone to the trouble of suing the Mormons, the reason the church has garnered so little negative publicity is not because it's purged itself of the sin of pedophilia but because it's extremely good at repressing its victims.
Sisters Jessica and Ashley Cavalieri won a $4.2 million award from the church in 2005 for abuse inflicted by their Mormon stepfather in the early '90s in Federal Way. Theirs is a case example of why we haven't heard much about pedophilia in the church: The amount of hurdles the girls had to clear to get their voices heard is staggering.
Because living in modern society while also obeying the church dictums is so hard to do—drinking and premarital sex are strongly discouraged, as are caffeine, violent music and movies, and an unbalanced diet—Mormon culture is necessarily insular. "They're trying to live so differently from the rest of the world, almost like the Amish," says Jessica, now a 26-year-old student at Idaho's Brigham Young University. That means, she says, the first move when it comes to child abuse isn't always to involve the cops. "The police are outsiders. They don't have the 'true gospel,' so they don't understand things like we do."
The Mormon bishop does understand, however. He's presumed to be competent enough to oversee a ward, a land division much like a political district. The church acknowledged its bishops' roles as proper receptacles of child-abuse information when it created its 1-800 help line, which only church officials can use. If the bishop decides a victim's tale of woe is compelling enough to pick up the phone, he can talk with "professional counselors" (according to the church's Web site) who will rattle off a list of protocol questions and perhaps refer the case to a church lawyer.
Jessica, who's seen the questionnaire, describes it as containing a lot of "risk-management" inquiries—"Did the abuse happen on church property? Did it happen during a church-sponsored activity?"—which made her feel as if the church was already preparing a defense against her claims that her stepfather was touching her at night and offering her money for sex.
The bishop can also do nothing, as was the case for Jessica. When she was 12, she told her bishop about the abuse. He sent her out of the room so he could chat in private with her parents and then dismissed the family, who went home without a word on the subject. Jessica took it for granted that the bishop had told her mother about the molestation and that her mother didn't care. Only after her stepfather confessed, five mentally hellish years later, did Jessica learn the truth: The bishop just told her mom that the two weren't "getting along" and suggested they needed to spend more time together in spiritual study. "He didn't have very much psychological training," says Jessica, "and didn't really understand that child molesters aren't something that can just be treated and cured with prayer."
When the Cavalieris finally decided to pursue their case on a nonspiritual plane, the Washington state judiciary, Jessica says two bishops she had told about the abuse denied ever hearing her tale of woe. Her best friend testified that she was "a complete psycho," while her Mormon neighbors, outside of court, called her "evil" and told her she needed to repent.
Since Jessica's story appeared in the papers, she says she's heard from approximately 50 Mormons with similar horror stories. "I think it's an epidemic," she speculates.
One winter day in 2005, Robert Rinde sat down to talk with Francis Manley, a psychologist at Two Rivers Psychiatric Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. He had been admitted to the institution three days prior after experiencing symptoms of dissociative identity disorder.
In his notes, Manley found the middle-aged man to be "quite bright" but "detached and watchful," writing that he wore an "unamused smile" throughout the interview. Robert complained that food and clothes turned up around his house that he couldn't remember purchasing. Other strange things were happening, as well. When he looked into a mirror, he saw "many different people" looking back, which Manley assumed to be a reference to his shattered personality. Manley presented a Rorschach test, and Robert looked into one inkblot to find "someone screaming, with their mouth wide open and their eyes wide."
Wrote Manley: "He feels that there is an intense struggle inside of him to block the negative memories from childhood."
Outwardly, Robert wasn't always so off-kilter. After Kimi Kai's murder, the family decided to move to Spokane. Robert worked for the state's workers' compensation department and found a nice Mormon girl—"Molly Mormon," as Anne Rinde called her— to marry and raise three kids with. He rose in the church ranks to become a stake-president counselor, according to Anne. His old home teacher, Gordon Conger, talked with Robert at this time and recalled in his deposition that he seemed happy.
In 1997, Robert got divorced. He told Dr. Manley his wife had left him for "someone better" and that he considered himself to be gay. He moved to Minnesota in 2002 to be near his mother, who was ill, and opened up his own business, Serendipity Books and Antiques. It was then that his life began to crumble, as chronicled in notes from various psychologists.
One wrote that Robert was sexually abused by a friend in late 2002, triggering flashbacks of the attack in the motel. He checked into Douglas County Hospital in Alexandria, Minn., where he explained that he couldn't sleep because of his nightmares. He tried to stay awake with a ration of coffee that on certain days exceeded nine pots. He wasn't able to pass the time like most people by watching TV because he was afraid of encountering violent images. Robert also experienced auditory hallucinations, once telling his doctor that he heard a man's voice emanating from somewhere within his bedroom saying, "The room is quiet." This made him "curious," but not distressed.
Robert eventually closed down his bookstore. He questioned his decision to have kids and sank into deep bouts of depression. "Rob has been puking for the last 4 days, uncontrollably, whether he eats or not. He has been extremely down and wants to die," wrote one therapist. "He said no one has ever believed him in his life, that he was made to tell himself that he was a piece of shit and no good and deserved the treatment he got. He believes it."
It's not so uncommon for a person who went through sexual trauma to experience the worst aftereffects decades later. It's also not uncommon for the Mormon church to bungle the handling of such personal crises, at least according to Julie Lank, who blocked out years of abuse as a child by her Mormon truck-driver father in eastern Oregon. Lank, now 44 and living in Santa Fe, says it wasn't until shortly after she gave birth in 1990 that she began to remember the things done to her. "I woke up screaming at the top of my lungs, remembering that my father used to rape me," she says.
Following a 1979 conviction for the sexual abuse of her stepsister, Lank's father had some of his church privileges revoked, says Lank, but then was accepted back into the Mormon fold. Lank wanted to level her own accusations, so she got in touch with Rinde's old confidant, Gordon Conger, who, she says, advised her to hold a meeting in a church setting and drove her to meet her dad in Vancouver, Wash. There, she says her father didn't deny or admit to the charges. And that was the end of that.
"The meeting had nothing to do with helping me, had nothing to do [with] taking appropriate action against my father," says Lank. Later, as a student at the University of Utah, she tried taking her grievances to the national level by visiting the Mormon church's director of social services, telling him about her experiences and how frustrated she was. "He proceeded to tell me he didn't want his job and turned down the offer two or three times before he accepted it," she says. "He was pathetic."
Lank has since asked the Mormon church to expunge her name and records from its files. She notes with some humor that the letter announcing her erasure from the church came back mistakenly addressed to "Dear Sister Lank." Her mental health, she says, has improved greatly. "It enabled me to get my life back fully," she says.
Meanwhile, when Robert informed the church of his history a couple of years ago, the church responded by providing him with more mental counseling, which has had spotty efficacy. "He just spent a month in psychiatric care in a special facility for adults who were abused as children," says Anne Rinde. "He gets a little better, and then it seems he gets worse."
Robert now spends most of his time at home with his son and his platonic partner. He sometimes talks with his mother over the phone late at night about his court case. As one of his legion of therapists noted, he no longer considers himself Mormon, but his "religious commitment is rated as important to him."
And it is to the church, too. A few years ago, Anne received a letter from a Mormon bishop in California. The bishop wrote to tell her that Joe was reapplying to be a member of the church. Would the family forgive him?
"You don't want to know what I said," says Anne.

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(Part 2)
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(Part 3)
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