Similarly to the countless sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts, members of the Mormon Church aren’t always safe from sexual abuse either. What’s even worse is that all organizations have a lengthy history of covering up abuse allegations as well. If you are one of these victims of Mormon Church abuse, you have a right to have your voice heard in an LDS lawsuit. Our Houston abuse attorneys at Reich & Binstock will make sure your abusive situation isn’t swept under the rug like many others. Call us today at 713-622-7271 to see what we can do for you.
What are Mormon Beliefs?
The Mormon Church is a loose subclass of Christianity belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). There are presently more than 15 million recognized members of the Mormon Church worldwide.
LDS Mormons share many beliefs with Christians of other denominations. Some of what they believe includes the crucifixion, resurrection, and divinity of Jesus. However, they don’t believe in the Holy Trinity. Instead, they believe that Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit are all independent of one another.
Mormons also believe in four core books that hold their teachings, including:
In life, members of the Mormon Church follow specific health and lifestyle requirements. Specifically, caffeine and alcohol are not a part of their diet. Their core values include good deeds, family, missionary work, and respect for authority.
History of Sexual Abuse Cover Ups in the Mormon Church
Sexual abuse in the Mormon Church dates back decades, similarly to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Many survivors confided in church leaders about their assaults, but later saw no action. Oftentimes instead of protecting its members, leaders choose to protect the Mormon Church instead. In one case, a woman told her church leaders about her abuse. As a result, the leaders said that her abusive situation was “in the hands of God.”
Occasionally, some victims were even bribed to keep quiet. The Mormon Church has reportedly offered victims large amounts of money to keep quiet about the abuse they previously suffered in the church.
Why Does Sexual Abuse in the LDS Church Get Covered Up?
Covering up sexual abuse within the Mormon Church happens for many reasons. Most of the time, it’s due to a preference for the Church’s reputation, the way laws are written, and the ideals instilled in LDS members.
The Church’s Reputation Comes First
One of the top priorities of church leaders when they hear of sexual abuse is to protect their church first. For example, Bishops act in representation of God, which often means they will serve the church before they serve the victim. Church leaders may not intend to continue the cycle of systemic abuse, but that’s undeniably what happens when abuse is swept under the rug to protect the church’s reputation. Additionally, silence about sexual abuse allegations will allow the Mormon church to attract new members, prevent national scandals, and prevent an expensive LDS lawsuit.
Bishops Aren’t Always Required by Law to Report Sexual Abuse
Surprisingly, Bishops often don’t contact the police when they hear of sexual abuse within the church because they aren’t always bound by law to do so. In Utah specifically, there is an exemption for religious leaders to report abuse or neglect. The law presently reads:
“…When any individual… has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect, or observes a child being subjected to conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect, that individual shall immediately report the alleged abuse or neglect to the nearest peace officer, law enforcement agency, or office of the division.
“…the notification requirement described in Subsection (1)(a) does not apply to a member of the clergy, with regard to any confession made to the member of the clergy while functioning in the ministerial capacity of the member of the clergy and without the consent of the individual making the confession…”
House Bill 90, which would have eliminated this exemption for religious leaders, was struck down in March 2020. It’s possible this exemption continues to exist in Utah because the state has the highest population of Mormons in the United States. Approximately 68% of Utah’s population is Mormon. Another key point worth noting is that while the Mormon Church has a 24-hour hotline specifically created for church leaders to report sexual abuse, many use the hotline to do the exact opposite. In 2019, a national report alleged that the church used their hotline to silence victims and therefore avoid an LDS lawsuit.
Forgiveness is a Pillar of the Mormon Church
Finally, sexual abuse is covered up because church members are taught that forgiveness can solve many problems. In fact, the LDS online gospel states:
“We should pray for strength to forgive those who have wronged us, and we should abandon feelings of anger, bitterness, or revenge. We should also look for the good in others rather than focusing on their faults and magnifying their weaknesses. God will be the judge of others’ harmful actions.”
How Does Sexual Abuse Impact LDS Church Members?
Sexual abuse within any church, whether it’s handled appropriately or not, brings loads of shame, blame, and trauma onto a church member. What makes the mental effects of sexual abuse worse is if church leaders dismiss victims and their stories altogether. When this happens, victims may begin to lose trust in the Mormon Church and may even lose faith in God.
Mental Effects Due to Sexual Assault
Victims may also lose a large chunk of their lives to silently suffering from the countless mental effects of their trauma. Not surprisingly, 31% of rape victims involved in a study developed PTSD while 33% have considered suicide. The same study showed that rape victims were 13.4 times more likely to become alcoholics and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
How Do I Know if My Child is a Victim of Mormon Church Abuse?
Trouble walking or sitting
Hesitance to get undressed
Precocious knowledge of sexual topics
Reluctance to return to church
Depression or suicidal thoughts
Abnormal interest or avoidance of sexual topics
Hostility or aggressive behavior
Abnormal pain, bleeding, or discharge from genital areas
Avoidance of a specific person for no apparent reason
What Can Victims Do After Abuse by an LDS Church Official?
If you or your child is a victim of sexual abuse within the Mormon Church, the best way to report it is to contact local authorities. Victims can also call or chat with the National Sexual Assault hotline for more guidance on how to move forward. If you believe the church leader should undoubtedly be held responsible for their actions, contact a sexual abuse attorney at Reich & Binstock and we can help.
Statute of Limitations to File an LDS Lawsuit
In Texas, victims of child sexual abuse presently have 30 years to report their abuse. The Statute of Limitations was recently extended from age 33 to age 48 according to the Associated Press.
What Damages Can Victims Recover in an LDS Lawsuit?
Civil claims seek to compensate the victim, whereas criminal suits seek to punish the abuser. Sexual abuse victims can recover a variety of monetary and non-monetary damages in an LDS lawsuit including:
Contact an LDS Lawsuit Attorney Today
If you or someone you love has been a victim of abuse by a member or leader of the Mormon Church, you can receive compensation as well as punitive damages from your abuser. Our attorneys at Reich & Binstock understand how serious of a situation this is and how traumatic it can be to come forward. We will walk you through the legal process and help you in every step of the way while we work to resolve your case. Call our Houston office at 713-622-7271 or use our contact form to schedule a free consultation now.