Friday, December 23, 2011

Should Mormon bishops stand trial for not reporting abuse?

Reading the Deseret News this morning. Here's my thoughts:

Bishops saying things like Moon did comes from their complete and total ignorance of what it is like to be sexually assaulted... They don't get it. They don't understand. They think they speak for God even when they are speaking in complete and utter ignorance.

This bishop asked the girl to think about her abuser, and how her reporting would affect HIS life. That's just stupid. He asked her to consider changing the way she dressed, which is common way to blame the victim rather than ask the young man who assaulted her to take responsibility. My guess is he meant well, but in his ignorance, he served to aid an abuser.

Luckily, the girl's mother set up an appointment with a detective that same day. Luckily, the girl TALKED to her mother and her mother listened. I went to the bishop, and I stopped there. When he told me not to worry about it, I took him at his word. I didn't understand that he didn't speak for God... That I had every right to pursue MY rights and to talk about it. I didn't go to my mom, or other friends, or a therapist. I just went on as if nothing happened.

I'd hate to see somebody having to serve time just for being ignorant AND at the same time, how else do we start educating people? If there are no consequences for being ignorant asses, why would they change? And how do we tell other people like me that it is OKAY to talk about it, even if the bishop tells you not to? The more awareness we can create, the less this will happen.

Victims will be treated with respect and understanding and get the help they need. It's also my hope that perpetrators, bishops, parents, counselors, teachers, friends will be made more aware of what is going on and get the help they need as well. My goal is to heal ALL of us.

But nothing will change if someone doesn't do something to create the change.


  1. I'm just so frustrated at how the church has essentially institutionalized a type of rape culture. I don't know if it could all be pined on SWK and his book The Miracle of Forgiveness directly, because he had to get it from somewhere, but he did eventually set it in stone and make it doctrinal so to speak. He set a lot of horrible stuff in stone with that book.

  2. TGD - The rape culture was around for a long time before SWK... It's the way he was raised... It's the world as it was. The part that is hard is that because it has become doctrine, it is much harder to change. (In other words, I totally agree.)

  3. Jen, do you read John Shore? He recently linked back to this post, where he absolutely blasts those who use the name of God to keep people in abusive relationships. His more recent post went even further and told these ministers to quit their jobs if they saw women in a negative light at all. Pretty powerful words.

  4. If, as you suspect, Jen, the bishop acted out of ignorance, then I think it would be too harsh to send him to jail or prison.

    But sending him to jail or prison is only one alternative. Another option is to sentence him to participate in some kind of educational or counseling program that would teach him how to properly respond the next time he's faced with a similar situation.

    However, something should be done. That is, I do not think he should be left alone to repeat his mistake.

  5. Jessica - WOW. John Shore is intense!

    Paul - I agree, prison is too harsh for just ignorance. (Although some of the people that know him actually believe he knew what he was supposed to do, but chose this anyway... That's heresay even more than the newspapar article, so who knows?)

    I guess my real thought is, Let's do something! But I don't know what... prison time and punishment isn't really the answer... I just don't know what the answer IS.

  6. On the one hand I see the point of saying prison is too harsh. On the other hand, sexual assault is a crime. Failing to report it permits the abuser to continue abusing, and makes the person who doesn't report it an accomplice to the crime. Just because someone doesn't understand how the law defines rape or sexual assault doesn't mean that what they did was okay or that they shouldn't face consequences. Ignorance is no excuse.

    Still, I would prefer that we were able to turn this victim-blaming culture into one that comprehends the root causes of sexual abuse and the power structures that perpetuate abusive patterns. That means education, not imprisonment. It means universal empowerment, not avenging ourselves on the ignorant accomplices and enablers.

    So yeah, the authorities should get involved, but people who fail to report sexual abuse (or any kind of abuse) shouldn't be imprisoned. They should be educated.

  7. Macha - agree. Ignorance is no excuse. And the best solution is education.