Dealing with Abuse

The Church has spoken out against abuse by everyone, particularly members. But abuse happens. And there are factors that make it difficult for abused persons to be believed.

Sunday evening I had a chance to hear Jennie Willoughby speak, the first time she’s publicly discussed the abuse in her marriage with a dominantly Mormon audience.Jennie reports that she didn’t notice anything untoward in her whirlwind courtship with Rob Porter, a rising legal professional with strong ties to Mormon leadership. A recent convert, Jennie didn’t notice Rob wasn’t taking the sacrament when they first met. The fact that Rob had a prior failed marriage didn’t raise red flags. One instance of anger during their courtship seemed understandable at the time. In retrospect, it was a precursor of the terror that would ensue.

Weeks after marrying Rob, Jennie burst into tears in a temple recommend interview when asked if there was anything of concern in her relationships with family members. 1 The stake leader, who had been Jennie’s bishop when she joined the Church, requested Jennie talk with her Bishop. Jennie admits that she wasn’t able to clearly articulate to her bishop the way in which she was being verbally abused or the ways in which intimate relations between herself and her husband felt wrong. Jennie separated from Rob. When Rob destroyed the window in the door to her apartment in anger, the police warned her she may not be safe. But Rob apologized and they reconciled. Then an angry Rob grabbed Jennie by the neck when she was in the shower, terrifying Jennie enough to take steps to end her marriage.

I myself have been involved in toxic situations. This week my physician asked how I came to have a fracture to my eye socket, an old injury the eye doctor noticed earlier this year. I honestly don’t know whether the injury occurred in the late 1970s, when my father beat me, or in the early 1990s, when my first husband beat me. I have suffered no other accidents that could account for that sort of damage to my eye socket.

I am not the most abused woman I know. A girl raised in my neighborhood, Janet Christiansen Abaroa, was brutally killed, almost certainly by the man she married in the temple. A sister-in-law was raped twice, once at Church. My daughter’s sister-in-law was also raped at Church. When I consider lesser violence against women, I can name dozens of family members, friends, and acquaintances who have suffered, often at the hands of those who were ostensibly good Church-going men. And women can be abusive as well.

Abuse happens. But why are the abused too often denied the help they need? And what can be done to reduce the problem in the future?

Blame Freud

First, we need to acknowledge that abused people have long been ignored. Freud, the father of psychotherapy, came to believe reports of abuse were fantasy, as he could not accept that abuse was as common as his original theories suggested, given the prevalence of associated symptoms. 2

“It’s Eve’s Fault”

Western Christianity has long believed Eve (and by extension, all women) brought evil into the world, creating us as evil by nature. While Mormonism refutes this idea of Eve as the mother of all evil, it permeates the Christian culture in which Mormonism typically operates. Eve and her daughters are the temptresses, according to this broader Christian narrative. Anything a man does to a woman, therefore, isn’t really his fault at all.

Forgiveness of the Loved One

Even when people aren’t motivated by fear of losing of an eternal family, it’s hard to end a family into which so much hope has been invested. Add the Mormon emphasis on family, and the victim may be unable to cry out for help.

I know the reason I didn’t tell the police or my bishop about my father’s abuse was an unwillingness to be the cause of harming my father, who was the sole breadwinner for our large family. I didn’t realize my mother was unaware of the physical abuse. She had been abused numerous times over the course of the marriage.

But it isn’t just family ignoring the wrongs of the abuser. When my mother and father counseled with the Stake Presidency over the matter in the 1970s, the Church leaders figured both spouses were exaggerating. I had seen my mother being physically abused, but they hadn’t. I knew the claim that “she never cleans the dishes” was ludicrous, but they figured that hyperbole was commensurate with exaggerated reports of assault. They told him to be nicer and told her to keep the house cleaner.

After the end of my parents’ marriage, my mother learned a therapist (a Mormon bishop, then deceased) had strenuously urged my father to remove himself from the marriage, as my father’s actions were harming his wife and children. But the therapist/bishop did not share his professional opinion with my mother, leaving her in harm’s way.

It is not unreasonable that male leaders will sympathize with the men, who they know from Church worship and associated activities. The women are largely unknown, in part because of (valid) concerns that extensive social interaction can increase the likelihood of infidelity.

The bond between men who worship together is not mere supposition. Jennie reports that a seasoned Utah professional involved in judicial domestic violence hearings has never, in over twenty years, seen a Mormon bishop testify on behalf of abused women and children. When this professional has seen Mormon bishops testify, it was always on behalf of the defendant, the man accused of abuse.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

When a Mormon person is facing abuse, who do they call?

My advice? Call 911. Call the magistrate. Call an abuse crisis hotline.

But many Mormons don’t reach out for secular professional help. We call the bishop.

News flash. Most bishops are entirely unequipped to deal with serious matters related to domestic abuse. Too many of the unequipped try to help without referring people to professionals or calling the LDS hotline.

Don’t Speak Evil of the Lord’s Anointed…?

During the final years of Joseph Smith’s life, the idea of holding leaders blameless entered ceremonial parlance. Men who were either blameless or repentant were being slandered on the national stage.

Unfortunately, the parallel idea of denouncing evil practices, no matter the position of the perpetrator, would be buried in a seldom-read book of minutes. The letter was not even shared with the secretary of Relief Society until fall of 1842, possibly because that secretary was next-door neighbor to a powerful man believed to be one of the chief culprits. This secretary would later refer to her former neighbor as a “vile wretch.”

Relief Society had been a powerful organization working side by side with Priesthood Quorums to warn the unwary and root out iniquity. But Brigham Young’s termination of the Relief Society of Nauvoo and subsequent hostility towards Emma Smith marginalized Relief Society. LDS women were only able to win reinstatement of Relief Society in the 1860s by kowtowing to male leadership. 3

Few moderns know anything about the history of Mormon power and exposing iniquity during the 1840s. These moderns live in a world where men are “the anointed” and women are taught to sustain these anointed men. So when an “anointed” man beats or otherwise abuses a woman, it becomes culturally difficult to “speak evil” of that man.

I could wish that October 2018 brings movement towards the power Relief Society originally had to minister to the women, particularly regarding abuse suffered by women and their children at the hands of the men in their lives. The changes of the April 2018 conference facilitate this change and will enable bold and visionary women to act now to protect abused women and children. But I suspect more direct instruction and supporting policy will be required to ensure all victims 4 and their nurturing Relief Societies understand this is possible.

I also hope for a day when women are formally encouraged to resume the practice of performing blessings of comfort and healing. I myself blessed my dying son, but now that I know this blessing was contrary to policy, I will not perform a blessing until policy change makes it acceptable.

Boys Will Be Boys?

Jennie’s bishop, hearing Rob had called Jennie names and been forceful in bed, suggested that men have strong urges. Apparently he didn’t ask what the names had been (something the FBI did clarify when they interviewed Jennie in early 2017 for Rob’s security clearance, including names that rhyme with “tucking stitch”). The bishop apparently didn’t consider the fact that Jennie was a recent convert and had been a sexually active woman prior to that conversion. She wasn’t a virgin shocked by the mere act of sex.

Do we know what constitutes an abusive relationship? Jennie mentioned the “Ah Ha!” moment she had reviewing the list of coercive behaviors on the website of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).

But Jennie doesn’t just think girls should be taught about abuse warning signs. Boys should also be taught these signs.

How might Rob’s life be different had he been firmly taught in his childhood that rage, violence, and shaming are unworthy behaviors of a son of God? How might his life have been different if signs of such behavior in childhood were taken seriously?

Seal of the Confessional

Mormons don’t have confessional booths. But believers talk to their bishops, often as part of regularly-scheduled annual (or biennial) interviews. As seen in the case of Jennie’s interview with her bishop, it can be hard to articulate things. And there are instances where the ecclesiastical authorities say inappropriate things.

The Church recently announced that women, youth, and children may request the presence of another adult when they are interviewed by the Bishop or other ecclesiastical authority. But will there be a sign on the wall informing them of this right, as women see in an OBGYN office?

How many women, youth, and children are going to hesitate to request the presence of another adult when going to talk with their bishop? How many women, youth, and children would even know this is something they can request? Not all of us read the Trib. And if the child is concerned about one of their parents, how does this vulnerable child identify that their parent is the last person they want in the room with them while talking to the bishop?


We can’t eliminate abuse, but we can make serious inroads towards empowering victims against their abusers.

  1. Embrace the idea that we are each children of God: acknowledged, valued, and honored (seen, known to matter, and known to be enough).
  2. Emphasize without qualification that abuse is wrong.
  3. Realize that no one, absolutely no one, is above getting the help they need. Specifically, power and position should not protect abusers from getting help, nor should victims of the powerful be shamed into silence.
  4. As women and men minister, they should take seriously their responsibility to comfort and protect those who are being abused. Women, in particular, should surge to protect women and children who are abused, “important matters that ought actually to belong to them to see to, which men have been under the necessity of seeing to…” 5
  5. People who are hurting should reach out to secular authorities for help.
  6. We should take accusations of abuse seriously.


  1. I’ve been asked this question in interviews, but forget the exact wording.
  2. Wikipedia, Freud’s abandonment of seduction theory.
  3. Emma Hale stepped down in 1844. Eliza Snow would not be designated second president of the organization until 1866.
  4. Not all victims are women and children. But a majority of victims are women and children.
  5. Joseph Smith, letter to Relief Society, 31 Mar 1842.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

66 thoughts on “Dealing with Abuse

  1. Thank you, Meg.
    My wife was abused in her first marriage, but wasn’t believed by church leaders.
    Part of the problem comes from cuture, part from insufficient continuous training. Often the bishop that is trained doesn’t hear about the abuse because home teachers aren’t trained to look for the signs of abuse.

  2. Thank you Meg. I think a lot of discussion in stake and ward councils could go a long ways. Our YSA stake presidency has placed it as the main topic of discussion for our next stake council meeting. This will then go to the ward councils. Having strong representation of women in these ward councils will also help. It will need a lot of repetition in subsequent meetings.

    “The First Presidency letter instructs all priesthood and auxiliary leaders to review all of the guidelines and teach the policies and guidelines on preventing and responding to abuse to stake and ward councils “to ensure the safety and protection of children, youth, and adults”

    Abuse is wrong and not the fault of the victim.

  3. I forwarded your post to our stake presidency in preparation for the meeting.

  4. We MUST teach women to report crimes to the local constabulary, and not to the local Mormon bishop. And sooner rather than later.

  5. Thanks for sharing Meg. I just want to say one thing about your comment: “I myself blessed my dying son, but now that I know this blessing was contrary to policy, I will not perform a blessing until policy change makes it acceptable.” Meg, you do NOT need the institution of the church to make it acceptable for you to do something that you may feel pressed by the Lord to do. We follow God and where his will lines up with that of the church – wonderful. Where His wishes for you do not line up with church policy – choose God’s way.

  6. I hope that there will be some kind of consideration of the possibility of false accusations. I have seen several cases of this.

  7. That’s the awesome thing about reporting to the police – they’re used to handling accounts that might not be fully accurate.

    But the current issue is that the culture strongly discourages reports of abuse. When abuse is reported, it is often trivialized.

    As I mentioned, I saw myself and others refraining from reporting abuse. So mentioning up front that claims could be false (an obvious thing that need not be stated), further discourages any reporting.

  8. If it is true that reports of criminal abuse are often trivialized, all the more reason to encourage reports (to the police, not the Mormon bishop) and sooner rather than later. The culture can be changed. Evidence starts to dissipate quickly, and no person can be found guilty of a crime without sufficient evidence.

    Deuteronomy 22:22-27 is instructive. Note how charitable the principle is to the woman, and how harsh it is to the man. We must teach women to cry out.

  9. As a survivor of abuse in marriage as well as a professional counselor, I agree that awareness could be better. I was fortunate enough to have a bishop who never questioned my account and was immensely helpful.

    However I have also found that far too many of both genders are suffering from abuse in LDS homes. Men are even less willing to tell someone that their wife tried to run them down in a car, threatened to call the police if he tried to leave, turned the children against him with lies and name-calling, or sexually assaulted him. All of these are things I have seen in my work and personal acquaintances. I think as a culture, we often want to think everything is fine, when far too often, it’s not.

    Also, how does a leader help a victim of abuse without interfering with agency? If he encourages the person to leave the home, s/he may be at even greater risk. If he encourages her/him to stay, there is risk. I’m not sure there is a “right” response for leaders except to listen and love.

  10. Listen, love, and report as required by law.

    This is what doctors are supposed to do with children whom they suspect of abuse.

    However, this doesn’t apply to adults in a married relationship. The recourse that doctors must follow in those cases is to privately speak with the abused and encourage the abused to contact the authorities themselves.

    I think a balance between both approaches is what the Prophet and Apostles wants us to do when abuse happens, but with the added provision that forguiveness and repentance are real, useful tools in the road to recovery.

  11. I’ve always thought that it was the interviewee’s right to have a third party sit in on church interviews. After all, it is their right to waive confidentiality to a third person.

    And, the interviewer should welcome it, even if only as a measure to increase the interviewee’s comfort and confidence in talking about whatever.

  12. I struggle with how to balance the importance of supporting the abused and rooting out abusers with the danger of establishing norms that stigmatize the innocent. Hard cases make bad law. The rule that applies in the individual case may not apply well if made more general. But, of course, we cannot wink at abuse, and we can always improve.

    More than a decade ago, as a BYU student, I left a dance to walk home by myself. On my way home, I recognized a young lady who had been at the dance. I tried to strike up a conversation with her. In a conversational way, she informed me that she was carrying mace. I thought that was rude, as I had made no untoward advances. But it was dark, I had tried to talk to her, and I am both male and tall. So, I hurried on my way. I would not, then or now, claim that she had no right to say what she said if she felt unsafe. But I was not a threat.

    Less than a week later, I saw her again at a Stake institute class. She recognized me, and proceeded to recount the experience to her friends, and to point me out to them. I do not recall if I went back to that institute class.

    More can always be done to protect victims, but we must not let caution become an implied accusation laid upon the meek. We should not teach our boys that they are, each of them, potential abusers. And we should not teach our girls to fear their future husbands or other men. We should model and teach love, in all humility, and point both the boys and the girls towards Jesus. He is the best example of a perfect spouse, and he can also show us how best to stand up for ourselves.

  13. Written language is an imperfect medium.

    As a federal employee who works for the Department of Defense, I have the benefit of being trained in recognizing sexual assault. Sexual assault is different from social awkwardness (the story related by Ugly Mahana).

    To Winona’s point, it would be horrific if a standard solution were imposed on each case, e.g., the abused necessarily forced to terminate association with the abuser. But I don’t see that I suggested a standard solution. Rather, I suggested abuse victims be taken seriously, that we assert abuse is not acceptable.

  14. Abuse is not acceptable, if it really is abuse.

    Ugly Mahana could easily have been arrested because of his “awkwardness.” The woman was afraid; therefore, the man was a threat. She could easily say she was abused.

    We need better words. As an example, a parent raises his or her voice to get a wayward child’s attention. The child or a bystander might call it abuse. Someone hears it, and thinks abuse means sexual abuse. The social workers hear of it and they destroy the family. Abuse is a poor word, too imprecise.

  15. ji,

    I am aware of cases where someone misinterpreted a situation and accused someone of assault when that was not what was occurring.

    In the situation related by Ugly Mahana, the woman did not make formal charges. She spread the story to friends. And that can be damaging.

    In a case of attempted control, a former boyfriend of mine told all the men in my singles’ ward of my supposed sexual activities (small ward), as well as informing my first husband and my bishop. I had, in fact, been unwise. But the acts attributed to me were not acts I had committed. I was actually relieved the threatened retaliation turned out to be slander, since the individual in question owned a semi-automatic and once had to be talked out of going after my bishop.

    The discussion here tempts one to think the field of domestic violence is vastly undefined. I do not find this to be the case. So-called “toxic relationships” are well understood by professionals. A quick google search turned up several excellent offerings, such as this online training for the Canada “Learning to End Abuse” website, Domestic Violence Risk Assessment and Management Curriculum.

    For what it’s worth, this training contains some sobering statistics regarding the gendered nature of domestic violence (i.e., typically male on female) and the large portion of homicides (35%) committed by intimate partners.

    In the toxic relationship paradigm, there are three broad categories of abusive relationships:

    1) Emotional abuse (criticism, denigration, yelling)

    2) Physical abuse that isn’t sexual (hitting, throttling, bruising)

    3) Sexual abuse (rape, taking sexual liberties that are not consensual).

    I’ll give an example of a time when I suspected abuse and it turned out I was wrong. An attractive couple moved into our ward with two beautiful children. But the children were terribly bruised. I soon learned that one of the children suffered from Rhett syndrome. In this child’s case, they could not feel pain and had impaired ability to understand that biting their sibling wasn’t appropriate. I think the normal sibling bit back in the incident that had caused the bruises that made me worried.

    In another example, a neighbor called social services on my mother during a time when my father was absent for long periods of time. Social services showed up and found everything to be exemplary.

    Yet a third example, a jealous individual told the FBI that my future son-in-law was a threat. They showed up, my son-in-law cooperated, and it was quickly determined that it was the jealous individual who was the problem.

    In none of these three examples was an abused person reporting their own terror or degradation. That is the particular case where women feel that they have sometimes not been provided appropriate counsel in the LDS context, urged to forgive and forebear or simply told that their report isn’t credible because the man involved is such an upstanding citizen.

  16. ”That is the particular case where women feel that they have sometimes not been provided appropriate counsel in the LDS context, urged to forgive and forebear or simply told that their report isn’t credible because the man involved is such an upstanding citizen.”

    If a person wants “appropriate” counsel, he or she must go to the appropriate source. Mormon bishops are our neighbors, fellow Saints and laborers in the vineyard — almost never are they trained police, social services, or therapy experts. A person needing that sort of counsel needs to go to that sort of person. That person, choosing instead to go to a Mormon bishop, will get the counsel that Mormon bishops can offer: forgive, forbear, pray, read scripture, and so forth. An abuse victim’s disappointment in her bishop in such a case is misplaced.

    As the Church noted in a recent statement, the Church does not have the investigative abilities of the police. If a criminal or other abuser puts up a false facade, we cannot expect a Mormon bishop to see through it.

    I despise abuse and abusers — but I think it is wrong to implicate Mormon bishops as part of the problem in a general or systemic way. Can we strengthen women without blaming bishops?

  17. That is why I commented in the live discussion, “Why the $%(& would you go to the bishop if you’ve been abused?”

    That is why in the OP I advised abused persons call 911, call the magistrate, or contact an abuse hotline.

    But if an abused person does confide in an ecclesiastical minister, that minister ought not protect the reputation of the abuser over acting to help the abused. This is the pattern of action that caused so much outrage when it was learned the Catholic Church was prioritizing protection of priests who were known pederasts over protection of children.

    While anecdotal, I found it interesting that in Utah the professional had only ever seen a bishop show up on behalf of the male defendant. In more objective matters, Utah’s past record regarding rape convictions was abysmal, and as Utah is apparently majority LDS, that redounds upon Mormon culture. I use past tense as I hope the rape situation has ameliorated.

    Jennie says she understands why the bishop she initially talked with responded as he did. If you listen to the interview, she does not condemn him. Other bishops since that initial report have been supportive. But in the discussion Sunday night, Jennie was also reacting to the press release statements made by LDS entities in the past month (the Church, I think, and a statement from the office of an LDS politician). Written language may be imprecise, but it would arguably be more proper to lead with a statement condemning abuse, before stating that the entity was not sure whether or not abuse had occurred. The issued statements demonstrate a priority on defending the reported abuser.

    I return to what Joseph did, when he learned men, including men in high places, were abusing women in the community. Joseph empowered women to minister to the women in the community.

    The first “plural wives” given to the care of Brigham Young and Heber Kimball were women who had been brutally abused by their spouses. My read of 19th century Mormon history is that Mormonism under Brigham Young would control abuse by removing the mistreated woman from the control of the abuser and placing her in the household of a righteous man. Plural marriage made such a practice possible. And, yes, in the 1850s and 1860s women were preferentially pointed towards the households of proven righteous men to avoid having to repair a situation that could be prevented.

    But in 2018 we have neither plural marriage nor an empowered Relief Society. Meanwhile, family is (appropriately) considered a high priority. Given that the majority of domestic abuse victims are women and children and all Mormon lay leaders are male, there needs to be firm guidance to overcome the natural inclination for leaders to favor the party who is gender-similar to them.

    I think the Church is acting to address the issue. If the changes announced at Conference are embraced and acted upon, that could be enough. But as one person commented, the changes could be enacted with no substantive difference other than involving young women in ministry and finding a bigger room for the men to meet in on Sundays.

    Again, I work for the Department of Defense. When matters such as sexual assault are identified as problems, DoD responds. They conduct annual training across all elements. Teal ribbons are put up all over the command. There are appropriate posters in the elevators and lobbies indicating that if any one of us is attacked, it is an attack on all (my paraphrase). And the training includes material delineating who to go to. In organizational climate surveys, questions are asked to assess whether or not people have retained the information regarding how to respond.

    We are all members of the body of Christ. Some members of that body need to be strengthened and protected. Those members of the body charged with caring for the body of Christ need to help with that strengthening and protection, or those members will rightly be blamed.

  18. ”While anecdotal, I found it interesting that in Utah the professional had only ever seen a bishop show up on behalf of the male defendant.”

    That is so easily explained. The prosecutor doesn’t call the bishop because the bishop has no evidence to share — the bishop is irrelevant to the prosecution. The defense calls the bishop as a character witness, and the bishop testified that he always thought the defendant was a nice guy. Ergo, bishops appear in court for men more than for women.

    I cannot agree that men in the Church always act to protect men in the Church (even guilty men), to the harm of women and children. That has not been my observed experience. But I am glad we agree that crimes should be reported to the police and so forth.

    When a woman reports abuse to a Mormon bishop, she expects him to take her side — if the bishop avoids doing so (perhaps because of incredulity, but also perhaps because he hadn’t heard both sides or doesn’t want to play therapist or detective), that will be interpreted by the woman and shared with other women as taking the man’s side. Almost every woman with whom she shares her story will agree that the bishop took the man’s side. Truth becomes irrelevant. This makes the matter worse, because instead of focusing on and avoiding the abuse (the real matter at hand), the abused focuses on her unsupportive bishop (a distraction).

    I don’t want to empower our neighbors who are volunteer bishops to act as prosecutors and detectives and therapists and so forth. That would be dangerous. I’m okay with them as confessors and teachers and spiritual shepherds, and even as judge of membership matters.

    Yes, if a woman (or anyone) needs a policeman or detective or therapist or so forth, let her go to a real policeman, detective, therapist, or so forth instead of to a Mormon bishop. The bishop will be there to receive her confession or to open the scriptures with her or to provide resources from the bishop’s storehouse and so forth.

    We can learn from the Nauvoo experience, and your work helps us understand history better (if we will listen). Joseph was also mayor in Nauvoo, so he had a civil obligation in addition to his church obligation.

  19. Everything Meg says here is true and important, but I still feel like an important element is being left out. Yes, men often don’t believe women’s reports because we men are insular, inexperienced, and uninformed about what women go through.

    However, just as men can’t usually know how frequently women are abused by other men, women don’t seem to fully understand just how often other women make false accusations against men. I know a man who, as a bishop in the 90s, had a woman in his office try to blackmail him by saying she’d report him as a rapist if he didn’t pay her. It didn’t work, but this kind of thing is more common than many might think. How can such experiences *not* make us skeptical?

    Men should teach boys and each other that abuse of any kind can never be acceptable. I hope that women will also teach girls and each other that it is never, ever, ever OK to make any false or exaggerated accusation. Men who abuse and women who lie need to be marked as the lowest of the low.

    The atmosphere men live in today often feels to us like something from The Crucible: “No man knows when the harlot’s cry will end his life.”

  20. Hi ji and Huston,

    Good points, regarding why bishops would not tend to be there on behalf of victims in litigious situations and the fact that sometimes people lie.

    It is interesting to see, via the comments, how the message is heard. I started my post acknowledging that the Church is unequivocally opposed to abuse. Yet there are historical issues and practices and policies that blunt the effectiveness of the current Church response to abuse.

    As to people who make incorrect claims, I am fully aware that folks sometimes lie. I dare say all are similarly aware. If you recall my post regarding the woman accusing Joseph Bishop, my post was pointing out why I found her belated claim something I couldn’t imagine happening in my case. Commenters on that post suggested I could not know how I would respond or that I am not the sort of woman who is attractive to abusers (too headstrong?). When you read these two posts together, I think you can see that I am familiar with abuse and why a victim might hesitate to speak out against their abuser. But an abusive ecclesiastical leader would not inspire the hesitation I felt with my father and first husband. For my father, my hesitation was the harm to my family. For my first husband, I did not hesitate to report the abuse to Church leaders, but that was a comedy of errors. When I reported the abuse to the police, they told me there was nothing they could do. A magistrate later told me I could have done something, but when abuse support groups and your bishop and the police all fail to inform you of these options, one can’t be too upset at oneself for not knowing. This was nearly thirty years ago, so I would hope the police and the support group wouldn’t be so inept now, and I would hope my ecclesiastical leaders wouldn’t be so inept now.

    As to lying, I think the story of Solomon’s wisdom with the two mothers works too illustrate the principle. As to how one ought respond to threats, the way Lachoneus responded to the Gadianton robbers is a good model.

  21. It is this that makes studying the Old Testament important. I love the Book of Mormon, and the words of Jacob reproving errant husbands are valuable, but otherwise there is silence on topics the Old Testament take on such as the cupidity of Potifar’s wife and several rather ugly stories that encapsulate human frailty. Predators and extortionists are not usually the problem. Jealousy, stress, a misunderstanding of the basic physiological differences between the sexes, as well as family culture can all play in to escalation of abuse in marriages that seemed sound initially. I was one who tried to get counsel on abuse from ecclesiastical authorities with no result. I am larger than my ex-husband and it is possible my pleas for help were viewed with incredulity for that reason. But now that physiological males can be called women and participate against physiological females in wrestling and other similar sports, it is no surprise that they tend to win. In general men and women have different proportions of specialized muscles. A large woman can be easily defeated by most smaller men.
    I hope the Church begins to make it really clear that cases of abuse should be referred to professionals. Fortunately the past few decades have witnessed a growth of shelters for those who are abused. This option was not available when I was seeking answers from my bishop and stake president. My mother had told me on my wedding day that I would no longer find a welcome in her home if I couldn’t work things out in my marriage. Mothers of young children are particularly vulnerable if they married young and have no means of supporting their family if they report their husband for abuse. The term ‘widows and orphans’ seems to exclude those who are in fear of their all too lively spouse.

  22. Hi Troy,

    I arguably should have edited out that paragraph, as it is only tangentially related to the core discussion in my OP.

    Rather than arrogating to myself to act however the whim takes me, I choose to be public about the reason why I am not acting (e.g., current policy). My study of LDS history persuades me that it is rare that actions not approved by of policy are retroactively approved (e.g., Widow Nyman’s action to have herself baptized on behalf of her deceased son circa 1840). Far more often, actions violative of policy result in a need for repentance (e.g., all the unauthorized sealings performed in the late 1840s and 1850s by well-meaning folks, such as Henry Jacobs). One could call my public non-action a form of passive resistance, but that term is too combative for my tastes. Let us say that my public non-action is akin to the forbearance of a person who knows Christmas presents can be opened, but who is waiting until getting permission to proceed with opening their present.

  23. Wow, thanks so much for writing about this!

    [Meg here – portions removed at Debra’s request.]

    I just try to remind myself that although our leaders are far from perfect, I choose to believe what the First Presidency says about abuse, to believe that I see light in at least their eyes and know that Elder Eyring, man who recently spoke about just picking up his child from off of his bed to scold him felt the Lord tell him that he is holding an important child of God and he bursts into tears in Conference remembering that….

    I just wish Bishops were better at understanding how HARD It is to speak up, how confusing memories of abuse can be and that the statistics of women making these things up are really quite low, if it takes someone YEARS to talk about something in the past, they aren’t making it up!!!

  24. Hi Debra,

    It seems you have had experiences that make it very useful for you to request the presence of another adult. I am glad this is now explicitly an option (as opposed to Bookslinger’s presumption that it was always an option – likely correct, but possibly not permitted by the very leaders where a second witness would be useful).

    As to the MTC President situation circa 1984, I reiterate that abuse is not to be tolerated. That said, I am not certain what occurred in that situation. Luckily for me, I personally have no need to know what occurred until possibly that future day when we will all see as we are seen.

    A friend (not a Mormon) was sharing with me abuse suffered in childhood. Their father had beaten their mother with a floor lamp, breaking the glass shade. Neighbor children were present, and they called 911. The mother was taken to the hospital. At a later time my friend was about 5 and fleeing from their father. Having seen the example set earlier, they jumped up on a chair by the phone and dialed “9-1….” When the father came into view, my friend (then a child) informed their father they would finish calling 911 if the father didn’t desist. The father was angry, but did not continue. And the father never did beat his wife after that first 911 call.

    Last year around this time a women’s ensemble performed a song at Church which was absolutely sublime. I remeber talking afterwards to a member of the Stake Presidency, who complimented me on the song (I was one of the singers). I felt it was useful to let this President know that at least half of the women in that ensemble had suffered significant abuse, impressive as I didn’t even know all the women in that ensemble. That such women could sing so beautifully of the Atonement and Christ’s forgiveness was the more impressive to me, knowing what these women had suffered.

    True that there are some who lie. But let’s not presume that every accusation is a lie. And if we are privileged to have no need to judge, let us treasure that freedom and refrain from judgment.

  25. Looking into statistics regarding false reports of abuse, it appears only 25% of estimates abusive situations are ever formally reported. Of reported cases, roughly 10% appear to be fraudulent. So only 2.5% of abuse cases one might learn about through informal discussion would be potentially fraudulent.

    Quartz had an article in 2017 discussing the popular idea that women often lie and ruin men’s lives. The author shows that false accusations rarely get to a point where the alleged abuser is even notified of the report. A major category is folks who lie about being abused to work the system, as occurs when a teenager is out after curfew or is discovered to have been intimate when intimacy was not culturally acceptable.

    The problem is that the very folks most likely to make up false reports (abused as children, mentally ill, history of fraudulent accusations) are also a population unusually likely to suffer actual abuse. The woman now suing the LDS Church for abuse she claims to have suffered in 1984 fits the profile both of someone who is unusually likely to be lying about the abuse *and* someone who was an abuse magnet.

    But 97% of the time a person tells you they were abused, you would be correct to believe them.

  26. “How might Rob’s life be different had he been firmly taught in his childhood that rage, violence, and shaming are unworthy behaviors of a son of God?”

    How can one NOT learn “rage, violence, and shaming” are evil behaviors as a member of the Church? There is even a story told, I believe by Emma Smith, of a young Joseph beating up a man who was abusing his wife. That abuse apparently happens as often in the Church as this OP by implication claims is astounding to me. On the other hand, by implication of other statements it doesn’t happen, or is simply not recognized, very often. Where is the disconnect coming from?

    I propose that those who abuse know perfectly well what they do is wrong, but do it anyway. That is the only explanation I can come up with. Really, the Gospel, Scriptures, and many years of Conference talks are clear how spouses are to treat each other; with love, respect, and complete devotion. There is not even any wiggle room.

  27. [Meg here – Debra asked me to remove her long and rambling comments, but I wanted to retain this snippet.]

    When someone is not believed, and they went to someone for help, or they asked a friend to let them stay with them to get away from a scary abusive situation, it’s the worst feeling that I can not describe. People heal with validation, comfort; JUST being told that what happened to them was bad and shouldn’t have happened gives them HOPE… invalidating someone’s feelings pushes them to despair.

  28. I see Jettboy’s comments representing the good men of the church who cannot understand how anyone could sit next to them in the pew and not understand the teachings. Since leaders are so often exactly the best of men, it can be very hard for them to understand how anyone could be a believing Christian, much less a believing Mormon, and engage in abusive behavior.

    Regarding ecclesiastical discipline. The purpose of ecclesiastical discipline is two fold. On the one hand it becomes necessary at times to protect the flock. But predominately discipline is about allowing the individual to get better. If there is a past offense but no current danger, then the need to discipline to protect the flock is reduced. However no matter how long ago an error occurred, there can always be utility in discipline that is meant to heal the soul.

    Regarding bishops, there is a nontrivial vetting process before anyone can be called as a bishop or other significant leader. It should be impossible for an individual to be convicted of crime in one part of the world and then move to a different part of the world and be called as bishop. However the fact that there is a vetting process does not mean that every leader at the bishop level or higher is guaranteed to avoid any incorrect action.

    At the discussion on Sunday, Jennie repeated a joke: “Catholics teach that the Pope is infallible and no one believes it. Mormons teach that leaders are fallible and no one believes it.”

  29. We all have to repent to become clean, doesn’t matter how long it’s been since the sin was committed.

  30. I am unable to find anything I consider reputable regarding the prevalence of abuse across religious groups. However I did find one study reporting on sexual abuse for protestant groups.

    I suspect that rates of abuse in the Mormon population may be lower than found in other populations. However abuse still exists. And I suspect the nature of Mormon culture creates unique problems that are not as likely to occur in other cultures.

    This would be an interesting study for Pew to do. I would like to see all three categories of abuse captured.

  31. Even if 97% of abuse charges are true, I still believe we must have evidence, especially to convict a fellow citizen of a crime.

    For church purposes, D&C 42:80 is instructive.

  32. I would state that my recent abuser was abused by a protestant, the rapist I knew was catholic. Any Mormon man that reads the Book of Mormon everyday and keeps his covenants will not abuse his spouse or offspring. Any many who continually breaks his covenants and doesn’t read the Book of Mormon daily, abuses his wive or anyone else for that matter will simply be unable to ever have sex again for the entire of eternity and she will be given to someone better, greater…

  33. I started replying to this early this morning and couldn’t eat half of the day and responded with super low blood sugar and said WAY to much, me with low blood sugar is the equivalent of a drunk. You can keep it, I think in my mind maybe someone could relate or care, but we rarely care much about people we hardly know, so yeah… keep that in mind. I was originally comforted when I read all of this, then felt like I was back in a very low dark place that I was last summer when my Bishop didn’t believe me or care… yeah. whatever.

  34. Hi ji,

    Two witnesses is a nice thing. But abuse typically happens with one person assaulting the second person. So there is little opportunity for two witnesses other than the abused person to exist. While I know that technically the victim could be one of the witnesses, that verse reads as though it’s requesting two independent witnesses.

    And when one goes to authorities and there is physical evidence such as bruises or DNA, then you’ve got your physical evidence. But in most cases of abuse no one reports immediately in the first place, much less in a situation where there might be some kind of physical evidence to support the victim’s claims.

    One of the sobering statistics is that a victim is 70 times more likely to be killed after reporting an abuse incident then at any other time in the relationship. That is why one of the earlier comments talked about how hard it is to determine what to do about reporting a case of abuse.

    In my own case, the physical assaults had occurred earlier and had been reported to the bishopric because the bishop was on vacation. The bishop was working with my first husband because my first husband had been disfellowshipped for adultery. But the bishopric counselors didn’t know why my husband had been disfellowshipped. When the bishop returned, he was simply told that there’s been trouble at my home. He didn’t know that “trouble“ meant that I’d been beaten. Around that time the bishop suggested that I no longer needed to participate in his counseling sessions with my husband. I incorrectly inferred that this meant he was going to take off the kid gloves. Later I learned the bishop was just concerned about wasting my time. So I didn’t know that the bishop had no idea I’d been physically abused. I thought I had several senior members of the ward watching over me who were aware of what I was going through. It turns out that no one actually had a full picture of what was going on. The night I left my husband he yelled and screamed and cursed at me right in front of our next-door neighbor. He ripped the keys out of the car to prevent me from leaving. When I went into the house to calmly call a friend for a ride to Relief Society, my first husband kicked in our back door. Since I was calm, he calmed down enough that I found the keys in the yard and went ahead and took myself and my daughter to church for Relief Society. The lesson that night was about recognizing and avoiding codependent relationships. So I lingered afterwards to talk with the Relief Society president. That’s when I found out that nobody knew I was in an abusive marriage.

    For the next week I stayed in the homes of friends, both friends that were in the ward and other friends. And my mother, when she would drop me off, would take pains to drop me off far enough away that she wouldn’t actually be in a position to “know“ where I was. Because she didn’t want to be lying when she told my husband that she had no idea where I was. My first husband attempted to commit suicide at least once that week, possibly twice. He even recorded a suicide note, but the friend I stayed with that night had a chance to listen to it and told me I probably shouldn’t listen to it.

    When I met with my bishop following my separation from my husband, I had written out the history of our relationship. That was the first my bishop knew that I had been physically abused. For reasons I don’t know he chose not to let me know that he’d been ignorant until many months later.

    As I mentioned, I didn’t realize that there were apparently no other witnesses to the abuse I suffered at the hands of my father. I suspect it was being hit by my father that gave me the fracture to my eyesocket. There’s a cryptic note in a journal and when one reads my journal one can see that I used to be very happy and bubbly and then after the abuse event I am constantly depressed. But I don’t know if these artifacts would constitute “proof” in the eyes of a skeptic.

    I truly treasure the idea that God is omniscient and that there will be a final judgment at which point God will share what He knows about what really happened. I suggest we all live in fear of that moment, as opposed to being concerned about lesser truths In our mortal lives.

  35. Meg,

    All the more reason for victims to be taught and encouraged to immediately report crimes to the police, and for others to support them in doing so. The victim’s testimony plus the forensic evidence that might be available with immediate reporting can be enough to arrest and convict. But a victim’s testimony by itself can never be enough to convict, and rightfully so. What’s the saying? Better for ten guilty men to stay free than to send one innocent man to jail?

  36. Ah, ji,

    Even when the men are named Dr. Larry Nassar and Harvey Weinstein?

    The dozens of women accusing each of these men had nothing other than statements.

    Your bar of two witnesses and material evidence is not a bar that is met in many cases.

    As for me, I resonate with the fictional hero of Sam Taylor’s book, Heaven Knows Why. At the climax, the bad guy tries to get the hero to leave their home and travel at gunpoint to a secluded ravine. The hero declines. He explains that if the villain wishes to kill him, he should just go ahead and do so there in the house. But our hero was darned if he would expend effort to make it easy for the villain to get away with murder.

    If someone on the internet wants to threaten me (as they have, in fact, threatened people I love), then we let them know why that’s not wise (video surveillance, online documentation of the threat, etc.). But we do not live in fear of the bullies.

    You may wonder why your comment provokes such a response. But if a bishop were to ignore every abused member of Primary and Relief Society because it is better to ignore the children and women than risk incorrectly reproving any man, you can hopefully see how that would not be appropriate.

  37. I’m a convert, so I wasn’t raised with the notion of reporting everything to and sharing every burden with a bishop. Our culture needs to change. A bishop is a friend and neighbor. He cannot arrest or jail criminals. He cannot protect the weak. He cannot investigate crimes. He cannot remove an abuser from a home. He cannot be the referee in the relationship. To me, it makes no sense for an abused Mormon woman to report abuse to the bishop. I don’t want to fault a woman for doing so, but I don’t understand it. It seems strange to me, and I wonder why the notion persists.

    As I understand, I need to confess my own sins to my bishop (if they are of a nature that might affect my standing in the Church), and I declare my tithing status to him, and I see him for a temple recommend, and I can see him if I need assistance from the bishop’s storehouse. That’s about all. I understand that I can see him if I want spiritual counsel, but I haven’t done that.

  38. Meg,

    You mustn’t put words in my mouth.

    One victim’s testimony, by itself, cannot send a person to jail.

    And I never said that a victim’s report should be ignored. And I never said a bishop cannot reprove a man after receiving a report of abuse.

  39. ji,

    Part of the unique nature of Mormon culture is that Church leaders were effectively the civil government for much of the 19th century. When the civil leaders weren’t the Church leaders, it was because of extreme hostility from non-Mormons towards the Mormons.

    There was a discussion about an instance of this from a hundred years ago, where land disputes in Utah and environs were still being adjudicated by Mormon leaders. In the instance in question, a female relative of Ardis Parshall was denied her claim to property and that property was handed over to a man, a man who wasn’t even a Mormon. In the case of Ardis’s relative, this opposition from her Church leaders (up to the Presidency of the Church) coincided with significant mental illness in later life.

    In some ways, I applaud your antiseptic idea of what role a bishop ought to have in the life of a victim. But it would help if bishops quickly recused themselves, pointing the individual claiming abuse to proper civil authorities. But that is not currently common practice amongst bishops.

    In my own case, the physical abuse with which I had put up was not an immediate precursor to my decision to separate from my first husband decades ago. Perhaps today I would have been advised to talk with a local magistrate. But then (as now), an immediate need was a place for me and my daughter to sleep, as it was not safe for me to both separate from my husband and return to our habitation. For my part, I am glad that my good friends in the congregation helped me that week by taking me into their homes, rather than pursing their lips in non-judgement other than to google up the information for a woman’s shelter.

    Deb has suggested I remove her long post about her experience, but why was her bishop getting involved in the manner described? We can tell women they ought not expect bishops to be what they aren’t trained to be, but we can also tell bishops that they ought not attempt to do what they aren’t trained to do.

    A true shepherd cares for the sheep in his care. One who doesn’t is a mere hireling. One who (metaphorically) is actively selling the sheep to bandits (speaking of the villain in Heaven Knows Why) will deserve appropriate wrath from a just God.

  40. Hi ji,

    You made a statement that could be interpreted as indicating that victim testimony by itself can never be enough to convict. You are pleased to assert that any reasonable person would realize you mean that no single statement is enough to convict. But you also said it would be better for ten guilty men to go free than for a single innocent man to be convicted.

    To the side of our banter, Debra put her raw experience out to us. Imagine that she has actually suffered the abuse she described. Then read what you have written as through her eyes. Not what you would wish to have been understood to have said, but the most negative, “I don’t believe you, abused women should know better, no account is enough to find a man guilty” sense in which your words could be taken. She even had an audio recording of the incident, and she was not believed.

    If we were talking face to face, you and I would likely find we were in extreme agreement. But written language allows for misunderstanding.

    To a convert, I can imagine that all this can seem foreign. But Mormons were there for one another when the civil government was actively hunting us down, when property was being burned, women were being raped, and individuals were being killed. It is hard to break habits of expecting that community to have our back when we face our modern versions of abuse.

  41. Meg, The Bishop that was acting the therapist couldn’t understand why I could not say the words of what happened to me (until last summer, but THIS Bishop was a few years ago). I had had a Bishop before help me get discounted therapy sessions, I was working two jobs and had to pay a couple hundred for the two visits to Family Services that I thought my insurance would cover, they wouldn’t, so he just kept saying no and asking me to come in. He did care though, most Bishops CARE… I had had never felt the Devil in the room with a Bishop before, but he was there last summer and it was terrifying.

  42. I have to agree with ji here somewhat. We are living in a world that has swung in the opposite direction where the mere mention of a wrong doing is enough to already set a conviction. It has poisoned the waters of the natural relationships of men and women. It used to be “don’t believe women because they are over-emotional,” but today its, “don’t trust a woman because they probably just hate men and want to take one of them down.” This is complicated in the Mormon community by the World trying to destroy the family unit any way possible usually in the name of Feminism. I don’t doubt abuse has happened to the good women here who have shared their stories, but you need to understand that men today are scared to death of jail as an innocent. Accusations of abuse, no matter how widespread the true instances are, has become a weapon.

  43. My mind is blown as to WHAT you are considering a “mere mention” leading to a conviction? I am horrified by the thought that you just watched the video on the top and felt that Jennie Willoughby’s statement to the police qualified as a “man hater” with only a “mere mention” that convicted her already convicted ex husband (who choked his ex)?

    Is the sister missionary who recorded that mission prez that is just a “mere mention”?

    Statistics show that MEN hate WOMEN more than ever. Watching violent porn or porn in general had created these statistics, men disrespect women more than ever, sexually and physically abuse them more than ever. Women are more afraid of men than ever. If Joseph Smith came into my shop, glowing but looked at me too long, I WOULD be clutching my pepper spray, I am that afraid of men, but I am not going to call the cops unless someone actually hits me or sexually assaults me and they certainly will NOT do anything at a “mere mention”. YOU know that.

    We live in a day where cameras and cell phones are everywhere and sins are spoken of on the housetops…. Men are afraid of being recorded, they are afraid of not being able to just be verbally abusive for a moment or two.

  44. “Please substantiate your assertion” is the flip side of “don’t believe women.” I know of a lot of men who refuse to get married or even date because they don’t trust that women will do anything other than take advantage of them emotionally and physically.

    And this one:

    Has a great quote, “FACE, which Garrett joined just several years ago, tries to push for ‘equal treatment’ and due process rights for those who have faced sexual misconduct violations unfairly. Garrett is adamant that the Title IX guidance Obama issued is flawed, as well is colleges’ implementation of it. The Office for Civil Rights, too, is punitive and coercive, she said.

    “An accusation is often equated to guilt,” she said of the current system.”

    I could go on and you probably won’t accept what I posted above. Perhaps mere mention will garner conviction in a legal sense, but its hard to defend a negative when it comes down to he said and she said. However, it will destroy careers, families, friendships, and any trust in women because “believe women” is often the same as “guilty until proven innocent.” That many cases are real doesn’t neutralize that too many cases are fake.

  45. Perhaps mere mention will NOT garner conviction in a legal sense, but its hard to defend a negative when it comes down to he said and she said.

  46. In response to a comment here or another thread, the existence of the former sister missionary’s audio and/or transcript with the former MTC pres, on Mormonleaks doesn’t necessarily mean the woman leaked it.

    She or her lawyer may have sent a copy to the church’s legal dept, as part of “hey, let’s come to a settlement about this.”

    Once it’s on church servers, it can get leaked just as easily as the other highly confidential documents and videos from the church’s inner workings that have made their way to Mormonleaks.

    Someone either left backdoors into church servers, or there are moles working in the church’s IT and other depts. The IT and legal depts would be perfect embeds for SJW moles.

  47. Good response. You do highlight that real damage can occur when false accusations occur.

    But nothing in these articles contradicts the statistics suggesting false claims are rare. In fact, they highlight that there are trivially easy ways to overturn a false accusation in our social media age.

    One of the linked articles included this:

    “Dunn agreed, to an extent — the media hasn’t tried to delve into policy nuances or campus processes for sexual assault; instead it has picked up on the “next shiny thing.” She said the rights of the accused may be a hot-button issue, but the lawyer in her craves a robust discussion about these issues that wasn’t necessarily encapsulated in the media coverage of Sulkowicz’s case.“

    Victims seeking solace are different from women dishing out illicit sex until it pleases them to turn on the fool willing to engage in rough sex with a woman to whom they haven’t any legal tie.

  48. Meg,

    I re-stated the English jurist Blackstone’s formulation: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

    Maimonides, a medieval Jewish scholar, wrote that executing an accused criminal on anything less than absolute certainty would progressively lead to convictions merely “according to the judge’s caprice. Hence the Exalted One has shut this door” against the use of presumptive evidence, for “it is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death.” He based this on Exodus 23:7.

    The Prophet Mohammed said, “Avoid legal punishments as far as possible, and if there are any doubts in the case then use them, for it is better for a judge to err towards leniency than towards punishment.”

    Sir John Fortescue’s De Laudibus Legum Angliae (c. 1470) states that “one would much rather that twenty guilty persons should escape the punishment of death, than that one innocent person should be condemned and suffer capitally.”

    While decrying the Salem witch trials, Increase Mather wrote, “It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that one Innocent Person should be Condemned.”

    Defending British soldiers charged with murder for their role in the Boston Massacre, the American patriot John Adams declared: “It is more important that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world, that all of them cannot be punished…. when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, ‘it is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security.’ And if such a sentiment as this were to take hold in the mind of the subject that would be the end of all security whatsoever.”

    I tend to agree with the above. Of course, there is another perspective, with which others will agree–

    Bismarck is believed to have stated that “it is better that ten innocent men suffer than one guilty man escape.”. Pol Pot made similar remarks.

    Dick Cheney said that his support of American use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (torture) against suspected terrorists was unchanged by the fact that 25% of CIA detainees subject to that treatment were later proven to be innocent, including one who died of hypothermia in CIA custody. “I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that in fact were innocent.” Asked whether the 25% margin was too high, Cheney responded, “I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. … I’d do it again in a minute.”

    Liberal columnist Ezra Klein supported California’s SB 967 Affirmative Consent law with the same reasoning as Cheney’s supported enhanced interrogation techniques. While claiming the law was terrible and could be used to punish people who did not commit rape, Klein states “its overreach is precisely its value” and “ugly problems don’t always have pretty solutions.”

    [Examples taken from Wikipedia, Blackstone’s Formulation.]

    It is not necessary to believe a person in order to offer them solace. One can offer solace while withholding judgment. Certainly, a Mormon bishop should offer solace to a woman making an abuse allegation. And that’s about all a bishop can offer. If the woman needs or desires anything else (such as justice), she will have to seek that elsewhere, such as with an immediate report to the police. With an immediate report, the police might be able to deliver justice — without it, the likelihood diminishes dramatically. If protection or therapy are needed, these also have to be sought elsewhere, as a Mormon bishop cannot provide them.

    I regret hearing of abuse — it is so sad. There must be no tolerance for abuse within the Church. Where there are claims of criminal abuse, I have great faith in the judicial system to determine the truth of these claims.

  49. Nah, not quite true, you’re offf a bit brother. Women who are victims of abuse seek counseling from mormon counselors because well, a non mormon one will tell them to run fast away from this bigoted religion (true story). Often to see an LDS counselor, one need to go to Family Services, a Bishop can refer her and as most abused women statistically NEED financial help after leaving an abusive situation they need to speak to a Bishop to get help in paying for that, fast offerings help with that.

  50. That’s true — bishops can offer assistance from the bishop’s storehouse. I have never lived in an area where LDS Family Services was available, so I don’t usually think about it. As I understand the model, an LDS Family Services referral requires the therapist to report progress to the bishop.

  51. Ugly Mahana said: “We must not let caution become an implied accusation laid upon the meek. We should not teach our boys that they are, each of them, potential abusers. And we should not teach our girls to fear their future husbands or other men.”

    I am inclined to agree. A few months ago a friend of mine told me that her daughter (age four) had accused my son (age six) of touching her inappropriately. This revelation utterly shocked me. Because I was so surprised and was not thinking clearly, I allowed my friend access to my son so that she could censure him. I should not have done that.

    Upon further investigation and reflection, a) the accuser (the four-year-old girl) is a known liar. My children complain about it on a weekly basis and say things like, “she always lies. She never tells the truth. I don’t like playing with her because she’s mean.” And b) my son’s guileless reaction to the accusation would indicate that he is innocent of the charges. He was absolutely humiliated and distraught by the whole experience, and later told me that he thought the girl was making things up to get him into trouble. There is also c) to lend credence to her claim, my friend suggested that if my son was molesting her daughter, he was also molesting my own 4-yearold daughter as well. A quick interview with my daughter revealed that no, no one had ever done such a thing to her, least of all my son.

    It is well-known that questioning young children can be tricky – if you lead them with questions, they will be led there. I understand the need for believing victims, but my son needs to be believed, too. He, too, is just a child. Does he forfeit his innocence until proven guilty solely based on the nature of the accusation? This has challenged my friendship with the girl’s mother, as she is unwilling to take into account the difficulty her daughter has with telling the truth.

    More dire is this – what if they had not been 4 and 6, but 14 and 16? That little girl’s out-and-out lie could have landed my son on the sex offender registry or in prison.

    The most unsettling part of the whole experience? I am a lot less willing to take victims at their word alone. I never thought I would feel that way about sexual abuse. So while I believe that, yes, we should support victims of abuse, I also believe that there is a small percentage of attention-seekers and liars that is ruining it for everyone else.

  52. Hi Beth,

    Are all the individuals involved in your situation LDS (or being reared in LDS households)?

    Depending on what was alleged (apparently sexually inappropriate touching), it might be appropriate to have reached out to a professional to handle the situation.

    I don’t have a directly analogous case, but there was a time when a close acquaintance told me they thought my child was deeply disturbed. Without telling my child, I took them to see a therapist. The therapist knew I was concerned, but not what I thought was the matter. After the session (much playing with toys), I explained what the close acquaintance had asserted. The therapist told me my child was fine, which helped inform me regarding future dealings with the acquaintance.

    In my opinion, it is a pity that people who do have a regular dentist, doctor, and car mechanic don’t bother having a regular therapist, or at least a therapist they could reach out for in case of an incident such as one’s child being accused of sexual assault.

  53. Hi ji,

    Are you familiar with ROC curves? A receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve shows the probability of true alert (PTA) versus the probability of false alert (PFA) for a system.

    Your legal comments seems to imply that good and great thinkers (e.g., Blackstone) would rather see all guilty individuals freed rather than risk a single innocent individual be penalized. Meanwhile, your comment associated heinous and abusive individuals (e.g., Dick Cheney) with large percentages of accused innocents being penalized and even rendered dead, but effectively uncovering the guilty.

    But things are never so black and white. There is a continuum. It is possible to adjust the dial along that continuum.

    Beyond realizing that there is a continuum, we are also dealing with different segments. This is analogous to how sensors can adapt how they react to signals coming from different directions. We see this in cameras that adjust for background light conditions.

    No one is advocating that all accused individuals be penalized to the full extent possible upon an unsupported single accusation on the part of one individual. This is the straw man several are objecting to.

    We who are concerned about abuse being ignored are requesting that abuse not be frequently categorized as lies on the part of the reporting victim. This is the point of saying “take accounts of abuse seriously.”

    In my work, we are constantly concerned with maximizing true alerts without making the false alerts so numerous as to be overwhelming. All alerts are subjected to various algorithms, which have been proven to improve the proper categorization of true versus false.

    There are times when a candidate algorithm is proven to be very effective at minimizing false alerts. But if it causes us to lose true alerts, that algorithm will be dropped from consideration. If all we wanted was to avoid false alerts, we could simply turn the system off. By analogy, if I wanted to avoid seeing the ugly, I could gouge out my eyes. But that seems extreme, as such a measure would also ensure I could never see the lovely.

    Jettboy gathered several links to cases where a man had been accused of abuse, but was later exonerated. In each case, the man had suffered substantial damage. However in all the cases where the legal system had found the man guilty, the man was found to have demonstrably participated in BDSM sex with the woman who accused him. Might I suggest that women willing to participate in BDSM sex with a casual acquaintance might not be highly likely to be truthful?

    There was a case where the university investigated the accusations and found them baseless. However they didn’t do anything to stop the accuser from carrying a mattress around campus with her, a piece of performance art which garnered the accuser notoriety and media coverage. The mattress thing was the accuser’s senior project, so damage would be done to an academic career no matter what the university had done. I would have preferred that the academic damage had been predominantly sustained by the party who had lied about the encounter. I forget, but memory suggests that the two had engaged in sex. While not as extreme as the BDSM cases, we still have a fellow engaging in sex with someone when they had no legal relationship. It’s risky behavior, and women willing to engage in such behavior might not be as committed to truth-telling as desired.

    Someone will no doubt counter that their acquaintances who embrace their sexual nature are more honest than women who know how to say “no.” Let me pre-request that such a rebuttal “please substantiate [the] assertion.”

    For now, let me say it’s a red herring to talk of wrongly accused sexual opportunists who did engage in sex, but not rape.

    Let us remember that abuse is so gender correlated that a pattern of ignoring reports of (predominantly male) abusers is tantamount to condoning damage to (predominantly female) victims.

    As pointed out by others, discussion of how bishops deal with abuse is germane because LDS victims will often need counseling or financial assistance. When such counseling resources and financial assistance is requested of the Church, the bishop becomes involved, even if the victim isn’t seeking pastoral counsel for a difficult life situation.

  54. An abuse allegation can be taken seriously with or without “believing” the alleged victim — an abuse allegation can be taken seriously while withholding judgment.

    I disagree that a Mormon bishop or anyone else must always “believe” the alleged victim. In an issue with two sides, and in the absence of evidence other than one person’s allegation, one has to consider the evidence before making a belief decision — this includes hearing the other side.

    Nothing I have written can justify a response suggesting that I think alleged victims should be ignored. I hope a Mormon bishop will always treat an alleged victim with dignity.

    I did not write that guilty men should go free. But I do believe in a presumption of innonence. There is no conflict between a presumption of innonence towards an alleged perpetrator and offering solace to an alleged victim.

    You seem to think sending innocent men to jail is okay. I disagree.

  55. Meg,

    I’ll let you have the last word. You have more standing in this community than I do. Best wishes.

  56. In our culture, we have decided to give women sole discretion over their reproductive decisions. But it must be terribly frustrating for those who end up cleaning up the mess of the worst decisions in this area that the warn-ers are lumped in with the abusers when they encourage women to acknowledge the need to be more prudent. (The debate over female modesty comes to mind.)

    Women are prone toward a nurturing mentality, that whatever deficiencies an individual may have, it can be nurtured into a strength. This is an important characteristic for mothers and potential mothers to have, but it makes them extremely vulnerable as mate-selectors. Yet selectivity is more essential the more successful a civilization becomes, because the excess prosperity encourages tolerance for massive amounts of worthless-male free-loading. In our culture, instead of women getting more selective, women are basically raised to believe that those who warn and encourage prudence are the real abusers, while those who tell women they can engage in high-risk behavior, while good men and others are obligated to fix any ensuing problems, are treated with reverence.

    This is a serious problem, and it can’t be solved by talking the good men into seeing everything from a woman’s perspective. What is needed is for good men to be even more adamant about the serious consequences women especially bear because of the nature of things, to encourage women to be even more selective about men and honest with themselves about their own role in making mistakes, and to empower the best-behaved women to teach young women how to successfully navigate an inherently reproductively hostile environment, which will mostly be through traditional-type values.

    In short, women should be more realistic as they put together their relationships with men, particularly as the proportion of worthwhile men nose-dives as prosperity grows. Don’t be silly about how the good men are the real problem because they don’t wave their magic wand and change reality. The women who make it a priority to signal their interest in getting along with the worthwhile men will have a better chance of good outcomes than those intent on hating on worthwhile men for not fixing every problem in the universe caused by worthless men.

    Contributing to a mentality that magnifies victimhood as the surest road to social capital and support is definitely something that is damaging to every woman in the long run.

  57. I know a girl who was sexually active with whoever/whenever, that goes back to an instance where she just wasn’t sure if she was raped or not once… she never reported it… she was too afraid of making a false allegation, but he was “aggressive”. It DOES get complicated, like Meg states; and I do think that promiscuity, has made false allegations rise, or just… the fact whether they were raped LESS clear- cause they were high, drunk… whatever, but TOO MANY public cases, too many cases that I have witnessed MYSELF, the knee jerk reaction to a TRUSTED ADULT is for the adult to be in denial and to NOT encourage the VICTIM call the authorities, losing the chance to PROVE anything or there to be any investigation and to not tell her to call the police… THAT NEEDS TO CHANGE, but JUSTICE will come from God no matter what, to the liars, to the rapists, to the murderers, he will know who was drunk, mentally ill to such a degree that they didn’t know what they were doing… God is merciful, but those who do NOT repent of sexual abuse in this life will WISH that they could kill themselves and won’t be able to, in Jesus own words…

    Ji, there are too many public cases, such as the Larry Nassar case, where victims came forward and nothing was done. A teenage girl is going to go to the head of the gymnastics team, or a religious advisor BECAUSE it is SCARY and awkward and so HARD to say that someone either- say for example- dad came into your bedroom at night saying “mom won’t let me…”, no dad- what won’t mom let you do?… and gets on top of you, no girl grows up WANTING To say that to someone and no father forgets WHO is wife is walking down the hallway late at night… Even if it was once and didn’t happen again, once is too much and the likelyhood the perp will not or did not attack someone else is little to none, statistically they get away with it once, they get confidence and strike again to someone else (that girl just locked her door and shoved many objects behind it at night, which is probably WHY it didn’t happen again, but she didn’t get to live a sane or normal life, never felt safe to get married or have a BF); TOO MANY of the girls who came forward towards Nassar didn’t call the police, they went to an adult that they trusted- the head of gymnastic federation and NOTHING was done, until there were MASSIVE numbers of women who came forward… many who were still in denial, many SINCE his conviction have come forward. People need to NOT be afraid of POWER, nearly quoting Joseph Smith himself. Most parents/friends… of confirmed rapists, murderers (example the columbine shooting massacre) do NOT want to believe that their child could or would do that and would disregard the victim almost always.

    The rise is porn addiction among boys AND girls has made it so that BOTH do not understand normal sex, they do not understand what rape is, they think it’s normal… This is BAD… Good is good, BAD is bad…. let’s be aware of the Signs of the Times… focus on your own salvation, repent of your sins, if you abused someone- confess before Christ comes again, cause your don’t have much time!!

  58. Hi ji,

    You have not addressed the probabilistic nature of false versus true “alerts” (i.e., the ROC curve) in your disagreement with the idea of potentially sending innocent men to jail.

    If I craft my system so that there is never any chance of sending an innocent individual to jail, then I significantly reduce the ability of the system to respond to true alerts. I would, therefore, have created a system where abusers can hurt victims without fear of repercussions.

    Many victims are women, but not all the abuse I have cited is associated with a woman being abused by a family member. Two cases involve individuals who were wrongfully jailed by the police. In one case the individual was damaged during arrest in a manner that will result in their premature death. This first individual hasn’t interacted with a bishop in any substantive manner. In the other case, the individual was so ill-treated during arrest that they miscarried and suffered lingering damage. The career of this second individual was destroyed, rendering them homeless. Due to the financial aspect, this second individual has interacted with a bishop.

    One lingering tendency is for some to carry on the 19th century belief that the tender mercies of God will prevent the truly righteous from ever actually suffering abuse. Thus poverty and being wounded can be seen by some as signs that the person so suffering secretly deserves their pain.

    Reflecting on what I see Lucinda and Wonder Woman have written, there are times when a person has erred in the past. But each new day presents us a chance to remake ourselves as our best possible self.

    To summarize:

    Abuse will happen. We need ways to both reduce the likelihood of such abuse (teaching, ministering) as well as ways to deal with the abuse that does occur.

    Overconcern with harming accused abusers will necessarily mean that real victims remain without protection or aid. Good men need to “be even more adamant about the serious consequences women especially bear…”

    Women need to stand against abuse. Part of this stand is to refuse to yield to pressure to settle for the sort of men who accept “worthless-male free-loading” or who treat women and children as if they are anything less than precious.

    We need to succor those amongst us who are wounded.

  59. Part of the problem facing women is that they are not typically capable of dealing with external threats. They are largely social problem-solvers, and those skills simply don’t work on people who do not care how you feel or what you say, etc.

    And so women often focus expression of their harshest feelings against those who still care how they feel. The danger is that a lot of men get to the point where they start to see that if they just stop caring how the women feel, they can avoid having to deal with the constant guilt-tripping and demoralization. It’s a real problem.

    So if you are a woman and you have a chance to show some positive emotion and appreciation to the good men who have managed, against the odds, to still care about how you feel just because you are a precious woman, go ahead and show the positive emotion and appreciation and stop accusing them of always falling short of fixing the entire world.

  60. …and then I read more about Jennie Willoughby and get where Ji is getting his point from; a tweet by the POS,

    “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation…”

    POS is specifically implying that Jennie’s statements were “mere allegation[s]”…

    It doesn’t take much for someone in Rob Porter’s position to lose his job, he works for the government. The FBI found Jennie, the FBI interviewed her and she simply was honest and so was the first wife of Rob who was VERY physically abused by him.

    Jennie has helped me by sharing her story and other women who struggle with trying to be POSITIVE and protect yourself from HARM, sometimes to stay positive we need to get away from NEGATIVE a-holes. The Prophets have JUST TOLD US that meekness is NOT weakness, it is strength, and a woman can be MEEK, POSITIVE and STILL…. be HONEST about what a man did to her, which was wrong, the FBI found out about, because that is their job, to investigate. It is sad that the POS made that statement, she came off very calm, kind, meek, not man hating in her interviews to me… She never came off angry… Again a reporter sought her out, a news company took her blog and named who her ex was that she did NOT name in her blog, but NOW since THEY did that- she has to respond, because she is meek and strong.

    Jennie repeatedly expressed love and compassion for her ex, that he is not a “monster”- she just knows that he needs to change and her worst man hating statement, that most likely he has not changed yet and if he doesn’t get help he will abuse the next, 3rd wife… but she knows that he can change.

    Other recent public cases, like the woman suing the Church, she has angry and textbook “hate”- she sent the perp death threats… that is “hate”, Jennie, no hate… We can’t lump all of these stories into one narrative and judgmental, non constructive phrase. Jennie’s feelings towards her Bishop are not the same as the woman who’s suing the Church. Jennie’s Bishop worked WITH her husband and let her know that if she spoke out, got a restraining order would effect his employment, he very well was trying to discourage her from doing that, which wrong…

    It takes evidence to get a restraining order and one that is valid would effect someone working in government or other careers. I am not angry at the person who abused me, I had moments that I had anger and got as far away as I could, I knew that I could physically hurt them back, COULD get them thrown in JAIL; but I still hurt some days deeper than you can imagine that I myself was not only discouraged from getting a restraining order against someone (whom I was told that I should by the police, that’s how it usually goes, men just don’t stay in jail long when they hit you, they get out like Meg said, that is statistically when they try to seriously kill you, and in my situation not long after the Spirit TOLD me to RUN- away, I left and lost a lot of possessions, things, I’ve been living on an air-mattress for over a year and struggling financially but I am ALIVE, I really believe that the Spirit saved MY life… my abuser had a high up there BFF who was a defense lawyer… I know he was planning something awful). I had sure evidence to get a restraining order and was scared away from getting one and that abusive male works in the medical field, which having had a frightening experience or two in one- terrifies me, I feel guilt that I was too SCARED to get a restraining order, I just should have done it! NOT BECAUSE I AM ANGRY or NOT POSITIVE ENOUGH, but because God, man the Justice system was setup to protect men women and children… There are consequences in this life for your actions and painful as it may be, it might be your career… Get over it people.

  61. Lol… Imagne that I wrote POTUS and not POS ahaha, that wasn’t intentional, seriously

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