Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) policies
I was able to obtain both a booklet and a photocopied extract from an official instruction for clergy. Unfortunately, although the photocopied sheet refers to a publication called "Responding to Abuse: Help for Ecclesiastical Leaders", I was unable to obtain a copy of this; the explanation given to me was that it was for LDS clergy only. That immediately raises concerns about why the instructions to LDS clergy on dealing with abuse are considered so confidential. Note: NONE of the information I was able to obtain refers to abuse by church leaders. As far as I was able to ascertain, the Mormon Church has no policy for dealing with abuse by clergy or church workers. Each time I asked, the reaction was along the lines of "that doesn't happen in our church". THAT IS NOT THE CASE. One of the biggest lawsuits in the world (in terms of dollars) is against the Mormon Church - but no Mormon I have spoken to has ever heard of it.
Extract from unknown church source, ch.18 "Church Policies" p.157-8
Abuse and Cruelty
The Church's position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form. Those who abuse or are cruel to their spouses, children, other family members, or anyone else violate the laws of God and man. Such members are subject to Church discipline. They should not be given Church callings and may not have a temple recommend. Even if a person who abused a child sexually or physically receives Church discipline and is later restored to full fellowship or readmitted by baptism, leaders should not call the person to any position working with children or youth unless the First Presidency authorizes removal of the annotation on the person's membership record.
In instances of abuse, the first responsibility of the Church is to help those who have been abused and to protect those who may be vulnerable to future abuse. Victims of sexual abuse (including rape) often suffer serious trauma and feelings of guilt. Victims of the evil acts of others are not guilty of sin. Church leaders should be sensitive to such victims and give caring attention to help them overcome the destructive effects of abuse.
Stake presidents and bishops should make every effort to counsel those who have been involved in abuse. Members also may need professional counseling. When appropriate, bishops should contact LDS Social Services to identify resources to provide such counseling in harmony with gospel principles. If the transgressor is an adult who has committed a sexual transgression against a child, the behavior may be very deep-seated and the process of repentance and reformation may be very prolonged.
In the United States and Canada, the Church has established a toll-free Help Line (telephone 1-801-240-1911 or 1-800-453-3860, extension 1911) to provide guidance to bishops and stake presidents in cases of abuse. If one of these leaders becomes aware of physical or sexual abuse involving Church members or if he believes that a person may have been abused or is at risk of being abused, he should call the Help Line. He will be able to consult with social services, legal, and other specialists who can help answer questions and formulate steps that should be taken. Outside the United States and Canada, stake presidents and bishops should call the Area Presidency for guidance. A bishop should also notify his stake president of instances of abuse.
If confidential information indicates that a member's abusive activities have violated applicable law, the bishop or stake president should urge the member to report these activities to the appropriate government authorities. Leaders can obtain information about local reporting requirements through the Help Line. Where reporting is required by law, the leader should encourage the member to secure qualified legal advice.
To avoid implicating the Church in legal matters to which it is not a party, leaders should avoid testifying in civil or criminal cases or other proceedings involving abuse. For specific guidelines, see "Legal Matter", p.151.
For additional information, stake presidents and bishops may refer to the booklet "Responding to Abuse: Helps for Ecclesiastical Leaders" and the pamphlets "Preventing and Responding to Spouse Abuse" and "Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse".
Preventing and Responding to
A pamphlet produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. ©1997, printed in the USA.
"All human beings - male and female - are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny...Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children...Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs...Husbands and wives - mothers and fathers - will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations." (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, Ensign, Nov.1995, p.102)
Child abuse is wrongly or improperly treating a child in a way that causes injury or serious offense. It is an evil alluded to by the Savior when he warned: "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea". (Matthew 18:6)
Child abuse can take many forms. Some abuse may be inadvertent or unknowing. Some is intentional, vicious, and predatory. Even older children can be victims. All child abuse is wrong. It harms families. In any form it is tragic and in opposition to the teachings of the Savior.
Family members can help stop abuse and protect and get help for those who have been injured. Members who have been abused need kind, caring attention from family members and others. They may also need professional assistance that is consistent with the teachings of the Savior. Those who have offended also need help. To keep the abuse secret often allows it to continue. Most repeat offenders have difficulty changing until they experience the full consequences of their actions. When family members or others are aware of abuse in the family, they should abide by local laws governing the reporting of abuse. They should also contact their bishop for counsel and assistance. A child who has been abused by a parent should discuss the matter with the nonabusing parent or another trusted adult and with the bishop.
Recognizing Child Abuse
Child abuse occurs when someone who is in a position of trust or control threatens or causes physical or emotional harm to a child. This harm may be in the form of:
- Physical abuse or neglect
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
Physical abuse occurs when an individual, in most cases an adult, causes bodily harm to a child. Child abuse in the form of neglect includes failure to provide for the basic nutritional, clothing, housing, medical, and educational needs of a child. Neglect includes leaving a child for extended periods of time without adequate supervision.
Emotional abuse is treating a child in a way that attacks his or her emotional development and sense of worth. Examples include constant faultfinding, belittling, rejection and withholding of love, support and guidance.
Child sexual abuse is any lewd or sexual activity between a child of any age and an adult or significantly older youth who is in a position of power, trust, or control. It includes the sexual exploitation of a child in pornographic materials.
Preventing Child Abuse
Children need parents who are unselfish and committed to their children's happiness and success. Children need to be treated with kindness, affection, courtesy, patience and forgiveness. Parents should express their love for them frequently and compliment and recognize them consistently for good behavior. Parents need to provide activities and tasks in which their children can experience success, acceptance, love and family unity.
Children are helped and strengthened by appropriate and loving discipline. However, criticism or ridicule will undermine their confidence and feelings of self-worth and well-being. When these things occur over time, children may come to feel inadequate, unattractive and unloved.
For these reasons, parents and others should strive to teach and discipline children as needed with patience and love. Loving parents will avoid any abusive conduct toward their children and will strive to protect their children from the abuse of others. Parents should learn to control their anger. They may wish to seek help from the bishop or a professional counselor if they are concerned about their or others' behavior toward their children.
Preventing Abuse by Others
Parents can do much to protect their children from sexual abuse. They should develop a close relationship with their children and teach them what to do to guard against this great evil.
Parents should ensure that the atmosphere in the home allows children to feel comfortable in discussing sensitive matters. Children should be encouraged to talk freely about their likes and dislikes, their friends, and their true feelings. They should feel that they can tell their parents if someone approaches them in an inappropriate manner or in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. (For more suggestions, see A Parent's Guide , 32-33)
Parents should know where their children are and who they are with. They should be careful that only responsible people baby-sit or have custody of them. They should ask their children about their experiences with baby-sitters and other caregivers. Wise parents will closely monitor what happens when their children are away from home overnight. They will be alert if a teenager or adult is paying an unusual amount of attention to one of their children and carefully investigate the situation.
Parents and youth leaders should be aware of changes in a child's behavior. Behavioral changes can be a signal that someone should talk with the child about what caused the changes.
Helping Children to Protect Themselves
Children can learn how to protect themselves against sexual abuse and exploitation. Every child should be taught that no-one should touch them in inappropriate ways, and that they should resist and flee from any situation where the touching or other behavior of another person makes them feel uncomfortable. They should also be taught to tell their parents promptly of any such situation, and if someone attempts to take them away without their parents' approval, to resist and attract the attention of others around them.
Responding to Child Abuse
Both male and female children can be abused sexually. The abuser usually is someone they know and trust, often a relative or friend of the family. How parents, family members, and leaders respond to abuse can alter the long-term effect of these tragic events.
Reporting Child Abuse
Anyone who knows or has cause to believe that a child has been or is a victim of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse has a solemn responsibility to do something constructive about the situation. A child's mental and physical well-being may be in jeopardy.
The laws of most countries require that proper authorities be notified when child abuse is known or suspected. Persons with such information should determine their legal responsibilities and act in accordance with them. They should also contact their bishop for counsel and direction.
When a Child Tells Parents He or She Has Been Abused
When a child says that he or she has been abused sexually, parental reaction is very important in protecting the child from further harm and helping him or her deal with any harm that has been done.
Parents can use the following guidelines to help them respond appropriately when children disclose that they have been abused.
Keep communication open. Do not panic or overreact to the information disclosed by the child. Overreaction can stop the child from communicating with you. Try not to express anger with the child for violating previous instructions. Do not blame the child or suggest that the abuse somehow was his or her fault.
Provide a private, comfortable, and secure place where he or she can relate the story. Because children will fear telling you what has happened, be understanding and supportive of them as they talk. Remember that a child molester or exploiter often will tell children that physical harm or other bad things will happen to them if they ever tell anyone about the abuse. Reassure the child of your love and confidence.
Explain to the child that he or she has done no wrong. The child may feel guilty and responsible and may assume that he or she is to blame. Children usually are enticed or tricked into acts of exploitation, and they think they should have been smarter or stronger.
Try to maintain the regular routine in the home. Expect the abused child to perform usual chores and to follow family rules. If sibling children are aware of the abuse, help them to be supportive and empathetic. Give all children in the family enough information to protect themselves from the offender.
Parents should seek spiritual direction from priesthood leaders, who may require an abuser to report to civil authorities as a step in the repentance process. They should also seek medical care if the child may have been injured physically. In some cases, a carefully selected professional whose approach is consistent with gospel standards can also be helpful.
Abuse afflicts not only its victims but also those who love them. It causes suffering in families and cankers the soul of those who offend and those who are offended. It hampers the spiritual growth and emotional well-being of children of God and stands in the way of their progress toward perfection. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have warned that individuals "who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, p.102)
Children who have been abused need kind, caring attention from inspired Church leaders, family members, and others who can help them overcome the destructive effects of abuse. They can gain peace by living the teachings of Jesus Christ. Abused members and their families should ask in faith for their Heavenly Father's help (see Moroni 7:26; D&C 18:18). His love and the healing powers of the Atonement will ease burdens and provide strength to overcome adversities (see Matthew 11:28-30; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Mosiah 24:12-15).
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