132: Prior Bishop Speaks to how Church Addresses Sexual Abuse Cases

Natasha Helfer Parker interviews a prior bishop… who is choosing to remain anonymous due to a variety of concerns he has about talking about these topics to begin with (i.e. confidentiality of those he has served as a bishop, confidentiality of his own family situation and legal protection for sharing what he is talking about today). He will go by “Dave” in this interview and his voice has been altered to protect his identity.

Dave reached out to me due to my involvement with the protectldschildren.org movement where we are asking the church to consider stopping one-on-one bishop interviews where minors are asked about sexual behavior. He reached out

He is sharing his own experiences that he had as a father where one of his children had been molested in their ward building. He shares the experience he had with his wife as they tried to deal with this concern within the church system and how that ended up being futile. He also shares his experience with the church “hotline” that is supposed to help in these situations… and is very clear about the expectations members should have (or not have) when it comes to the system that is currently in place.

Dave also speaks about his own experience serving as a bishop and the types of training that were available, the guidance given when he himself was in a situation where people were reporting abuse, etc.

His main message to listeners throughout the podcast is to gain a clear understanding of the legalities involved and how the church is in of itself a legal entity and will act as such (whether one considers this ethical/moral or not). He states that the church tells parents that they are responsible for the care of their own children, even in a church building… and that they are responsible for their own legal counsel. Therefore, make sure that as a victim or as a parent of a victim you are contacting appropriate authorities and resources… and not rely on the church to be a player in solving these issues.


Protect the Child: Responding to Child Abuse

Helping Sexual Abuse Cases

Natasha Helfer Parker runs an online practice, Symmetry Solutions and writes at The Mormon Therapist for Patheos: Hosting the Conversation of Faith. She also hosts the popular podcasts, Mormon Mental Health & Mormon Sex Info and creates the sex educational resource, Sex Talk with Natasha.


10 comments for “132: Prior Bishop Speaks to how Church Addresses Sexual Abuse Cases

  1. Steve
    March 20, 2018 at 8:29 am

    Transcript for those who read fast but don’t have time to listen?

  2. rr
    March 20, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    Is a transcript of this recording available? Thank you.

  3. Linda de Azevedo
    March 20, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Did I hear that the parents are legally required to report abuse that happens a church to authorities?

  4. Linda de Azevedo
    March 20, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Did I hear that the parents are legally required to report abuse that happens at church to authorities like the police in order to make a case in the future?

    • David
      March 22, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      If I understood it right, in many states and many countries, all adults are required to report child sexual abuse they know of to the authorities (police or child protective services). So if you don’t you could go to jail for not reporting. In other states and other countries, only adults with particular jobs (often doctors & psychologists) are required by the law to report.

  5. Julie A Neve
    March 21, 2018 at 12:38 am

    It seems to me, if my child were being molested by someone in the ward, I would number one stop taking my family to that ward, and I would have contacted the police about this

  6. Douglas
    March 21, 2018 at 9:16 am

    Interesting discussion and a difficult story to listen too. I hope all the victims are healing. Thanks for the story as it does help people to learn the reality of navigating organizations.

    A big learning that this raises and that people should be aware of is that an attorney is not a responsible manager/authority of an organization and is not in a position to take action. It was a big surprise that when he called the church they put him through to an attorney and not a responsible leader. An attorney is always there to represent the client’s interests and has privilege that allows him/her to not reveal anything or be forced to act as a manager. He/she would even argue that they are not in a position to act on information they are given as that is not their job. Not that you would want to but to make the point you would be hard pressed to will a lawsuit claiming the organization’s attorney was the one that should take action on this information and supervise the local leaders.

    If you have something you want the church to know call and insist on talking to a responsible authority who has a RESPONSIBILITY TO ACT on the information you give them – whether it’s a legal issue or not. An attorney is never that person, it is not the job of an attorney. The responsible authority may want to have an attorney advise them.

    You see that once this man gave information to the stake president and he got advice on what to do the answer was that they had no choice but to act. When you gave the same information to an attorney he simply evaluated the risk to the church which is his job. If you ever have a complaint go to a responsible leader not an attorney. This is true of any company or organization you deal with.

    I believe that the church should better inform members of who to escalate concerns about leaders to. Think about it. If your Stake President is doing something that concerns you, would you know who supervises him or how to get a hold of him? I certainly don’t. This is the church’s responsibility to properly train AND SUPERVISE their leaders.

    • David
      March 22, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      Douglas, that is a good takeaway from the story. I appreciate your comment.

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