2 alleged sexual abuse victims say church leaders failed to report abuse
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
The Mormon church's role in reporting abuse is under scrutiny after two alleged sexual abuse victims say their church leaders failed to report the abuse to police.
Brian, whose full name is being withheld, was a young teen when he says he forged a bond with a Valley family in the LDS church. A church he later joined. But he says everything changed when the adult woman he trusted, crossed the line.
"The mother had initiated kissing - and over the next couple of months things escalated from there," said Brian.
During the next three years Brian claims the married woman sexually abused him and showered him with gifts.
"She bought me lots of very nice clothing, shoes, watches, hats, snow board gear," said Brian. "A really nice camcorder, cologne, cd's, computers, stereos."
Brian says he was sworn to secrecy.
"To the death," he said. "It wasn't until I was 21 that I finally told somebody. I told my best friend and he said 'you know this is wrong, right?'"
Brian was living in Chicago at the time and reached out to a church leader there.
"He was kind of on my team - saying 'hey, look, you didn't do anything wrong, I'm going to get to the bottom of this for you,'" Brian said.
Optimistic, Brian waited for action - but was disappointed when two weeks later he says he was told to forget about it. He then reached out to his former bishop in Tempe, Greg Lake.
"After talking to two different bishops and both of them shutting the door on me and telling me to move past this and calling Greg Lake and having him be like 'Are you calling me to repent?' Are you calling me so that you can sit down with this family and apologize to them? It's disgusting," said Brian. "It's a slap in the face."
CBS 5 Investigates traveled to Salt Lake City, the headquarters for the Mormon church, to ask leaders that very question.
"Brian should have been advised to go to the police," said Randy Austin, an attorney that handles sexual abuse cases for the church.
The Church was quick to admit Brian's case was not handled the right way but getting a straight answer when it comes to handling other abuse allegations was difficult.
"They are counseled to call a 1-800 number, a help line," said Austin.
He explained that they counsel church leaders on how to handle abuse and to encourage victims to go to police. But here in Arizona a mandatory reporting statute requires certain community leaders, such as clergy and priest, to report child abuse to police.
We contacted Tempe Bishop Greg Lake to ask him about Brian's abuse allegations, but he refused to discuss it with us. And an hour later we received a call from an attorney representing the woman Brian says abused him.
Church leaders say Brian's case is an anomaly. But CBS 5 Investigates uncovered that might not be the case.
"I had told therapists," said Valley resident Kendahl, whose full name is being withheld. "I had told bishops. Nobody ever did anything."
Kendahl says she was abused by a relative starting at the age of eight. During her college years at Brigham Young University she says she told an LDS counselor and two campus bishops of her ordeal. It wasn't until years later that a different bishop finally suggested she call police.
"It's totally demoralizing for the victim and you are essentially re-victimizing the victim by not taking an investigative posture by not listening to what they have to say," said forensic psychiatrist Steven Pitt.
Pitt has investigated similar sexual abuse allegations and agreed to talk to CBS 5 Investigates about these cases.
"We don't let lay people become the arbiter of who is guilty and who is innocent," said Pitt.
But for Kendahl and Brian -- that's what they feel happened to them -- when their sanctuary became another source of pain.
"They need to say this is wrong," said Brian. "We need to adjust this. People need to be held accountable."
The church has agreed to look into these cases and the way they were handled.
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