REPORTING ECCLESIASTICAL AND SPIRITUAL ABUSE
We encourage those who feel that their situations can be defined as spiritual or ecclesiastical abuse to contact us. Our procedure in working on a case report consists of three steps: First, we want to listen and understand. Sometimes that alone meets the needs of those who feel unheard. Second, we want to document what happened, and when and where--not only the factual reality but also the emotional reality of what it felt like and what it still feels like. We encourage respondents to write their own stories or, if itís easier, to talk through their experience with a committee member who will then work with the respondent on drafting the account. When both parties are satisfied with its accuracy, then it goes into the file as a case report. A third step is publication of selected cases. At that point, we return to the respondent, provide the context in which the account would appear, and ask for any updates that might be necessary. The respondent is free to withdraw at that point, to rework the account with whatever assistance is necessary, or to approve the case report as it stands. The respondent will sign an affidavit attesting to the truthfulness of the information contained in the case report, to the best of his or her knowledge, and giving permission to publish the report.
Those writing their own experiences should be as complete, clear, and detailed as possible. We have found that we usually need to ask clarifying questions on the following points:
1. Names (not just positions) of ecclesiastical officers.
2. Names of wards and stakes.
3. Chronology: the details of what happened when.
4. Locale: What happened where (particularly if itís a "life" story and covers several locations.
5. Names of family members so weíre not trying to sort out whether "my brother" is the same individual as "my older brother," mentioned earlier.
6. Are there any documents that support this situation? Journal entries? Letters from you or to you? Did you talk about the situation with anyone else--a member of your family, a friend--who might have made some kind of documentary record? Documentation is important, when itís available, in establishing that you didnít "make it up" and are not imposing current perceptions on a past situation. Even indirect records are sometimes helpful in establishing when an event occurred or in jogging your memory.
7. Is there anyone else we should talk to, related to this case, or another case that you know about?
Privacy for oneself and family members is frequently an issue because speaking out in the current environment of the Church is fraught with a certain amount of risk. Although we cannot accept anonymous accounts as documented cases, we do offer a wide range of options when it comes to eventual publication, including total or partial masking of names, places, and other identifying information.
To report spiritual or ecclesiastical abuse, contact
Francis Nelson Henderson