Abused by Members or Leaders of the Mormon Church?
- Victims of abuse by leaders or members of the Mormon church have rights, even if the abuse happened years ago.
- Learn more about your rights by filling out the form on this page for a free claim review.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church, is one of the many religious institutions facing allegations of sexual abuse committed by its church leaders all around the country.
In one recent case, a lawsuit was filed against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in San José, California for failing to prevent sexual abuse against two young sisters by a former high-ranking church leader.
The Mormon abuse lawsuit alleges that former bishop Joseph Neipp from San José’s Branham Ward sexually abused two young girls while they were enrolled in a program sponsored by the church, according to Business Wire. He used his position as a bishop within the church (similar to a priest or a rabbi) to “groom” the girls for abuse on church grounds, the lawsuit claims.
Neipp now faces criminal charges for child sex abuse in the Santa Clara County Superior Court. The Mormon lawsuit aims to hold the church of Latter-day Saints in San José likewise accountable for failing to protect the girls from sexual abuse.
Have Any Mormon Sex Abuse Lawsuits Been Filed?
Between 2000 and 2016, the LDS church had been accused in at least 43 lawsuits of failing to prevent or report the alleged sexual abuse of 90 children, per a review by Law360. Of these cases, 22 ended in settlements, seven were dismissed, and two went to trial, which led to awards for the plaintiffs. At the time of the Law360 report, five were still pending and seven did not have information available.
In 2017, two Navajo women and a Crow woman alleged that the church of Latter-day Saints failed to protect them when they were sexually assaulted as children partaking in a Mormon off-reservation, home-placement assimilation program during the 1960s and 1970s. These lawsuits come after other litigation filed by Native American adults who alleged they also suffered from similar abuse as children in the program, which was active between 1947 and the mid-1990s, per The Atlantic.
“Understand that you are not alone,” said one of the plaintiffs, identified as AH, in a statement to those who suffered sexual abuse while in the program, per the Law360 article. “It is not your fault. The shame is not yours, rather the shame belongs to those who abused, as well as those who allowed the abuse to happen.”
In mid-2019, Insider reported that the LDS church had been accused of attempting to quiet victims and avoid lawsuits using their sexual abuse hotline, directing victims to internal review rather than to external authorities, and then sweeping the matter aside.
“Abuse is a matter taken very seriously by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is not tolerated, and the Church has invested heavily in resources and training, including the helpline, to prevent, combat, and address abuse,” an LDS spokesperson said in a statement to Insider in response to the article.
One recent lawsuit alleges that two Mormon bishops failed to report sexual abuse that had been reported to them, and justified their behavior by citing religious privilege.
Recent Case of Sexual Abuse in The Church of Latter-day Saints
A recent Mormon sex abuse lawsuit alleges that Joseph Neipp, a former bishop in the church of Latter-day Saints in San José, abused two sisters as young children in a church-sponsored program over the course of several years. The sisters, referred to in the lawsuits as Jane Doe and Jane Doe 2, were sexually abused from 2009–2016 and 2012–2016, respectively.
Neipp, now in his 70s, served as a bishop in the San José Branham Ward of the Church of Latter-day Saints. The lawsuit reasons that he used his position in the church to groom the girls for abuse.
The claim also names the San José LDS church specifically, alleging that church leaders had been aware of Neipp’s threat to children prior to his abuse of the sisters.
“In either 2009 or 2010, the church was made aware that a Branham Ward parent complained that Neipp was stalking her and her children, and filed a restraining order saying she feared for their safety,” said attorney Robert Allard per Business Wire. “As a result of that complaint, it is our understanding the church excommunicated Neipp and removed him from his position as bishop, but didn’t bother to tell church members. So, he was still regarded as bishop or ‘Father of the Ward’ and parents were under the impression that it was safe for children to be around him.”
It can be especially difficult for members of a church to doubt their leaders because they often believe, as is the case in the Mormon church, that the leaders are chosen by God. This kind of authority can make people, especially children, think that what is happening to them must be okay, or that the person abusing them is too powerful to be stopped.
“In his actual or apparent authoritative capacity as the bishop of the Branham Ward, Neipp repeatedly engaged in inappropriate grooming behavior with children during Primary classes and on or around ward events…including allowing small children to sit on his lap, and transporting plaintiffs and other young children alone in his vehicle to ward activities,” the lawsuit claims.
What Are the California Sexual Assault Laws?
California sexual assault laws cover a number of different types of assault such as rape, rape of a spouse, sodomy, sexual battery, and more. Under California law, sexual assault includes several kinds of non-consensual sexual contact or behaviors.
Under the California Child Victims Act, victims of childhood sexual abuse now have until they turn 40 years old or within five years of the discovery of abuse to file a civil lawsuit. A three-year lookback window has also been opened for claims previously barred due to the old statute of limitations.
The previous law only gave survivors up to eight years after reaching adulthood or three years after the discovery of abuse to pursue litigation.
California is one of several states to recently expand its sexual abuse laws to give survivors more time to file.
Sexual Abuse Long-Term Effects
It is important for adults to keep an eye out for signs of sexual abuse that the children in their lives may present, which can vary depending on the age of the child and many other factors.
Children who have suffered from sexual abuse can face many potential problems as a result, lasting far longer than the abuse itself. Sexual abuse long term effects on children can include:
- Guilt, shame, and self-blame
- Eating disorders
- Somatic concerns
- Dissociative patterns,
- Repression and/or denial
- Sexual problems
- Relationship problems
Join This Nationwide Lawsuit Against The Church Of Latter-day Saints
If you or a loved one have been a victim of sexual abuse by anyone from the Church of Latter-day Saints, you may be able to join this national investigation and pursue compensation.
Fill out the free form on this page to see if you qualify.
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