“Abuse (Offender’s Needs),” Counseling Resources (2020).
“Abuse (Offender’s Needs),” Counseling Resources.
Bishops, branch presidents, and stake presidents should immediately call the Church’s ecclesiastical help line each time they learn of abuse. This resource provides assistance in helping victims and in meeting reporting requirements. Go to Help Line Numbers for the help line number and more information.
No Church leader should ever dismiss a report of abuse or counsel an individual not to report criminal activity.
If other members learn of abuse, they should immediately contact legal authorities. They should also counsel with their bishop or stake president who will call the abuse help line for guidance in helping victims and meeting reporting requirements.
Learn how and when you should report abuse. Stake presidents and bishops should immediately call the help line for guidance if one is available in their country. In countries that do not have a help line, a bishop who learns of abuse should contact his stake president. He will seek guidance from the area legal counsel at the area office (see General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020), 188.8.131.52, ChurchofJesusChrist.org). Other members should comply with any legal reporting obligations and counsel with their bishops.
Abuse is the mistreatment or neglect of others (such as a child or spouse, the elderly, or the disabled) in a way that causes physical, emotional, or sexual harm. The Church’s position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form and that who abuse are accountable before God. Whether or not someone is convicted of abuse, offenders are subject to Church discipline and could lose their membership in the Church (see Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2).
The first responsibilities of the Church in abuse cases are 1) to help, in a kind and sensitive way, those who have been abused and 2) to protect those who may be vulnerable to future abuse. While some types of abuse may cause physical harm, all forms of abuse affect the mind and spirit. Abuse often destroys faith and can cause confusion, doubt, mistrust, guilt, and fear in the victim.
Often those who abuse have other serious unresolved sins or mental-health issues or may have been abused themselves. Some offenders feel remorse, a desire to confess their sins, and a willingness to begin the repentance process. Others may deny wrongdoing, minimize their behavior, or blame someone else. Assessing remorse and desire to change is the first step in helping the offender.
Some abusers may be cunning, manipulative, and deceitful, so their version of the events may differ from that of the victim. In all cases, consider foremost the safety and protection of the victim. Bishops and stake presidents should consult with the help line as they develop a safety plan.
Church leaders are neither expected nor encouraged to diagnose or provide treatment to individuals struggling with mental-health issues related to abuse. Most offenders should consider seeking professional help. Family Services (where available) is able to provide consultation and offer information to leaders about resources in their communities.
Bishops should refer to General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020) for direction regarding Church callings, temple recommends, and other related questions once the abuse has been investigated and a conclusion reached regarding its severity. When considering membership restrictions for youth offenders, consult General Handbook, 32.7.7.
Prayerfully consider asking questions like these to help you better understand the person’s problem and his or her readiness and motivation for repentance.
Can you help me understand the situation?
How important is it for you to repent?
How have you used gospel principles to overcome abusive tendencies and behaviors?
What are you willing to do to change?
How can I help you in your repentance process?
Is there anything else about this abuse that I should know?
As you counsel with the person, consider using some of the following suggestions:
Discuss with the person the consequences of abusive behavior on self and family, including the doctrine and Church policies related to abuse. (Review the resources in Church Policy and Teachings for more information.)
Help the person find hope and healing through Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
In cases such as physical or verbal abuse, help the person identify healthy, non-abusive ways to respond to difficult situations or feelings, such as the following:
Taking enough time to let emotions subside and to allow a conscious response by, for example, going for a walk, breathing deeply, counting to 100, or working on a project.
Sharing concerns calmly without criticism.
Taking time to consider the thoughts and feelings of others.
Abuse affects family members as well as the individual. Determine the impact on the individual’s spouse or family and address those issues. While it is necessary to help the offender in his or her repentance process, sometimes victims feel ignored when it appears that the leaders’ primary focus is on helping the offender. Check in regularly with the victim to make sure his or her needs are also being met.
Use community resources or professional help for family members who may need counseling or support.
Provide continuing support to others in the family who may be affected.
Request the individual’s permission before discussing the situation with others. Bishops should consult with the abuse help line when questions regarding confidentiality and the duty to protect arise.
Help the person seek and obtain professional help, as necessary.
Use local resources that provide services in harmony with gospel principles.
Contact the local Family Services or the area office for more resources or counseling options.
Consider working with the bishop to spend time in ward council or another meeting to train leaders on preventing and responding to abuse.