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 those who abuse will be accountable before God (see Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2).
The Lord expects us to do everything we can to prevent abuse and to protect and help victims. No one is expected to endure abusive behavior.
Reports of abuse should never be dismissed. Everyone should respond with compassion and sensitivity toward victims and their families. Those affected by abuse need to be heard and supported.
When bishops and stake presidents learn about or suspect abuse, they should immediately call the Church’s abuse help line established in their country or their area office. They will receive specific direction on how to help victims, protect against future abuse, and meet any reporting obligations.
Abuse may also violate the laws of society. The Church encourages the reporting of abuse to civil authorities, and Church leaders and members must fulfill all legal obligations to report abuse. In some places, leaders and teachers who serve with children are legally required to report abuse of children to civil authorities. In other places, any person who learns of the abuse of children, the elderly, or the disabled is legally required to tell civil authorities about the abuse.
Leaders, family members, and friends should make every effort to stop abuse, find safety for the victim, and help the victim seek healing. Some victims may need help reporting abuse to law enforcement or to protective services. Victims may also need help through their healing process from professionals, including doctors and counselors.
Most victims are abused by people they know. Such people can be spouses, family members, dating partners, friends, or other acquaintances. Victims should be assured that they are never to blame for the harmful behavior of others—no matter who abuses them. A victim is not guilty.
While some types of abuse may cause physical harm, all forms of abuse affect the mind and spirit. Victims of abuse often struggle with feelings of confusion, doubt, guilt, shame, mistrust, and fear. They may feel helpless, powerless, lonely, and isolated. They may even question the love of Heavenly Father and their own divine worth. But victims and those who support them can be assured that, through His infinite Atonement, the Savior extends succor, healing, and power (see Alma 7:11–12; 34:10).
Victims of abuse may find comfort in seeking spiritual guidance and support from Church leaders as they heal. The first responsibility of Church leaders is to help those who have been abused and to protect those who may be vulnerable to future abuse. Leaders may refer to counselingresources.ChurchofJesusChrist.org for more information.
The principles in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” set the standard for how we should treat each other. Following these principles leads us to build strong, healthy relationships. Parents, spouses, and family members can use these principles to evaluate how they communicate with each other and treat one another.
See abuse.ChurchofJesusChrist.org for more information.
“Counseling Resources” (Limited access to ward and stake council members)
“The Burden Was Removed,” Ensign or Liahona, March 2014
“Learning to Forgive,” Ensign, March 2011
“Hope and Healing in Recovering from Abuse,” Ensign, September 2008
“Healing the Spiritual Wounds of Sexual Abuse,” Ensign, April 2001
“Dispelling the Darkness of Abuse,” Ensign, February 2000
“A Conversation on Spouse Abuse,” Ensign, October 1999
“How the Church Approaches Abuse,” Newsroom