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Six Virginia Mormon families have filed a civil lawsuit against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), alleging the church knew “one of their members was abusing children and actively covered up the abuse that continued for years.”
A group of families are suing the LDS church, alleging it covered up child sex abuse by another member in West Virginia.
A total of six families with nine children filed the lawsuit against The Corporation of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints according to court documents — available at the end of the story.
The families allege LDS leaders knew one of their members was abusing children and actively covered up the abuse that continued for years. The case is scheduled to go to trial in January.
“My church family preached to me about forgiveness — that I needed to forgive him,” Helen said. “How do you forgive something like that?”
The abuse allegedly took place over the course of two months in 2008.
According to documents, in January 2012 the children told their parents what Jensen had done to them five years before.
She didn’t contact law enforcement immediately when she discovered the abuse.
“That is something that does eat at me. It is something that I wish that if I could go back and change, I would have done it differently,” Helen said. “I felt if i couldn’t even get these people that are supposed to have my family’s best interest, why would a jury believe what happened?”
In 2012, the abuser, Michael Jensen, was indicted for abusing other children and she contacted law enforcement. She said one of her sons testified at the trial but the court proceedings were not about his abuse.
According to court documents, Jensen was on trial for abusing two children in 2007. The papers say the boys, 3 and 4-years-old at the time, were forced to perform oral sex on Jensen while he was their babysitter. In 2013 Jensen was sentenced for up to 75 years in prison after he was convicted beyond a reasonable doubt for abusing the two boys.
The appellants’ brief states:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day (sic) Saints knew that it had a sex offender in its midst as early as December 2004-January 2005, when Michael Jensen was charged in Provo, Utah, with felony sexual abuse of two girls and pled guilty to two sex offenses in the presence of his parents (who became Church leaders) and a Church bishop in Provo.
Is says that instead of warning others about Jensen, even as his predations began to mount, local church leaders “covered up, minimized and denied” his abuse and “dangerous proclivities; sponsored false explanations when evidence of abuse surfaced; touted him as a trustworthy and exceptional member of the Church community.”
Attorneys in the civil case contend local church leaders discussed the allegations of Jensen’s abuse as early as 2007 and no one reported them to law enforcement. The layers also claim LDS church leaders in Utah knew Jensen was convicted of other sex crimes in Utah in 2004.
The legal papers state that between April 2007 and August 2012, after moving from Provo, Jensen sexually abused nine children.
Helen said she doesn’t want to forgive, she wants justice.
“And this is the only way I know how to do it,” she said. “The only way for [my son’s] voice to be heard and my voice to be heard and to force them to change their policies so that this doesn’t happen again.”