A few years ago, when sexual assaults and the Church and other things were being discussed, I had three things happen.
First, under the auspices of the local JRCLS, Mark Romney prepared and trained local leaders on mandatory reporting. No ifs, ands or buts. You must report and how to do it immediately. Mark, now a stake president, was as bright line and as hard line as you could get.
Second, I had some contact with people who were having some problems with an attorney and the Church over a sex abuse reporting issue.
Third, we had the chief counsel for the LDS Church address us at the JRCLS in Dallas.
In passing, I mentioned the problems the people claimed to be having. The chief counsel’s response was clear, direct and immediate. He said the “claimed” part didn’t matter. He gave me his direct line phone number and his personal e-mail and asked me to forward both to the individuals so they could contact him and so he could make certain that whoever was on the Church side put the victim first and did nothing to discourage reporting or to make their lives harder.
I put the two together and the people were pleased with the outcome (though I was cut completely out of the loop so I don’t know anything more).
It was instructive to me. First, there was no questioning about the possibility of there being a problem. No one treated this as the complainers just complaining or misunderstanding. Instead, it was treated as if there was a complaint, then there was a problem that needed to be addressed. Second, no one thought the training approach was wrong or should be softened.
One other issue came up. The Church had considered a Miranda warning sort of card or announcement. “If you mention an assault, it will be reported.” The only push back on that came not from the legal department or leadership but from those in countries where if your clergy did not assert clergy-penitent privilege your church was not considered a “real” church — with significant problems.
I’ve wondered if time would allow a work-around for that issue or what is going on in the area, but I don’t know because (a) I didn’t keep the phone number or e-mail (it wasn’t for me, just for me to forward) and (b) I haven’t had the chance to be in a place where I could ask about it since.
But in the flesh, when I dealt with real people and real issues, I saw honest, direct and good faith effort made immediately and without excuses.
Which I got to thinking about again recently since I went to school with Kevin Worthen. He seemed like a good guy then. I hope he has only gotten better with age. I realize that he is under some real public scrutiny as is BYU, but my experience with people acting in good faith gives me hope.
What gives you hope?