A few weeks ago I was required by my employer to take a 2 hour class on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. The class focused on the neurological response that a person goes through when assaulted, and how that affects them after. I learned that hormones released by the body for self preservation can inhibit the ability of the person to fight back, speak, or even remember the event in detail (1). I learned why the person stays with the abuser.
After the class I was overwhelmed with all the new information I had received, and had a much better understanding of what people go through when they are assaulted, and how to talk with them and understand them.
So this got me to thinking that during this two hour class that was given to a bunch of engineers, that I learned more about handling sexual assault victims that I did in over 20 years of church training as an EQ President, Counselor in a Bishopric (twice) and finally as Bishop. I estimated that I spent over 200 hours during those years in “Leadership Training”. These training meetings included stake “Priesthood Leadership Training”, one on one with the Stake President as an EQ President and Bishop, quarterly Bishops training with the SP, A visit by a member of the 1st Q70 with just the bishops, and Worldwide Leadership Training Meetings broadcast to all leaders.
In all these meetings, I learned that the my duty as a Bishop was to be the Presiding High Priest, Leader of the Aaronic Priesthood, to care for the needy, be responsible for finances, and be a Common Judge.
During one of the “Worldwide” broadcasts for bishops, Elder Ballard taught about the “Gift of Discernment”. He gave two examples from when he was a bishop. One was when the gift of discernment told him to have the Bishopric shift their seats over from behind the pulpit so they could better see the congregation during Sacrament meeting. The other was when he had the strong impression that a sister needed to talk to him after looking at her during Sacrament meeting (due to the seat shifting before!). They met and she confessed to something 25 years ago. But there was no teaching about using this discirment in abuse cases.
All this training helped me in the duties explained above, but did not help me become a better marriage counselor, which evidently my congregation thought was my full time job!
The one item that did touch on this was from one of the leadership broadcasts. Pres Hinckley said “Where there has been a confession of abuse or reports of abuse, do not hesitate to phone the so-called hotline for direction” (2)
So that was it, call a phone number. Why is it that my employer thought it was so important to teach a bunch of engineers about Sexual Abuse for two hours, but the church can’t spend the same time teaching a bunch of Bishops the same thing?
(2) Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, June 19, 2004