258: Taking the Mormons to Court: Defending Sexual Abuse Victims against the LDS Church: Tim Kosnoff

Tim Kosnoff is a US attorney who has spent the last two decades representing victims of sexual abuse.   His introduction to the  LDS Church and their lawyers was when he represented Jeremiah Scott who was sexually abused by a serial paedophile Frank Curtis.  His work, in this case, appears in Lisa Davis’ legal thriller, ‘The Sins of Brother Curtis.’ 

This case has lead to a practice in which he has come to represent over 150 Mormon sexual abuse victims bringing him face to face with the Mormon law machine time and time again.

Tim joins me to discuss his experiences as a representative and advocate for sexual abuse victims against the LDS Church.

 

Comments

comments

25 comments for “258: Taking the Mormons to Court: Defending Sexual Abuse Victims against the LDS Church: Tim Kosnoff

  1. Kim Dyer
    August 28, 2018 at 4:36 am

    Church leaders could participate and money could change hands behind scenes. Ther is a lot of money in their coffers. It’s the same with Gov. worked for a lawyer in the mob. The biggest cases like that.. count in it,

    • Charly
      September 10, 2018 at 9:18 am

      Fifteen years ago, through a series of events, my fourteen year old daughter revealed that her father (my ex) had repeatedly raped her as a child while she was visiting him. My world was shattered. I did not even consider reporting it to my bishop first. I contacted the police and within one week, this pathetic excuse for a human was incarcerated. There were many painful court moments; however, he is now serving a very long sentence. I agree with Deb that the upsetting and tragic aftermath is horrid. My daughter as an adult is alcoholic and bulimic. She has two children her ex husband largely raises, because she cannot parent. My relationship with her is very strained, as she was groomed to not tell me anything from a young age. I quit attending church six months ago. Every time I walked in an LDS building became a PTSD moment. I am so glad I did not allow the church to “handle” this.

      • Justme
        September 12, 2018 at 12:12 pm

        I’m so sorry for your daughter. It is a good thing you went to the police. I think most of these issues with the church handling any and all abuse is when it is someone in a church position and it happened because of attending a church function. Not a family situation. I could be wrong though. But like you, when I walk into the church I have instant anxiety.

    • Wondering Wanderer
      September 14, 2018 at 12:46 am

      Sadly, Mr. Kosnoff, your characterization of how the Mormon church handles member predators with kid gloves, and how it totally fails to address the needs of young innocent member victims, is correct. Because of the church’s great wealth, its hierarchal structure and patriarchal authority, its children having no voice, and its women having no authority, the leaders do whatever they do simply because they can. As for absolution of pedophiles, the church could forgive them, but also report them to police and ban them. You can’t blame a rattlesnake for being a rattlesnake, but that doesn’t mean you have to let him loose in your house. There remains the need to warn others of the danger and to put the snake in a cage.

      I do have a little bone to pick with the media and lawyers regarding their role in these tragedies. What I have to say is not in any way a defense of the Mormon church. It is to point out that any inaccuracies published by the media, and any misleading statements made by lawyers diminish their credibility. They need to be especially careful about being accurate and telling the whole truth, because from the get go, they are seen as people who are eager to publicize, sensationalize, and profit from, the suffering and pain of others.

      First, we have to understand that reporting is a complicated and difficult matter. How do you expose and prosecute predators without further damaging young victims? The sexual abuse of children creates tremendous fear, guilt, and shame for everyone involved. The first reaction of young victims and their loved ones, offenders and their loved ones, the church and its leaders, are to avoid public exposure, to prevent further damage, to go into denial, to hide behind a wall of secrecy and silence.

      Second, mandatory reporting laws can be complicated. I don’t know how things stand right now, but as of 2015, there were only twenty-eight states that listed clergy as mandatory reporters of child abuse. Even when there are mandatory reporting laws, there can be exceptions to those laws. And yet, the media and lawyers have had a common mantra of outrage, “They didn’t report it to police! They didn’t report it to police!”

      Third, always reporting without regard to the laws of the jurisdiction can sometimes have undesired consequences. Oregon, like some other states, has laws protecting the confidentiality of a person’s communications with clergy, attorneys, psychiatrists, or psychologists. Years ago in Oregon a man told his Mormon bishop, who was also his friend, that he had sex with his two teenage step-daughters. The friend/bishop reported this to police and testified against the man in court. As a result, the man was convicted of rape. The prosecutor had claimed that the father confided in the bishop as a friend, not as his clergyman, but upon appeal to a higher court, the conviction was reversed. The man walked free because the bishop’s testimony should not have been allowed.

      Fourth, in some states, privileged communications are not narrowly defined as only the confessions of a penitent, but can include any conversations intended to be private, between certain designated mandatory reporters and the people they counsel. So, information given by a victim, and a friend or a relative of a victim could also be classified as privileged.

      Fifth, there can be clerical errors involved. If a membership record that should be flagged is not flagged, or if the ward clerk does not notice it or bring it to the bishops’s attention, then no one at all in a new ward would know a pedophile has moved in. In any case, this system absolutely does not work toward the protection of children.

      One more clarification. The media and lawyers have often emphasized the priesthood offices of Mormon pedophiles. Most people would think they are equivalent to those of the Catholic Church. Boys of 12 hold the priesthood in the Mormon church. They can be a Priest at age 16, and most older men are High Priests. Local clergy positions are unpaid and temporary, and the Mormon church does not routinely arrange for or pay for the relocation of its pedophiles the way the Catholic church does with its pedophile priests who are permanent employees and are financially supported by the Catholic church. If word leaks out in a Mormon ward about a predator, it is the offender himself who is likely to choose to flee the area rather than risk being reported to police. If his secret remains safe with the bishop in his current ward, then he has no need to leave.

  2. Tracy Austin
    August 28, 2018 at 10:01 am

    One of THE best podcasts I have ever listened to and one of the most important. Tim, you nailed Mormonism so very well. Tim, I believe you on all accounts. I wish we could clone you, we need you and your skills. I am sorry you have been a sole warrior and your work has been largely invisible to the LDS community. Thank you for your service to LDS children and their families who are the true innocents in all of this. I am a modern Mormon woman and yes, there is an awakening. However, the majority are still conditioned to follow leaders and protect the church. It is a human condition to not want to go there and have your comfortable place disrupted. We are a people who enjoy being comfortably numb. We are at a point when people like me will leave or try to stay to make a difference, but I’m still trying to determine how I can make a difference or if I am up for the hassle that will inevitably come. This podcast reminds me that there is so much good work still to be done. Thank you. Enjoy your retirement. I hope there are other young noble lawyers who feel called to this noble act.

    • Kim Dyer
      August 28, 2018 at 1:32 pm

      I brought up possibility as political climate in judicial system is extremely corrupt and the church pretty much untouchable. Having worked in law, having served a legislative internship in grad school, having been recruited into the private lobby, absolutely yes a lawsuit like this might happen but it’s more likely that the only way to church will be held accountable is if some money changes hands behind the scenes I am I have absolutely no question that the systems are real. Are used to work in a warm a psychologist office and I was a Mormon. Alleging something might be going on is completely different and than libel or slander idiot.

  3. Kim Dyer
    August 28, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    I can’t post a full response. What I am saying is with the current political climate and an extremely corrupt judicial system that’s the only way I see the church paying out settlements. My experience having worked in law is all too often there is no justice. I don’t know about what state you’re from but here in Arizona the courts are owned by organize crime as are the jail systems. It’s abundantly corrupt I believe throughout the entire country because of the CIA amassing tons of drugs being brought into our country daily. And the money changing behind the scenes basically has the power to appoint and own every magistrate and control every bar association. Alleging something is not libel or slander. Do some research.

  4. Collette Larsen
    August 28, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    This was difficult and disturbing to listen to…and very important. Thank you Gina and Tim for bringing the atrocities to light. That the church I LOVED and dedicated my life to would go to such lengths to protect it’s “good name” while allowing victims (children!) to suffer enrages and saddens me. If there is a God, may he/she help us all.

  5. Anon
    August 29, 2018 at 10:40 am

    I think the tides are already beginning to turn.
    In our case our daughter reported we were being abusive to our YW presidency leaders.

    We believe we weren’t, but there was a member in the YW presidency that was very insistent that we be reported to social workers.
    Bishop asked the Stake president for advice and Stake president instructed to call the hotline. Laywer’s advised the bishop that it was best to report us to the social workers. Bishop called us for an interview and said that the he had been advised to report us to the social workers. We told them to go right ahead, do what he felt he needed to do.

    In the end the Bishop didn’t report us to the social workers, even though we were looking forward to talking to them. I suppose he trusted us that we were being good parents and that our daughter was taking advantage of the situation.

    Children know how to play the system, and they can report us being abusive to school teachers and that lands a social worker visit to your home and a file is open on your case. This had already happened to us twice.

    Turns out our child was misbehaving and was fearful of us getting overly angry.
    Now this incident had nothing to do with sexual abuse, let me be clear about that, but was more related to the possibility of a spanking which had ceased for several years ago. Yup, children don’t like being spanked, who knew, and your children will report you to the schools and school teachers have an obligation of sending in social workers.

    Social workers will fearlessly interfere in family dynamics and prevent you from raising your children the way you want to. They will grant kids all kids of foster care protection if they believe that the child is in any type of danger.

    In our case, you look back and think well I guess it’s a good thing for some cases, but there can also be misuse of the system where you are no longer in a position to educate your young teenagers. More could be said but I will leave it at that. Needless to say its sad to have your child report you as abusive, and it’s sadder when other people will side with the child because God only knows how many times in the past it has been the other way around.

    When things like that happens, its hard to want to keep going to church and face people who deem you as unrighteous parents.

  6. David
    August 29, 2018 at 10:51 am

    Need a lawyer for these kind of things?
    RFM over at https://mormondiscussionpodcast.org/
    Or the lawyers who handled McKenna Denson’s case.

  7. clh
    August 29, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    I admire your heart and fortitude, Tim. I feel the anger building in me. I just ordered The Sins of Brother Curtis and also this article online by The NY Times that said the settlement in the Jeremiah Scott case paid by the Church was $3M.

  8. J
    August 30, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Can I get a link to the NPR article?

  9. Jeremy Valentiner
    August 30, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Thanks for this episode Ms. Colvin! This was so hard to listen to, so sad, but this is the difficult reporting that needs to be done to hold an institution accountable. Thank you!

  10. CreekDig
    August 31, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    Great interview Gina!
    Do we know if the settlement and defense funds come from tithing? Maybe it’s time to withhold tithing until the Church makes changes to stop the abuse.
    http://protectldschildren.org/

  11. September 1, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Gina & Tim, Thank you for this broadcast! I’ve sent my friends this podcast link, the producers of the new “Church & State” (it has won winner status in industry organizations) documentary, a suggestion to consider this issue for their next documentary. Exposure of these practices and legal pursuit are our only hope to change this for the innocent children. Why do I care so much? I deeply regret NOT taking action when a current Bishop raped my daughter. I went to his Stake President. The SP was an intimidating lawyer. He threatened me with excommunication if I told anyone! The Bishop admitted it, but was left in as a Bishop 3 more years. No discipline, pure coverup. I did get my daughter help with a therapist and told her. I forced the Bishop to meet with her. She reported him to the state and they pulled his Foster Parent License! I agree with you that the Church doesn’t care about the victims, only protecting the status quo.

  12. James
    September 2, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Very very good interview Gina with Tim Kosnoff. Too bad his is retiring. I think he should train an associate as his replacement to continue carrying the torch.

  13. Eric
    September 8, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    John Dehlin interviewed Natasha Helfer Parker for his Mormon stories podcast. She said she stopped paying tithing when the church paid hush money to the family of a sex abuse victim. I personally do not care if it’s paid out of tithing or the $32+ billion dollars of investments. It’s all the same pot of money.

    The way the church treats sexual predators is almost like they’ve had their calling and election made sure. It’s as if they’re telling the victim and their families, “God wanted your child to be molested. You are so blessed to be chosen. You will receive blessings beyond measure.” It’s disgusting

  14. Lloyd
    September 9, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    Amazing, and horrifying podcast. Very grateful for all you’ve done, Tim, and for you, Gina, bringing these things to light through the interview with Tim. One question: At one point Tim mentioned that the church lawyers or leaders use the same tactics over and over, so much that he can tell a new potential client what has happened in each step they’ve been through even before they explain it to him. You (Gina) asked him to detail those steps at one point, but he got sort of derailed on another topic. I’d love to see an outline of those “steps” they use, can we get him to provide those?

  15. Charly
    September 10, 2018 at 9:12 am

    Fifteen years ago, through a series of events, my fourteen year old daughter revealed that her father (my ex) had repeatedly raped her as a child while she was visiting him. My world was shattered. I did not even consider reporting it to my bishop first. I contacted the police and within one week, this pathetic excuse for a human was incarcerated. There were many painful court moments; however, he is now serving a very long sentence. I agree with Deb that the upsetting and tragic aftermath is horrid. My daughter as an adult is alcoholic and bulimic. She has two children her ex husband largely raises, because she cannot parent. My relationship with her is very strained, as she was groomed to not tell me anything from a young age. The other children in our family have been profoundly affected by the fallout. I quit attending church six months ago. Every moment in an LDS building became a PTSD episode. I am so glad I did not allow the church to “handle” this.

  16. L.
    September 10, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Is a transcript of this episode available?
    Thanks

  17. September 14, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    In Defence of Sam Young and Protect LDS Children
    https://seekingyhwh.com/2018/09/09/bishops-are-judges-of-israel/

  18. Wondering Wanderer
    September 17, 2018 at 6:24 am

    Regarding the church’s absolution of pedophiles:
    My view is that maybe you can’t blame a rattlesnake for being a rattlesnake, but that doesn’t mean you have to turn one loose in your house. You would need to warn others of the danger, and you would need to put that rattlesnake in a cage.

    Regarding the reporting of child molestation to police:
    Making a report may be as simple as dialing a phone number, but the results are not guaranteed to bring justice.
    Although Oregon has mandatory reporting laws, it also has laws protecting the confidentiality of a person’s communications with clergy, attorneys, psychiatrists, and psychologists. In 1985, after being indicted for rape, a Mormon man told his marriage counselor, who was also a Mormon Stake President, that he had sex with his teenage step-daughter. The marriage counselor/Stake Pres. testified to that in court, and as a result, the man was convicted of rape. In 1987, an Appeals Court reversed the conviction, and called for a new trial. The court ruled that the confession was a privileged communication and should not have been allowed. (State of Oregon v. John Lee Cox)
    As of 2015, there were only 28 states that listed clergy as mandatory reporters of child abuse. Even the states with mandatory reporting laws can have exceptions to those laws.

    Regarding laws of confidentiality:
    When a conversation has been ruled as a privileged communication, it is my understanding that the counselor is bound to confidentiality even beyond the death of the person he counseled, and only the person who is entitled to confidentiality can break it.

    Regarding the desire for secrecy:
    Many clergy are reluctant to go against the wishes of a victim or his adult loved ones when they do not wantt to report to police. Sexual abuse of children can create deep feelings of fear, embarrassment, guilt, and shame for everyone involved . . . for the victims and their families, the offenders and their families, the church or institution involved and its leaders. For their own protection, everyone wants to hide behind a wall of denial and secrecy and silence. No one but a young victim and his closest loved ones can fully understand how devastating it is to deal with the shock, heartache, anger, and bewilderment that child sexual molestation causes. It is hard to make decisions within that cloud of emotions and with little knowledge about or experience with, such a thing. Will reporting be worth it, and result in any kind of justice? How can predators be exposed, prosecuted, stopped without further damaging the child? Can the loved ones really trust the police, a lawyer, a social worker, or the courts to do what is truly in the best interest of their child?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *