Guest Post: Advocating for Victims in the LDS Church, Part 2 #MormonMeToo

by Ann

One of the first things we learn (and teach) as victim’s advocates is how to identify abuse. The Duluth Model (Pence, Paymar & Lucas, 1993) is well known for its power and control wheel.

According to this model, abusers use power and control to prevent victims from escaping or speaking out.

This model identifies eight factors that are common for abusers. While physical and sexual abuse are sometimes present, these other factors help to silence the victim and keep victim’s captive. But, the presence of even some of the factors should be a red-light in any relationship.

Abusers use the following tactics to silence and control victims:

1) Intimidation

2) Emotional abuse

3) Isolation

4) Minimizing, Denying and Blaming

5) Use children

6) Use male privilege

7) Use economic abuse

8) Use coercion and threats (Pence et al., 1993)


In this case, Joseph L. Bishop used sexual violence. Then, in an attempt to silence the victim, lawyers for the LDS church produced the 5-page dossier to intimidate the victim, minimize and deny the abuse, blame the victim, and use male privilege. The lawyers then became complicit with the abuse by sharing the dossier with the perpetrator. Prominent Criminologist Michael Salter, along with other researchers, have shown that attacking the credibility of a victim is not justified. In other words, it is VERY unlikely that people will lie about physical or sexual abuse.

Unfortunately, this response of victim-blaming is not unique to the LDS church, nor is it uncommon in our patriarchal social structure. For example,  Brock Turner only served 3 months for rape, and the rape was minimized to be seen as “20 minutes of action.”

Clearly, the approach of attacking the victim (by the lawyers representing the LDS church) was a terrible plan of action. In a world that is increasingly transparent, this approach will never look good for the church or for anyone who takes a similar approach.

On the opposite of the “Power and Control Wheel” is the “Equality Wheel.”  This shows how healthy relationships work. There characteristics of a healthy relationship include:

1)Negotiation and Fairness

2) Non-threatening behavior

3) Respect

4) Trust and Support

5) Honesty and Accountability

6) Responsible parenting

7) Shared Responsibility with a fair distribution of work that is mutually agreed upon

8) Economic Partnership (Pence et al., 1993).

As a researcher, an expert in violence against women, and as a former victim’s advocate, these are the changes I want to see happen:

1) Church leaders – from corporate church down to local wards and branches – need to adopt and use principles from the equality wheel rather than the abuse wheel.

2) Church leaders need to use financial and professional resources to help and protect victims and the vulnerable, not to protect and empower perpetrators, as happened in the Bishop case.

3) Church leaders need to believe and support victims. In a culture where male leaders often have friendships with male perpetrators, it might be difficult to believe your “buddy” is abusive. Believe it. Understand that confirmation bias might make you want to disbelieve the victim.

4) Church publications and teachings need to acknowledge that the “two-deep” leadership in primary, youth, and interviews is to protect possible victims, not to “prevent misunderstandings.” This minimizes and denies abuse, which is in itself abusive. It also places blame on victims for “misunderstanding” rather than on perpetrators for inappropriate and abuse behavior.

5) Just as church members are expected to use legal and professional help in dealing with victimization, church leadership (from the top, down to local leaders) should be expected to complete professional training to help victims and prevent revictimization.


The Bishop’s hotline to protect the church is NOT the best way to protect victims. Both male and female leaders can – and should – learn about domestic violence so they can better help serve those in their flock who are victims.

The LDS church must never again be complicit in abuse scandals like this.

The LDS church can and should do better.



Pence, E., Paymar, M., & Lucas, J. (1993). Education groups for men who batter: the Duluth model.

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5 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    I LOVE these wheels. I recognize people around me who are being victimized by these tactics in the power and control wheel, and on the other hand, I recognize great partnerships around me that are characterized by the traits in the equality wheel.

    Great suggestions for the church!

  2. Wendy says:

    These are excellent suggestions, Ann! Thank you for sharing your expertise on this importance topic. We need women’s perspectives to heal our community.

  3. Chris1 says:

    Superb post! Thank you!

  4. Jean says:

    Thank you so much for this.

  1. November 8, 2018

    […] •Advocate for two-deep policies for youth interviews. From another recent Exponent blog post: […]

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