Earlier this year, a 55-year-old woman filed a lawsuit against a Mormon church after it reportedly failed to take an action against a former missionary leader who allegedly raped her in the 1980s.
Just recently, the victim, identified as McKenna Denson, went to the church of his alleged rapist and publically called him out before fellow worshipers.
In a video posted online, Denson took the podium during a monthly segment in Mormon services and described the attack that allegedly took place 30 years ago. She complained how church leaders were covering for 85-year-old Joseph L. Bishop, whom she referred to as a“sexual predator."
When Denson made clear why she was there, a man behind her approached her and tried to get her off the stage.
"For the atonement to take place, we have to be accountable for what we do," she said, while struggling with the man who was trying to desperately usher her away.
"In order to keep the church safe we need to hold sexual predators accountable, whether they are pedophiles or whether they are rapists like Joseph Bishop," Denson continued.
Meanwhile, the man grabbed her by the shoulders and kept telling her to talk to him in person about it. Nevertheless, Denson made sure to get her concern across and at one point even asked people in the audience to call the police when the man tried to force her off the podium.
"This is not the place for you to share this, c'mon," the man insisted, after which Denson finally left the stage.
After the video was posted on YouTube, the church’s spokesperson condemned Denson’s actions and said members should not disrupt church services for personal gains.
"It is disappointing that anyone would interrupt such a worship service to bring attention to their own personal cause," the statement said. "Recording and posting of these disruptions on social media to seek public attention and media coverage, sadly, shows an unfortunate lack of respect for others."
Denson reported her sexual assault to the Brigham Young University Police Department in 2017. The 55-year-old woman also reportedly tracked her alleged assailant in Arizona, where she confronted him about the attack. Denson recorded the conversation with the bishop in which he couldn't recall the assault, but confessed to other sexual attacks, she said.
But, according to the police reports, the case was closed because of the statute of limitations on the books in 1984. Subsequently, Denson filed a lawsuit in April this year.
Moreover, she talked publicly for the first time about her ordeal couple of months ago, when she said the bishop, who was a high-ranking official of the religious organization and the former president of Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, raped her in 1984 in a secret room when she was 21-years-old.
“President Bishop made me feel special," Denson said about the alleged incident during an interview in April. "He told me I was special. He told me I was going to be amazing. I had never had anyone in the church that was so high-ranking ever pay attention to me. I loved it, I needed it, I was desperate for it."
"And then it became one on one," she continued. "So I was called out of class to visit with the MTC president in his office one on one. Those conversations were inappropriate and sexual in nature."
Then one day, the bishop allegedly took her to a secret basement room where he reportedly said he went for prayer and "spiritual contemplation."
"So we went down the dark tunnel ... where he unlocked the room, where he had a bed, a TV, a VCR and unlabeled VHS tapes," she said. "Joseph Bishop tore my blouse open, pulled my garments and pantyhose down" and allegedly raped her.
"When I was pulling up my pantyhose or trying to button up my blouse or put myself together, he said to me, 'No one will believe you. Look at you. Look at me,'" Denson continued. "So when I left his secret room in the basement I went to my dorm and I laid down and I pretended I was sick."
The victim said she kept the horrifying encounter to herself until 1987, when she finally decided to go to a bishop at the Mormon Church. Though the bishop promised her he would look into the allegations, nothing happened whatsoever.
"We're taught in the Church, we don't go to the police, we go to the bishop, we go to the state president," Denson said. "Trusting that, and obeying that and believing that that's the reason why I didn't go to the police all those years ago. It was never suggested to me that that would be appropriate. So I went through the church for three decades."
In the wake of the viral #MeToo movement, which encouraged victims of sexual assault and harassment to come forward with their disturbing encounters, Denson also reportedly decided to take her decades-long battle a step further and filed the lawsuit.
However, her recent actions indicate there hasn’t been much of a progress in her case, which is why she felt the need to confront the alleged rapist in his own temple in front of other worshippers. However, it wasn’t made clear whether the bishop was in church when Denson called him out.
At a time when several churches across the globe have come under fire for protecting the priests who subjected worshippers to sexual abuse, the case of Denson appears to be no different where the authorities might have tried to keep the matter on hush by sweeping her accusations under the rug.
It’s about time churches stop being complicit in the wrongdoings of their religious leaders who possibly have destroyed many lives and got away with it due to the protection of higher authorities.
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