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Post Mormon reaction to child abusers from their own community


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Tom Kimball committed suicide yesterday. He was active in Mormon Studies. I had very brief interaction with him in my Claremont days.  It sounds bad, Lindsay Hansen Park says he was "prolific." (Almost all available information is on her FB page which seems to be public.) Apparently, there are victim statements and he was about to pay the price. Of interest is that he had participated in a podcast about....child abuse in the church.

I am not interested in details, what I am interested in is the difference in reactions to the same behavior when it occurs with practicing Mormons as opposed to critics of Mormonism. I have seen the same 'ol song, it is the upbringing in the church that invites sexual impropriety. I have seen a lot of apologetic responses as to what a good guy he was, a shocking number. It wasn't that long ago that Exponent II finally broke the silence about the surprising number of sexually predatory men in the exmo community preying on those leaving the church, they even named some..... with the same blaming of their Mormon past. 

I do not see practicing Mormons getting any careful treatment from the critics. And to be honest, I find it hard to believe that after all of this time no one had any awareness, thus responsibility, at all. It seems it should be just another story about how sexual abusers get away with it for so long rather than the walking on eggshells treatment I am seeing so far. 

 

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One mother says she reported it 6 years ago after her daughters had told her and several more victims recently came forward.

The contrast to the Bishop case, where there was originally one victim, who had been in her early 20’s, of alleged abuse and rape with the reaction to confirmed, extended over time and multiple child victims is strange to me. The first person in the FB thread I was reading (after about 60 comments often talking about how he was a good man, they would miss him, his fun tours at Kirtland temple, etc with what came across to me as minimal mentioning of hoping the victims would find healing) who solidly came out with ‘my sympathy is with the victims’ was ‘schooled’ on how something caused Kimball to abuse those children and therefore he was a victim too.  No one mentioned that he had prevented victims from having the chance for legal public recognition of the damage he did and justice  for his crimes against them.

I am concerned victims may see this outpouring of sympathy towards their abuser as condemnation of them coming forward. 

added:

LHP’s post today deals with pointing out his suicide was a way for him to avoid justice, that he should have taken responsibility and didn’t.  I haven’t read any other comments yet today, but suspect more will say it...thankfully for the victims’ sake.  
 

She mentions one of his victim’s confronted him in 1991. Double digits known victims. Pictures and threats. With these specifics, I am expecting much more outrage. 

Edited by Calm
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Today’s comments do include some of the expected outrage, but much less than I thought there would be....but the majority are about how life and people are complicated and the good that others saw in Kimball was real as was his crimes. 
 

Where is the ‘this was a predator hiding behind a facade of goodness’?

And the responsibility is being shifted to the culture, for his refusal to take responsibility because that would mean he would be imprisoned (assuming they mean greater culture here since the Church has no control over this) to the silencing of victims, to twisted ideas about sex.  This part is familiar enough.  
 

Absolutely bizarre at times though. Someone saying Kimball had no choice but to act this way. This ignores the fact that the majority of pedophiles do not offend, they control their feelings and remove themselves from situations even though many do not seek help through therapy because the possibility of it getting reported and then getting treated as criminals when they had not offended. 

Edited by Calm
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2 hours ago, juliann said:

Tom Kimball committed suicide yesterday. He was active in Mormon Studies. I had very brief interaction with him in my Claremont days.  It sounds bad, Lindsay Hansen Park says he was "prolific." (Almost all available information is on her FB page which seems to be public.) Apparently, there are victim statements and he was about to pay the price. Of interest is that he had participated in a podcast about....child abuse in the church.

I am not interested in details, what I am interested in is the difference in reactions to the same behavior when it occurs with practicing Mormons as opposed to critics of Mormonism. I have seen the same 'ol song, it is the upbringing in the church that invites sexual impropriety. I have seen a lot of apologetic responses as to what a good guy he was, a shocking number. It wasn't that long ago that Exponent II finally broke the silence about the surprising number of sexually predatory men in the exmo community preying on those leaving the church, they even named some..... with the same blaming of their Mormon past. 

I do not see practicing Mormons getting any careful treatment from the critics. And to be honest, I find it hard to believe that after all of this time no one had any awareness, thus responsibility, at all. It seems it should be just another story about how sexual abusers get away with it for so long rather than the walking on eggshells treatment I am seeing so far. 

 

Differences in reactions?  Like what?  Do any forgive the abuse itself?  I would think not.  Maybe some separate the bad actions from the person himself by talking more about the good things he did without focusing so much on the bad things he did, but I don't think any on either side should have different reactions to the bad things he did, or the good things he did either.

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Every abuse story is tragic. Juliann, if your object here is to compare the reactions of members versus ex-members, I think time will tell. We'll see.

It appears that LHP was questioned by police only in the last several weeks. There is a mention of a past report but not specifics of when abuse was reported and to whom. In other words, as far as public knowledge, this seems to be just coming out. It is breaking news and we're watching it unfold. People are processing a death and a horrible revelation at the same time. So, far, Kimball's adult children have already publicly acknowledged that their father had taken his life to avoid facing the harm he'd done. His friend, Lindsay Hansen Park, also came forward. Jana Riess spoke about it on her blog. And I watched in real time as devastated friends revised their responses to be sensitive to the victims as they started to process the news. 

Currently, there are post-Mormons talking about how these structures of socially supporting abusers and abuse does not just go away when one leaves the church. People are talking about awareness of that. I am seeing significant open indignance at the eulogizing. More people are speaking out and being supported as they do.

In his case, we don't yet know what, if any, knowledge the church had about the allegations, some of which date to 1991. The church can be an enormous influence one way or another in such an event and it behooves members and nonmembers alike to be wary of how the church can interfere with justice. But of course as individuals and communities in and outside larger structures like the church, we also have personal responsibilities to promote justice, tp protect people by preventing and reporting abuse.

It's terrible and I wish Tom Kimball had had the courage to face justice and his victims. 

 

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12 minutes ago, strappinglad said:

From my reading, courage or not , he is facing justice and the feelings of his victims now. What was avoided in mortality cannot be avoided hereafter. 

I do hope his victims take some comfort in that belief.  But his cowardice actions prevent them from hearing the word "guilty" because of their their testimony.  Justice may not feel as tangible, especially if they are not believers in the afterlife.  They may not feel the same sense of validation and closure in this life time, because of his cowardice actions.  He robbed them, twice. 

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33 minutes ago, pogi said:

There are people really blaming this on his Mormon past?  That is sick.

One circulating idea is that "polygamy culture is rape culture:" the culture of the church that enabled spiritually-coercive polygamy enables rape and other forms of sexual abuse. It is worth contemplation, in my opinion.

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2 minutes ago, juliann said:

I hope I made it very clear that for me, this is about the difference in reaction to their own vs the reaction to those in the Mormon community. Not normal reactions to crimes themselves. There is no mercy for a bishop who tries to work with someone to do the right thing, as Park says she did, for instance. That bishop is considered part of the problem and an impediment to justice. As I said, the reaction is very different. 

If he had not ended his life, and Park had not come forward, it might have been a different story. People were finding out and it's quite possible she would have experienced social censure had she shielded him at that point. But we won't know.

 

5 minutes ago, juliann said:

 Oh, yes. That is a common refrain to explain the problems the adult exmo female community has had with sexual predators. They are merely acting out what they learned from their Mormon upbringing and it is unrealistic to think they can leave that along with the church. It is sick and it is enabling.

Maybe that's an oversimplification by some of them or you or a combination of both. Sexual abuse can occur anywhere, but I do think that the culture that enabled coercive polygamy enables sexual abuse. Any time there is a heavily-imbalanced power dynamic, the potential of abuse becomes amplified.

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13 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I have a really hard time connecting pedophilia with an LDS upbringing.

That seems to be a mischaracterization. Sexual abuse happens anywhere but there are environments that tend to enable it more or less.

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1 minute ago, Meadowchik said:

That seems to be a mischaracterization. Sexual abuse happens anywhere but there are environments that tend to enable it more or less.

I understand that people posit a connection with LDS guilt and shame with sexual deviance, as Ms. Park noted. I agree with you that it’s certainly something worth exploring, but I don’t agree with palming off what Tom did as a direct product of his Mormon upbringing. Of course, I haven’t seen anyone making that connection, so I was just responding to Juliann’s saying that’s what she heard. 

I do think it’s bad form to use this horrible event to score points against exmos. 

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58 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

Currently, there are post-Mormons talking about how these structures of socially supporting abusers and abuse does not just go away when one leaves the church.

Which, if true, rather militates against the notion that the Church is to be blamed for "these structures."

58 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

People are talking about awareness of that. I am seeing significant open indignance at the eulogizing. More people are speaking out and being supported as they do.

I read LHP's post, and the blog entry by Jana Riess.  Not sure what to make of such things.  LHP found a way to blame the "Mormon community" and deprecate the experiences of men.  Riess leans quite a bit toward eulogizing and gushiness.  Robert Boylan, rather aptly I think, observed on Twitter that she is "trying to downplay TK's activities."  Jana responded with "No, you have misunderstood.  I am absolutely not excusing his behavior."  Robert then responded: "I said downplaying, not excusing.  If this was a conservative politician or the like, you would have rightly ripped into him.  But a liberal ex-Mo, well, walk on eggshells..."

Yep, that sounds about right.

58 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

In his case, we don't yet know what, if any, knowledge the church had about the allegations, some of which date to 1991. The church can be an enormous influence one way or another in such an event and it behooves members and nonmembers alike to be wary of how the church can interfere with justice.

Not sure what this means.

Thanks,

-Smac

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15 minutes ago, pogi said:

You know, I am a product of Mormon culture through and through - died in the wool. Never once have I felt enabled to rape or use any other form of sexual abuse.  Quite the contrary...QUITE the contrary.  It is not worth a second of your consideration. 

So am I, and I do think that my Mormon upbringing did make me more vulnerable to the (relatively minor) sexual abuse I endured. There are many factors which can enable sexual abuse. And I have unfortunately heard first hand from victims of more serious abuse about how the church unintentionally helped create access to them.

 

15 minutes ago, pogi said:

Can you provide evidence that rape or other forms of sexual abuse happen more in the church then out? 

I can talk about the systemic process that enables abuse and I can give examples. However I would not be able to provide general data until it is made available. I think the church must have some sort of record of sexual abuse reports as it does instruct leaders to report to its hotline, but as far as I know it does not release data on such statistics.

Edited by Meadowchik
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The funny thing to me is that people think we ex-Mormons form some kind of coherent, identifiable community. We don’t. I do have ex-Mormon friends, as well as LDS friends, but the church is so insignificant in my life that it’s not really what connects me to those friends. Oddly enough, when I said here not too long ago that I just didn’t think much about Mormonism anymore, a few people got offended, saying I was trivializing their beliefs. 

The only community I feel part of in this rather horrific event is the group of people who thought they were Tom’s friends but didn’t really know him. 

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Just now, pogi said:

It is also unfortunate that some people use this news to blame and shame church culture as if we (as I am apart of it) are somehow responsible for his atrocious actions.  It is disgraceful. 

Indeed. 

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12 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I do think it’s bad form to use this horrible event to score points against exmos. 

Well I hope that wasn't the intent of the thread. The way I see it, any toxicity in the church impacts beyond it and any toxicity on the margins or outside impacts the church. Same goes for the good things. I would hope that when the church gets better at some things, it will influence the surrounding community and when exmembers or nonmembers have gotten something right or are doing something well, they'll impact the church.

That said, concentrated power in any institution including the LDS church is fearsome and can be dangerous. Church members (and ex-members also) often make criticisms of the institution a personal criticism. But the institutional church is not exactly the same thing as the members. It IS all very personal but there are also inevitable hazards of a large and powerful institution: not just corruption frequent or infrequent, but also banal errors and unintentional harms. We as human beings need to be wary of them.

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