The Church just announced important new steps taken to reduce the risk of abuse in the Church, including an important change in the way interviews are done. I think it’s an important step to address the concerns some have expressed and to reduce the risks that can occur in a world were some people are predators. See the Deseret News story, “Updated LDS policy allows another adult to sit in on leaders’ interviews with children and women,” from which an excerpt follows:
The LDS Church’s First Presidency announced
significant policy changes Monday, providing direction on how bishops
and stake presidencies may conduct interviews with women and children
and how they counsel victims of abuse and sexual abuse.
The changes specified that children, youth and women now
may invite an adult to join them in what traditionally have been
personal interviews. Some had said they were uncomfortable being
interviewed one-on-one by a male priesthood leader.
The First Presidency also clarified to members of
bishoprics and stake presidencies how they should respond to reports of
sexual abuse and how to minister in those situations. The changes
explicitly state that local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints should never disregard a report of abuse and should
never encourage members to remain in an abusive situation.
“To ensure the safety and protection of children, youth
and adults, we ask that all priesthood and auxiliary leaders become
familiar with existing church policies and guidelines on preventing and
responding to abuse,” stated the letter,
which was signed by church President Russell M. Nelson and his
counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring. [emphasis added]
These directions and policy adjustments should also lead to renewed awareness and training in local units. They should also lead to increased awareness in families. I hope many parents will take further steps to keep their children aware of their rights (e.g., the right to walk away from something that makes them uncomfortable or puts them at risk, the right and need to report bad behavior, etc.). I hope that predators or would-be will increasingly learn that the Church is not a safe place for them.
Interviews with leaders can be a valuable and positive experience, as it almost always has been for me. It can be a channel for people to be heard, to be understood and strengthened, and to give valuable guidance and counsel. But it can also be a place where poorly trained, unwise, or (rarely) conniving men can discuss things improperly and lead to harm or discomfort. The ability to have a second person present can reduce those risks. Again, those in interviews should also be aware that they need not answer and can walk out if uncomfortable.
Also see my previous post, “When a Victim of Abuse Cries For Help: The Perspective Needed to Be a Modern Good Samaritan.”