The Mormon Church settled a sexual abuse case in Berkeley County nearly five months ago. Now, some families are speaking up with allegations that there were sexual abuse cover ups by an individual who has a history of sexual abuse.
It’s a case that rattled the Mormon Church community. Allegations of sexual abuse hidden for years by one of their own members at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Martinsburg .
“They stop at nothing to attack the parents,” said Tom Stollings, a former member of the church who is speaking up now.
Tom Stollings and Kelly H., are among the nine plaintiffs who sued the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Martinsburg, saying the church covered up years of sexual abuse, involving member Christopher Michael Jensen. They say the case was prolonged for nearly five years before a date for the civil trial was set in January in West Virginia.
“I felt like we were settled to shut up,” said Kelly H.
The case was officially settled almost five months ago. While Tom and Kelly say they aren’t allowed to speak about the settlement, they are breaking their silence in hopes of protecting many more children.
“They tried to silence us, but we refused,” said Stollings.
Kelly alleges that she and Tom found out about 42 children who had been assaulted in over eight years.
When we reached out to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they issued this statement, saying in part:
“The church does not tolerate abuse of any kind. While the church is, and will always be, heartbroken about the terrible actions of this individual, we are thankful that he is behind bars, where he should be.”
Yet even after years of the sexual abuse of their children, Tom and Kelly are reminded of the experience every day.
“To this day it’s a struggle. Some days I don’t know what to do to help my children. Some days I do,” said Stollings.
Kelly advised parents on how to identify signs of child abuse. “I want you to reach your children’s behavior. When your children come to you and they tell you someone touched them or they don’t want to play with somebody, you need to listen to them.”
Jensen was sentenced in 2013 to 35 to 75 years in prison for sexually abusing two children, ages three and four.
Here are additional statements from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints:
“As followers of Jesus Christ, we condemn abuse in any form. Abuse is a serious public health concern and is against the law in many countries. It is also forbidden by the commandments of God. No one should abuse another, and no one should have to endure abuse.
Protecting and caring for others was a priority for Jesus Christ in His life, and it is a priority in His Church today. The Savior warned His disciples: “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (see Matthew 18:1–6). These are powerful words of condemnation from the Savior.
The Church is continuously looking for ways to improve its efforts to prevent and stop abuse and to care for those whose lives have been harmed by abuse.”