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Mormon church donates $120,000 to help victims of child abuse

Published May 8, 2017 10:05 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

West Jordan • On behalf of the Mormon church, four female leaders donated $120,000 on Thursday to community centers in Utah to expand medical services for children who have been abused.

After a tour of the South Valley Children's Justice Center (CJC) in West Jordan, the leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called the center's efforts "heroic."

Joy D. Jones, general president of the Primary organization for children under age 12, expressed gratitude for the aid the center offers families "affected by this societal evil."

Services at the CJC's eight locations focus on empowering children, said Susanne Mitchell, program manager. Detectives are specially trained to interact with children in a way that makes them feel comfortable and in control of the conversation, Mitchell said.

"When they come through our doors," Mitchell said, "the chaos should end and the healing should begin."

The centers see about 1,600 children who have suffered from abuse each year, Mitchell said, with about a third of those cases occurring in the Salt Lake area.

The CJC exists to not only provide help for children who have been victims, but also to support family members and parents who are dealing with trauma that comes through such an experience, Mitchell said. Legislative appropriations, grants and donations fund the center.

Bonnie L. Oscarson, general president of the LDS Young Women organization for girls ages 12 to 18, said she appreciates the center's focus on "healing the whole family." She encouraged parents to be "more open about this subject and talk to our children freely so they feel free to come to us if they ever have a need."

One of the most important messages for children is that "if something bad does happen to them, it's not their fault," Oscarson said.

"They're not guilty of any sin. That's just something that happened to them, but it doesn't need to define them for the rest of their life," she said. "Get the help you need. Get the counseling you need to move past it, and realize that that's a bad thing that happened to you, but it's not who you are."

At the end of children's CJC interviews, they give the center feedback, said Tracey Tabet, the CJC's program administrator. She read some of the children's testimonials to the Mormon leaders, which included being at ease with talking about "problems," being in a nonjudgmental atmosphere and being free from guilt.

"Getting convictions and holding offenders accountable is important, but that comes to an end one day," said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. The problems victims deal with and the life they have, "which we want them to know is a beautiful life ... goes on beyond that."

Though demands have risen over the past few years, Tabet said, resources have not. The church's contribution will be put to use "immediately" for on-site medical services, Mitchell said.

Without partnerships from organizations, like the LDS Church, Mitchell said, the program couldn't help clients find peace.

Safe spaces are necessary for people to share their stories and heal, Tabet said. "Everybody has a role to play in addressing the problem of child abuse."

mnoble@sltrib.com Twitter: @mnoblenews






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