Woman wants to sue Mormons over abuse

The Australian/November 17, 2008

A woman who says she was sexually abused by her Mormon stepfather 20 years ago wants to sue the church for failing to report the abuse to police.

The woman is seeking an extension of the statute of limitations in the New South Wales Supreme Court so she can sue the church, which she says failed in its duty of care by not telling police of the alleged abuse.

The 36-year-old woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, says she was abused by her stepfather, an elder in a Queensland chapter of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, between 1986 and 1988.

The court was told today that the woman's mother reported the abuse to the church in Ipswich, south of Brisbane, and her stepfather was expelled after an internal review.

However, the woman said that was where the matter ended for the church, and the abuse continued when the family moved to Wagga Wagga, in southern NSW, in 1989.

The abuse finally stopped later that year when she moved out of home, and the court was told she reported the matter to Wagga Wagga police a decade later.

Before Justice Carolyn Simpson, the woman's lawyer Eugene Romaniuk said that under existing NSW and Queensland law, the woman's right to sue the church had expired some time in the mid-1990s.

Giving evidence today, the woman said she did not know her father had been expelled from the church over the sexual abuse, instead believing he was excommunicated over an affair with a younger woman.

It was not until she read a police record of an interview with her stepfather in 2003, in which he admitted being expelled for abusing her, that she realised the truth.

Cross-examined by Philip Taylor SC, for the church, the woman denied her stepfather's statement to police that said she had consented to the sex, which began when she was 14.

"At 14, I really don't know who is interested in that sort of thing.

"It was disgusting."

She rejected suggestions that police were told of the abuse at the time.

"I was never spoken to by police," she said.

The woman said church members must have known of the abuse.

"The minute my stepfather said what he did to me, people should have stood up and told police what he's done to me," she said.

The hearing continues.

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