Group sues LDS Church, bishop and other members for allowing alleged sexual abuse
BERKELEY COUNTY, W.Va. – Several John Doe and Jane Doe complainants filed a lawsuit against the LDS Church, and several stake leaders Monday, saying they knowingly allowed an individual who had a history of sexual abuse near underage children.
According to a complaint filed with the Circuit Court of Berkeley County, twelve plaintiffs were suing for damages caused to them from sexual abuse while they were minors by Michael Jensen.
Jensen was sentenced to 35-75 years in prison in 2013 for first-degree sexual assault, after he allegedly abused several minors, while in a position of leadership and counsel to young church members.
The complaint logged numerous situations in which Jensen was put in a position of trust, and then allegedly sexually abused children. One victim was said to be four-years-old, when Jensen locked her in a room, and forced her to touch him inappropriately. Another victim was allegedly a two-year-old boy, who had “abrasions or burns” on his upper thighs and genitals after being babysat by Jensen.
According to those suing the church, Jensen’s parents, who were leaders at the stake, and other members knowingly put Jensen in a position of trust, despite having knowledge of past abuse.
The complaint stated:
“The Church was repeatedly put on notice and/or had knowledge of Michael Jensen’s predatory acts. In 2007, before the abuses of the minor children suing herein, the Stake High Council held a meeting where Michael Jensen’s sexual abuses of his younger sibling and another minor child were discussed. Also in 2007, the mother of a victim (party in this case), who was four years old when abused, told Michael Jensen’s mother, the Church’s local Relief Society President, and Michael Jensen’s father, a Stake High Council member, that she was concerned that Michael had done something to harm their daughter while he babysat her.”
The complaint said that instead of reporting alleged sexual assault to authorities, the Hedgesville Ward of the Martinsburg Stake “did the opposite.”
It called church leaders “negligent,” in allowing Jensen to provide babysitting services, and live with members who had underage children.
Complainants are seeking for compensation to be paid.
The report stated:
“Punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages, are not only warranted in these circumstances, but also are necessary to send a message to this institution and its agents that abusing young children is not acceptable, that compliance with secular laws requiring that sex abuse be reported to the authorities is mandatory, and that the Church’s self-interest cannot be elevated over the needs of young children and this State’s compelling interest that its laws prohibiting and protecting against sex abuse be followed.”
Jensen is currently serving his sentence in the West Virginia penitentiary, followed by 50 years of probation.