Resignation of White House staffer shines light on LDS Church’s abuse training

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SALT LAKE CITY - The resignation of White House staffer Rob Porter is shining a light on domestic abuse and the role LDS bishops have in aiding victims.

"I hold no ill will towards that bishop.  I think he was making a decision the best that he could,” said Jennie Willoughby, one of Porter’s ex-wives.  She says she told her LDS bishop about the abuse and was counseled to consider the impact a protective order would have on Porter’s career.

Her story has sparked many to post their own experiences in online forums.

Bonnie wrote:

“When I went to a bishop about emotionally abusive behavior, I was given the advice to do something nice for him, like cook his favorite meal.”

Melissa wrote:

“When I went in with my ex, the bishop ignored the reasons why I wanted a divorce and ignored everything I told him.”

“There are a lot of people that hold clergy positions, faith based leadership positions within the LDS Church and we know we can do more to train them, to help them what to recognize,” said Jenn Oxborrow, Executive Director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.

The official position of the church is a zero tolerance for abuse policy.  In regards to the Rob Porter accusations, a church spokesman Eric Hawkins wrote:

"It is difficult to speak to specific circumstances without complete information from all involved, but the position of the Church is clear: There is zero tolerance for abuse of any kind. Church leaders are given instruction on how to prevent and report abuse and how to care for those who have been abused."

"We need to be training all of our faith based leaders to know what to do, to be recognizing those risk factors,” said Oxborrow.

If you or someone you know needs help with a domestic violence threat, there is help 24 hours a day in more than 100 languages.  The number is 1-800-897-5465