Paperdolls: Healing from Sexual Abuse in Mormon Neighborhoods
Writing under the pseudonyms of April Daniels and Carol Scott, two women a generation apart recorded their devastating discovery of the havoc abuse had wreaked in their families. Their story appears in Paperdolls: Healing from Sexual Abuse in Mormon Neighborhoods(Salt Lake City: Palingenesia Press, 1990). All of the names in this account are pseudonyms. Since its publication, there have been additional developments, which are appended to the summary.
The story begins with April, who as a child between the ages of about five and her early teens, was fondled, sodomized, vaginally penetrated with fingers, lighted candles, and other objects, including a loaded pistol. The perpetrators were teenage boys in her Salt Lake City neighborhood, including her older brother, Tom, her father, cousins, and at least two adult men in the neighborhood, at least three college-age men, and neighborhood teenagers. “Counting my brothers and their friends, there are close to twenty. We didn’t count kids my age. The others were about seven years older.” (65). They also urinated on her, forced her to clean their penises with her tongue after their ejaculation, locked her naked in a rabbit cage, and posed her for nude pornography drawings with other children. One of them anally raped her just after her baptism, despite her pleas that she didn’t want to be “nasty” any more. He told her, “‘We can do it because I’m a priest.”‘ Another brother, Byron, witnessed the abuse and was also sodomized; he later married a woman who had been sexually abused as a child and was a rageaholic.
April’s family was, on the surface, impeccably Mormon. The parents were almost compulsively religious, temple-goers, active, and pillars of the ward. Both brothers went on fulltime proselytizing missions and married in the temple. April’s oldest sister also married in the temple. Her parents had an equally solid social position as owners of a financial institution in which she had a responsible position as an adult. But beneath the surface brightness was sickness. April’s parents were secret alcoholics who took pornographic photographs of each other with the family Polaroid. When April was seven, her father, whom she suspects was also abused as a child, orally raped her so hard that her front teeth were loose for six months. Her mother had a nervous breakdown when April was born. She never commented on the smell of urine on April’s clothes, never noticed the blood and semen on her panties, and never heard her when she sobbed for hours at night. She made jokes about how April wasn’t a “morning person” because she was always exhausted in the mornings and couldn’t eat without getting sick. April developed at least one multiple personality, fantasized that she could become a boy, became a compulsive runner, finally went into therapy for her bulimia, and began recovering memories of her abuse when she was in her early thirties.
April’s and Carol’s families were linked by friendship. Carol Scott, April’s co-author, whose children grew up in April’s neighborhood, commented that of the children in April’s peer group, six are dead, three by suicide. “Three in and out of institutions. Five with eating disorders or drug abuse. Every single one of those kids was involved in the atrocity April is remembering” (52).
Carol Scott was close to the age of April’s mother. April was good friends with Carol’s younger daughters. An older daughter, Loraine, married Tom’s best friend, Hank, a returned missionary, in the temple. They had four children: Timothy, age eight, Isabel, five, Courtney, three, and a new baby. Carol’s son Jake and his wife, Sara, lived in the same ward as Loraine and Hank. Jake and Sara had two children: five-year-old Cynthia and three-year-old Claire.
It is February 14, 1986…. A few months ago a psychologist in Loraine’s LDS ward gave a lesson to the Relief Society about symptoms of child sexual abuse. Afterwards a mother of a little boy who plays with Timothy took her child to the psychologist because she caught him sticking marbles up his little sister’s bottom…. One victim led to another—and another—and another. To an older teenage sister, to another teenager, to a father, etc. More children were taken to therapists. More babysitters were named…. The bishop of the ward said he didn’t know what to do. These were good and righteous families being named. Hank’s in the bishopric with him. Hank said the bishop was calling in higher authorities.
Every day Loraine called me and cried. Two of the girls were in her Young Women’s church class. Then one of the children named Loraine’s baby sitter, Geraldine…. Jake and Sara have used Geraldine too…. Therapists… have interviewed my five oldest grandchildren ranging in age from three to seven…. Separately, with no knowledge of what their siblings and cousins were saying, they told what Geraldine and her boy friend did to them.
…When Sara had her gallbladder out the mother of the family [two houses down] volunteered to tend her children all day for three days. We couldn’t believe how nice she was. It meant I didn’t have to take time off work. The mother has two little girls of her own, and she said they all had so much fun playing together that they weren’t any trouble at all. This mother, this neighbor of Loraine’s, is a daughter of… one of the Twelve Apostles. Her husband is in the bishopric with Hank.
Our children told about the “touching parties” at her house. About what the dad did to his two little girls and ours while the mom gave out Popsicle’s and cookies and took videos. About how she used some of the [Primary— the auxiliary for children ages three to twelve] visual aids for backgrounds in the videos. She’s [Primary] chorister. She got double use out of the Easter bunnies and posters she made.
At first I wanted desperately to believe my grandchildren were making it up, but none of them have had access to the sexual information they’re giving. Their mothers don’t even let them watch TV except on Sesame Street level, and no TV show contains the things they are describing.
The detail from each matched what the others have said. Cynthia said, “He showed us deer antlers and said he’d poke them up us if we told.” Isabel said, “We were scared he’d hurt us with the deer horns.” There is no way they are not telling the truth, and there is no way my mind can believe it.
…We had a Heroes’ Party: Norton [Carol’s husband], and I, Loraine and Hank, Jake and Sara, the five children, and the baby asleep in my bedroom. We all drew pictures of ugly baby sitters hurting children and tore them up and burned them in our fireplace. We gave the children Hero Medals and told them they were protecting other children by talking. Hank pounded an old slipper and said he was pretending it was Geraldine….
Loraine and Sara looked dreadful. They weren’t sleeping, their houses were in chaos, their children had started waking with screaming dreams….
Yesterday the kids were getting ice cream cones for the good work they’d done in therapy, and Isabel casually asked her mother, “Why are the things the baby sitters and the bad people do to us bad and the lessons Daddy gives us are okay?”…
The therapist and I are sitting on the floor with Isabel…. The therapist asks Isabel about the lessons Daddy gave….. (She] asks her two or three times.
“We learn how our bodies are made. Where babies come from and stuff like that”
Of course, I think. Loraine and Hank have always believed in being open about sex education. She’s just all mixed up because everything has been so confusing. Of course. Dear God, please.
-. . For two hours we listen to Isabel. She is tired. She’s crying. The therapist quietly says, “Isabel,… you’ve done so well. You’ve worked so hard and told us lots of important things….”
Isabel … runs around the room throwing toys everywhere. She kicks the dollhouse over, and then she stamps and stamps on the anatomical doll that is the Daddy. I hold her on the floor and rock her for a long, long time….
Norton brought Hank into the office…. I told Hank what Isabel and Timothy had said. I couldn’t concentrate on Hank’s words, but he kept saying he couldn’t remember any of it. He also said his children didn’t lie. He was shaking…. Loraine had bitten her hands, and they were bleeding. (55-59)
The abuse had no Satanic elements, Carol believes, but the “touching parties” followed a ritualized format: first they would show pornographic videos of children, the children would undress, masturbate each other, have oral sex and anal sex with everyone by turns
as though they were performing at a recital. This part would be filmed and then played back. Then everyone would dress, and they would have refreshments. The whole ‘party’ took less than an hour. Usually about seven children, a couple of teenagers, and three or four adults were there. Sometimes there were costumes and props, and sometimes the children were given injections, “especially if it was going to hurt.” We gathered this meant if partial penetration was attempted.
Hank would “dance” wearing only the top half of his garments. Geraldine would hold the girls’ vaginas open while “‘the boys put something tickly up there.”‘ The children were forced to drink urine mixed with feces. “Treats” would be taped to the baby’s penis “so the kids would like to suck them off.” (108)
The abuse took other forms as well. They put ice cubes in three-year-old Courtney’s vagina, told Isabel they were going to put an ice pick in her vagina “to see how far it could go without bleeding.” (88)
At Hank’s mother’s house
a couple of her lady friends and sometimes some of the cousins…would all sit in a circle on the floor and go around, and they’d tell us what to do….The ladies liked us to suck on their boobs….. They liked us to tickle each other. Then Daddy would do things to the ladies, especially Grandma. Sometimes he would lie on her and put his big thing up her. Mostly the ladies kept their clothes on, but we were naked. They always had good treats. On the way home, Daddy would say, “Wasn’t that fun? You did real good. You’re learning the lessons real well, but you mustn’t tell Mommy.”
Loraine took the sobbing Timothy into her bedroom, and I called Isabel into mine…. Same story, same details. Identical. Even three-year-old Courtney told it, uncoached, described her Daddy having sex with his mother. (90-91)
Once these horrors had spilled out, Timothy came sobbing into Carol’s room in the middle of the same night. Something else had happened, something too awful to tell, something they had made him do. Carol had to promise not to tell his mother. Finally he could write it down in his second-grade printing: “‘They made us drink kofey.”‘
Then he started to cry…. “They said if we told anyone about the parties, they’d tell how we drank coffee.” While I held Timothy and tried to explain about coffee, something way deep and from way long ago inside me snapped. It has still not come back together. My old, old issues about hypocrisy, priorities, and claims to exclusive truth. I wanted to burn every Primary manual I’d ever taught from about evil coffee-drinking people…. I think of all the horrors the children told, that one broke my heart the most. (92)
All this information was immediately given to the police, the bishop, and the stake president. The children also alleged that two teenaged boys performed sexual acts on the children in their own homes, as girlfriends of these boys were tending them. Although these boys did not live in the ward and the children did not know their names, Timothy and Courtney identified the same boys when the police showed them yearbook pictures. Each of these identifications occurred in two isolated interviews.
Five-year-old Cynthia also identified the two teenage boys from a high school yearbook. “Sure enough they were friends of Geraldine. The police apparently were not impressed” (107). Cynthia said the apostle’s son-in-law strangled a kitten and made the children help bury it. “We can do this to [three-year-old] Claire,” they told Cynthia. “We’ll bury her right here by the kitty if you ever tell.” The apostle’s daughter threatened to drop Claire in the road so she’d be run over.
The bishop told Loraine that she should believe Hank, not her children, because he was a “worthy priesthood holder.” The stake president said he believed the children and he would try to initiate Church action. He later told the family that he could not get approval from higher Church authorities.
Meanwhile, in 1986, Hank voluntarily entered the sexual offenders’ treatment program at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He acknowledged to medical personnel there that he remembered abusing his children, his nieces, and other neighborhood children, reported details of the “sex parties” at the home of the apostle’s daughter and son-in-law, and remembered his mother sexually abusing him during his own childhood. His intent was to plea bargain upon release from Johns Hopkins. When he learned that his former wife would not let the children appear in court,4 he recanted on all of these admissions but he relinquished all visitation rights when the divorce became final in the summer of 1986. Loraine applied to the First Presidency for a cancellation of sealing. It was granted.
The reaction of Church officials ranged from noncommittal to cold. In early spring 1987, at the stake president’s invitation, Loraine wrote:
Dear President ____:
You have asked me to advise you of my current circumstances surrounding my divorce…
I married Hank ___ in the Salt Lake City Temple in 1976. I believed at that time that Hank was a righteous man and for ten years I tried to make a celestial marriage. I had four children, who, after virtually living in true hell, finally “told”, in January and February 1986, the actual nightmare that our “perfect;” temple-going, family-night; daily family-prayers family was living: their father was a child abuser who had been sexually molesting them for years. The case was immediately reported to the police who eventually said they could not prosecute without my children’s in-person testimony. A major reason for the inaction of the criminal system has been my unwillingness to make media celebrities of my children.
Ecclesiastical inaction is more difficult to understand in view of the Lord’s teachings on sexual morality and His clear warning to those who teach evil to the innocent. My children remain available to you for questioning as do other child witnesses, including my brother’s children, if corroboration of these facts is necessary.
There is not a way to describe the agony my children and I have traversed…. My children have seen five doctors, who have all said they would be willing to testify….There is evidence of scarring on the hymen on one child and vaginal stretching of the hymen on another child.
My children have told how Hank took them and one of my nieces to his mother’s home and let her and other relatives molest these little children in many obscene ways. They forced them to have oral sex with each other and to watch as Hank had sexual intercourse with others including his own mother.
Hank also networked with a child abuse ring in our neighborhood. They had orgies of abuse, which they videotaped. I assume the tapes were traded to other pedophiles or sold for money.
In addition to incest Hank stands accused of cunnilingus, fondling, digital penetration of vagina and anus, sodomy, object rape, enforced fellatio, and the making and showing of pornographic children’s videos of his own children and others.
The abusers tortured and killed animals in front of children and told them this would happen to them if they told. They gave them injections of drugs (the children say so it wouldn’t hurt so much and to make them sleepy), showed them films of all sorts of sadism. Finally my children reached the point where what they actually were experiencing became as frightening as the threats of what would happen if they told.
Hank has been examined by several therapists and admitted himself to an out-of-state sexual offenders’ program, He was in this residential program for approximately six weeks. The records of this hospital can only be obtained at the request of Hank, as can the results of psychological and polygraph evaluation performed… in Salt Lake. If Hank is not a pedophile and is not a threat to children, he should volunteer these unedited records to clear his name.
Hank mailed an invitation to my children for his remarriage, which took place last month. The children have not seen him since February 1986. He originally voluntarily agreed to no visitation with them unless their psychiatrist deemed it to be in their best interests. As soon as he realized he wasn’t being prosecuted, he initiated legal action requesting not only visitation, but joint custody. It has taken incredible effort and legal costs to keep my children safe from him. When the children were told of his marriage and the fact that he now has two little step-daughters, they cried and told me I had to stop him now or he would have more kids to abuse. The fact that he is active in the Church may have been a factor in his ability to find another wife. They were married in the temple. The purity of unborn children, and for that matter any available children, is in the hands of those of we who know the truth. If we are silent we betray them. I hope for Hank’s excommunication, mainly as a warning to others Hank may contact but also because my children’s souls are in a fragile place.
When our new Primary president told the story of Daniel … [and stated that] God would help them when they were in trouble, my eight-year-old raised his hand and angrily informed the sister that this was not true. My seven-year-old refuses to pray. She describes… how she’d pray and pray, begging that if the abuse had to continue that at least Heavenly Father would make it so it didn’t hurt so bad. But it always hurt just as bad. My four-year-old is still confused over right and wrong. She was consistently told Jesus wanted her to do these things and that I wanted her to have these “marriage lessons.” For weeks after she’d told, she kept expressing her astonishment; “They didn’t kill me yet, Mommy. But Heavenly Father wants me to be killed for telling.”
When Hank left the hospital, his therapist told my mother and myself in Hank’s presence that his prognosis was entirely up to him…. He was aware of the results of the sodium penathal interview and the lie detector test as well as hypnosis administered at the hospital;…These tests would give him objective evidence to remember what he has done. Since that time Hank has recanted on his past statements and is now asserting his complete innocence. There is no reason to believe that his old patterns will not reassert themselves entirely.
The Church records should reflect that Hank is a pedophile. If allowed access to children in the Church, not only will further lives be destroyed but the Church may be held morally and legally responsible for its failure to take action to protect innocent victims from an extremely disturbed child abuser…. (84-86)
Nothing ever happened… The bishop did come and talk to Loraine one night. He said that if his own wife had to choose between believing him or their children, he knew she would believe him. The bishop advised Loraine that she should think very carefully before breaking up her family. Loraine moved. She did not see him again.
No one interviewed the children or asked more questions, except the stake president who talked with one of the children’s therapists. The stake president told us he believed it. There has never been an excommunication trial. We think we know why, but there is no way to be sure. Loraine’s neighbors, the ones who had the “touching parties,” are the daughter and son-in-law of an apostle in the Mormon Church. (87)…
No neighborhood could be a better setup for a child abuser than the LDS one, where everyone is and has to be perfect and no one who attends church diligently has admissible problems. I can’t blame the Church. I totally bought into the perfectionism and denial. I do blame Church leaders now if they don’t deal with problems when they know about them. The bishop told Loraine she should believe Hank because he held the priesthood. Just as the [sixteen-year-old] priest had told April [that she should comply with his demands]. (110)
As Loraine’s letter indicates, Hank’s remarriage was another blow. Elaine (pseudonym), his new wife, had two small daughters. When Hank sued for visitation rights with his children, Elaine attended the hearing at which the children’s therapists gave detailed reports and at which Hank’s records from Johns Hopkins were reviewed. The court denied all visitation. Elaine heard all of the testimony but told Carol that she did not believe these “lies” and that her place was with her husband.
Norton, the children’s grandfather, became deeply depressed in the fall of 1986 and took his pistol to the safety deposit box to eliminate one means of committing suicide. As a businessman, as someone with Church connections,
he was always effective; at the least he could have impact; he could be heard. Now he had to face a legal system in which all of us seemed to have no credibility. Nothing happened. When he suggested the police search homes for pornographic videos, they called the alleged perpetrators and made appointments, explaining why they were coming….
Then there was the Church. Norton had his share of disagreement with Church policies, but he was a fervent believer and totally loyal. He had given and given to the Church—time, money, energy, thought; love. We had talked about what it might be like for him to be a mission president or some equivalent. Now no one in the Church would listen to him. After Loraine moved, Norton and I went to the new bishop of her old ward. We thought that since he had moved into the neighborhood recently, he needed information. We told him everything we knew…. He said he believed us and would pray for us. I suggested ways he could warn his ward without implicating or hurting anyone, ways he could help the children who had been named and had never seen a therapist. His response was, “I don’t see that there is anything I can do it is really not within the parameters of my office. It’s in the hands of the stake president”
…Little innocent children were to go on being sacrificed, and it was not within his jurisdiction…. The apostle’s son-in-law would continue to sit next to the bishop on the stand in Church, looking down on all the faces of the children he had molested.
Norton went to his friend, a young and very effective General Authority. For thirty years, he and his wife had been two of our best friends. When the children told, almost the first thing Loraine, Jake, and Sara did was take their children to him for blessings. Our friend, the authority, had met with Hank then too and tried to help him. He had urged Jake and Loraine to keep in touch with him. He is a brilliant, spiritual, unselfish person, totally devoted to his calling in the Church and to his fellow human beings. When the names of the apostle’s daughter and son-in-law came up, however, all contact with him about our particular situation ceased almost overnight. He assured us he could do nothing. After a couple of months, he invited us to dinner at his home, but he made a point of saying that this particular subject could not be discussed. His wife was not supposed to know anything about it. Norton… felt betrayed…We don’t see them anymore.
Unlike me, [Norton] had always assumed if he tried to do what he should and if he trusted in God, he and his would be protected. For the first time in his life, he faced the simplistic quality of his faith. He had to come to grips with evil. For a long time, he could not pray. He went to church and wept during the hymns. He watched the “falling away” of his children as they struggled with the Church. (144-45)
When April, visiting a friend, attended the Young Women’s class she co-taught, she walked out during the other teacher’s lesson on chastity and demanded of her friend, “‘What about the incest victims?… There were over twenty girls in that class. I’m certain that a couple of them just had their hearts wrung through a wringer.’ Laurel just stared at me. She commented that she had never thought of it that way before” (79). At Carol’s request, April talked to Hank’s stake president. He arranged for her to meet with two General Authorities:
They seemed to be very caring, compassionate men. I told them everything. I told them about my family, the neighbors, and Hank … about the children from my neighborhood. The deaths, the suicides, and psychiatric hospitalization…
We all came from well-educated, upper-class righteous homes. We grew up in a nice neighborhood. Over half of us have had incomprehensible pain throughout our lives because of the sexual abuse that happened to us as children….
I think the General Authorities believed me. They asked me if I would be willing to speak at a [disciplinary] council.
I told them I believe that the support of the Church could help the perpetrators get into professional counseling.
One of the General Authorities said, “This council might help push them into therapy.” (191)
April was never called as a witness. There were no disciplinary councils.
The story continued after the publication of Paperdolls. In the summer of 1992, Carol’s two youngest daughters and one of their husbands met with Hank’s current bishop and his stake president. They sought this meeting with these ecclesiastical leaders as part of their own healing. They pled with Hank’s priesthood leaders to take action to right the wrong that had been done and to protect children to whom Hank still had access. Carol reports: “These authorities told us they were worried Hank might kill himself if they took action against him, but they said they believed us. They said they would have to check with their legal department and get back to us. We heard no further response from them.” Carol’s son-in-law wrote to the stake president later:
We met with you, as spiritual leaders, with the hope that something could be done to protect against more abuse, to better facilitate the long and difficult healing process, and to appeal to your sense of morality that [Hank] finally might be called to repentance. No thanks to you or any other Church leader and as you can see by the enclosed Verified Complaint; our objectives will no longer be ignored.
President, I cannot begin to tell you how crushed I felt to look you, a fellow priesthood holder, in the eye and tell you that a diagnosed pedophile, who had returned from a mission and who had married in the temple, raped and sodomized my wife and many others when they were but small and innocent children, only to have you tell me that you would have to check with your legal department and get back to me, which you have not bothered to do. I do not believe that Christ would care more about a lawsuit from one that is “better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea:” than he would care about the lives of God’s children. Because we cannot get any support from our Church, we are forced to resort to a civil court of law.
I realize that no person or courtroom in the world can render anything close to justice for what [Hank] has done to so many children and their loved ones. I firmly believe, however, that despite your ineffectiveness and inaction, [Hank] will some day be called to a just repentance and [my wife] will be healed by a power much greater than yours. In many ways I am grateful that I do not have the holy calling that you have. I pray for you, as well as the children.1
A copy went to Elder Loren C. Dunn, then area president. Two of the women initiated a civil suit against Hank for damages from his abuse when they were children. Criminal action was not possible because the statute of limitation had run out. Even though Hank was an attorney and a member of the Utah Bar, he did not contest the suit, and the women were awarded a default judgment for $5 million. Their “damages” consisted of a token $100 a month, as Hank had sought protection from previous creditors by declaring bankruptcy. He also had never paid any child support for his four children.
In 1992 an adult woman who had read Paperdolls called Carol and said, “I know who Hank is. I lived in that same East Bench neighborhood in Salt Lake. He abused me for four years when I was a child, right up until he left on his mission.” She had gone to Hank’s current bishop and stake president and told her own story of Hank’s abuse of her, hoping they might warn families in his present ward. But nothing ever happened.
In fall 1993, Hank was fired from his position with the State Tax Commission, allegedly for sexually harassing a teenage female employee. Carol and her daughters were amazed to be told later that Hank’s mortgage was paid from ward welfare funds for many months, a payment authorized by Hank’s bishop, who apparently felt that Hank’s financial needs took precedence over his victims’ claims.
After the agony of years, Carol, reported to me in the spring of 1996 the ending of this story for Hank—though not the end of his bitter legacy for his victims. She had learned these details when Hank’s second wife, Elaine, called her. A year before in the spring of 1995, Hank and Elaine separated, due to a number of stresses on their marriage. Hank left the state for another job. When Elaine told her two daughters by her first marriage and the son she had borne to Hank that she planned to divorce him, the three children told their mother of their years of sexual and physical abuse at his hands. “He did it to us when we were bad,” they said. “He wasn’t always mean, just sometimes. He said he was teaching us to mind and be good.” Elaine called Hank, told him that the children were in therapy, and that she was going to see him “rot in jail for what he’d done.”
Hank disappeared from his job. Elaine later learned that he had returned to his mother’s home in Salt Lake City. The morning after his return, his mother found him dead from an overdose of prescription and nonprescription drugs. A suicide note addressed to his stepdaughters said he loved them and would never do anything to hurt them but also said that he knew God would forgive and understand his death because he could not continue the destruction of more lives. Carol comments, “Like the rest of his life, it was a double and confusing message.” The ultimate irony for Carol is that he died in a bed in his mother’s house, where his own abuse had begun.
Although Elaine had earlier rejected attempts to warn her that her children would be in danger if she married Hank, she now told Carol, “I know I never listened to all of you,” she said. “But if a church leader had told me what they knew about him, I would have listened. And if he had been excommunicated when his other children first told, I never would have married him.” She added, “The bishop and others in the ward have helped me a lot, but I wish I could have been directly warned.”
Carol summarizes bleakly, “I know of at least thirty people Hank molested when they were children. There were many adults along his path who knew of his behavior. One of us should have been able to stop him and maybe to help him. Hank was never called to a disciplinary council, and we have never been given an explanation for this lack of Church action against him. We believe that Church officers shielded Hank from ecclesiastical action and even paid his bills because of his connection to an apostle’s family.”2
1. Photocopy in my possession.
2. Carol Daniels statement to Lavina Fielding Anderson on April 16, 1996.