Woman who filed lawsuit against LDS Church speaks of alleged MTC rape

    McKenna Denson and her lawyers face a room full of journalists to talk about her alleged rape at the MTC. (Photo: Larry D. Curtis / KUTV)

    (KUTV) — The woman who filed a lawsuit against the LDS Church and one of its leaders who she said raped her at the beginning of her Mormon mission, spoke Thursday about the alleged attack.

    Thursday McKenna Denson spoke to media about her experience as a missionary under the authority of then MTC president Joseph L. Bishop. She said Thursday he made her feel special, interviewed her about highly sensitive sexual topics, groomed and eventually raped in a basement of the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.

    Bishop denied those allegations to BYU police, who interviewed him in December 2017. Police reports show that Bishop admitted to police that he asked her to expose her breasts. Denson said Thursday that didn't happen to her and said it was evidence that there were other victims.

    "Joseph Bishop sought me out individually," Denson said. She claims Bishop called her out of class and asked her to visit his office. She said the first time he asked her, along with three other sister missionaries, explicit questions about past sexual abuse. Eventually she said the conversations became one-on-one conversations that were inappropriate and sexual in nature. Eventually that led to an invitation to a basement room.

    Others have stepped forward to confirm that a room like the one Denson described in recording existed in the MTC at the time of the attack.

    The LDS Church responded Thursday with a statement after the press conference. It read:

    Our hearts ache for all survivors of abuse, and the Church is committed to addressing incidents of abuse wherever they are found. As this is now an active legal matter, we are unable to make further comment at this time. We are confident that the legal system will ensure a just result in this case.

    "Joseph Bishop tore my blouse open, pulled my garments and panty hose down," she said. She said that was when the rape occurred and when he pulled away she was able to kick and get away.

    "When I was pulling up my pantyhose ... trying to pull myself together, he said to me, 'No one will believe you. Look at you, look at me.' "

    Her attorney Craig Vernon said Denson wants justice against Bishop.

    "She also seeks accountability on the part of the institution who put this sexual predator in the MTC in a position of power over her," Vernon said.

    The LDS Church, officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released a statement about the abuse and then released a follow-up statement.

    He said aside from the litigation he hopes the church will consider changing its policies and that is part of the purpose of the lawsuit.

    "After the rape in 1987, since 1987 until recently, McKenna went back to the church over and over again. Nothing happened. McKenna wasn't believed. McKenna was blamed. McKenna was shamed," Verson said.

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