The location where the cases are litigated will prove crucial. These lawsuits have been filed in Navajo Nation District Court in Window Rock, Arizona. But the LDS Church is fighting to have the lawsuits dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, arguing the alleged abuse took place outside the reservation. The Navajo Nation allows alleged sexual-abuse victims to bring claims up to two years from the time when the harm of their abuse is discovered, accounting for the time it can take for people to realize the nature of their injuries. Other jurisdictions have stricter statutes of limitations to ensure claims are brought in a timely manner. In Utah’s civil courts, the statute of limitations for child sex abuse was recently eliminated, but only when the case is brought against the alleged perpetrator personally. The recent change in Utah law would not benefit those in the Indian Student Placement Program because the LDS Church is named as a defendant, and many, if not all, of the perpetrators are deceased. If the lawsuits were refiled in Utah, or one of many other states with a shorter statute of limitations, they would likely be dismissed.
David Clohessy, the national director of the Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests, an organization dedicated to helping victims of sexual abuse, said it often takes years for those affected by abuse to talk about it. “The more isolated and powerlessness victims … feel, the longer it takes for them to come forward,” Clohessy said. And “even if they had the smarts to understand they were being hurt, the courage to report it, given how many whites felt about Native Americans, many would find these boys and girls not particularly credible … This particular program is a predator’s dream.”
Further documents and briefs in the matter of the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, et al v. RJ et al, 16-cv-00453 (D. Utah):