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Photo Credit: Geoff Livingston/Flickr

Woman Charged, Harassed After Protesting Sexual Abuse at Mormon Church Conference

Last year, Crystal Legionaires attended the annual general conference held by the Church of Latter Day Saints, or Mormon Church, in Salt Lake City. At one point, she disrupted a speaker by shouting that the church should “stop protecting sexual predators!” Eventually, security ejected her from the conference, but not before managing to cause a stir.

One year later, Legionaires is to court for her act of protest. She’s facing criminal charges of disrupting a meeting, which in Utah is considered a class B misdemeanor. Her trial is set to go forth, at the behest of the Mormon Church after Legionaires rejected a plea settlement offer.

Legionaires’ protest, she explains, was done to help shed light on a culture of sexual abuse and survivor silence that’s existed within the Church of the Latter Day Saints for decades. She was inspired, in part, by the case of McKenna Denison.

Denison filed a lawsuit against the church last year alleging that Joseph Bishop, a senior member of the Provo, Utah-based Missionary Training Center, raped her in 1984. She eventually decided to see help from leaders within the church to ask that something be done about Bishop, and though Denison says she was promised he would face repercussions, he never did.

More recently, inspired by the #MeToo movement, Denison decided to file a civil lawsuit against the Church of Latter Day Saints, as Utah’s statue of limitations laws preclude any kind of criminal charges. However, Denison has been facing some severe backlash over her legal action, which many members of the church understandably find publicly embarrassing.

Now living in Pueblo, Colo., Denison says she has been the target of increasingly hostile acts of harassment since filing her lawsuit, though she is hesitant to point fingers at potential culprits.

Denison says it began when she left to take her daughter to go to school, returning home to prepare breakfast for herself, which included a glass of orange juice. She was quickly hospitalized, the cause being the presence of Drano in her juice — an attempted poisoning, it would appear. Fortunately, she drank very little juice before realizing something was amiss and was released from the hospital after a few days.

Several days later, Denison’s vehicle, parked near her house, was set aflame in the early morning hours. Police say there was traces of incendiary liquids found inside and a neighbor’s security camera recording shows some sort of ignition.

Almost a week later, she spotted someone in her front yard. Denison says it was dark, but she went outside to confront the intruder, who then began to run away. Instinctively, she says she gave chase before a second individual tackled her from behind, forcing her to the group, ultimately breaking her nose, wrist and a finger. While police say they are investigating all three incidents, they are lacking leads on specific suspects.

Though Denison does not wish to lay blame at anyone’s feet — citing a lack of solid evidence and an absence of criminal suspects — it is difficult to not see the obvious motivation behind these violent acts: They’re meant to terrorize and intimidate Denison for publicly exposing the Church of Latter Day Saints and their mistreatment of survivors of sexual assault.

This article was originally published on on May 25, 2019.

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