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Jeffrey D Allred, Deseret News

Woman at center of MTC rape case takes message to the public

By Tad Walch, Deseret News | Posted - Apr 5th, 2018 @ 9:36pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — A day after suing the LDS Church and its former Missionary Training Center president for alleged rape, McKenna Denson held a press conference Thursday to publicly tell her story.

Meanwhile, her attorneys and a legal expert described the legal hurdles to making a 34-year-old case with an 85-year-old defendant and a 90-year-old key witness to what generally would be a privileged confession.

"It's always difficult to bring these cases so long after the fact," said her attorney, Craig Vernon.

Denson alleged in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday night in U.S. District Court that former Provo MTC president Joseph Bishop raped her while she was a missionary there in January 1984. She also claimed that a general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knew that Bishop had allegedly engaged in previous sexual misconduct and should have prevented him from taking his role at the MTC.

Eric Hawkins, spokesman for the church, said Thursday, "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."

The church has 21 days to respond once served with the lawsuit. If it waives service, it could take up to 60 days to respond, said Jeffrey Oritt, another attorney representing Denson.

More than 50 people packed into a small conference room at the Hilton for the press conference, including television, radio and newspaper reporters, a number of LDS Church critics and more than a dozen members of the public.

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