Book Review: The Sins of Brother Curtis

The Sins of Brother Curtis: A Story of Betrayal, Conviction, and the Mormon ChurchTitle: The Sins of Brother Curtis: A story of betrayal, conviction, and the Mormon church

Author: Lisa Davis

Publisher: Scribner

Copyright: 3/15/11

# of Pages: 305 (nook edition)

Reason for reading: It was recommended to me by an internet buddy

Grade: A+

 

Brother Curtis sometimes hosted boys from the church and the neighborhood for a sleepover in his apartment. During one such evening, the atmosphere inevitably turned to horseplay, and a water fight broke out during which the boys used large syringes from the veterinary clinic as water guns. In short order, everyone, including Brother Curtis, was soaked.

“Take them wet clothes off,” he ordered.

Soon they were all in their underwear, but that didn’t stop the game. They continued to chase each other, and ran from the old man, who moved significantly slower, though the apartment was too small to get very far away. There was no chance of someone running outside, since the doors were secured with dead-bolt locks to which Brother Curtis held the key.

Afterward, the boys took turns showering in the tiny bathroom attached to the bedroom and then settled onto blankets arranged across the living room floor for a sort of camp-in. Manny was the last boy into the shower. Brother Curtis wrapped him up in a yellow robe and then closed the door behind them. The other boys were already lying down watching television. Manny emerged from the bathroom and suddenly decided that he wanted to go home.

When I read the preceding passage for the first time, it made my stomach churn. I’m very familiar with grooming, the methods through which pedophiles / hebephiles draw their potential victims into their net. When I was 12, a neighbour who was very popular with all the teenagers in our block molested me. I did tell the other kids to stay away from him, but I was too ashamed to tell them why, so no one paid any attention to me. I no longer remember the man’s name, but I remember every detail of that awful, awful afternoon.

Brother Curtis was a Mormon. He was actively involved in the lives and activities of young boys, and as a church member was implicitly trusted by their parents. At no time did any church leader reveal to the parents of the children that Brother Curtis had a history of sexually molesting young boys. Even when Brother Curtis married Manny’s mother, Raquel, the bishop didn’t warn her of Brother Curtis’s predilictions for young boys. The atmosphere amongst Mormons is very trusting, and I believe in many cases, the trust is justified. However, when it comes to the safety of one’s children, one cannot be too careful.

It turns out that Brother Curtis’s abuse of boys trusted to his care dated back a very long time. Finally one brave young man and his mother sought out an attorney to file suit against the Mormon church. Timothy David Kosnoff had never worked in civil lawsuits before, and this suit turned out to be his trial by fire. Fought every step of the way by the church’s attorneys, Kosnoff persisted even when it looked most grim.

The details of the abuse, the timelines created through intensive research, the messed up lives of the boys molested by Curtis, and the machinations of the church and its attorneys are carefully laid out for the reader.  If this book accomplishes nothing else, I hope that the readers will think twice, and more, before entrusting their children to the care of others. I would also like to take a moment to emphasize to parents or those responsible for children: If you have cause to suspect child abuse of any kind, notify the authorities. I know that when I was a member of the church, members were encouraged to talk to the bishop or other church leaders. That is what led to Curtis’s continual access to children. His crimes were not reported to police or Child Protective Services, and was not held responsible for those crimes while he was alive.

Davis has an engaging writing style. She brings to life the horrible lives of the children and their sufferings. She shows how Kosnoff and the others involved in the trial are thwarted but continue to do their research and fight against the church for the benefit of Curtis’s victims. She makes a very grim story readable. This isn’t a book you would read for pleasure. But I believe it is a book that must be read.

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2 Responses to Book Review: The Sins of Brother Curtis

  1. Michelle says:

    Wow. Bravo for being able to mention your own experiences with this horrible crime. I applaud your courage in being forthright. This sounds like a powerful book. It is so sad that after all of the headlines regarding the Catholic Church priest scandals, that people still look upon men in positions of power in any religion as trustworthy and would avoid going to the police in lieu of these men. It is scary how any church is willing to fight even when they know their church representative is guilty.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important book!

    • You are very welcome. It really is terrifying how people in power use that power to either abuse others or to cover up abuse. It’s wrong. But it seems like the church (and I use church here in a generic all-encompasing sense) would rather protect the perpetrators than their innocent victims.

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