SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – It’s a story about trauma, healing, and closure – a documentary premiering this Thursday follows two Utah sisters as they confront their father about sexually abusing them for years when they were children.
At the center of ‘No Crime in Sin’ are Kristy and Kathy Johnson, who describe surviving the horrific and recurring abuse by their father, Melvin Johnson – a respected member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“If I were to go back, I would say to my young self, ‘Tell someone outside of your family and the Church, like a teacher or anyone that the church couldn’t control or cover-up,” said Kristy Johnson.
For the past three decades, Johnson said she and her siblings have been plagued by unanswered questions about why their father never served time in prison and why the Church never intervened to help them.
“People need to know that their neighbor next door can be a perpetrator and it’s not being reported,” said Johnson. “Or it’s being reported and nothing is being done about it.”
In the documentary, film crews followed the Johnson siblings to their father’s house in June 2016 when they decided to confront him about the sexual abuse.
“We were shocked to find out that their father, Melvin K. Johnson was totally willing to go on-camera. He invited us in. He set up chairs for the crew. He didn’t start the conversation until we were rolling and then we got told the truth,” said Jared Ruga, producer for ‘No Crime in Sin.’ “We came to find out later he didn’t tell the whole truth, but we got on-camera what he had previously admitted in other forums and for us, that was a huge victory.”
Throughout the production, Ruga said crew members became close friends with the Johnson siblings and began absorbing the heavy emotions that came with the story.
“We kind of started referring to it internally as ‘PTSD by proxy’ because these people had such terrible traumas in their past. Even though we didn’t experience the trauma directly, it was a little traumatizing for the documentary crew,” said Ruga. “We actually went through three different editors because they couldn’t sit with the material, it was too hard on them.”
Ruga said it took Vavani Productions, their Emmy award-winning team three years to complete the documentary.
“I thought a lot in about two adages in making this film. One is ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant.’ When there’s transparency, it’s hard to get away with doing bad things,” he said. “The second is ‘you’re only as sick as your secrets.’ I looked at how sick these survivors were while holding these terrible stories in and how therapeutic and cathartic it was for them to just talk to someone about it.”
Both Johnson and Ruga said the documentary is about exposing the truth, giving a voice to the survivors, and prevent the cycle of abuse for future generations.
“This film is not about taking anyone down. It’s about building people up. It’s about building resilience and hope. Regardless of your background or faith, you know someone who’s been abused,” said Ruga.
The premiere of ‘No Crime in Sin’ will take place at Rose Wagner Theater at 7 p.m. on Thursday. To purchase tickets, click here.