I should start with a little bit of history before going into detail about what happened to me between my years as a young child through to adulthood. I was the first born child of an active addict. Her addiction was severe, and as a result she used throughout her pregnancy and when I was born, the withdrawal from the drugs caused me to have a stroke. Thanks to a wonderful grandma, I recovered physically and mentally. My birth mom continued to use throughout my childhood, and often brought strange men home when she was high. These same men would assault me any time I was in the house with her. There were times I was with my grandma, and during those times I was safe, warm, well fed, and loved. Her drug use escalated over a few years and by the time I was 3 and my brother was 2, I found myself taking him to a bus stop to ask to go to Grandma’s house because we were hungry. This happened twice before we were finally taken into state custody. My birth mom gave up her rights, and I ended up in the care of my now parents. Up until we were taken in by my parents, we were raised without religion, understandably so as I’d been conditioned to behave sexually around men and my brother experienced physical abuse. When our parents were advised as to what happened to us, they basically told the entire neighborhood and effectively ostracized us for years to come. My mom (who is bipolar and has a very innocent, childlike mind) bore her testimony in front of the entire congregation and detailed a lot of what they were told had happened to myself and my brother. This is really where the issues began. I found myself with 2 friends growing up in that ward, both of which had moved to the neighborhood years later and had no idea about the jarring announcement my well meaning mom had given. She only meant to express gratitude for the blessing she was given to not only have children, but to give them a life much more beautiful than they had previously.
Fast forward to my teenage years, where I had since learned why everyone looked at me so differently from the other kids. The mothers of the ward would usher their kids away from me and discourage them from inviting me to birthdays and things of that nature because they assumed I was inclined to behave in the same ways my birth mother did all those years ago. I had been pointedly told that I had been lucky I was baptized because my childhood sins we’re forgiven. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t the one sinning as a child. I thought I was entirely to blame for what happened to me, so when the flashbacks started as I was developing into a teenager, you can imagine it was horrendous. I didn’t know it then, but later this would be one of the reasons I attempted to take my life. This was the beginning of severe chronic depression which lead to therapy.
The rumors of my “sexual activity” didn’t really start until high school. I had just turned 15 that summer, and my parents noticed that I was wearing all black, dying my hair, and mysteriously wearing long sleeves all the time. I couldn’t sleep at night because I had nightmares about things that happened to me when I was only 3 years old. I was so angry at the world for allowing me to be hurt, conflicted because I was told it was my fault and my destiny, something I had chosen in the preexistence. I had started self harming. To this day, my arms and my thighs are littered with scars because the only way to make my pain real, was to give it a “face”. Giving a wound to match my injuries made me feel real, and human. I dyed my hair because it gave me temporary satisfaction, and to this day it’s still one of my go-to coping mechanisms. I hid the cuts from people around me because they didn’t care to understand what I was going through. My sophomore year began, and within the first month, I met Jordan. At first, he was more caring and understanding than anybody I’d ever met. He made me feel safe enough to tell him about my childhood, and even acted enraged at the thought of what I went through. He didn’t pressure me for sex, cuddling, or even kissing. I thought he was truly my soul mate. So when the isolation started to happen, I didn’t see it. One by one he picked off my friends. He did so in a way that I didn’t see his hand in it, and made him appear to be the only one I had left. I had no idea that while I cried in his arms about how lonely I was, he was the Mastermind behind it. He was the one starting the rumors that would eventually lead to me being physically, sexually, and emotionally assaulted for years to come. He was an excellent manipulator. The first time we had sex, I had told him no and his response was “But don’t you love me? This is what you’re supposed to do for someone you love.” I still said no, but it didn’t really matter. He had decided that he wanted sex, and my consent didn’t matter. He was at least gentle at first, but when I tried to struggle, he was swift to punish. He would hit the side of my head where my hair would cover any bruises, my ribs, my stomach, and sometimes my legs since I wasn’t allowed to wear shorts so the bruises were hidden. He would choke me to see how quickly he could make me pass out. He had tied my hands and cut over my old scars from my self inflicted injuries. He made me believe that what he did was love, was what I deserved, and was the only thing I would ever be good for. School became worse over the coming months (which turned into years and lead to my dropping out and registering at a different high school) as more and more people heard, spread, and created more rumors about me. I was slammed into a locker for refusing to give oral sex to one of my classmates. When I tried to report the incident, I was told that it wasn’t right to try and ruin the future of a young man who had his whole life ahead of him. They wouldn’t even pull the security footage. The girls would all whisper and laugh as they walked by me. Some guys would try to befriend me for awhile, but once they realized I wasn’t actually putting out, I was ostracized and more rumors were created and spread anyway.
(One of the positive things that happened, is my parents had put me in therapy when I started my sophomore year and I was slowly wading through the trauma from my childhood. While this was hard because I had consistent nightmares and flashbacks, it helped me long term to recover and it is a major reason I am alive today and able to talk about what happened to me)
During the summer after I turned 16, I was called into my bishops office for a meeting. When I closed the door, he said “Samantha, I have some concerns about some things I’ve been told.”. He proceeded to tell me that some other ward members had come to him and told him about how very sexually active I was, and that I had participated in some obscene sexual activities. Mind you, I thought I could trust my bishop because God himself asked him to lead the ward. So he had to be a loving, kind man, right? I started by telling him about therapy, and the fact that I was struggling with what I had gone through as a child. His response was that I needed to seek forgiveness from God so that I could fully forgive myself for what I had participated in. Because, you see, at age 3 I had been conditioned to behave in ways that rightfully should remain on street corners between consenting adults. Clearly I should be held accountable for that. Then he asked me about the rumors from school, at which point I started to break down. I hoped I was being heard for the first time so I told him all of it. I told him about how Jordan made me believe I could trust him and later removed every ounce of that trust. I showed him some of the scabs from the cuts. I had bruising on my throat from being choked out. The first thing he asked me, was what I had done to attract that kind of attention from a young man. When I said I hadn’t done anything, he pushed further and stated that young boys don’t behave this way unless they are tempted, and pushed too far. He followed up by telling me that I needed to repent for what I had done because I could never be allowed into the temple, I’d never have a happy marriage, I wouldn’t be a good mother to any kids I had, and I’d be excluded from the highest degrees of heaven if I didn’t repent and change my ways. He essentially told me that God was ashamed of me. That was the hardest blow, because I spent so much time on my knees begging God for relief from what was happening to me, only to be told that he didn’t care. I left the bishops office that day and I never went back. Instead, I continued going through the abuse alone. I stopped going to school because the ridicule was too much. I got to the point where I didn’t want to live anymore. Later that year, I attempted suicide for the first time. I grabbed all of the pills I could find in the house and I took them. In the note I wrote, I said that I was sorry for what I’d done and that I hoped they could forgive me for not being able to continue my life. Then I fell asleep. I must have slept for an absurdly long time and I woke up feeling very nauseated, but I woke up. My parents hadn’t even seen the note I wrote. I was still in my room on my bed. I got more depressed, but apparently my body didn’t feel much like dying.
I was able to work through some of this in therapy, but it wasn’t until I met my husband that I was truly able to recover. I met him my senior year of high school. I’d been going to a new school and things were a little bit better. We had almost instant feelings for each other and one night, we started to have sex but I was so terrified, I ended up sobbing. He was the first and only person to actually stop. He didn’t keep going until he finished and was done with me, he stopped and asked me what was happening. Slowly I started to tell him and he stayed up with me the whole night as it all came tumbling out. I was uncontrollably crying, but he didn’t care and he was the first person to tell me that what happened wasn’t my fault. That Jordan and everybody else was in the wrong. That there was no way I’d become the same type of person my birth mom was, that I could be trusted with kids, that I should never be ashamed of who I am, that I should love my body, that I was worth more than sex, and that any God who hated me for being raped wasn’t a God worth anyone’s time. Those were the words that made me want to live again. It’s been 6 years since I met him and I still struggle with intimacy, parenting, and depression. I still remember being told that God hated me for what was done to me both as a small child, and as a teen. I still feel like an outcast when I visit my parents in my old neighborhood. I will never raise my kids in the church because they deserve to know that whatever higher being there is, loves them and created them to be perfectly them. I made their bodies and brought them into the world and I will never make them ashamed of themselves. They will never know the pain I knew growing up. They will have so much more love, and if that’s all I do as a parent is show them love, I will have done enough. I will have done more than what was done for me in my time of need. And I hate seeing that so many other people went through the same things I did. I’m so sorry for your pain and even though I’m a stranger, know that you’re loved, too.