My mother taught me that it was wrong to touch my private parts. I was afraid to sin and was very careful not to ever touch myself, even as a young child. At some point I began to masturbate, as a young teen or perhaps sooner. I did not know what it was that I was doing, just that it felt good. I had heard the word “masturbation” and knew that it was a very bad sin, but I did not know what it was. At some point, during a class at church, a leader was descriptive enough in speaking about masturbation for me to begin to wonder if that was what I had been doing. I went to my Mother, who confirmed that I had committed a grave sin. She told me that we should not tell my Father because it would “destroy him.” She took me to the church and sent me into a room alone with an older, male neighbor who I did not know very well (our bishop) to confess.
I had had worthiness interviews before. I was very obedient and “righteous” and followed all of the teachings of the church, so I had never confessed anything before. Even in those previous interviews, I had felt extremely uncomfortable. I felt like the bishop was looking right through me. I felt like I was definitely guilty of something, but wasn’t sure what it was. I was sure that if the bishop just looked into my soul long and hard enough he would see something that was wrong with me or that made me unworthy.
In this confession interview, the bishop asked for specific details regarding the act of masturbation. How long it had been going on, exactly how it was done. He asked me some other questions to ensure that I had not committed other/additional sexual transgressions. In the end, he told me that I would be fine. Not to do it again. That I did not need to go through a “process.” I think that the most damaging part of this whole experience was the idea that was ingrained in me: you can commit a sin, even a very serious sin, without wanting to or even knowing you are sinning.
As a young adult with a first boyfriend, I was not capable of enjoying any level of intimacy. I was paranoid. My mind was constantly policing every kiss, every touch … wondering if it had “crossed the line.” We never had sex, and yet, I confessed to multiple bishops regarding our intimacy. I had this deeply ingrained idea that it might even be possible for me to have sex by accident without intending to if I allowed things to cross that line and go too far. After the bishops and stake presidents interviews prior to going to the temple and going on a mission, I sat in my car and cried. I decided that I had to be absolutely sure. I went back to the Stake President’s office and confessed to every make-out session I had ever had, just to be sure.
I am now on a path of healing from a marriage in which I experienced marital rape. And I realize that the sexual trauma is much deeper and goes all the way back to the day that, as a little girl, I was told that God did not want me to ever touch my own body. It is inter-generational trauma. I am glad that collectively we are ready to take this step toward healing. I want to share my story as part of the healing process. I am no longer in Utah, but would like to know that my story is among those presented at the church office buildings this month.