I was raped my first semester at BYU. My on-campus bishop was the one person I told of my experience, in desperate hopes to obtain some sort of peace for my broken heart. He told me I’d need to stop taking the sacrament, he handed me a copy of The Miracle of Forgiveness, and before I left his office, he warned me that if I found myself to be pregnant, I would need to leave BYU. Instead of recognizing what had occurred, and lacking any sort of inspiration to help him know what I had endured, my bishop reinforced my self-hatred, guilt and immense feelings of worthlessness. He sentenced me to public shame and humiliation by asking me not to take the sacrament each week. He asked me to read the vile words of Prophet Spencer W. Kimball who clearly stated that it would have been better that I lost my life fighting for my virtue than to survive such an experience. And lastly, he reinforced that the image of BYU and the LDS church was far superior than what was best for me in the aftermath of a rape. Leaving BYU was only contingent on whether I was pregnant or not, an outward visual marker of what had been done to me.
Issue #1: Bishops are not equipped to respond to victims or perpetrators of abuse. This must be handled by trained professionals who are licensed to respond appropriately to maintain safety and healing.
As I looked back on this experience throughout my adult life, I came to realize something very dangerous about my childhood. Why did I fall victim to a rapist? A man 9 years my senior, a priesthood holder and a returned missionary. My rapist was an acquaintance, and as he got to know me, he would ask me about my past sexual experiences, how far I went sexually with boys in my past, how I felt about the experiences. He groomed me. And why did I not immediately recognize the inappropriate nature of these questions and conclude with certainty his motives? Because I had been asked these questions at least once a year throughout my childhood beginning with my baptism interview at age 8. These questions had been asked by older men, Priesthood Holders, returned missionaries. I had been trained my entire childhood that these questions were normal, that there was nothing wrong with a strange man asking about your sexual behavior in private. 15 years following my rape, a close family member incredulously asked me one day “How could you NOT know what his intentions were?” Worthiness interviews are how. Years of grooming by men who fit the exact description of my rapist. I was a lamb to the slaughter. I had no chance, not if I listened to what I had been taught. This needs to change.
Issue #2: Worthiness interviews groom our children, desensitizing them to the awareness they need to keep themselves safe. They teach our children that it is completely normal and accepted for a strange older man to ask graphic and explicit questions about their personal sexuality in secret, often shaming them for abuse or normal developmental behavior. And this desensitization sets our children up to be hurt by any predator who happens to take advantage of their passive compliance.