Hi my name is Val. I am 61 years old, been married for 39 years and the father of 5 sons. I am a victim of sexual abuse and the shame that was instilled in me at 17 by my bishop.
My abuse started when I was around 5 years of age. I was sexually abused by an uncle. It happened a countless number of times over the span of 12 years. I spent my later teen years in Rexburg Idaho where my family had moved to just before I began my freshman year in high school. I spent my summers moving irrigation pipe in the potato and grain fields above Rexburg. It was during the alone times that I spent moving pipe in the mornings and late afternoons that I finally was able to muster up the courage to tell my bishop about the abuse that I had endured for 12 years. I can’t remember if I made the appointment or if it was during an annual interview that I finally spoke of my abuse.
My bishop, ______ of the Rexburg 9th Ward of the Rexburg Idaho Stake was the first person I had ever told of the abuse that had happened to me during pretty much my entire life. 3 things happened during that interview. He talked to me about what I needed to start doing in order to repent and make myself worthy to serve a mission. It was a typical list of things to read, pray and do. And also to abstain from blessing the sacrament and participating in priesthood ordinances. The second thing that happened or didn’t happen during that interview was that my secret stayed my secret. He never spoke to my parents and never encouraged me to tell them. I left that interview and never spoke again of my abuse for nearly 6 years. The 3rd thing that happened in that interview was that he told me after I had served my mission to marry as quick as possible. That marriage would solve any of the problems that I was having because of the abuse.
All my life I had gone to church, listened to the teachers and speakers talking about those who commit these types of sins and what would happen to them in the next life. I had always believed that I was going to hell. That I was damaged and broken and not worthy. Now here was my priesthood leader telling me that I was at fault and needed to repent.
It was many years later in life after suffering many side affects of being abused, speaking with counselors and therapists that I finally was able to see that I was a victim and not a predator. That I had not sinned. That I was not at fault for what had happened to me as a young boy. Now later in life I still cringe when I hear a priesthood leader speak of worthiness, and what a person needs to do in order to be worth of God’s love and forgiveness. I was always worthy.