I was born into the LDS church, raised and lived my whole life in the heart of LDS country, Utah County. There’s no escaping the influence of LDS church because it is everywhere here, and most people are LDS. This type of situation leads to feeling like you are in an inescapable bubble of shame and strict adherence.
I, along with my younger sister who is just under two years younger than me, before I was in kindergarten, were molested by an older male cousin who would “babysit” us–he is now a temple-going, priesthood-holding member because the LDS church doesn’t have a good vetting system and it’s policies and procedures lead to grooming innocent, vulnerable people (making them feel guilt and shame, even to the point of the victims assuming total responsibility for the CRIME, for something they *DIDN’T* do but was done to them); let’s predators learn the system of grooming using it to their advantage, when predators know how the shaming system works–(they can lie their way out, not confess, and not feel guilty about the CRIME, but also not feel guilty for lying about it/covering it up); allows predators to stay or even come back to a situation they already know how to work/exploit. My sister remembers it vividly, and I suffered in the opposite way–my mind blocked it out COMPLETELY!!! SO much so that I was completely oblivious to the fact that he ever babysat us (but both my sister and parents confirm he did). Even though my mind shut down my recall of it–it had to have been BAD to have my mind shut it out entirely– suffer from things (that involve my body and sexuality, places I can’t even stand to touch myself) that bothered me my whole life not knowing why, that suggested something DID happen–but I had no recollection. So I was already messed up from that early sexually abusive experience.
In middle school and junior high I started questioning Mormonism (early-mid 1990s). As an early teen I became agnostic, and by mid-teens I was atheist and quit going to even young women’s activities. High school was lonely for me. I had to play the pretend card to fit in and be accepted.
I started dating this one LDS boy late in my senior year, he was also a senior. I let him know my feelings about how I viewed the LDS church and that it wasn’t for me. He seemed alright with that and we dated, went to Prom, spent the summer days hanging out. As the relationship mentally/emotionally became closer, so did physical affections that go along with that. We made out at his house, french kissing, fully clothed him on top of me or me on top of him making out sessions; and he touched my breasts over my shirt, under shirt/over bra, and bare hands on my bare breasts.
In late fall 2001, he went of to USMC boot camp for 3 months, came back for 10 days before going to MOS school another few months. Then came back and immediately started prepping to leave on his mission within a month or two. As far as I knew everything was going well, except my missing him so much and knowing I was going to miss him for 2 more years.
Fast forward to his mission farewell during the Sunday meeting. (I went because I wanted to support him, even though I hadn’t sat in church for years up till that point, supporting him as the guy I loved was important to me, especially in a mixed faith relationship). Following the Sacrament/Farewell meeting, I was going to go with him and his family back to their house for a farewell party/celebration meal. My boyfriend came up to me and said he wanted to talk to the bishop, he’d mentioned it a few times earlier the week before but never said why, and asked for me to wait. So I did.
After a while, the door opened and his bishop invited me in, I didn’t understand why because I was just waiting for my boyfriend so we could leave. I walked in the office and saw my boyfriend sitting there, head hung low, and face red from crying. The bishop told me the basic idea of what happened, a brief summary of what was said: my boyfriend confessed about our affections the year before. The bishop didn’t go into detail. He told me that if I didn’t accept the *TOTAL “BLAME”* for what my boyfriend and I did (as in “responsibility” for both my actions AND my boyfriend’s), that my boyfriend’s mission would be delayed and how everyone would talk and how it would “ruin my boyfriend’s reputation”. The bishop told me if I accepted all the blame, he would let the situation go and my boyfriend could continue on his mission: no problems, no setbacks.
I was put on the spot and thrown under the bus to take total “blame” for something teenagers naturally do at that age while my boyfriend gets cleared of it completely. I was mentally and emotionally out of the church, so my boyfriend should have respected that and didn’t involve me or stand up for me in HIS confession. I didn’t know what to say, being shamed by a complete stranger to accept something that takes two, and not wanting my boyfriend to suffer, but yet not able to stand up for myself because the church doesn’t raise girls to be confident and secure women, in fact they do everything to ensure the opposite: to make both fear and feel shame and guilt about ourselves, our bodies, sexuality, and our choices unless they align completely with the church.
It hurt me so much to take “official blame”!! I don’t know if that stuff gets recorded, written down, or not, especially my boyfriend becoming a missionary it seems like it might have, but I have no clue. I felt disgusting, filthy, angry, and betrayed. My boyfriend never asked me how I was feeling or even to thank me. It was as if it “WAS” my fault the whole time; the way it was so easily and quickly swept under the rug and forgotten. It hurt to see what my boyfriend and I did as regular teenagers do, turned into me being transformed into a horrible, wanton seductress or succubus…and my boyfriend painted as this innocent victim.
It really hurt me to face that alone and in silence–how does someone begin try to explain that situation to another who is most likely already going to see it just the ONE WAY. A 19 year old female shouldn’t have a total stranger telling her to take all the blame for something that is natural for two young people to do. I was hurt as a very young child by a cousin who molested me. And then I was shamed for actually doing what healthy and normal teenagers do. There is no way for a female to “win” in their own lives in regards to their own sexualities or the traumas from crimes committed against them.
I know my story is not as difficult to hear or read as others. (I know I can’t read some of them because of my own triggers). I share my story to show that even situations with lesser degrees of trauma still pack a punch and can still hurt a human being deep down inside for their entire life. I don’t want anyone to go through what I and all these other brave, beautiful people have had to face, overcome, and heal from. Shame and guilt are NOT healthy–it’s time to end “worthiness interviews”. If it hurts even just one person–that is ONE PERSON TOO MANY!!!