Here is my story:
When I was 4 years old, my parents and I traveled from Arizona to Idaho to see family that summer (1983). We saw a number of family members, including one of my aunts and her husband (and their children) who were a “foster” family for a Native American young man (13-14 years old) through the LDS Lamanite Children’s Placement Program. One day, myself, my cousins and this young man were playing hide and seek in the house. I was hiding in the bathroom upstairs. He found me alone in the bathroom, came in, closed the door and locked it. Then he raped me, while I laid next to the toilet, on the bathroom floor. I felt sick and scared and ashamed. I was terrified that my parents would discover what had happened and that I would get in trouble for doing something wrong. I was ashamed because I thought I had done something wrong. So I kept quiet.
I tried to avoid him for the rest of the time we were staying with this aunt and uncle–I was never alone with him, I stayed close to my parents or other adults. I laid awake at night and worried that he would come into my room and would rape me again. I got sick and even threw up a couple of times. I became irritable and grumpy. Just before we left to head to Yellowstone, my parents found out that this young man had never seen Yellowstone and invited him to go with us. I wanted to scream “NO!!! He is bad!! He hurt me! Don’t let him come!” but I stayed quiet because again I was afraid. So he came with us.
While we were touring through Yellowstone, he and I sat in the back seat of the car, along with my baby brother (1-2 months old). When my parents would pull over on the side of the road to get out and see something, if this young man and I were left in the car, he would fondle me either through my shorts and underwear or he would stick his hand down my pants and fondle me, skin to skin. It made me sick, scared, and I felt dirty. I felt like if my parents caught him doing that to me, that I would get in trouble. I wanted to say something but was afraid.
This happened numerous times. After we finished our tour of Yellowstone, we took him back to my Aunt’s house and then eventually headed back to Arizona.
I didn’t tell anyone about my rape until I was 22 years old and a full time missionary. I told my mission president (who was a wonderful man and a professional counselor before becoming a mission president). He counseled with me and helped me work through some of the initial pain, shame and emotional baggage that I had been carrying around for 18 years. I was 24 before I told my mother and even then, I didn’t tell her all of the details of what had occurred.
This experience of being raped and abused as a 4 year old, has impacted my entire life! I was a petite and thin child before this occurred. After it occurred, I began eating and eating and gained weight. I became a chunky child and teen. I hid behind thick glasses, baggy clothing, and was very uncomfortable being alone with men or even young men my own age. I still struggle with my weight today and just when I begin to lose weight and feel good, someone will tell me how wonderful I look and it subconsciously causes me to sabotage my weight loss success. I begin putting on weight again. I am sure that my weight has been an insulation between me and the world and possible unwanted attention. I have felt broken, dirty, ashamed, etc.
When I was in young women’s, the bishop came into our class one Sunday and gave a “Chastity” talk. He said that if we had sex before marriage, we had committed a sin second only in seriousness, to murder. He said that until we repented, Heavenly Father couldn’t answer our prayers and couldn’t bless us. I felt sick to my stomach because again, I felt ashamed and dirty and I felt unworthy. Even though I believed him, I was too ashamed to go and “confess my sins” because I had been silent and living with this for so long. During his chastity talk, there was nothing about abuse or rape or it not being the victim’s fault or that there was support and help available. I felt like I wasn’t worthy of Heavenly Father’s love or forgiveness. I struggled for years with these feelings.
I know that there are many Native American children who were placed with Caucasian LDS families and who suffered abuse at the hands of these families. I also know that I am not the only one (even in my extended family), who were sexually abused by a Native American child who was placed with a “foster” family. I believe that the LDS church is responsible for both the abuse committed against the Native American children in the program and also for the abuse committed by the Native American children in the program against members of their foster families. The LDS church did not “vet” these homes and these children before their placement and created a situation where this abuse could not only take place, but where it would also be covered up.