I was a 15-year-old cheerleader when I was called into the bishop’s office for making out with my boyfriend. The bishop, a 50-something real estate agent, asked me to go over every point of the encounter in fine detail more than once. What I was wearing, where/how my boyfriend touched me, how it felt, if my nipples were hard, etc…. He heaped on the shame and guilt, all the while hanging on every intimate detail. He told me I was beautiful, and that I would be responsible for the virtue of many men. He called me back into his office to go over everything again the following week as well. I remember wondering why Heavenly Father would require such detail and repetition for repentance. I believed I was required to answer the bishop’s questions. Bishops had been privately asking my friends and me about masturbation, and any sexual experiences, on a regular basis since we turned 12.
I dated the same boyfriend for a year, and had to go back to my bishop to confess engaging in “petting” a handful of times. It was always the same painful process. When I was 17 and 19, I confessed similar “sins” to different bishops who also asked me sexually explicit questions. I thought it was completely normal for a teenager to be alone with a much older man, talking about intimate, sexually explicit things. I learned it was not my place to say “no.”
The guilt and shame of all of these interactions was overwhelming. At 21, I married a man who belittled me — I thought I deserved it. Even though I was a virgin on my wedding night I believed I was dirty and undeserving of love. It’s been 20+ years since then, and I still struggle with sexual guilt and shame. I’ve never been able to have a normal sex life. I have trouble trusting people, especially those in authority. I am finally learning how to listen to my own gut instincts.
I believe all of my bishops thought they were doing the right thing. The Mormon church directs bishops to meet with children and ask sexual questions. This policy caused me tremendous lasting harm. These interviews need to stop immediately.