As a kid, like most kids, I masturbated. Even typing this story after years of therapy I just had to justify why I masturbated. Anyways, I felt horrible about myself due to interviews from the time I was getting ready to leave primary (turning 12). I did not tell the Bishop because I was scared and didn’t want to talk to a stranger about something I didn’t understand.
As I got a little older, when a bishop asked about sexual purity and chastity when I was around 15, he immediately scoffed and said because I was such a good person it was a silly question. This implied being a good person meant I wouldn’t ever “struggle” by having sexual feelings or actions. I felt like I was living a lie. I didn’t know about sexuality, and felt like a horrible person because of the every six months when a bishop would essentially say via these interviews that despite the fact that I studied what they wanted me to study, believed what they told me to believe, spent most my time volunteering at and attending their activities, I was a bad person.
Even growing up with bishops who were kind and did not push towards inappropriate behavior, it caused a warped view of my sexuality. I didn’t ask about sexuality to my parents because I had to hide it because I wanted to be a good person. I had depression and planned my own suicide. I didn’t follow through, which I’m thankful for, but it was by a stroke of luck.
Throughout all my teen years, it was constantly stressed that girls don’t have these feelings as strongly and can easily shut them out if they do. This led to me feeling less feminine, less desirable, and caused weight gain, depression, social anxieties, etc. I have PCOS, a common hormonal disorder in women that could have been caught in my early teens, but because of my desire to be good, I didn’t mention anything to do with body changes or sexuality to my parents or a doctor. I now have health problems as a result.
When I was 19, and went to a ward separate from my parents, I finally opened up to a bishop about masturbation. Initially he shared supportive thoughts about repentance and God. When a couple of months later the age change was announced and I said I wanted to serve a mission, and I wanted to go soon, he said first I needed an additional year to prove I would not masturbate. (Not church policy, and I knew that, but questioning a decision would be seen as prideful or non repentant) He began asking questions like if I orgasmed after masturbating and in what settings and circumstances I would masturbate. They were extremely explicit and inappropriate, but because of my fear of sexuality, and not being willing to talk to others about it due to guilt and pressure, I didn’t understand how inappropriate this was.
Finally, I tried to switch wards so that I could focus on what I believed. I wanted to be “sexually pure”. He yelled at me and attacked me verbally. I believe I was being “groomed” as a young adult. I switched wards, went on a mission a few months later. I had to attend therapy on my mission as I still felt like a horrible person.
A few years after returning, I began dating again. (I did not date for 2 years as a personal decision after getting home, as a part of self image issues). When I did, I started dating a guy who is not LDS. We didn’t have sex, but did not follow church standards. He wanted to, but I said no and he respected that. I tried dating more guys who were LDS, which is when I met Miguel. He fit everything I had always been told to want. He was a return missionary, was very active, etc. He and I talked about the church extensively, and his desire to get married in the temple. Miguel asked if I was taking the sacrament , and As I could not take the sacrament at the time due to having broken rules with the first non LDS guy, I told him. I told him the details, and suddenly he wanted more. We went from making out to much more. I told him I didn’t want to and remember him repeatedly moving my hand to his penis. He was aggressive and if I said no, he’d stop for a moment and then start again within 1-2 minutes. Things would escalate quickly. I try to block it out, but I remember him taking off his pants and garment bottoms and putting his penis in my face. I didn’t want to, but he kept coming back and didn’t move it. I kept saying we shouldn’t, and he would back off and try again a minute or two later. I didn’t feel like I could say no.
Eventually, I found myself naked on the floor. I still vividly remember him folding his and my garments carefully on a chair and then coming and trying to penetrate. I kept saying no, verbally at this point that we shouldn’t, and that I didn’t want to. This was our third date. I had known him for four days. He was so much stronger than me, and I knew he could hurt me. He wasn’t going to use a condom. He kept trying to penetrate and I kept moving to try to prevent it, and although I know in his head he wasn’t trying to rape me, I felt like I was about to be raped. I pushed him away and stood up. He told me that he had already started penetrating and if you’ve started having sex the church would treat it the same and that I had to finish having sex with him. (For the record, I’ve had sex since, I was still very much a virgin.)
I said no and he tried to convince me by saying if we had plans to get married soon the church and bishop would be more understanding. He said he needed to get married so he could have sex again. He kept pushing and I said no. He didn’t become violent but he did say awful, mean and manipulative things.
He proposed the next day. I actually felt like I might be doing something wrong by saying no, because I had a sexual experience with him. What happened with Miguel showed me how little I knew even about what sex was, about consent and assault, about being okay with myself and knowing that because I’d done something with someone that I didn’t have to do it again. I still can’t handle the smell of apples because his breath smelled like apples while he was trying to penetrate and while he was forcing his penis into my face.
I stopped going to church because I didn’t want to share the details surrounding the assault with the bishop. I didn’t want to re-experience it. I wasn’t ready. I knew if I went back I’d have to talk about it then. I decided to take a short break to heal. I went back and started dating the non LDS guy who I trusted, and really liked. I was treated horribly by friends and family as a result of being less active. I felt like a criminal. Something switched and I started doing what I wanted to do to be happy, and what actually felt right versus what I was told should feel right.
I am happy. I’m in love with that guy. I still try to “choose the right”. But, I can’t be involved in a church that no matter how many good intentions or good things that they do led me to be on the floor there, feeling horrible about myself and like I had to let him rape me.
I know I sound bitter, but I want those to read this to understand that I gave everything to the church. I went on a mission, I worked at the temple, I loved it. I believed every part of it.
In the end, I couldn’t start healing from the unintentional psychological problems that stemmed from how the bishop and others portrayed sexuality until I left.
It’s hurt me in so many ways. Let kids be kids. Talk to them about real issues of sexuality, like consent, learning to feel sexual feelings without shame, and choosing when to be involved with sexual activity (after marriage is fine, but they should be aware how to handle situations they will face.) If my parents had been there I don’t know that I would have shared everything, but I do know they wouldn’t have let the bishop imply sexual feelings or actions made me a bad person if I had them. We might have actually been able to talk about it, and prevented a lot of pain.