My father, Stan ______, held one on one “priesthood” interviews with his children when I was growing up. He set this up to feel much like a Bishop interview, and often compared the Bishop’s stewardship over the ward with Stan’s stewardship over his family. When I was 15, Stan began “Sex Ed” in which he coerced me into masturbating, molested me, and object raped me, all while shaming me for wanting him to stop. Despite hating the abuse, I had been conditioned to believe I needed permission about what was and wasn’t done with my body. I believed I had to do what God wanted, and Righteous Priesthood Men knew better than me what God’s will was. Stan is at fault for much of this conditioning, but normalizing me to answer to an adult man by the church did not help the situation.
After five years of abuse, I turned to a Bishop for help. Alone in the room with him, while my mom waited in the hall, I was asked why I had let my father touch me, and then given a chastity lessons when I burst into tears. I was suicidal when I came forward about the abuse, the way it was handled by the church made it worse.
In following meetings with the Bishop, I was given more chastity lessons, and urged not to talk about the abuse because it would hinder Stan’s repentence process. I was not offered any assistance in gaining safety from my abuser or resources for my mental health. I was left to find those on my own.
For a time, I had unstable living and so passed through many wards. I reached out to these Bishops and received similar advice: forgive, spend time with Stan, pray for healing instead of going to therapy. One Bishop even called me an agent of Satan for asking for clarification on topics Stan had twisted to justify his abuse. All the while, Stan showed no remorse and continued to emotionally abuse me in any contact we had. He is a pedophile predator. He has confessed to much of what he did because he believed he could get away with it by blaming me, calling the abuse (that started when I was minor) consensual. And he did get away with it. The church did not hold a church court, or call the police, or take any steps to protect me or future victims. I was not his first victim. I wasn’t even the first time he was caught, but it was covered up then too.
Stan is absolutely accountable for his own actions, but the church shouldn’t be a place where he can find protection and opportunity to hurt others. And I don’t believe the church intended to be, in my case. But there needs to be better understanding, training, and listening.
I want to see the church adapt and grow and do better. Please listen to the children. Facing the reality that someone you love and trust has manipulated you in this way is heart shattering, and it is so hard already to tell someone. A little support and compassion goes a long way.