I am sharing my story in hopes that it helps others to know they are not alone in their feelings, in their experiences and in their trauma, but also to raise awareness to the reality of the unhealthy culture and environment of the church for our children. I would love to see change for future generations of members and for my family who are all still very active in the church, and for the millions of children still at risk currently under the negligent policies in the church.
I first want to recognize my parents for the incredible, wonderful people they are and for their support throughout my life, I fully and completely forgive them and recognize that they were not given adequate tools to deal with all that happened as it took place. My parents did and still do the very best they can and I feel their love constantly in my life. At this point we both accept how horribly things were handled/neglected and I have accepted their apology and recognize that they too were victims in this all. At this point the best we can do is to push for change going forward for others who may not understand the danger and the repercussions of allowing children to be placed one on one alone with adult men asking prying sexually explicit questions. And also in allowing church leadership to deal with serious crimes against children.
In 1989, when I was 3 years old I was sexually assaulted by a trusted ward member and priesthood holder, this was the first of many traumatic experiences I would endure as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I could go on for a long time about the mental, emotional and spiritual consequences throughout my life. I don’t think any of us could have predicted how these experiences would bleed into every aspect of both mine and my parents’ lives.
When my parents were made aware of what had happened, they went into the bishop instead of law enforcement who assured them he would handle things, the abuser admitted to what he had done after a lot of pressure from my father and the bishop, shortly after, my parents picked up and moved from Dixon, MO across Country after realizing that it was too painful for either of them to continue to attend church with the pedophile (no “formal” disciplinary action was taken, no law enforcement were involved) My mother would be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Lupus just 2 years following the abuse, for those of you who are familiar with this disease, there have been many studies that prove that a traumatic event (emotional or physical) is very often a precursor to the diagnosis. Not talking to anyone about this traumatic event destroyed both her spirit and her health at the time.
Fast forward 11 years, my abuse had been unspoken of throughout my upbringing, my Mother and Father have since told me that they’d hoped with me being as young as I was that I wouldn’t remember and could grow up without consequences of the abuse, but as I reached my teenage years I began having horrible flashbacks and became so sick with OCD and depression and I tried to cope with what I was thinking about and remembering, having no idea where it was coming from and if it was even real.
One night I remember coming out of my room and just broke down and asked my parents what happened to me? I described in detail what had happened, and that it had been debilitating and paralyzing to me. My parents wept and told me that I was right, I remember talking for a long time about what had happened. I was angry. Angry because no one had thought any justice on my behalf was necessary, angry because I was helpless as a child and now as a teen was anxiety ridden and turning to drugs and alcohol as well to numb my memories.
As every other active teen in the church, I would have many worthiness interviews throughout my critical teen years …this would only elevate the obsessive feelings I had. I felt out of control and unable to stand up for myself. I felt I had no control of what was safe for me, no ability to set healthy boundaries as a victim of abuse. The temple and worthiness interviews were the single most damaging thing that would happen to me aside from the abuse itself, it felt as if I was reliving it each time.
For those of you who do not understand this practice, a worthiness interview is where an LDS child as young as 8 years old (but more specifically from 12-18) is sent alone into an office with an older man in the position of bishop, no windows, door closed and is at times asked about extremely inappropriate questions in effort for these men/ bishops to determine your “worthiness” Believe me when I say that the re-traumatization I felt while in these interviews was far worse than my memories ever were.
I would freeze and feel every signal in my body screaming “NO” as I would sit there silent and afraid though and answer questions about things I felt dirty and wrong about. Questions about chastity, about what I had done with my boyfriends, about whether I had seen or looked at pornography often, about whether I had masturbated. I felt shame and guilt over my abuse, things I could have never controlled. But it all took me back to what had happened to me and I felt shame and guilt as if it were thousands of pounds and resting on my shoulders. I did this over and over though, it was normal and accepted in the culture I was raised.
I eventually got to the point where I refused the requests for interviews and I would not go on temple trips because I couldn’t physically do it anymore. I know it disappointed my parents, but I just started telling the bishopric counselors or secretary “no” when asked to meet.
As an adult, wife and mother I am finally at a point where I will no longer be silenced, I no longer feel afraid, or shameful, or that I have to keep these things a secret. I finally understand how important it is for parents to be aware of these stories so that they might be able to better protect their own children. I believe this movement has purpose and that God is behind it 100%.
Luke 12:3 “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs”
I support the “Protect LDS Children” movement and have done everything I possibly can to show that support Sam. I am forever grateful that you took up this “cross” so to speak and have carried it, it is heavy, so heavy, there are thousands of very heavy burdens to add to your own as a shocked and appalled father, you have stepped up in ways others could not. You have advocated for something that is long past due. This change will come! I believe it. I have faith. Many children will be safer because of your work Sam. Thank you for being the one who stood up and said NO MORE to this harmful practice!!!