I first learned about the LDS church the school year after I was raped at 14 years old. It was a case of coercion, I was told he cared about me and he wouldn’t stop pressuring me until I realized there was nothing I could say to make him stop, I had already said no and he wouldn’t stop, so I gave in and let it happen.
I met a boy the first day of high school and we immediately hit it off, but started dating a year later once I had turned 15. He was the white knight type, he knew SOMETHING had happened to me, but I never told him what, and he seemed to want to be the one to fix the pain I was in. I was head over heels and started taking missionary discussions with him, despite my family not wanting me to and drawing the line on being baptized only after I turned 18.
I ended up taking the missionary lessons for 3 years before I was able to join the church. But while I was taking them, I felt like everything I was doing was wrong. My high school boyfriend and I had a physical relationship and he felt extremely guilty about this, and always blamed me. Always my fault because I was the non-member seducing him. I ended up waiting for him when he left on his mission, he broke it off immediately after coming home, and told me years later he cheated on me before he left for his mission. But that’s not even what messed me up.
I had to have many worthiness interviews before I joined the church, because my parents wouldn’t let me join until I turned 18 but the missionaries I was meeting with in secret (gross that adult missionaries were meeting with a teenage girl without her parents’ permission!) INSISTED I kept being faithful and setting baptismal dates before I’d turned 18. This meant I had to have interviews with the bishop often. The bishop asked me questions that made me feel really embarrassed and uncomfortable. He asked me if I had ever had sexual relations and I said I had, and I tried to explain that I didn’t like it and hadn’t wanted it to happen but I liked the boy and he took it too far. He asked a lot of questions about if it was oral, anal, vaginal. He wanted to know details. But he was asking about my rape, and it was a huge trigger. I had undiagnosed ptsd, I didn’t know it. I just kind of nodded along and tried not to pass out.
I was told I needed to read certain scriptures and repent. This is where my mental health took an even bigger U-turn. At this point, I believed the bishop was chosen by the prophet, who was spoken to by God. The bishop had blamed me for my rape, and I believed him. I kept that a secret for 12 years. I didn’t tell him about my actual consensual relationship with the high school boyfriend, I didn’t tell him anything else he could use against me, but he still asked and I lied. I began to dread church. I began to hate myself. I slipped into a habit of taking Dramamine, the motion sickness medicine, to fall asleep and as soon as I woke back up I took more. I was a teenager and this was as close to substance abuse as I could get at the time, but alcohol followed in college.
I had many bishops ask me these intrusive questions, and I never told the truth after being blamed for my assault. Even though I believed it was my fault at the time, I did not want to admit to anything else and go through another cycle of triggers by having to answer the questions about what did I do, oral anal vaginal? I didn’t want to be asked if I enjoyed it again.
I finally had a bishop who realized that something was wrong and he was a great guy, had earned my trust, and I told him what happened. He got me therapy! My therapist was amazing and I am very thankful for him. It took me 6 months to open up about what had happened and that I thought it was my fault, and he was the first person to say NO it is NOT my fault.
But knowing that was the end of my believing in the church. Once I knew I had been blamed for my sexual assault and hadn’t sought justice, I fell into an even deeper depression, but I couldn’t let go of blaming myself. I still felt like I could have prevented it, by being a more chaste girl. I moved home, and then to the beach as a last ditch effort to save my own life. It didn’t seem to work, because I was living with an undiagnosed condition that kills people every hour. It wasn’t until after my suicide attempt in 2017, laying in a hospital bed finally being diagnosed with PTSD, I stopped blaming myself. I finally realized the full picture. That moment in that bishop’s office being told to repent for my part in my assault prevented me from knowing it was NOT my fault, preventing me from knowing it was rape, preventing me from telling my parents, prevented me from filing a police report until after the statute of limitations had passed (I did file one but it had been 12 years by that point.), prevented me from getting counseling and instead told I needed to pray more, take the missionary lessons some more, etc etc.
Now I have officially withdrawn my records, but I am still haunted by my experience and not getting justice. If the bishop had been trained, if he knew warning signs of child abuse, if he had read my FACE and my fear, if he saw the scared girl in front of him instead of focusing on the sin he thought I was committing, or perhaps his own perversion with asking questions, I might not be such a mess. I might not have trust issues, I might not have the fear of having daughters because they may experience what I did. I may not avoid entire parts of my hometown or not talk to people who have the same name as my abuser. I may not have such a hard time keeping a job because I am physically sick from my ptsd attacks. Maybe I’d feel safe going to the grocery store. But I didn’t get justice, and I do blame the bishop who blamed me instead of helped me.
3 years of counseling down, many more to go. I am, however, thankful for my final bishop who did NOT ask me disgusting questions and got me a counselor. I’m thankful for my LDS counselor who didn’t use religion as a healing method because he knew it was a trigger for me and instead used traditional methods and never preached. I’m thankful for the nurse who cried with me. I’m thankful for the friends who are members of the church and have heard me out through all my tangents and understand that my pain is valid but I don’t want to destroy their faith either. I’m thankful for Sam and everyone who stands up for people like me, who didn’t get a say