When I was 19, I was working in a coffee shop. One of the regular customers, who was a non-member, but professed to be religiously observant, asked me out. I was lonely because all of my close friends had gone to university and I was working to try to earn money to be able to go a few months later. I also lived in a home where my father was abusive and my mother suffered from significant mental illness. My sex education was minimal and I was extremely naive.
I was flattered to be given attention by an older man who drove a nice car and who had money to spare. I was also working nights for the first time and the change in my schedule affected my judgement. I often walked around in a fog. To this day, I am not sure that he did not doctor my food or my drink, because I was definitely not myself.
I realize now that he was an expert at grooming and he incrementally broke down my defenses until I was doing things that I was profoundly ashamed of. Even though I was insistent regarding my boundaries, he continually pushed me to compromise. I had no idea how sex progressed and he pushed me pretty far, although we never had intercourse.
Our relationship ended when I moved to attend an LDS school. After a chastity lesson where a stick of gum was mangled and lost virtue was equated to this disgusting item, I approached my bishop to get some resolution for my choices.
I had no one to talk to and no one to trust as I was in a new place. I found the meeting to be demoralizing as blame was heaped upon me for what had done. He asked me increasingly detailed questions and I did not have the language or the understanding of what he was asking to provide the details he apparently wanted. At one point, I asked where the consequences were for the older man, but I was told there were none, because I was the member of the church who had let my standards slide; I suppose I was getting some sense of how I had been manipulated. My choices were attributed to my personal weakness and I thank God that I was not reported to the Honor Code office. I was mortified to be in a student ward where people could see me not taking the sacrament; it is embarrassing to not take it when you are being served by your potential dating pool, instead of deacons.
This older man continued to contact me even after I broke things off with him and again, I had no tools to know how to deal with someone who would not leave me alone.
While I served my mission, I still experienced panic and flashbacks when I had to teach discussions about the law of chastity, even though I should have been okay with being forgiven for what I had done. When I was preparing to get married, we were rushed to get married 6 weeks after our engagement, because my fiance had been married before and it was inevitable that we would not make it to the temple according to my bishop. I complied with the direction from our bishop out of fear that his expectations would come true. I should have waited, our relationship was a ticking time bomb, but I figured that if I was weak before, people who knew better were probably right. Sex continued to be a point of tension in our marriage and we ended up divorced.
I am almost 40 years old and I still experience panic and emotional distress when I think of that meeting with the bishop and how I was groomed and abused by this older man. I am grateful for the increased awareness today about sexual predators, but so much pain and stress could have been eliminated from my life if I had been treated with more compassion given the circumstances of my “mistakes”.