I began dating my husband when I was sixteen and he seventeen. I lost my virginity after we had been dating about a year. I felt an immense amount of shame and guilt and went to my bishop. He wasn’t loving. He was cold and condescending. He told me that I could go through the repentance process- which would be long, difficult, and miserable- but that I could never get my virtue back. I was beyond devastated. I felt like I had messed up my entire life. I contemplated and attempted suicide. After that interview, whenever my bishop saw me- even outside of church- he would get a certain look on his face and reference my boyfriend and dating relationship with him. He came and visited my home and made comments to my parents heavily hinting about what had happened. I cannot describe the shame and the feelings of vulnerability I experienced. I no longer felt comfortable around him and wished that I had never said anything.
The next year I was living in another city, attending a different ward. My mom had died and so I was living with relatives while attending college and working. I was still dating my boyfriend and we were still struggling immensely to maintain sexual boundaries. He was trying to prepare to go on a mission but we did care about each other and saw each other frequently. Furthermore, once that door of sexual relations has been opened it is very difficult to close it. When I went to that bishop he told me that people who really love each other respect each other enough to not have sex (this is a huge fallacy- people make mistakes and have hormones even if they love each other). He also shamed and guilted me and told me that I was ungrateful for what others were doing for me and the fact that I was still doing those things while relying on my aunt and uncle’s charity was wrong. He condemned me for keeping my boyfriend from going on a mission. He also made sexual comments that made me uncomfortable. Knowing what I do now, I feel that it could have opened the door to sex abuse. However, I had been taught my whole life to submit to bishop’s questioning and thought it was normal.
Months later my boyfriend and I decided to get married. We have been happily married seven years now. The shame and guilting and false doctrine I heard from my bishops has continued to haunt me. I have struggled with feelings that my life will never be as good as people who were virgins when they were married. It has left a lot of bitterness towards the LDS church. My husband and I were sealed in the temple and have three beautiful children, but I still struggle to escape the idea that I am not as good as others and that I gave up my “virtue.” I will never allow my children to have one on one interviews with bishops. It is not appropriate for a man in a position of power to be talking about things of a sexual nature alone with children and young adults.
I hope that others will question the bishop’s interview protocol as much as I have to protect children not only from sex abuse, but from shaming and normalizing the type of questioning and conversations that occur behind closed doors.