While my story is a bit different, I feel compelled to tell it to you in hopes that maybe it will show light on another issue facing youth within the LDS faith.
One day, while my regular teacher was out for a teaching conference, my class and I were substituted by a different. He was an elderly man with graying hair and came across as trusting as any grandfather figure. He loved talking about his kids, both biological and adopted, and he loved giving hugs. One thing that he loved, that he didn’t tell us about – he also loved inappropriately touching children.
By the time the last bell of the day rang, I had been molested and sexually assaulted by this man. Being so young and innocent, I had no idea what happened to me, I just knew it was wrong. I felt I had done something wrong, that I was in trouble. I secluded myself from my peers as I felt like they were all staring at me. I felt like I had a disease and was contagious. I went home and showered, but could not get clean. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. My mother, concerned, sat with me to try and find out what was bothering me. After the floodgates, the shame, the guilt – my mother hugged me and told me I did nothing wrong. She promptly contacted the authorities and the school. I went through countless excruciating, uncomfortable interviews and my teacher had to come back early, which only added to my guilt and shame. I felt it was my fault, that I was an inconvenience to all those people.
A few days after the incident, my bishop, whom knew me since 4 and knew my family, came by my house to speak to me alone. We spoke on my front porch and he asked me why I was lying about a good, moral, LDS man. I stood there stunned and speechless. My bishop went on to advise me that lying was a sin and that if I wanted to join my family in Heaven, I needed to cleanse myself of sin. I broke. I ran into my home bawling and locked myself in a bathroom. My mother freaked out at the sight of her daughter so upset, she kicked my bishop out and told him to never come back to her house or around her daughter again. My mother tried talking me out of the bathroom for several hours. This was the date and cause of my first attempted suicide.
As the investigation pursued, it was found that the man who sexually assaulted me, being an active, temple bound member of the LDS Church, often took advise from his bishop regarding his unhealthy interest in children. He confided in his bishop and admitted to giving in to these interests with his own children. It was on the advise of his bishop that he work as a substitute teacher around children to help him get over these interests – of which exposed me to him. The investigation also drew out upwards of 34 other victims, from 4 different elementary schools. This mas was tried and convicted on 2 counts of sexual abuse of a child and was later convicted of sexual abuse against his children. During the course of the legal proceedings, his family took liberty to mail me threatening letters with bible versus included claiming I was a liar and a sinner.
In the aftermath, I suffered immense psychological and mental trauma. I endured years of therapy. I was never the same. I still suffer from severe anxiety, depression and PTSD. I have attempted suicide several times. I detach myself from emotional relationships which has put a strain on my marriage. Intimacy for me is emotional and traumatizing. I lost my faith in the LDS church, not on the day I lost my childhood or my innocence, but on the day my faith and my beliefs were used against me. The trauma inflicted by the LDS bishops who caused and reiterated the trauma from my abuse was far worse than any my the actual abuser caused.
I know I am not the only one who has been victimized due to a bishop giving misplaced advise to parishioners. Bishops are not properly trained to give such advise and the man who abused me should have been reported to the authorities at first mention of his actions towards his children. My bishop should not have accused me and threatened me the way he did. I know he did not know all the facts, but that just solidifies my point.