This is a difficult story to tell. I am sharing it now in the hope that it’ll help put pressure on the church to change these horrid policies, or maybe make someone who has been through a similar situation feel less alone.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a crush on a boy in my grade. We’ll call him W. He was funny and charismatic, and lived just down the road from me. We were stuck in the awkward Mormon high school situation of “we can’t be in a relationship but we both like each other”.
W and I spent time with the same group of friends. Things were fine until one evening when he slipped his hand into my shirt. I was frightened, and didn’t know what to do. I just froze. We were with a dozen other friends, and I was terrified someone would see what was happening. Over the course of a few weeks, it progressed to W sexually assaulting me regularly. It was always in public, and I always froze. He was extremely talented at not being noticed.
Soon after, it progressed to W following me into bathrooms and pressing still farther. I fell into a spiral of depression and self-hatred. I was sure my family and ward would reject me if they found out what was happening. My grades tanked, and I stopped doing the things I enjoyed. I came very close to attempting suicide.
The pattern continued, and finally, my seminary teacher found me crying while hiding in the seminary building during lunch. He asked me what happened, and I told him the whole story. He called and set up an appointment with my bishop for me, to get help.
I met with the bishop and told him everything. I can’t remember what questions he asked. At the end of the meeting, he set up additional appointments for me.
The very next week, I walked in to talk with the bishop again, and W was sitting there. His face was covered in tears. I froze again. The bishop asked me to come in and sit down, and I did. The bishop looked me straight in the eye and said, “W doesn’t remember any of this happening, but he wants to apologize.” W turned away from the bishop to look at me. He apologized, but smirked the entire time. Then the bishop sent him out to speak with me privately. He warned me about the dangers of false accusations ruining lives. He went on to tell me the Lord wanted me to continue to be in W’s life, and that it was important that I forgive him.
Being a faithful young woman, I did my best to do so. I even took him to two school dances. I thought the discomfort and fear I felt around him was my own weakness and challenge of faith. The sexual assault is all W’s fault, but my bishop played an undeniable role in my trauma.
No one deserves to go through something like this, especially children. I’m thankful for everyone fighting to change this policy.