I was a young woman in college when a young, LDS man forcibly groped me, kissed me and exposed himself to me. Afterwards I didn’t process that it wasn’t my fault, in fact I felt guilt and shame and told no one of what happened until 8 years later, just a few months ago.
This shame was probably augmented due to a Bishop’s interview before my assault in which I was forced to confess a consensual, heavy make out session with another young man after he had confessed privately and given my name as his accomplice in this “sin” without warning me… I was then called to meet with the Bishop without knowing the reason or topic of the meeting. At that point I was just lectured and given a “slap on the hand” or a warning. But this time, my abuser confessed to the Bishop and gave him my name; I was again called for a private interview with the Bishop. The Bishop was a kind, well meaning man but this interview caused me severe psychological trauma that has affected me up until recent months of processing through my past. The Bishop told me that he had already spoke to my abuser, J., and that he had a pretty good idea what happened and didn’t need to hear my side of the story. He shamed me, told me I was on probation and could not partake of the sacrament in church for a number of months; in a kind way, he tried to understand why I was “doing these things”. I remember him telling me that I was bright and that my parents should be proud of my accomplishments…I told him I didn’t think they were. Although he made a great attempt, I’m sure he had no idea I had been forced and that he’d just shamed a victim and made me feel dirty and unworthy. At the time, I had been briefly single after breaking up with my LDS boyfriend. I felt like my feelings of self-loathing and inadequacy would disappear if I just got married in the Temple so I could get away from the disgrace of my sexuality. I got back together with my boyfriend and we were engaged shortly after. We had to confess more moral sins to our Bishop, a different one, during our engagement, but we were luckily deemed worthy enough to be married in the Temple. I married someone entirely wrong for me, had kids way too young, and found myself in a marriage that was mentally, psychologically and at times sexually abusive. I had more traumatic experiences with Bishop’s interviews when seeking counsel and support to divorce my husband. Again, a very kind, well meaning man with zero professional training. I almost didn’t make it out of my marriage, but luckily I found support outside the church and got out. I chose to leave the church and I’m still recovering from the years of indoctrination that led to my self loathing and misunderstanding of normal, healthy human existence. I’m doing better, but still getting over the programming of needing a male authority to tell me if I’m good enough and worthy enough. This shaming of children, teens and young adults needs to stop; it sets up our girls, especially, to be victims of abuse and dominance in their future relationships.