I was molested by my older brothers for several years. One night my mother sat me down and asked me about it because my parents had caught one of my brothers trying to sneak into my room the night before. I had enough foresight to bar the door knowing he would come in. I felt intense and overwhelming fear, but also relief and gratitude towards my mother. She comforted me and told me it would be ok. However, a few days later she told me that we were all going to the church to talk to the bishop about it. I didn’t understand. My heart dropped into my stomach and everything started spinning. What had my mom just done to me?
Sitting outside the bishop’s office at 11 years old, I could literally see my heart beat against my chest. When it was my turn, I went in, alone, with a backward glance at my mom. The bishop began by asking me to tell him what had happened. I told him. He asked a few questions but I don’t remember all of it. I don’t recall invasive questions and he was very nice. His daughter was my friend. He was a licensed therapist for the church. But what I do remember is that he told me what happened was wrong and that I should never do it again. Did I understand? Yes, I understood, I said as I nodded my head. I was trembling and crying. We went home. And that was it. Nothing was reported. And nothing stopped. The rock in the pit of my stomach stayed there for most of my life. It is still there sometimes. It will always be there.
As an adult, I finally went to a real therapist, specializing in adults who were sexually abused as children. After several sessions, she diagnosed me with Dissociative Disorder and PTSD, saying it was her belief, as well as those therapists she practiced with (I had previously given permission for her to discuss my case in their weekly meetings) that it was meeting with the bishop that caused me to develop PTSD. The repeated trauma of abuse of course contributed to that, as well as being the main factor in my Dissociative Disorder, but the incredible fear of that meeting and being told I had been wrong to participate in the abuse fractured my young brain, heart and soul. PTSD is a terrible plight to live with. I struggle constantly as I try to cope with living with it. It seeps like oil spilled onto cloth, continuing an outward spread from the original blot as it pervades and pushes itself into every part of your life and affects everyone you love until it is much larger than it started.
I finally stopped doing things with my brothers when I was 12 or 13. I never told my mom anything personal again and I lost all trust in her.
When I was 16 my parents came home to me having an emotional meltdown. She set me up with lds social services. Can you guess who my therapist was? It was the same man who had been my bishop at 11 years old. He looked me in the eye and told me that I hadn’t done anything wrong, did I know that? I was shocked. Stunned. I sat there several moments while I tried to comprehend what he had said. Nothing reconciled itself inside me. What was he saying to me? Then after several moments I grew some courage, built on the rage that suddenly boiled up inside me, and said, “If that is true, can you tell me why you made me confess to you when I was 11?” He had absolutely nothing to say. He simply stared at me, shame faced. I left and didn’t go back. Had he managed to open his mouth and apologize and try to help heal me, I may have begun to believe him. But I didn’t because I didn’t know how to think anything other than I was dirty and gross and ashamed of my womanly body. He ensured that at our first meeting 5 years earlier.
I had been stuck for years in a cycle of masturbating, self-shaming, self-loathing and guilt; bargaining with God to forgive me secretly so I didn’t have to confess any more sins. I promised I would stop. But I never could. I was told by one of my brothers that the way I had dressed made it difficult for him to leave me alone. Even as a full grown adult he asked me why I had to wear spandex when I worked out? I became a little promiscuous in my youth. I did not do anything too wild, but I was seen as a rebellious youth by my leaders. My mother had told her friends, who told their kids, my peers, warning them about associating with our family. It was humiliating. Some of my brothers have had to deal with the legal fallouts of their actions as adult men when their behaviors again manifested in various ways. I have no gratification in this as they hurt others in the process, but I do have some pity as they should’ve received proper help, in whatever form that needed to be, when they were younger as I like to think it would’ve spared the innocent ones they later hurt. The church failed them all as well.
As a single adult, I was told the bishop wanted to talk to me. My boyfriend had previously been asked to come in and was asked about our relationship. He confessed to our sexual relationship. I felt I had no choice as I had been brought up to obey my priesthood leaders, so I went in and fearfully confessed. We were scheduled for a disciplinary hearing. During my hearing, I was asked if I had ever had an abortion. I’m still bothered by this question because I hadn’t, nor had I alluded to it. I was intelligent enough to think ahead and put myself on birth control. Unfortunately, putting this much thought into my actions is unusual and viewed by members to be willfully sinning rather than just succumbing to the heat of the moment. I was asked explicit questions and was alone with these men, most of whom I had known from childhood. They wanted names of others I had been involved with, which I refused to give them. I was again shaking, and threw up in the parking lot waiting for their decision. We were disfellowshipped because of the length of time we had been having sex and the measures we took to prevent pregnancy. We remained in the state of being disfellowshipped for many years.
The demoralization of this experience is indescribable. I humbled myself to the point of having no dignity in order to be brought back into full fellowship several years later. I could never look these men fully in the eyes again without being reminded that they knew all of my most intimate and humiliating secrets. There is still shame in me. There is still a little girl in me who is scared of authority. I will always struggle with knowing there are men out there who know my secrets. They were mine, and I shouldn’t have been forced to share them with anyone I didn’t want to for fear of being separated from God and my family. I shouldn’t have ever been made to feel guilty about the molestation at the hands of my brothers and I should’ve been protected from them instead of left in the same situation we were in. That’s not how it works, that’s not how any God I read about in the scriptures works