I was 11 when a cousin 4 years older than me began sexually abusing me. It went on every summer for 3 years, worsening each year as he viewed stronger porn and got braver about his demands for me. He began to threaten me with physical pain if I wouldn’t comply. He was an “upstanding priesthood holder” and told me that no one would believe me if I told people what was happening. I knew he was right. He was a football star and in Seminary leadership positions. I was my parents’ “rebellious kid”. So I kept quiet for a long time.
Eventually I became convinced that he would soon rape me. Not only was this terrifying, but I knew I’d be thrown out of the house if I got pregnant. And the LDS church had always taught me that a girl who’s lost her virginity is a licked cupcake, chewed gum – impure and unwanted. I knew that whether it was my fault or not, this was how I would be viewed if I was raped.
So I told a trusted adult, who told my parents, who didn’t believe me at first. My dad, “the presiding priesthood authority of my home”, sat me down and told me that I must have misunderstood some sort of mutual encounter. I should let bygones be bygones. My cousin was preparing for a mission – I didn’t want to ruin that for him over a minor mistake, right?
And I was told I needed to repent.
I went to my bishop, hoping he would be more helpful. Unfortunately, my dad had gotten to him first, so he had a general idea of what he thought had happened. Nonetheless, he asked me to go into in-depth detail about everything that I was forced to participate in. He was, in fact, so concerned that I was lying to him that he made me tell everything twice. All my abuse, twice. All the times I unwillingly felt aroused, twice. All the times I did the things I was too scared not to do, twice. As a by-product of my abuse, I had learned about masturbation and sometimes engaged in it on my own. So that was discussed as well. Twice.
Finally he told me that he DID believe I’d been abused – but that I had multiple sins to answer for. First, I had clearly done something to attract this sexual attention and I needed to look deep in my heart to find the impurities that had caused this. Was I showing too much skin? Wearing tight clothes over my female curves? Leading him into temptation by being flirtatious? Secondly, he read me the quote by Spencer W. Kimball, “It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.” He said that I should have struggled more, spoken up sooner, refused to experience arousal. Lastly, I had clearly chosen of my own free will to masturbate.
In light of all of this, he would not be calling the police. But he would call my cousin’s bishop, in order to encourage my cousin to repent before his mission. By this point, I was so relieved that the abuse was finally over and so SO ashamed of my own sexuality that I didn’t protest the bishop’s decisions or demands. I spent years working on repentance with him, and many more years feeling horribly guilty, knowing I was to blame. Years hating my body and my sexuality. Years knowing that God was disgusted with me.