When I was 16, I started dating a boy in my ward. I fell hard and fast, and really believed I was in love with him. 3 months into our relationship, he started pushing the envelope sexually. He kept pushing me and pushing me to have sex. One day, he picked me up from school and we went to his house. He started touching me in a way that I didn’t want him to. I tried to pull back several times, but he kept pushing me, telling me he loved me and wanted to marry me in the future. When he started taking off my clothes, I told him “no” several times. I told him I wanted him to go on a mission. I begged him to take me to the temple first. He kept going. And when he was raping me, I just felt horrible, crying silently. When he was done, he pulled away and sat on the edge of his bed, and wouldn’t even look at me. I left and cried for 4 days, 4 days in which he said nothing, ignored me completely. That Sunday, I went to church and after, he pulled me aside and said he felt horrible. He said we needed to go to the bishop. I agreed.
We made an appointment and went to see the bishop. I expected my boyfriend to take responsibility, to apologize to me and God and to promise nothing like that would ever happen again. I expected him to still go on a mission and take me to the temple after. But no. He spoke while I sat there, covered in shame. He made it seem like it was my fault. Like he was just a guy and I tempted him and I pushed him to have sex. And as a young woman, with all the lessons I’d ever been taught about women being responsible for saying no, women being the ones who “tempt” men with impure thoughts, women being responsible for lust, I felt completely responsible.
Sadly, the bishop took that view too. He said he wanted to meet with me every week. He took me out of the Laurel presidency, he forbade me to play the piano or pray in church, he told me I couldn’t sing with the ward choir and that I would not be allowed to take the sacrament or go to church dances or even joint mutual activities. He also told me that me and my boyfriend had to break up and never be in the same room without our parents there too. And the worst part, he told me that as part of my “repentance “, I had to tell my parents that I was no longer a virgin and that he would be instructing them on how to “protect me from sexual sin” in the future. I told them and my relationship with them was forever ruined. The bishops “protection” included grounding me from my friends, not allowing me to date at all, watching me constantly, not allowing me to watch any movies with romance themes and a whole other list of rules and conditions. He also told the young woman’s leaders what had happened, the president was the mother of my best friend since I was 3. So even my friends were aware of what happened.
The weekly meetings with my bishop were hell. On our 3rd one, he asked if I was pregnant. I had gotten my period that week, and I was forced to tell my bishop about it and the amount and consistency, to make sure it was a real period. He told me that he felt led to give me a pregnancy test and made me go to the bathroom to take it. It was humiliating, but thankfully negative. 3 weeks after that, my now ex-boyfriend was back to passing the sacrament. I was so furious. I went to my meeting with the bishop, and he told me that he didn’t want my ex to be excluded from serving a mission. So I asked “well what about me? What if I wanted to serve a mission?” He looked at me and said “I’m sorry, but some temporary decisions have permanent consequences. You will never be able to serve a mission, and if you don’t fully repent and change your attitude, you won’t be able to get married in the temple”.
I was emotionally done at that point, but I still went in for my weekly torture for another 4 months. I met someone and started dating him behind my parents back. At that point, I told my parents that I couldn’t take it, I didn’t want to be Mormon anymore. They told me to either break up with the guy or move out. So I moved out. My parents and I didn’t really speak for 4 years. When I met my now husband (a never Mormon), the emotional damage was so great that I honestly didn’t believe he loved me because how could anyone who loved me want to have sex with me before we were married. But my self esteem was so low, I thought it was all I deserved. Even after we dated, moved in together, got engaged and got married, I still didn’t believe he really honestly loved me. It wasn’t til our first daughter was born that I began to really accept that he loved me wholly and completely.
When I was 16, I didn’t even know what rape was. It wasn’t til I was 25 that I could call what happened to me “rape”. But it was. I said no. I said no several times. And the fact that we were dating and in love didn’t change the fact that what happened in his bedroom that day was rape. I got a letter from him while he was on his mission, telling me that both he and God forgave me for what happened. He is now married in the temple, I am sure he has children. But he is a rapist. And I was a victim. The bishop passed away 3 years ago, and I went to his funeral. As awful as he was, I can honestly say I forgive him, and in a weird way, I owe him my whole amazing, non-Mormon life. It’s thanks to him that I left, and I have an amazing life because of it. I have married the most amazing man in the world, who is wonderful, forgiving, loving and patient, and I never would have dated, let alone married him, if I had been stuck where I was. We have 2 beautiful kids, who have never been in a Mormon church but who are raised with unconditional love and no sexual shame.
My life turned out pretty awesome. But I’m lucky. I was suicidal for months. My self worth was damaged. I had to go to months of therapy to forgive the bishop, accept my husband’s love and to get a relationship back with my parents. These interviews and the sexual shame has got to stop. I would love to meet one person who it really has helped. It hurts so many. I pray this movement is the beginning.