It’s hard to know where to begin, but I’ll try to be succinct.
I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of my oldest brother (11 years older than I), which lasted from before I can remember until I was around 7, when he left home.
I learned only as a teenager myself, when I began to deal with the trauma and repercussions from the abuse, that my brother had confessed to the local bishop as a young teenager. My parents were never fully informed about what he said; and to be fair, here, I don’t know exactly what my brother told this bishop. But he told him enough about his behavior that the bishop called my parents in to conference with them and to refer my brother to LDS social services.
My brother received support, encouragement, and was allowed to ‘repent’ and go on with a normal life. He is now married with kids of his own and has good standing within the church.
In the meantime, the bishop apparently told my parents that I ‘might not remember anything of it anyway’ and that trying to talk to me about it would only be harmful. I don’t believe my parents learned any details, and were merely given the impression that my brother was simply ‘curious’ and ‘expressed that inappropriately’. My mom told me later she thought that he had done something like undressing me when I was a baby, curious about the difference between boys and girls.
In reality, my abuser forced me to get him off in various ways for years throughout my childhood. There would be times when he wouldn’t bother me for a few weeks or a month, but he would always return. It didn’t end until he had left the house, regardless of what he told the bishop or his counselors at LDS social services.
I don’t understand so much about this. I don’t understand why my brother abused me the way he did, and I don’t know why he confessed his actions to the bishop. Most especially, I cannot understand why no action was taken to protect me, or even to speak to me or get me counseling or help. Yes, I was a child, but doesn’t that mean I should have had more protection? More concern for my mental and emotional health?
In the end, beyond all the pain and trauma and disgust that I still feel about all of this, my point is this: I don’t understand why we place normal, unqualified men in positions of power to counsel one-on-one with children and young adults, to hear confessions about matters in which they have no training and to which they can’t be expected to respond appropriately. A bishop is not a social worker, a therapist, or even a trained religious authority. They are (hopefully) good people, but entirely unqualified people, appointed to a position of enormous influence.
In the end, these stories and this petition are unmasking so much more than they may have set out to. The underlying sexism and the protection of abusers prevalent in these stories and in this church, along with the repeated placement of blame on women and young girls — this needs to change, and the individual interviews are part of it.