As I have started to read the stories others have shared, I decided I should share mine. I grew up in a divorced household, primarily living with my mother. I would have the standard every other weekend with my father growing up. The last time I saw my father I was 10-years-old. Most of my childhood memories from my father are blocked out. I recently came to realize why and uncovered some of these memories through intensive therapy. The childhood with my father was filled with so much physical, emotional and sexual abuse my childhood brain couldn’t process it, so I blocked it all from memory.
Once my father had left, there was a sadness I felt because I did not have a traditional Mormon household. My dad was gone, when all of my other friends had fathers. My mom never talked to me about my dad leaving, or the abuse he had inflicted upon me. At first I thought, my mom didn’t know about the abuse, but I came to find a picture one day of me covered in bruises when I was about 2. When I asked her about it, she simply said, “I took that picture after you came home from your dad’s house so I could take it to court one day”. She never did.
Because of the abuse I had suffered from my father, I had an intense and overbearing fear of older men. I couldn’t stand to be in the same room as them, let alone have them touch me in any way. It didn’t matter who it was – uncles, grandfather, home teachers – I was an anxious mess whenever I had to be in the same room. I didn’t know why as I didn’t have any memories of my abuse at the time. All I knew was that I would have panic attacks if I was ever left in the same room with an older man. My mom minimized my anxiety and told me “these were men of God, so I shouldn’t be afraid” constantly, so I felt stupid for having these feelings of anxiety.
Fast forward to when I was 16. I had grown up strictly Mormon. I faithfully attended church every Sunday, Young Women’s once a week, girls camp and EFY every summer. Once I got my temple recommend at 12, I tried to attend the temple as often as I could (I would always say it was “my time of the month” so I could get out of doing baptisms for the dead because being touched by unknown older men filled me with so much anxiety). I would bare my testimony as often and as profoundly as I could. My friends often told me they looked up to me because of my spirituality, and they hoped they could “be on my level” some day. And then I met a boy.
I was 16, so dating was okay. The only thing was, this “boy” was actually 22. I told him I was still in high school, and he seemed okay with it. We met up a few times and talked. We texted frequently. One day he asked me to meet up with him. I met up with him in a very public place. At this public place, he proceeded to touch me in ways I didn’t understand, and he made me touch him too. I was confused and lost. All I wanted was this boy’s love and affection. He told me repeatedly this is how to get it.
After it was all said and done, I went home and I cried because I believed I had committed the “sin which was next to murder”. Sexual abuse was never talked about at home or at church, so I had little understanding of what it meant. I didn’t scream, or fight, so I had obviously wanted it – is what I constantly told myself. I proceeded to tell my mom a portion of what happened and she took my car away because I had done “naughty things in the back seat”. She also told me I should talk to my Bishop right away. I took my moms advice and set up an appointment with my Bishop. I told him as much as I could while still being discreet, because I knew even though this was a man of God, I did not feel comfortable disclosing certain things. I was told the standard “don’t take the sacrament for a month” and “I’m taking your temple recommend away”. My Bishop also wanted to have weekly meetings with me.
I thought I was supposed to feel some sense of forgiveness as I worked with my Bishop. All I felt was shame and humiliation. My Bishop lead me to feel these things. It wasn’t until 3 years later when I had realized what I had experienced at 16 was intense grooming and subsequent sexual abuse. By this time I was no longer active in the church. I became so angry because no one had asked me if it was what I wanted. Talking behind closed doors with an older man about my sexual exploits made me feel so uncomfortable, and by now I realize, totally inappropriate. Young men and women should never have to go through what I went through to receive forgiveness from an all loving God. Because of the sense of worthlessness I had felt, and continue to feel this day, I have made multiple suicide attempts. I have turned to drugs and alcohol to keep living. I have spent countless days in psych wards. The gross mishandling of my situation has effected every facet in my life. No one should go through what I went through.