My father was both a Bishop and a Stake President for almost my entire childhood. Both of my parents were very well known and respected in our small Mormon community. Nobody outside of our family knew the extreme psychological, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that was happening behind our perfect facade. I wonder how many people my father managed to abuse during his years in his priesthood callings. The idea that he was behind closed doors with vulnerable people for almost two decades makes me sick to my stomach.
I grew up feeling a great deal of shame and worthlessness because of the abusive circumstances in our home. In order to survive, I had to believe the abuse I was enduring was my fault, that somehow I deserved it. I overcompensated in nearly every other area of my life to try to prove my worth. I was a straight-A scholarship student who excelled in my areas of extracurricular activities. I worked hard and even started my own business in high school. I tried so, so hard to be the perfect Mormon girl to somehow earn my place in the world. But it didn’t work.
I was so accustomed to oppression and abuse that I married a man who was just as abusive as my family of origin when I was a BYU student and only 19 years old. In our time of dating, he sexually assaulted me and even raped me. I had no idea that what had happened was sexual assault and rape. All I understood about it was that women were responsible for making men do these things, and I internalized a great deal of shame over it. When we confessed the rape and assault that had happened to my Stake President, who was my father at the time, he told me to repent. I knew no one else would love me as damaged goods, and knew that now I’d have to marry him. I spent the next five years married to my rapist, fully entrenched in the narrative that he only treated me like scum because I WAS scum. I kept trying to confess to bishops, repent, and display absolute perfection in every aspect of my life. None of it made him treat me any better.
Now, even though I finally found my way out of that marriage, I still have to see my two young children leave for unsupervised visits with my rapist every other weekend. It’s a sick and twisted reminder that within Mormonism, my body, mind, spirit, and self-worth was never my own. It was always in the hands of my abusers. And because they manipulated my life so deeply with their positions of trust and authority, my innocent children are at constant risk of harm. I’m committed to healing from my pain and giving my children a brighter future; a future filled with feelings of unconditional love, worthiness, and belonging. I sincerely hope that the church will make solid policy changes that can change the trajectory of so many vulnerable people. Ending sexual worthiness interviews is a great place to start.