When I was a sophomore in high school I joined the Mormon church. I had been a member for 6 months when I joined a club at school, and was elected to State Office. For a year and a half I traveled around the state and country with the other state officers and our chaperone/advisor.
The state advisor was a male in his 40’s. I loved him dearly and trusted him completely. He was a father figure to me, and a strong member of my new church.
At the end of my senior year, we drove by bus to Phoenix AZ for my last national convention as a state officer. While driving I went to the front of the bus and was standing in the aisle laughing and flirting with a boy I liked, our state president, whom I was dating and very good friends with. At this point, the advisor pulled me down onto his lap, I assumed because I shouldn’t have been standing in the aisle while the bus was moving. I honestly didn’t think much of it. He was like a dad to me.
During the convention I was elected to national office, and would not be returning by bus with the rest of my delegation.
On the last day we were all playing in the swimming pool when our advisor came and told me he needed to speak with me privately. This immediately triggered fear, and I couldn’t think of anything I had done wrong, but I was obviously in trouble for something.
I gathered a towel around my dripping wet 17 year old body and followed him to his hotel room…alone. Once inside he proceeded to tell me that he had been called to be a counselor in his ward bishopric. He didn’t feel that he could accept this calling, in good conscience, without talking with me first. If I was willing, he would leave his wife and family so that we could be together. I was stunned and horrified. I was also scared he would try and do something to me. Would he rape me? I was hyper aware that I was dripping water from my practically naked body on the carpet of his hotel room, as he continued to describe to me what our life together could look like.
I told him there was absolutely no chance that we would EVER be together, and he told me that if I was absolutely positive, then his conscience would allow him to accept the extended call (to the bishopric) without reservation.
I asked if I could leave, and he said yes, but could he have a hug first? I was too scared to tell him no. He took the towel away and pulled my body close and tight, and pressed himself into me and held me there for a long, hard “hug”.
I left his room, shaking from cold and fear. I ran to my own room, got in the shower, and curled myself into a tight ball on the floor, where I spent the next few hours crying.
I told his boss, who was the state director, and also a stake president. This man explained to me that when older men work with younger students, like myself, they often develop inappropriate, but harmless attractions.
They did nothing to this man in terms of discipline. I found him years later only to discover that he served in that bishopric. And not only continued to work in positions of trust, acting as chaperone on cross country and overnight in-state conventions, but was also promoted, and finished his career having full access to thousands of young people like myself.
He served at least one LDS mission with his wife, and appears to be living happily ever after.
I on the other hand, was traumatized by sexual abuse as a child, and then again by this man as a young adult. You don’t have to be molested to be sexually violated.
This was relatively minor trauma, compared to others shared on this site. But it was traumatic for me. It confirmed what my lifetime of sexual abuse and preoccupation had taught me. There was no safe place. There are no safe people. The priesthood is not a safe refuge. I can’t trust anyone. Ever.
Other incidents of sexual force and abuse affected me the next year as a freshman student at BYU. And until recently, shame and distrust were the overriding themes of my life.
As a mother, I told each of my bishops they were not to interview my daughter’s without myself or my husband present. Every one of those good and well-intentioned men violated that trust. Every. Single. One. Violating their stewardship, and my right as a parent to protect my own children. Some of them experienced emotional trauma and shame as a result of questions asked of them in those worthiness interviews.