The earliest I have a memory of abuse was at the age of 6. At age 7, I remember preparing for baptism, I was excited, I was optimistic that my sins would now be washed away, so now I could start a new life. Such a fairy tale I told myself! Of course that wouldn’t make the abuse stop!
I was abused by a neighbor on at least several occasions, who had kids my age and younger. I was relieved when they moved. A stranger molested me in the public pool. However, my abuse had started years before that. So in my mind, these men were just additional males, who had rights to my body. I thought this was just the life I was subject to, as if God condoned this behavior. After all who was i? I wasn’t important, or at least the actions of many had shown me this. My abuse started when a neighbor boy shared porn with my eldest brother. They were 7 years older than me. So they were 13 yrs. old, passing the Sacrament. Imagine this… I was 6 yrs. old, a Star in Primary, and in Kindergarten at school, possibly younger. this is just the earliest I can recollect. Both would sexually abuse me, and make me do things I didn’t want to do. There was one time where, at the hands of the neighbor boy, I thought I might die. I’ll just say it involved Electricity.
Of course the abuse by my brother was more frequent. It’s hard to escape, when your abuser has so much access; while your parents drive the van on family vacation, under a blanket while the whole family watched General conference…this was particularly brazen, but proved to me that he had control over ma and could get away with anything! When a family member is your abuser, you aren’t even safe in your sleep! My younger sister in fact has a memory of waking up, when my brother was by my bed in the middle of the night! I was SCARED! If she said anything to my parents, I was going to be in BIG trouble, or so my brother had convinced me for years.
In what should have been a childhood, in a joyous world of wonderment, I had always felt dirty, less than, ugly, unimportant, insignificant, and ignored. I felt alone.
I would play outside as much as possible, and try to avoid my abusers. I suffered from depression, and disassociation. I’d walk to school feeling like I was having an out of body experience. If you’ve never experienced this, it’s much like watching a video taken by someone’s Go-pro attached to their head, and everything feelslike a cloudy dark day in slow motion. Concentration at school was an issue. My teachers would tell my parents, at conferences, that I was always day dreaming. I would, run away from home for hours, hoping someone would miss me. In reality, back in the 70’s, kids could play outside, in the orchards and neighborhood, a square mile from their home, and never be missed, as long as they were home by dinner,or nightfall. I didn’t know how to feel loved. If couldn’t tell my parents, who could I tell?
The abuse would continue until I was about to enter the Young Women’s program. At that same time, my brother was about to turn 19, and wanted to serve a mission. He told the Bishop what he’d done…of course I don’t know the whole of what he shared, or to what extent, at time he confessed. The Bishop called me in to talk to him, to confirm that what my brother had told him was true. (Why would a Bishop NOT believe him? I mean who and why would my brother confesses to something like that, if it isn’t true? This was intimidating to me to go into a room with a male, let alone, I felt scared when I had to tell him such a sordid, detailed secret! After all, I had spent the last 6 years being intimidated by multiple males, who threatened me about keeping this secret! I told the Bishop it was true, and he sent me on my way home. It was at least a few weeks where I worried everyday that he had told my parents, and I would be in trouble. He never did tell my parents about my 6 years of sexual abuse.
As I walked home, I felt worse not better. My Bishop had acted as if he just needed to know this. That it was just a matter of fact, and I should just go home as if nothing had changed. I feel like my Bishop was complicit, and protected my abuser/brother from punishment, justice, and shame. Instead my abuser would be sent on a mission 2 months later. He would be looked on as righteous, stalwart, and returning with honor. Never mind what he may have done on his mission to girls. The important thing was to preach the gospel for the Lord! In my 11yr. old mind, my abusing brother would now be rewarded. He was more important. There would be a big Farewell, and open house, accolades and congratulations, a bog trip to see him off at the MTC and the Airport. He would be sent to a far off country on a mission, but no one would help me, I was inconsequential, collateral damage. I didn’t know how to feel love at home, and now not at Church, because the Bishop taught me that IT IS a secret! It IS OK. It’s just my life.
The only silver lining was that I could finally start over. Like I was re- baptized, and finally free of sin. How sad is it that we put so much blame,shame, and guilt on ourselves? But now I could create a new ME! Now I was free to start a new life! But not so fast!
I entered Young Womens’s. There were the lessons on chastity. What were they talking about? Licked cupcakes? Being worthy to enter the Temple, (my brother and Bishop entered the Temple), and being worthy to have an Returned Missionary marry me! I once again felt unworthy. I never felt I was of “great worth” that always felt like an empty statement to me! I remember watching “The Love Boat” and wondering what “making love” meant. Maybe on the next episode I’ll find out. Because it sounds wonderful to be treated respectfully and romantically by a male, and feel loved. I really had no idea that the abuse that had happened to me, had been in any way, shape or form, something that should be wanted, sought out, desired, enjoyed. It instead was never something I wanted, or had any positive feelings about.
Well, I did survive! I did find a way to make lots of new friends amidst my continuing depression. I started playing the violin, and doing some things that were an escape for me. Art, was therapeutic one. When my brother returned he was interested in getting married, so that was a relief!!! Later, the newly coined phrase of, ”Return with Honor” would forever be a soiled, empty, fake phrase to me! I could see no honor for my Brother, or my Bishop in what they did.
When I was 19, I had been dating my boyfriend for 3 years and planning on marrying him, when I was raped by a guy. This guy was a body builder, very strong and much larger than me. Seeking counsel, I told my Bishop. I felt guilty only because I couldn’t and didn’t fight back hard enough. I just froze, because he was so big and strong. I felt small and weak again like when I was a child. I ended up in a Bishops court! Yes, I was once again a chewed piece of gum. I guess the Bishopric must have felt I WANTED “the sex”, and that I must have felt guilty. When they asked if the guy had a weapon, and is that why I didn’t fight harder? I realized that this is what they were thinking. On’y this time I was older and I knew it wasn’t something I wanted! So I lied, and said yes, he had a knife. I realized in that same moment that I was on trial for “SIN”, and once again they weren’t there to help me, and be a support to me, call cops, or do anything responsible, wise, adult males, would do for their own daughter. They only said, “Well we think you should tell your fiancé.” Maybe they thought he wouldn’t want a licked cupcake, or a piece of chewed gum.
But because my soon to be husband, was emotionally abusive, he ended up using it to abuse me mentally. Accusing me of “wanting the sex” just as the Bishopric inferred. Again, it wouldn’t be shared with my parents, who I lived with, so I could feel support, or get Therapy. I honestly didn’t know I could get therapy, I din’t even know it was something that could be done. I was always interviewed for years about chastity, and felt like if something happened that was sexual, I should talk to the Bishop. That’s just what you do.
Fast forward to when I was about 35; I had an experience that caused a major trigger, by my older brother. He had pinned my 14 year old son down on the floor, and yelled at him for telling my brothers’ younger son to stop bugging him. “Who’s older, who is more mature?”
my brother had said to my son. I wasn’t there to see it happen, but when my son told me, I had a nervous break down. My older brother was saying to my son, what I wanted to say to my Brother for so many years, and it was all to hypocritical! I finally told one of my siblings about the abuse, because I was exploding inside! I was going to either kill myself, or be admitted. I had always felt like it would do damage to my family if I did share my past. That my Mother would feel tremendous guilt and shame. After all, the Bishop kept it a secret from them. So it was shameful thing to talk about,right? I felt I needed to protect my family from this dirty secret, that not even the Bishop would share! It made me feel so alone. I often felt that it would be better if I just died! Then I would read Church Leaders saying things like “It would be better that your child die than to loose their chastity. I would think to myself, I COULD end all of this pain that was so recurrent in my life! I COULD just be sealed on the other side to someone, because it had been decades, with no proposals, and no Temple worthy man would want me! Surely God found me not worthy, I thought. I have tried to live worthily and do everything I could to find someone to be sealed to. I couldn’t even be sealed to my 2 sons, until I found a stranger to make my family Eternal!
I saw a therapist for the first time. She said I needed to tell my family so that I could be supported. I was so lucky to be believed by my other siblings. I was also told that I should reach out to my brother to help me with my memory of things. She said, because I was so young, getting answers might help me resolve things in my mind, and also give him a chance to apologize, and for both of us to heal our relationship. I sent him an email with my questions, and he replied that he had blocked most of it out of his mind.
How convenient! He said that when his first child, a female, was born he had vowed with God to never molest a child. He didn’t answer any questions, or apologize. (He has served in many leadership positions. the latest have been Gospel Doctrine Teacher, and First Counselor in his Bishopric.
There are times when I feel anger about it, and I still cry and get emotional. I don’t think it’s something you get over, you just learn to deal with it, and manage it. Not to mention how people have hurt me along the way, by not acknowledging how it has effected me. Just ignoring the fact, by expecting me to forgive and forget, when he hasn’t even repented, when this has effected my whole life, and a large part of my life, is serving in the church. The Church who showed me no support, but swept it under the rug! I thank God that my Bishop wasn’t a pedophile. Things could have gone down a really bad way! I still have a hard time going to Church. I avoid Bishop interviews, even if it’s routine.
There were many years, in my adult life, where I worked in the primary either as a teacher or chorister, and the experience was a love/hate relationship for me. I loved the children, perhaps it made me feel that I got a part of the innocent childhood that was stolen from me. I gained a lot of joy from the children, but it would cause triggers! I would think about how many of these children were having that childhood I never had! But I was also thinking, how many of these innocent children of God were being abused. (According to statistics, at least 25% of them were also being abused. Utah is now the highest in the nation in reported child sexual abuse.) The seven year olds would soon be baptized. How many want to feel clean, from abuse, “Clean, like Earth Right After Rain?” When I would lead the children in songs like, “I love to see the Temple” I would start bawling. I felt like I was never good enough, and would never find someone to take me there. I was a chewed up piece of Gum, on top of a licked cupcake!
I’m doing much better now. Luckily my brother has always lived outside of Utah. So my interactions have be limited to no more than once a year, but his visits are always awkward, and triggering for me. My childhood Bishop, who was complicit, died. I don’t ever have worry about running into him again, and being triggered. While I was growing up, there were 4 pedophiles living on my street. Three of them were my abusers. (The other, I found out later, had abused all of his 6 kids, he never served jail time. The same with another abuser in our ward who lived a few streets away.)
Thank you for giving me the platform to help the First Presidency, Bishops, Y.W. Leaders, and all leadership between, to understand how POLICIES NEED TO CHANGE! I know there are some great Bishops out there, I’ve had some stellar Bishops. Things need to change across the board, to make the church a fail safe place for our children. I want Parents to be in full charge of their children’s sexual questioning! God gave parents stewardship! in case they have poor parenting, I want the Church to only teach who children can talk to in case they don’t feel safe. ALL abuse (crime) should be reported to authorities! We can’t say as a Church that there is a ZERO tolerance, yet not report EVERY TIME, whether the Law requires in that state, or not!
I know God loves me, I don’t understand why he didn’t save me when I offered prayers for so many years, that I would be saved from my abusers. I don’t understand why an inspired LDS Church Leader can ignore the needs of a child, while protecting a Criminal. I continue to feel that the Church is on the side of the abuser. I don’t feel like an accepted member of the Church because I am really never “clean or whole”! This thought is reiterated because as far as Church records are concerned, leadership knows about my past.
I love the Lord Jesus Christ and all he stands for! I wish I felt that the Church Leadership emulated his teachings, “suffer the little ones to come unto me”, ‘It would be better that a Millstone be tied around his neck….” Who will stand on the Lords side, WHO?