Because I had not been allowed to date before 16, when I finally did go on a date with a boy I had had a crush on for a very long time, I was totally and completely inexperienced. I had gone back to my former city to visit during summer vacation when he asked me out. Shortly after I had gone on two dates with him, he asked me to come over to the neighbors house with him to feed their cat while they were on vacation. Locking the door behind us, he assaulted me. He was an extremely athletic young man and I was unable to free myself from his restraint.
Vacation ended. A few weeks passed with me in a fog and when I returned home, my mother told me to go and see the bishop, that my countenance had changed and she could tell I had “done something with that boy.” Our bishop had a houseful of daughters who were perpetually in trouble. Several were sent away to have babies out of wedlock. I told the bishop something had happened with a boy. I was clumsy in my wording. I said I hadn’t really known what was happening, which was true.
He asked if we touched body parts. (I had but only because he had grabbed my hand and forced it down his pants while I begged him to stop.)
He asked if clothes came off. They only had by force. My shorts were pulled off from behind.
He asked if I had climaxed. I said I didn’t know what that meant. He asked if he fondled my clitoris. Again, I didn’t know what a clitoris was or even foreplay for that matter. I said no.
I think nearly any adult could glean from my answers that I was completely naive and unable to do anything differently than I did.
He sighed and said, “You’ve been pretty stupid. I don’t want you to take the sacrament for several weeks and think about what you’ve done.”
The young man, who was also LDS, was never questioned. His bishop was never called.
The ward noticed. My family noticed. And from 16 until I was 36, I carried that shame and self loathing until I went to a psychologist to tell him what had happened. For the first time in 20 years, I realized it was not my fault.
To make matters worse, when I shared it with my husband after counselling, he said I had misrepresented myself and he thought he was marrying someone pure.
We are taught that bishops are called of God. No young person could have the sense of self to refuse to answer these questions, to stand up for themselves or walk out of the office.
When the woman taken in adultery is visited by Jesus in the scriptures (and she is actually an adult and guilty of sin, unlike a child who is innocent and pure), he simply says to her, “Go they way and sin no more.” He does not ask her what she did, how far she went, how many men she was with or get specific, explicit details. He does not shame her or place blame. The Mormon church has developed all sorts of practices that bear no resemblance to the life of Christ, yet they profess to be his church.
The whole system is broken. The whole paradigm is wrong. Bishops need to be trained. The church is phenomenally wealthy and has the means and resources to skillfully prepare leaders for their positions like so many other churches do. Whom God calls, he does NOT qualify. He expects us to use our brains: train people. I have written church headquarters and respectfully presented these suggestions. So far, no policies have been changed. However, rising voices have shared their stories in increasing numbers and that gives me hope.
Let’s worry less about the dead and more about the living. Let’s treat our tender children the way Jesus did, with kindness and care.