One experience I had with being asked completely inappropriate questions in a worthiness interview was just after I had started attending singles ward. I had very recently come to understand, with the help of a friend, that what I had experienced through my high school years was not premarital “sex” but actually rape, in the context of domestic violence.
It took a lot for me to grasp that concept for several reasons. Chief among them was how the church had explicitly taught me to feel shame for the “loss of my virtue.” (“It is better to die defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.” Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle Of Forgiveness, p. 196) I believed it was my fault. My friend had tried to tell me that it wasn’t, but I didn’t know how to believe her. All I wanted, desperately, was to feel in my heart that my Heavenly Father was not angry with me, and that he still loved me.
I reached out first to my Relief Society President, who had become a good friend, and she told me that I needed to talk to our bishop because “only bishops are trained to give counsel in matters of abuse.” If only that were actually true.
In the first meeting I had with him, as I cried, and confessed to him my confusion and my shame, he listened, and seemed sympathetic at first. But then he asked me if in the course of those years I had “let” my boyfriend “have sex” with me, had I ever had an orgasm? I remember how shocked I was, and how hot my face felt all of a sudden. I was embarrassed and ashamed, but I wanted so badly to feel an inkling of the Lord’s love again, so I chose to be honest. I told him that I had. (I understand NOW, many years later that the body reaching climax is a purely physiological reaction and has absolutely nothing to do with desire or, more importantly, consent.)
He asked me how many times I had orgasmed. In four+ years? I told him I didn’t know. I hadn’t been counting. He asked me how many times we had had sex. I didn’t know that either. (The answer is actually “none” when you understand the rape and sex are not the same thing.) He asked me what positions we had engaged in. My jaw dropped. I could not believe that this was the conversation that was happening. Did he want me to tell him EVERYTHING from more than four years of abuse? It seemed that he did.
I stopped answering verbally as tears streamed down my cheeks, and I no longer felt like I could speak without sobbing. He listed positions and actions for what felt like forever, and I just nodded where the answer was yes.
Had I given him oral sex? Did he orgasm? Had I let him give me oral sex? Did I orgasm? Had we engaged in anal sex? Did either of us orgasm? Had I ever let him tie me up? Had I ever masturbated while he watched? Had he ever asked me to have sex with another woman? Had I ever had sex with an animal?
On and on and on.
When he asked me if I obeyed the law of chastity NOW, and I responded with a hopeful “yes!” his response was something like, “Really? You never think about these things now? You never masturbate while you imagine him touching you?”
I was humiliated, and the shame I felt was visceral. I was shaking, and lightheaded, the room felt as though it had shrunk down to the size of a matchbox, and I was very worried that I might throw up on his desk.
He told me that I was to abstain from taking the sacrament, and said we would need to meet regularly for several months, until he felt I was ready to partake again. Over the course of the next year, after every subsequent interview, I contemplated whether or not I should just go home and kill myself.
My relationship with the church, and with Heavenly Father never recovered from this period of shame in my life. I tried my hardest for years after this to ever feel worthy of God’s love. I prayed more earnestly, and more often. I read my scriptures twice, sometimes 3 times daily. I accepted any calling I was given, and dedicated myself to doing it wholeheartedly. I sang in the choir, attended every FHE and singles gathering I could manage, volunteered to clean the church when others couldn’t. I had 100% visiting teaching, and they even started assigning me to less-active women, who I befriended, regardless of whether or not they wanted to or could be “brought back to the fold.” I fed the sister missionaries, and studied with them. I went to institute. I paid a full tithe.
But there was nothing I could have done to ever feel forgiven for something that was not my fault.
I still struggle, years later, with issues surrounding self-worth. I’ve never been in a relationship that wasn’t abusive. Never had consensual sex. That’s what happens when you believe that everything awful that has ever happened to you has been your fault; you start to believe that you DESERVE for awful things to happen to you.
This is what your interviews are doing to people. It may have appeared, for a time, that my testimony was stronger than it had ever been, and that I was a faithful, faith-filled Latter Day Saint, but the shame that the church instilled in me stole years of my life, years of my healing, drove a wedge between me and the Lord, and very nearly killed me.
I’ve had my name removed from the records of the church now, and I’m a better person for it.