Sam, First of all, I just want to tell you how moved I am by what you are doing. I can’t remember when I first stumbled across your cause but I know it was around the time that Harvey hit Houston because I remember thinking about you when I saw the news.
I’d like to introduce myself first before sharing my story.
I currently live in College Station, Texas along with my husband (Nevermo) and 2-year-old daughter. I’m not sure how to label myself when it comes to my relationship with Mormonism for reasons that will be made clear.
I grew up being asked all those terrible questions from the time that I was 11 years old being interviewed before I ‘graduated’ to the Young Women’s program. I hated these interviews because I always felt nervous and guilty of something even if I knew I was innocent. I worried that my bishop wouldn’t believe me and I carried so much anxiety about being in compromising situations that I didn’t even fully understand at the time. The way my bishop would grill me (even after I would say that I followed the law of chastity) made me second guess myself and I assumed that I was a terrible person. While I don’t believe my bishops meant any harm by their actions, what they did was groom me for sexual abuse later in my life.
When I was 18 years old, another older man came into my life in the role of a mentor/authoritative figure. I was fresh out of high school and questioning my religion so I welcomed this newcomer as he took an interest in me and my walk with Jesus. We would meet up and chat about religion first in a group setting and eventually, he wanted to meet more privately with just me. I saw no issue with this in my youthful ignorance. However, the questions got progressively more personal and explicit. I fully believe that because of spending years having to ‘confess’ to a bishop, I was not able to see the danger in the sexually explicit questions this mentor began asking me as he began grooming me. Eventually, this relationship led to me being sexually assaulted by this older man on several different occasions and employing gaslighting tactics telling me that I tempted him and that I was just as guilty as he was for breaking the law of chastity.
I was devastated, as is to be expected, when I was finally able to break away from this dangerous situation. I had lost my family and friends when I had left Mormonism and then I left all my new Christian friends when I felt the abuse. And in my pain, I turned back to the Mormon church hoping for guidance and healing after my experience. When I met with my bishop to explain what had happened to me, I was met with more shaming and pain. I was asked horribly inappropriate questions again. “How did he touch you” “Did any part of you enjoy it” “If you didn’t enjoy it, why didn’t you make him stop?” “Do you think if you had stayed within the confines of the church, this would have happened?” These were just a few of the questions that I was asked. I felt blamed for my attack and scorned by God. I felt like this situation was some kind of punishment or revenge because I had wandered from the church.
These interviews have had lasting effects on me. I struggled with PTSD and suicidal thoughts for many months after this incident compounded with shame and fear of being able to tell anyone about what was going on. It wasn’t until recently that I was finally able to open up to my husband about why our sex life has suffered so much since we’ve been married. (On an unrelated note, he has been amazing in supporting me)
Anyways, following your story and seeing how much you care and how much you’ve gone out of your way to rescue the 1 ‘lost sheep’ has been so moving. Thank you so much for risking everything to make real changes in the church. My family has been donating as often as we can to support you and we’ve been sharing on social media and with friends to try to raise awareness. Whenever you are back in Houston, we would love to take you and your wife out to lunch as a thank you!
Thanks and Gig’Em!