When I was sixteen, I had a boyfriend. He was handsome, funny, and smart. He was a gentleman, always opening doors and carrying things for me. He was investigating the Church, so everyone was delighted that we were dating, because I was so active in church activities and held many leadership positions.
This man was very subtly manipulating me, and I was too naive to see it. He tried to control what friends I talked to, where I went and what I did. He stalked me, following me on my paper route and at school.
We had stolen some kisses, made out a bit. It was really nothing much, just horny teenagers being horny. Gradually, he got me to sneak into his bedroom on my paper route, before his family was awake. I thought it was exciting. It was great that such a nice guy was so interested in me. I didn’t realize he was a predator and I was his next victim.
One morning, the making out was getting pretty intense. He told me to take my clothes off and I said no. I started to leave and he pinned me, choked me. He took my clothes off and told me he had a knife and didn’t want to use it (on me.) he put the knife on a shelf, where I could see it, pinned me down, and raped me. Then he told me that, if I told anyone, he would tell the entire school and my family what a wicked slut I was. I staggered home in shock. It was Thanksgiving and I had a full day ahead, visiting relatives and feasting. I was in shock, numb inside. I couldn’t process it. Rape was scary men dragging women off, not… whatever I had experienced. I hadn’t wanted it, and I told him no, but I had been kissing him. I led him on… or something.
Two days later, I told him I was breaking up and he raped me again. I felt confused, angry, betrayed. I didn’t think I had done anything wrong, but I had sex before marriage and that’s wrong. Maybe I led him on. Maybe he was so turned on that he couldn’t help himself. I felt guilty for going into his room, for kissing him, for not fighting harder to enforce my limits. I felt like I had done something dreadful. I felt defiled, contaminated. I would never be clean again. I remembered all of the object lessons about dirty lace, feces in ice cream, and so on. I felt like a had a huge stain on my soul and it would never be pure again.
My bishop was also my friend. I like him, trusted him, felt he was led by God. I looked up to him. I made an appointment, since I felt I couldn’t talk to my parents about what had happened. I knew I needed to talk to someone. I needed to know it wasn’t my fault. I needed to know God wasn’t angry with me.
I was explaining what happened, still trying to make sense of it. I told the bishop about being in my boyfriend’s room, kissing. He asked if we had sex. I hesitantly said yes. I didn’t think of it as rape. But the bishop knew me, knew about date rape, knew my commitment to keeping the rules of the Church so I could go on a mission.
I don’t remember a lot of the interview, only that he asked about things like penetration, oral and anal sex, and stuff I didn’t understand. I was so embarrassed, I wanted to die. I wanted my Mom, wanted a hug. I came In to the interview feeling confused, and left feeling horribly embarrassed and violated. He asked about what foreplay was used, and if I performed oral sex on my boyfriend. He never asked if I had consented. He never asked if I had been raped.
He disfellowshipped me. I already thought God was mad at me and this was just confirmation. God couldn’t stand how dirty I was not, how stained. I missed out on doing temple work, and people started gossiping. I didn’t know what to say, what to do. I felt awful that I had let God down.
I broke up with the boyfriend and he attempted suicide. He said he couldn’t live without me. My friends were happy we broke up, and said he was creepy. My church leaders told me I was a bad person for breaking up, since now he wouldn’t take the missionary lessons. I was angry that they thought my only value was in attracting men to the Church. I wondered if they were right. I considered suicide; I had angered God, let my parents down, and life wasn’t worth living. A month after the rapes, my period didn’t show up. I didn’t want his baby inside me. He was a monster, and anything he spawned would be a monster too. I remember hitting my belly with any object I could find, trying to kill the monster. I starved myself, and even considered cutting it out, even if it meant I died in the process. I miscarried, but I still cannot tolerate the idea of another life growing inside me. (Even 25 years later.) I will never bear children, because of what he did.
After the miscarriage, my ex boyfriend’s sister found me on my paper route, saying she needed to talk to me. She asked me if we had sex, and I said yes. She asked me if he had threatened to hurt me. If he threatened to tell everyone if I told anyone. Then she said he had done it to her, too. She was worried about their little sister and asked what to do. I didn’t know. I felt so powerless. In desperation, I made a deal with her. If she told her Mom, I would tell mine.
When I told Mom, it was as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. She told me it wasn’t my fault, that I hadn’t done anything wrong. God wasn’t mad at me. She told me that rape can involve only the threat of violence and still be rape. It was what I had needed to hear from my bishop. If my mother had been in the interview with my bishop, it would have saved me from months of heartache.
After the rape, I stopped going to church. If a man of God could be so wrong, how could I trust him to lead? I talked to other women and found that my experience with the bishop was normal, and in fact better than most. Many rape victims go to their bishops first, and get condemnation instead of compassion. If this was normal from church leadership, I wanted nothing to do with the Church.