I was 15 years old when my biological father raped and sodomized me over 130 times for a period which lasted nine long months. I had been kicked out of my home by my stepfather, and ignored by the mother who would rather please the priesthood holder in the home, than stand up for her firstborn. I was sent from Utah, to Newberg, Oregon, to live with my father who I had only recently “met” – as my mother left him when I was an infant. Within a month or so of my moving to his home, my father kicked out his wife and their divorce proceededings began. That’s when the abuse began. I was expected to step in and fill most of the roles she did – including ensuring my father’s sexual satisfaction. This was my introduction to sex.
He played a game that involved a convoluted web of lies I was expected to keep up for him, as he was a relatively large name in the community where we lived. During that horrible nine month period, I was not allowed to have friends except for the missionaries who lived close-by (they were deemed “safe” friends). I was not allowed to spend any un-accounted for time away from my father, and was not even allowed to attend my first visit to the OBGYN without him. He stood at the head of the bed watching the male doctor examine me after the first time I contracted an abuse-related infection.
He threatened me with everything he knew would cause fear if I didn’t comply, or if I told anyone – including sending me back home to my parents; home to my stepfather – who had sent me there in the first place, and my mother who apparently didn’t care. In one breath, he threatened to tell my grandparents what a “dirty whore” I was being, and five minutes later he helped me prepare my talk for sacrament and gushed on about how amazing I was. The day I thought I might be pregnant, he told me if that was the case, he would make me get an abortion and we would be moving out of the country.
He lost his job as the apartment complex was sold, and the new company hired someone else, so we had to leave our home. He put all of our belongings in storage and took us to live in a one-bed, cheap motel room. That’s when extended family members finally went to the police. They came to the motel one night, arrested my father, and took him into custody – and sent me to live with my aunt. She and her family cared for me until the end of the school year, before she sent me back home to my mother and step-father.
The bishop of my ward in Newberg was the editor of the newspaper and immediately printed the story, as this was apparently big news in the town. To me, it was a further violation and I was devastated. I called the bishop and told him I was mortified and humiliated that he would print these things for everyone to see when I already felt so alone and disgusting and defeated. I thought of all people, the bishop of my ward would help me and protect me; I thought the things that happened to me would at least be kept private by the church. I thought he would at least ASK me or let me know it would be printed, before people I knew contacted me asking if the article was true. I was told that this was his job, and this was now public record, and it was “news”.
The week I was returned to my home in Utah, I was brought to the bishop’s office for a private meeting. This was a man I had known all my life, and I loved him – as I did so many of the people in this ward I grew up in. He was a member of one of the biggest-name families in Utah, and a now prominent family name in American business and politics. His wife had been my school teacher, and my young women’s leader. I had a crush on his son whom I met in kindergarten, and hoped in my young heart, that someday he would be my father-in-law. The week I was returned to my home in Utah, I was brought to the bishop’s office for a private meeting.
I was devastated as I sat there in his office and he began the interrogation. He told me to tell him about this “affair”, and began asking me detailed questions about the extent of the encounters, how often they happened, the type of sex I engaged in, how much of it was oral, anal, other kinds of sex, etc. I thought at first he was asking for the purpose of helping me work through this awful time in my life, but I grew more and more uncomfortable as he asked for more and more detail.
When he asked me “Did you enjoy it?”, I experienced a moment that changed my entire life, and I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach by a horse. That question wrecked me and did more damage than all the abuse put together. I was confused and hurt and heartbroken.
Did I enjoy it? Well certainly I enjoyed the privileges I had – as I said, I was expected to fill the roles his wife had filled previously. That meant that as a teenager, I got to write checks at the grocery store using his bank account, I was taken out of school early every day so I could do the grown-up job of co-managing an apartment complex, I got to drink – as my father gave me alcohol while he fed his alcoholism, and occasionally I got to drive – though I didn’t yet have my license. I even got to fly my father’s private plane – a four passenger Cessna 172D. I had more privileges living with him than I ever had before – even though I had to do “this other thing” while I lived there, to keep those privileges – and to keep him from doing the things he threatened me with if I didn’t, and if I told anyone.
So in my confused state, I answered – “Yes”, when my bishop asked “Did you enjoy it?”. I didn’t understand until after I had answered, that he wanted to know if I enjoyed the sexual abuse, and had experienced orgasms.
The bishop proceeded to belittle and debase me, telling me how horrible this was and immediately put me on a repentance program where I could “get my life straightened out”. I can’t even express how little, disgusting, dirty, and evil I felt after that meeting. It was as if God himself had deemed me unworthy of existing. This feeling was driven deeper into my soul when I found out that these things were discussed in testimony meeting for everyone in my home-ward to hear.
Two weeks later my stepfather kicked me out again at age 16, and I began my new life, surviving on my own.
A year later, I was flown to Oregon – by myself, to testify against my father, who was sentenced to 54 years in prison for the things he did to me. This was a comfort and a relief – but did not take away from the point that a “representative of GOD”, had determined that I was dirty and unworthy after having a “tawdry affair” (as it was called over the pulpit in sacrament), with my father.
I felt for half my life that I had to apologize for my disgusting existence. I felt guilty marrying in the temple because I was “tainted”; this man I was marrying was a virgin, but technically – I was not; In my mind, I was still what that bishop told me I was.
It took another 18 or so years (and after abusive marriages and divorces), for someone to start breaking through that belief, when I was told by a therapist who listened and understood, that I had done nothing wrong as a child; that even if I was like the starving dog who hungrily ate his own vomit to survive that time with my father, I had done nothing wrong as that bishop told me I had. I had nothing to repent of, then, or now. I think that counselor saved my life – though I still had a lot of overcoming ahead of me, and had to learn things I was never taught as a child – because they were taken from me while I was expected to behave like an adult.
During my most recent marriage, I was also being abused. I still naively thought the bishop would be a “safe” place to share my struggles, so shortly after we moved into our first home in a Layton, UT ward, I began visiting the bishop to discuss my situation. He was funny and kind and let me talk openly, and didn’t criticize me or act as if I was doing something to “ask for” the abuse – including sexual abuse, in my marriage. He offered to talk with me any time, and gave me his number so I could text him, and also talked with me over Facebook. He began coming to my home while my husband was at work. He became my friend. I was so stupid and naive after all I had been through, and didn’t recognize that he was “grooming” me the same way my father did when I was 15. He behaved so differently than the bishop did when I was a teen; he BELIEVED me, and he listened to me, and he seemed to care – so I kept talking with him.
After about six months, his behavior escalated into a sexual nature. He began texting me across the chapel in sacrament meeting from the stand, telling me that the dress I was wearing was making it very difficult for him to stand up in front of everyone. His descriptions of “what was going on in his pants”, became more and more graphic every Sunday, and I grew more concerned about what I should wear to church. I couldn’t wear anything ugly enough, because as he told me over text, everything I wore “turned him on”, even the plain jeans and t-shirt I wore at home when he visited. I colored my hair pink, and instead of chastising me for it, he asked if “the carpet matched the drapes”. He asked me detailed questions throughout the week about sex with my husband and wanted to know if we used sex toys, and told me he couldn’t ask anyone else in the ward but needed to do “research” so he could help other couples.
This bishop knew I was sick with a chronic illness, and came to my home regularly “to check on me” – though he never showed up when my husband was home. During one visit, he brought me a bag of pills and gave them to me – as he knew I was in constant pain. He sat on the porch talking with me and told me he had access to pain medications through his job, and would get me all the medication I could ever want, and I would be able to feel better, and all I had to do was let him “see and touch my breasts”.
Sometime during the two years this went on, this bishop’s tenure ended, and his best friend became the new bishop of our ward. I went to this new bishop to talk with him about my abusive marriage, and received an entirely different response. He was shocked and had never even heard of some of the things I told him my husband was doing to me. Even after multiple meetings, he told me I needed to work it out and would not support me in reporting him to the police. My husband had been unfaithful to me, and was brought before a church court to determine if he should be excommunicated, but was given a full pardon and had his priesthood reinstated as if he had done nothing. I felt completely ignored, and crushed – and a lot like I felt after visiting the bishop when I was a teenager.
Though the previous bishop was no longer in that calling and had been put into a stake leadership calling, the texts, and Facebook messages, and home visits continued. I became so uncomfortable at that ward, I began attending my in-laws’ ward in Farmington instead, where not many people knew me. The current bishop of my ward wanted to know why I was not attending my home ward, so I told him what had been happening with the old bishop the past two years. He did not believe me and immediately began accusing me of lying. I told him I could show him proof of many of the conversations through Facebook and through the texts on my phone – which I held up and showed him across the desk.
He grabbed my phone from my hands and began going through the messages and numbers and phone history, while he accused me of “trying to frame the previous bishop”, and “reprogram the messages” in my phone to display a different name and number. He reminded me that his job was as the IT Manager for a major hospital chain, and he would be able to determine if I had done this. After spending about 15 minutes going through my phone, he couldn’t determine if I had reprogrammed the phone, and handed it back to me, and told he he might be asking for it back again later.
He told me that “for now”, he would not be renewing my temple recommend as I had asked him to, and told me he would not interview me at all for a recommend, until this situation was over, and sent me home. He refused to even talk with me about it after that and continued refusing my temple recommend using excuses like my Metallica ringtone as additional proof of my unworthiness.
I finally went to the stake president and told him everything. The stake president told me “Go home, forget about all of this, and pretend it never happened. I will deal with Bishop [previous bishop doing the abuse], and I will give you a recommend and get it signed by [the current bishop] myself” – which he did follow through with. I thought he was helping me, but I discovered later, he wanted me to keep quiet and not make a scene in the stake.
After my divorce and after moving from that ward, I was contacted by a Salt Lake City detective who was doing an investigation on the old bishop. As it turned out, several women had reported him for similar behaviors, and this detective was working the case. I told him everything and hoped something would be done to prevent other women from being manipulated and hurt. A monitored email was set up to contact the old bishop, and I was instructed by the detective about what I was to say and how to say it. The old bishop wanted nothing to do with me and would not engage in the discussion the detective hoped for.
I discovered that the detective did not care at all about the sexual abuse. The previous bishop – now holding a stake leadership position, was also a local politician, and held a prominent position in his job with the fire departments all across Utah, and this detective had interest in finding out if the bishop could be charged with illegally obtaining and distributing drugs and prescription medication – as he had given me. My abuse story meant nothing, the fact that he was my bishop meant nothing, and I couldn’t prove he had given me a bag of pills a couple years before – and the legal case was dropped.
This is a fraction of the abuse I’ve experienced in my 45 years, but the portions I felt were relevant to the church and how they have mishandled these situations and imposed abuse upon me. I’ve left out countless interviews with various bishops asking me questions about sex, masturbation, private thoughts, and even whether I wore my bra and maxi pads on the inside or outside of my garments, for the alleged purpose of determining my worthiness for callings or a temple recommend. It’s difficult to summarize such things when it’s part of LDS culture and considered “normal” – difficult to summarize a lifetime of working through trauma, belittlement, and church training and reinforcement that my “duty” as a woman was to please my husband – no matter how abusive he was, to please the church leadership – no matter how abusive they were, and that nothing I could ever do would erase what a “dirty whore” I was – per President Kimball’s words in “The Miracle of Forgiveness”, the book I was given to read as a teen when the bishop started my “repentance program”. As was impressed upon me, I was not worthy of living because I didn’t risk and give my life to get out of the situation with my father as a naive child; that the rest of my life was essentially only good for the purpose of uplifting priesthood men – in whatever way they expected me to do that.
I hope what I’ve offered here will paint a clear enough picture of how church leadership mishandled and abused my situations to an extent that caused me trauma and literally crippled my life – for the rest of my life. These things I’ve discussed here, are some of the major reasons I decided to resign from the church a few years ago – as I learned, they seemed to have more interest in appearing to be a whited sepulcher on the outside, at the expense of the real lives that are affected and destroyed on the inside.
Today I live alone with my disabled young son whom I’ve devoted my life to caring for. I choose to protect him and keep him safe from the people and organizations who have hurt and took advantage of me – including the church I cannot and will not trust him to. My older son – now a grown man, thankfully went through the church system without being affected negatively, or even knowing about most of the things I’ve been through, while I worked to protect him from those situations. He is an honorable man who truly cares about others and Christ, and I pray constantly that he will influence positive change in the church with his example of what it means to be a truly righteous and Christ-like priesthood holder.
I pray too that whoever reads this will be driven to make positive changes in the church so nobody else will be hurt in the ways I have been, and so many others have been. Sam Young has done nothing wrong and deserves no punishment. In fact, he is a hero – to me, and to countless others who never had anyone there to stand up for us – especially not a priesthood holder in the church – as those are the men who abused us and accused us. Sam – like my older son, is one more example of what a man of Christ looks like. He is willing to endure punishment and pain to literally save the lives of others, and carry the burdens we have carried all our lives enduring this kind of trauma – at his own innocent expense; that sounds like something the Savior did. I pray the church will take responsibility for changes that need to be made, and follow the example of this good man who can teach the church how to make those changes. God works through all righteous people and it is clear He is working through the voice of Sam Young.
I pray that nobody else will be hurt. I pray that the church will not continue perpetuating the abuse problem in the church, by continuing to punish those who speak up, and continuing to hide these dark truths that do not have to continue. I pray that the truly guilty – the perpetrators scattered throughout church leadership will be brought out of the woodwork, will be removed from their posts and callings, and dealt with by the legal system. I pray that children and other innocent victims will be considered FIRST, above the reputation of the church and its leadership. And I pray for all of us who have LIVED the horrific abuse we have, that we will be blessed with the tools and help we need, to overcome what we’ve lived through, and continue on to have wonderful, meaningful, productive, honorable lives – free of the guilt and blame that has been imposed upon us for being victimized and harmed.
Linda Jules Allred