In the year 1991, when I was 16, in Portland, OR…..I was date raped. I said NO. Several times. It was not consensual. At the time, I didn’t even understand what that was and that it was rape. Call me naive at that age, but I didn’t. Those topics just weren’t discussed in my family (other than you don’t have sex before you are married) and we didn’t have social media or internet. I just knew I felt horrible and confused and thought it was my fault. Because of my upbringing I only felt the guilt feeling of “sin” because I thought I had “sex”. I felt so confused that I couldn’t even correctly put into words of what really happened to me. When I came home, I hesitantly but desperately told my father. A 16 year old girl that has CONSENSUAL sex, in a family where that is completely unacceptable, does NOT tell her father. That should say something.
My Dad’s response was that he would set up an appointment with the bishop. My heart sunk, that was the last thing I wanted to do but I had no choice. In all fairness, my father was only doing what he knew to do but that is really part of the PROBLEM. If I would of been able to express or even understand I was raped and verbalize it, I am sure the situation would have gone much differently. But it didn’t.
So here I am, a young girl, in complete trauma and the man that is supposed to protect me, sends me to confess my sins (of rape) to a man I barely knew.
It was automatically assumed that what I “DID” was consensual and so I just thought it was my fault for even putting myself in that situation.
My dad brought me to the church and was sitting out in the hall waiting for me.The bishop was a nice man, that was not my issue, it was that I didn’t feel safe and had no choice (since I lived in my fathers home and I wanted to obey my father even if I was frightened, scared and every bone in my body wanted to run). In the bishops interview, I was asked questions about the incident (I honestly barely remember what was asked due to my trauma) I do remember feeling how much I wanted to GET out of there as fast as possible! I didn’t feel safe, it was so awkward and he didn’t know the right questions to ask ( Bishops are not formally trained in these very personal and psychological matters – I often wonder if it would of been different if a woman was there in the room and if she would of picked up on something not adding up).
Here is where I struggled in the entire situation and was almost worse than the actual date rape. I was never asked if I was ok or was even acknowledged of well being or self worth. Even if it WAS consensual, why isn’t something like a concerned, caring question asked to protect the minors self worth in some way? What happened to the value, individual worth, in bishops interviews?
The only option for me was to go through the repentance process. I felt shame, guilt, unworthiness and was experiencing the worst kind of trauma to someone that had just been raped.
It actually got worse for me…..as I had my 1st Sunday not being able to take the sacrament, I noticed that people in the congregation would physically turn around and look to see if I was taking the sacrament. This happened week after week. The shame and anger overwhelmed me to the point, I could no longer bear it.
I felt ashamed, judged, blamed myself and ultimately at that very young age, gave up! It was my soul feeling worthless, judged and unworthy of anything good in this world. After all, I was now a chewed up, used piece of gum. What good boy would ever want me now.
IF I would of been asked more trained, “trauma informed care” type questions or went through a different process… I could of talked to a counselor or therapist much sooner and then REAL healing could have started at that time instead of self-destruction and downward spiral of the utter lack of self worth for at least 5 years of my life and 25+ years later understanding the trauma and damage of it all.
There HAS to be some real protection for under-age children (not leaving it up to children to decide to have another adult in the room), real accountability of adults (if interviews HAVE to be the process) and hopefully with awareness of the many types of devastating stories, can be changed.