I’m honestly not sure where to start with this. How do you fit your story into just words? I hope I can express how I felt and how I feel to anyone willing to read my story. I want to tell my entire story, because I am finding this very healing. Sorry for the length. So here goes I guess.
I was born and raised in the Mormon church. My parents were very strict and church and church related events were not optional. They were very controlling and often joked that our family followed Satan’s plan- we had no agency. Which really wasn’t that far from the truth. I grew up on a farm and have many siblings- we were all required to work on the farm. Some of my earliest memories that I can actually remember are of struggling to work on the farm. At around 5 years old I was expected to rake hay by hand with a heavy pitchfork that gave me huge splinters, roll hay bales, pick rock, etc. I don’t think teaching kids to work is wrong at all. The problem is that our parents took advantage of us to the point where it was unhealthy. I have suffered heat stroke multiple times, and felt worthless and hopeless for not doing a good enough job. That feeling has never really left me. You might be asking, “ OK, what’s your point?” I’m getting there, just bare with me.
My father was a bishop. And a fist counselor. And a second counselor. And scoutmaster. And high council member. And he is one of the most terrible people I know. How could a just god call someone like him to positions like that? That alone caused me not to have faith in the church very early on.
My father was also verbally, mentally, and physically abusive. I remember so many times where he would snap at my siblings, choke my brother against the wall, slam him down on the ground flat on his back, kick him, and belittle him. That brother struggled with incontinence up until he went to college basically. I had no idea at the time- there was about 12 years between us as he was the oldest. I have recently learned even more about my father’s abuse towards him, including humiliating him by forcing him to go on camping trips even with his issues wetting the bed, and I learned that whenever my brother would poop himself, my dad would make him get on the floor and rub his nose in his own feces. Like a dog. My brother moved away after high school and rarely visits. He and my father can barely be civil to this day.
Some of my personal memories of my father’s abuse started when I couldn’t have been more than 4 years old. I was playing in the hallway of our home and something made him angry. He stormed down the hallway and I was in his way. So he kicked me out of his way. This is another of my earliest memories that I actually remember. Being kicked in the ribs out of the way. It just goes on from there. He would ransack our room when he got angry, throwing all of our possessions in garbage bags and throw them outside threatening to burn them, if things were not cleaned to his liking he would trash everything and tell us to do it again, he has flipped a table full of hot food and glass dishes over onto me because my mom upset him about money. I got burns and a gashes in my arms from broken glass and splintered wood. He never apologized. He threw a glass across the kitchen at my head, it hit the wall and shattered, he told me to clean it up and left. I cut myself with a shard of glass while cleaning it up and started cutting myself with a shard of glass I kept from that. It was a way for me to validate my emotional abuse by causing myself physical pain. I still have a scar and a glass splinter lodged in the sole of my foot that I have never gotten out. He was constantly calling me a slut- I’ll go into that more later- and I was so terrified of him that I did everything I could to avoid him. I even got baptized by my oldest brother because I was so terrified of my own father. There is something so wrong inside him. It is terrifying. One moment he can seem perfectly fine, and just like that, anything can make him snap. And it’s like something physically changes in his face. His eyes change and it’s like they turn black and cold as ice and his face turns to stone and his temper flares and it is literally the most terrifying thing I have ever seen. It is one of the major things that has caused me to have such terrible anxiety.
Growing up, if you heard dad walking down the hall, you better make sure you were not in his way and that you looked busy with something he considered productive. It wasn’t just to prevent getting in trouble, it was done out of fear that he might snap and you might get hit. My sister and I lived our entire childhood in that house with a sheer lace curtain instead of a door. Nobody was allowed to close the door when going to the bathroom or showering- there was only one bathroom in the house- and the lack of privacy was stifling. There is so much more abuse I could recount, but this is already way too long and will only get longer.
Many of my siblings have somehow been able to deny the abuse, but one of my brothers and I are very close and often get together to talk and help each other through trauma we suffered at our father’s hands. Here’s the thing about my father, he is amazingly manipulative. It is ridiculous. Two of my siblings have a great relationship with him and are very trusting of him, because he is so charming and manipulative that he managed to convince two of his kids that they were never abused, and the way we were raised is totally normal. My brother and I are still dealing with childhood trauma because we have both been to therapy and have come to find that the way we were raised was not in any way healthy or normal. We have helped each other identify triggers and have been working on dealing with our anxiety and anger in response to those triggers. We both suffer when we are in situations we feel we cannot control. Each of us have been diagnosed with forms PTSD because of our childhood abuse.
This is difficult every time I say or write it. I was molested as a child. I have hazy memories of the abuse, but I have the memories. It has caused me so much pain, even at 22. I am still dealing with this. Being molested caused me to repress a lot of memories. I barely remember things from age 5-8. There are huge gaps that are just gone. My brother is similar. He is missing chunks of time because of his abuse, but I am missing years. YEARS. There are very few things I remember during those years, and the only things I remember were memories made in places I felt safe. A few at school, more at my aunt’s house who I lived with for a while when i was 5 and 6, but none at my parents’ house.
In college, during one of my low points, I started taking painkillers I had left over from a surgery. These helped me relax in a way that I never had been able to before, and I remembered more about my sexual abuse as a child than I ever had before. Still no clear faces. It was like there was a haze- like black smoke shrouding everything in the memories, like chains locking them away, like my brain was fighting to keep them chained out of sight. But I remembered smells, I remembered the large rough hands on my skin, I remembered hot breath on my face, my confusion at times of what was happening. I remember running my fingers along the edge of a pencil box I had hidden between my bed and the wall that was full of crayons and colored pencils I liked to draw in the dark with. I remember the bumps on the lid, and I remember counting them and running my fingers over the plastic back and forth and seeing how high I could count until everything was over. I remembered convincing myself I just needed to go to sleep and I wouldn’t feel anything.
I fell asleep and had one of the most vivid dreams I have ever had. In the dream I was in my aunt’s house- the one I lived with for a while- and there was a circle of chairs in the living room, and sitting on these chairs was me. Me at different ages. Me at 21, me at 16, me at 12, me at 8, me at 5, and me in the future. The five year old version of myself was crying, with my face in my hands, my legs pulled up to my chest. And the present version of myself had my arm around 5 year old me, comforting myself. And the room was silent except for the tears. All of me just sat there. And I realized the crying wasn’t coming from 5 year old me in the chair, 5 year old me was suddenly gone from the chair. And down the hallway was a dark room, but it wasn’t my aunt’s house. It was my room at my parents’ house. And the crying was coming from that dark room now. I started to walk down the hallway toward that room, but my 8 year old self took my hand. I turned to myself and saw the fear on my younger self’s face. And she told me it wasn’t safe to go in there. That was where the bad things happened. That was the only room where I was afraid of monsters in the dark. She told me that if I went and looked in there, I couldn’t unsee it. I wouldn’t be able to forget again, and I’d be scared of the monster all over again. But I crept down that hallway very slowly. And I almost went in, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I stood just outside of the doorway, on the other side of the curtain. I could see the shadows I saw before. I could smell that smell. That smell that sometimes creeps into my nose at random moments that causes bile to burn in the back of my throat. And that monster knew I was there. And I could see it turn its head toward me, like it was challenging me to step inside. But i turned around. And I went back to that circle. And I cried. And I cried over that chair that was empty. Over that part of me that was gone. Like I was mourning myself.
A few things in my family have happened recently where I have suspected that someone in the family has been grooming my nieces and nephews. It makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. I suspect my father. There have been too many times where his behavior has put up a lot of red flags to multiple people in my family who see him for who he is. There has been very distinct patterns of grooming. I won’t go into detail about this- it’s far too difficult. All I will say is that members of my family are going as far as to say that 6 and 7 year olds engaging in oral sex, digital penetration, and “games” of forcing someone to comply with sexual desires are not normal things that children naturally experiment with on their own. It comes from being groomed. Especially because these were “secret games” and the kids were upset when they were caught and exhibited strange behaviors to their parents explaining to them that “sex is a sacred thing adults do”. The kids just got more sneaking and pushy with each other. Almost like someone was doing that to them now that there was more risk of being caught.
After we found out what had been happening with the kids I voiced my concern, but was dismissed immediately. So I got brave. And I told my mom and my sister that I was molested as a child, and I was worried this was happening again to the kids. Neither of them said anything. My mom was late to some event and left. She has not said a word to me about it since. It has been 5 weeks. I opened up to my sister in law about my concerns, as she was the only one that believed me. We went together to talk to my aunt, and I found out my cousin had also been molested during the same time period that I was. My cousin is now homosexual and had opened up to his mom about what had happened to him and a child, but would not tell her who it was. He said that he was still afraid of that person and said that they had repented. They told him that it was as if it never happened, and if my cousin told anyone he would go to hell because he had already repented and it was gone forever.
Now, I don’t remember who molested me. I don’t know who. And I will not assume I know who. I know who I suspect of doing things to my nieces and nephews, but I have no memories to support any theories of who it could be. They are missing. Part of me is missing, and I lost years of my life. I have not tried to remember who on advice of my therapist. I remember the feeling of a body on top of me. Someone touching me in the dark in private places, someone kissing all over my face, and I remember being disgusted by that. The spit on my face. It was like a filthy drooling dog. I remember being told to be quiet. Never talk about it. Never talk about what happened in my bed in the dark. Forget how they touched me. And for a long time, I did forget. I forgot to ever think about it. But it didn’t stop me from being angry. Didn’t stop me from feeling worthless.
Now that you know all of this, I can continue to the part you might find relevant to this topic.
The day I turned 16 a boy approached my dad and asked me on a date. But he never asked me. He knew I would say no. My dad said yes. This boy was Mormon and that was all that mattered. This boy was not nice to me. But I had been numb and suicidal for a while. I literally didn’t care about myself enough to try to fight him much. This boy stole my first kiss. He turned my first kiss into a sloppy french kiss after he had chewed tobacco. Complete with groping my chest. I barely remember anything. I didn’t feel anything. This boy must have seen that as a challenge. He could drive other girls crazy, but he couldn’t make me feel anything. He tried many methods. He tried being sweet and romantic, tried charming me, tried buying me things, and eventually escalated to choking me, pushing me against walls and biting me, and pushing me around. He finally figured out he could make me angry. Anger was a feeling that had stayed with me. He started teaching me to box, would make out with me roughly, would burn me with cigarettes, and then after I didn’t give in, he started trying to force me into sexual things. Due to my past, I was terrified of sex. I never gave in to those things. That was the one thing I was able to bring myself to fight him against. Oh, And he passed the sacrament every week.
This boy started getting reckless. He wasn’t fooling everyone anymore with his good boy act. People were starting to see through it. My bishop was one of those people. He had seen me change he said. He knew what type of boy this guy was. He had many girls come to him and tell him things he had pressured them into doing. Many girls he even forced. (yet he never told them to notify the police). He said that if this was happening, it was not my fault. That those were things I did not need to repent of. He asked me if I prayed. I said no. There was no point. He told me to start praying, and that god would help me heal. Well, I tried that for a while. I tried dropping hints to my parents, but they were fighting at the time and didn’t notice their daughter was becoming a shell of a person. This guy started getting desperate. He had bad things that were happening in his home too. I started to feel for him. Until he tried to force me to suck him off in his car. When I fought him off he choked me and stuck his fingers down my throat. When I didn’t gag, it was like he became deranged and kept muttering about all the things he wanted to do to my mouth. That was when someone saw. Someone who helped me get out of that situation for good. Someone that protected me in high school. Someone that I will always be grateful for. Thank you.
Years passed by. I didn’t date Mormon boys. In my dad’s eyes I was a huge slut. He had discovered things about that boy’s reputation he had made recently. And now that I was dating non members I was just a filthy whore. I became very good at avoiding him. I did everything I could to have an excuse not to go home until the last possible minute. I played a sport that kept me as busy as possible year-round that was very demanding of my time, I tutored, I volunteered, I did extracurriculars any evening I wasn’t busy, I stayed late after practices and games, etc.
My senior year, my father was the bishop. He chose to interview me. He asked me those questions. He claimed he didn’t have a choice. They changed the handbook and he was required to ask a few personal questions. “When was the last time you masturbated?” it was like an accusation. I was frozen. I was terrified. Why would a church require anyone to ask a question like that?! It got worse. “When was the last time you watched porn? Have you ever given or recieved oral sex? Have you been touched under your panties by a boy? Have you ever been fingered? Have you ever laid on top of someone or had them lay on top of you with or without clothes? Have you ever dry humped someone? Have you ever touched a boys penis? How many boys’ penises have you seen? Have you become aroused and had impure thoughts about a boy? Have you ever had someone touch your breasts over or under clothing?” I was humiliated. The man I trusted even less than that boy had the power to ask me these question and I could do nothing but sit there. He even told me that at byu idaho- the school I had been accepted to- there was a motto among the students- stay moral, go oral. He asked me again if i was sure I’d never given a blowjob- so informally and accusing. He told me it brought him no pleasure to ask me all these questions, but youth these days didn’t really know what the law of chastity is- that they try to find loopholes so that they can sin without feeling guilty. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to die. I hadn’t thought of suicide for almost a year until then.
I went off to college and was asked a few of those questions by three more bishops. The first seemed to enjoy asking them. He asked almost as many as my father did. The second avoided eye contact and apologized after each question. The third told me he didn’t care to ask the detailed ones and asked if I was sexually active with myself or others and if I watched porn. He chose not to ask questions he felt uncomfortable even reading. See, these questions feel violating to normal people. They feel wrong. The people asking them sometimes even feel guilt at asking young children and barely adults these sexually invasive questions. No wonder there are so many problems with youth repressing sexuality to the point where those questions become mentally abusive for the toll they take. Being asked those questions made me feel dirty even when I had done nothing wrong. They are not asked in a way that expressed that someone is trying to help you, they are accusatory and sick.
While I was at byui i learned a lot. But I mostly learned what toxic masculinity was, learned about how toxic church culture was, how so many men in the church were so sexually repressed that some of them became obsessive and deranged about the topic of sex, learned how abusive my childhood was, learned a lot about myself in therapy, and learned that I did not believe in the church, and I never really had.
While I was at school there I experienced a lot of men expressing feelings of superiority over women because they held the priesthood. Many of these men also had intense sexual repression and were very aggressive toward women. I had many of those men invite me over early in the morning, then they would show up to church on Sunday expressing how amazing and perfect they were. While I was at school, I was sexually assaulted. I was held down. Three fingers were forced inside of me, and my body was bruised. From his hands, his teeth, his knuckles. I still remember trying to get out of the car, but I was in the middle of nowhere. All I could think was how stupid I was for letting this happen. For getting into this situation. For being a broken doll that boys just wanted to use and then discard. When I finally made it home that night, I couldn’t bring myself to go inside my apartment. So I called my best friend. My best friend who was also struggling with believing in the church. He came and sat in the car with me while I cried and sobbed and laughed and could not properly process what had just happened to me and how I had gotten out with only scratches inside of my vagina, bruises on my arms and all over my chest where he gnawed on my skin above, below and all over my breasts, and a fat lip he had bitten down on whenever I tried to protest or push him off. I guess eventually he decided it was no fun trying to stick it in a girl who was fighting so much who wouldn’t just give in and let him do whatever he wanted. That night I listened to my best friend mutter under his breath that he wanted to find that boy and kill him. Hurt him like he had hurt me. In that moment I again had that person that was there to protect me, who wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me again, who is still here to this day right by my side, still protecting me.
That night changed me. It was like a string broke. I decided that I was going to be in control. I would never again let anyone hurt me. I was going to choose who I had sex with the first time- the first real time- before it chose me. I was sick of not being in control. So I got on tinder and said I wanted to hook up. I found someone right away. And he picked me up and he took me to a duck pond, and we had sex in the back of his car. And I felt no shame. I decided that I wasn’t going to be scared of sex anymore, and it was liberating. Afterward we talked and I told him it was my first time. He was genuinely surprised. He told me he was sorry for not making it special, and i said I didn’t care. And I didn’t. For once, it wasn’t that I was lacking emotion, it was that I was carefree. After that he became a bit attached and we hooked up a few more times. And i found out that I was really skilled at a lot of sexual things. Oddly skilled for someone that “hadn’t done those things before” or at least had no clear memory of doing them before. After a while I found out he had a girlfriend, and he had been cheating on her. So for the second time in my life I decided no more Mormon boys. So if found a few other guys to hook up with. I graduated from the back of cars to guys that had their own apartments. I went a little bit crazy for a bit, and went through about 12 guys in a matter of a month. I had actual sex with only 4 of them, the rest were just playful flings where we would exchange oral sex and other sexual favors.
At this point I had given up on school and was no longer attending class and decided to get as far from that church school as I could. I ended up becoming intimate with my best friend after he expressed concern for me. He worried that what I was doing was dangerous, and so we started having a casual affair. That led to a lot of feelings becoming connected to intimacy over time. Before he moved away- we had both decided to ditch that place- we admitted our love for each other, but each of us had a lot of healing to do.
He moved away and I went home. He had met my family briefly on a visit to the area around my hometown during spring break, and my father instantly disliked him. They knew we had started dating just before he left, and that i was in contact with him daily. So my mom read my journal and discovered all about my life after the assault. Without context, she and my dad assumed they were right about me being a slut all through high school and basically forbade me to ever see my boyfriend again. My mom claimed that he had groomed me and was abusive. Yeah- my mother who was married to my father- claiming she knew what abuse was when she was able to turn a blind eye to it for 20 years. I bought a plane ticket to go live with my boyfriend and packed my bags. It was the bravest I think I’ve ever been. Before I could leave my dad came to talk to me. I feared for my life. I texted my sister in law that I trusted that I was scared and that if anything happened I wanted her to know that I honestly believed my father was capable of murdering me. I texted my boyfriend what was going on and he was sick with worry. He saw right through to who my father really is. When he arrived my father talked to me about what my mom had read and wanted to know what was going on. He approached the subject so gently and so delicately that I actually opened up to him about the assault and the boy who had hurt me in high school. He cried and told me he was so sad that I had been hurt. He told me how special I was to him. How I was his favorite. That I would always be his little girl… He started to say something. Something about something terrible he had done. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He asked me a few very vague questions about what I remembered of something in the past, but started crying and wouldn’t continue on except for some vague ramblings about how sorry he was about something that happened when i was a child. I cannot be sure- but I believe he started to say something concerning my molestation. It was the only thing that made even somewhat sense.
I moved back about a year later because I missed my nieces and nephews. I even started to grow a soft spot for my father. I believed he had changed. I found out he just got better at manipulation. I saw the monster in him emerge a few times since being back, and recently I have seen a new monster in him. One I did not recognize at first, but one that I feel like I know and have known for a very long time. It’s a charming monster. One that spins a web of honey to trap you in to get what it wants. One i’ve seen emerging especially around kids. And it scares me.
Recently my father has confronted my brother, who has also been very purposefully avoiding him, about how my brother’s wife is too outspoken. He also heard that there was some suspicion surrounding him about the situation with my nieces and nephews. He screamed that it wasn’t him, he would never do something so wrong like that, and that anyone who was suspicious of him was tearing our family apart. He insisted it’s normal for kids to “experiment” sexually with each other and play games like role play and “you do whatever I tell you” – which was a game we discovered they had learned somewhere where one person tells you to do something like suck your brother’s penis, and that person has to obey the boss. I’m sorry, but that is not a normal thing at all! That is grooming and there is an adult teaching them these things! My brother brought up the fact that i had opened up about being molested and my parents had not even said a word to me about it, and that they had failed me as parents, and were failing me every single day. My father’s retaliation was that I am the way I am now- not Mormon living with my boyfriend of almost 2 years- because I was a huge slut in high school. He said that I never repented of it because he was my bishop and I refused to talk to him during high school and was too proud to repent. This is after I opened up about my assault. After I admitted to having sex the first time during my 3rd year of college. Obviously he never believed a word I said. I guess bishops don’t really have the power of discernment.
I think the hardest part of it all is knowing that the people that should have protected me, the people whose job was to protect me, don’t even believe me. And it causes me to question myself and question every part of myself. Did I deserve to be hurt? Did i somehow just imagine everything that happened to me? Am i just insane? But no matter how much i doubt myself, those hazy memories are not new recreations. Those are memories that I have had for years and years. Those are things that I have had for as long as I can remember, even if there is a gap in that. And if those memories are real and don’t exist, then how do I even exist? Because there hasn’t been one without the other. They have been a constant companion in the back of my mind eating away at me. The uncertainty and the not knowing, but also the fear of knowing has caused a tension headache to permanently reside in my brain, occasionally pounding against my skull, as if they’re looking for a weak spot to break through and bring everything crashing down.
Now, I know plenty of good people in the church. However I don’t understand how people fail to see the rotten parts that lie in the very core of what the church is. Maybe they choose not to see, like so many people do. They believe that ignorance is bliss. But I know that the church can be a breeding ground for monsters. It allows men like my father too much control and power. It allows bishops and men with the priesthood to hold their power over people, I’ve seen it mostly being used to overpower women. I have come to realize how dangerous the culture in the church is, and how much the church does to save face. How many things have not been reported even though bishops knew about it? Especially when in many states in the west, if you know something illegal has happened, you are responsible to report it? How many men are called to be bishops that are like my dad? Why can nobody seem to see through him and see the monster he is when they have this amazing gift of discernment that supposedly comes from God? Why would a god call someone like that to have power over a ward, or a troop of young boys? Why do these men claim they need to know all of these disgusting invasive things about “sexual sin”? Why does the repentance process have anything to do with how many fingers were inside you and what color your panties were? This is disgusting and wrong. I know my story is long, and I’ve revealed many things that have caused me to hate myself and feel ashamed to even exist, but those questions are honestly what pushed me to actually leave the church. Those questions are what reassured me that walking away was the right thing to do for me.