My family moved frequently as I was growing up, so my twelfth birthday was spent in a new ward. My family wasn’t in this ward long and moved within the year, so I never endured more than one interview with this man. But I remember the extreme hatred and fear I felt after my interview with him. What’s more, my parents acknowledged their dislike for the man, but these interviews are what we did in good faith.
The bishop used very explicit language with me as a twelve year old such as “masturbation,” “orgasm,” and “blow job.” I distinctly remember having an awful feeling like I was being hurt in a way I didn’t understand. I answered no to all of the questions, but he pressed. The bishop accused me of lying and asking me if I was sure I was being honest to a point where I was mortified. I wasn’t being truthful, but was refusing to engage because my gut told me this man was evil.
I don’t have a clear memory of any other worthiness interviews after my first. At thirty-one, I’ve struggled with self-esteem, shame, guilt, anxiety, and depression. I’m writing this after only hearing of this movement 6 days ago. The feelings have all flooded back. Though I have been excommunicated at my own request and have not practiced in thirteen years, I’ve been led to believe these interviews are okay. They are not. Absolutely not.
I still beg my family for normalcy and understanding. But as long as the church allows these kinds of behaviors, then victims will be alienated and feel yet more shame. Adult men should not be allowed to speak to the youth this way and they should not be alone with anyone under 18 years of age. Had the bishop been a teacher or the principal of my school it would never be allowed within my family. I was too young to understand how terrible that experience was. I thought the icky feelings were my own fault for lying about masturbating as a young child (5-6 years old). I thought Heavenly Father told him I was lying and that’s why he was being so forceful and crude. I was too afraid of what my parents would think so I stayed in the religion much longer than I would have liked. The reason I left was the shame and the guilt which grew into depression, anxiety, and self-medication. I’m finally back on the right path, in school, and determined to show everyone that I can be happy and successful without the church.
I’m thankful to the other victims who are speaking out. I’ve never been able to validate these feelings to my own self, but knowing I’m not alone is helpful.
I’ve been able to find professional help after decades of seeking it. For those of you who are needing it: please, please don’t give up and keep trying. There are resources and treatments for the depression and anxiety. Don’t give up. I really never thought I’d see a happy me, but I’ve found her. If anyone makes you feel sexually uncomfortable, you deserve to say “no.” Do not let anyone tell you how to feel.