My story didn’t start in the Latter-Day Saint church though it did end that way. It started soon after my 9th birthday. As a newly baptised child with a convert mother, I was new to the world of Mormonism and its many facets. My father (divorced from my mother) was an adamant anti-mormon who hated the church and what it stood for.
Around the age of 9 my father started doing very inappropriate things with me. Watching me shower, leaving porn around the house for me to find, and telling me how much of a beautiful young woman I was becoming. This abuse escalated and by the age of 12 I was being molested and raped repeatedly on a regular basis. Around this time I received the ‘candy bar’s analogy in Young Women’s class which is similar to Elizabeth Smarts nail in a post analogy. I felt sickened…and broken. Did God really view me as used trash not to be wanted?
Close to my 13th birthday, I escaped the horrors of my father as he lost parental rights for another unrelated matter. Soon after, I started to self harm. As a normal and curious 13 year old, I also experimented with masturbating. Both became a vicious cycle for me. Guilt and shame for masturbating lead to self harm. During this time, Bishops I had asked me about masturbation. I always denied it, as I feared that my admittance to such a thing would lead to my admittance of my abuse at the hands of my father.
At 17, I finally snapped. Mentally exhausted from the guilt I was carrying… I tried to commit suicide. After this act… Help seemingly came crawling out of the woodwork. I couldn’t hide what I knew any longer and I shared what had happened to me to my bishop. He was sympathetic and offered counseling to me…but never counseled me to go to the police or to find help outside the church. He also chastised me for waiting to repent of my masturbation sins and said “The burden is lighter if you confess early. You could have been saved so much guilt if you had come to me sooner”.
As if it had been my fault to be scared…my guilt holding me back from mental happiness.
A few years later when I turned 21…I wanted to serve a mission. I had moved away from my home ward and moved across the country to a BYU ward. I thought my past was behind me. I was healing and finally thought I had found Gods forgiveness. During one of the first interviews for the mission process, my bishop asked if I had ever ‘self mutilated’ before. Flustered… I answered that yes I used to self harm or ‘cut’…but that I was 4 years clean. He turned bright red, coughed, and reiterated…asking if I had any sexual sins I needed to repent of.
I responded that I used to do so, but felt that I had put them behind me. He kept pressing me for details and finally asked when I had started to experiment with masturbation. I told him “10 years old”. Shocked…he asked why I started so early. Clearly uncomfortable… I answered him honestly and told him about my abusive father. He was quiet for a moment and told me he couldn’t in good conscious send me on a mission without me getting psychologically cleared by LDS Family Services. He set up the meeting and I went. That meeting set my healing back the farthest it ever had been. They asked intrusive questions about the nature of abuse. How many fingers were used…if a penis or mouth was involved…if I enjoyed it. I felt sick. Did God really need me to go through this again?
After the ‘therapy’ appointment…I had another meeting with my bishop. He told me that LDS family services had cleared me for service in the mission field, but that he received revelation that I needed to repent for “actively participating” in the abuse..as well as the “self mutilation” that followed. I walked out and never went back.
For months afterwards…I had flashbacks and night terrors. I was swallowed in self loathing. Maybe God saw in to my heart and I DID actually want the abuse. Did God love me then?
No man, woman, or child should have to suffer like this. At first I thought the problem was ME. I DESERVED this anxiety and guilt over such sensitive topics. It was Gods church after all.
No. The problem is NOT me. Its not those abused and neglected. The problem is unchecked power given to those who could seriously harm a child or someone else. The debate on whether or not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints is the true church of God should be set aside. This isn’t about that. This is about the children…just like me.