I know this petition is aimed at ending one-on-one interviews with children, but these interviews can be damaging to adults as well. I’d like to see the practice changed altogether. No child should be subjected to one-on-one interviews period, and no one – child or adult – should feel the religious pressure to sit through an inappropriate question and answer session where they are expected to elaborate on intricate details of a sexual nature.
I had my first experience with such an interview when preparing to go through the temple for the first time. I was a young single adult in a BYU ward about to get married. My bishop asked me to describe in detail what kind of sexual activities I had engaged in with my soon to be husband. Were we clothed? Did he touch my breasts? Did I touch his penis? Was there penetration of any kind? I was extremely uncomfortable and embarrassed to be answering such questions, but I did so honestly. It left me feeling dirty. And guilty. Because I had not told him about the sexual abuse that began when I was about 3 or 4 years old. I had been honest with my fiancé (thank God he still wanted me was my thought at the time) and had talked it out with my LDS therapist as a youth, so I justified in my mind that it needn’t be discussed.
This nagged at me for over a decade. I knew in my head that it wasn’t my fault. That I didn’t ask for it. That I hadn’t sinned. But years of conditioning – the teachings found in Miracle of Forgiveness, talks in General Conference, licked cupcake and chewed gum analogies in Sunday School and Young Women’s, and my own abuser showing up to confront me days before I was wed to question whether I was worthy to attend the temple – all made me doubt myself over the years. How did I let this happen? Why didn’t I tell someone? The simple answer – because I was a child.
Yet, as an adult and a mother, and well into my marriage, I sought peace from my bishop. I told him every detail. A good man, but he was unqualified and unprepared to deal with things of this nature. Slightly older than myself, he was also raised in a time where the Miracle of Forgiveness was on every bookshelf. As he spoke, I felt the shame in the pit of my stomach as this manager of a big box store confirmed my feelings of unworthiness and called me to repentance. I was encouraged to purchase my own copy of Miracle of Forgiveness, counseled to read my scriptures, pray, and pay a full tithe. I could not take the sacrament, nor hold a temple recommend. I had to meet with the bishop over the course of several months before I could get my recommend back.
It has taken me years to understand how wrong this was and to see myself as someone of worth. There were many times as a child and into my adulthood that I contemplated ending my life. To end the abuse. Then to end the shame and the pain. It wasn’t until I left the LDS church that I began to value myself as a human being and really live. The LDS church has a culture problem. It has an abuse problem. It has to stop.