By Shamed Rape Victim
I grew up in an active LDS family, was active myself and served a mission. When I returned, I got constant questions of “Are you dating?” and feeling the LDS pressure to now get married. In my desperation, I started dating a guy who ultimately raped me and continued to sexually and emotionally abuse me for 2 months. In my “desperation” I continued to date him thinking I could change him and he would be the one and I could finally say that “Yes, I am dating an LDS man.”
Now, at that time in my life, I don’t attribute my low self esteem, depression and my inability to not put up with abuse to the Church. (At least not so far.) But the pressure to now marry and get on with the usual LDS plan did not help. I do attribute the next thing that happened to the Church culture. Not understanding at first what was happening to me in this relationship, I went to my bishop to “confess” that I had had sex outside of marriage. When asked what happened, I said something like I couldn’t stop him. I hadn’t yet applied the label “rape” to what had happened. First, he did not understand that situation to be rape. He was in a position of judgment and had no training or understanding of the nuances of rape. He subsequently put me on probation. I was unable to participate in church or take the sacrament and my temple privileges were revoked. Soon after talking with a friend and describing what happened, she immediately told me that it was rape. That is when I finally put the label on what happened. I went to the bishop and explained this…it didn’t faze him. He actually asked me if the guy jumped out of the bushes and grabbed me! He did not change his stance on the probation. I explained that I had sought counseling at CAPSA (Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse) here in my town. He asked if my counselor was LDS and said “She’s not telling you to go out and have another fling is she?” FLING?!!!! That REALLY stung. I gathered all the information I had on date rape and begged him to talk to my counselor to get educated…he refused. He told me that not only had I broke the law of chastity but that I was guilty of not supporting church leadership (i.e. him) and that was now two things I would not pass on a temple recommend interview.
We are taught that bishops are called of God and they are our “judges in Israel” and their judgment is inspired. So, I began to believe that God judged me the same way. I was feeling spiritually raped, disbelieved, and worthless. How does one avoid the “sin” of rape? I was not only experiencing PTSD because of the rape and the continuing situation with this man I was dating, but PTSD from my bishop. I saw him outside of church once and I remember the most extreme anxiety, shame and fear come over me for some reason. This happened in 1995. Since then, I have been in and out of activity…currently out. My issues with going and enjoying church was both the PTSD of the rape (I could not stand crowds of being stuck in the middle of a pew…I ALWAYS had to be on the end of the row for a quick escape should something happen) and PTSD from the judgment I felt from church leadership and from God because of this Bishop. I was filled with guilt and worthlessness and helplessness. I have subsequently found more understanding responses to what happened to me as far as the rape, but a harder time finding criticism of this bishop.