(trigger warning: sexual assault)
When I write, it feels like I’m screaming at the top of my lungs from the edge of a cliff. It’s like I’m getting rid of everything clogging my mind. Finally after repressing, recovering, and reorganizing every polarizing thought for over a year and a half, I’m going to scream it.
It seems strange to say something like this to random readers on the internet. But for some reason it feels safer. I don’t have to see the look in my sisters’ eyes when I tell them something I once loved so much broke me. I don’t have to hear my best friend cry because she wishes she could have done something. When I write it down, no one gets to see how painful it still is to relive it over and over.
I recently fell away from the church. Hearing the hurtful teachings of confused men and women who are convinced they speak truth became too much. The white-washed history that is constantly denied became too much. The denial of any fault within the church became too much. But it was not anger that fueled this departure from something I once loved, it was betrayal. It was confusion, and it was heart break.
The event contributing to my apathy toward the church is this “something” I’ve been wanting to scream. It is not a singular event, but it was something that triggered my need for seeking answers, and something that opened my eyes to the worst part of the church that everyone seems to ignore.
In early September of 2017, I was sexually assaulted while attending BYU-Idaho. And I said nothing.
I remember walking over to a friend’s apartment after I had just moved into mine, and we were going to watch a movie. It had just rained, and I loved the smell of the rain. I was wearing the slightly baggy jeans that almost fit, but never fit just right, and an old red flannel mens shirt I had just gotten at DI.
We were in his living room with his roommates, and with a signal from him, they left. Whatever, his roommates were still in their rooms, I didn’t plan on doing anything. He began to kiss me, and I kissed back. Then something else happened, he had managed to unbutton my pants.
I said no.
He said his roommates wouldn’t be coming out any time soon.
I said no.
He said it was fine.
I said no.
He said he’d keep his pants on and he wouldn’t go any further.
I. Said. No.
But that didn’t matter.
He held me down so I couldn’t move. Pinned down my arms so I couldn’t push him back. I didn’t know what to do, I said no so many times I could not give you a number. He was bigger, stronger, and I got so tired. He told me to be quiet, not to cause a scene, so I gave up. He went too far. Farther than I wanted. By the time he was done, I felt sick. He sat on the other side of the couch and told me I could leave whenever I wanted. So I left.
I ran home. I sat in the shower for who knows how long, trying to let the scalding hot water somehow clean off what had just happened. Then I curled up in my bed and prayed.
I told Heavenly Father I was sorry.
We lived close to each other and attended church meetings in the same building. I saw him walking to church the next day. He was holding a bag of bread. And he smiled at me.
Whenever I heard stories about sexual assault, as much as I tried to understand, I wondered why it took so long for anyone to speak up, why sometimes nothing was said at all. How come so many people let their abuser walk free?
Then I understood. There is a common theme of students at church schools not coming forward with these things, whether sexual assault, or mistakes they want to repent for, they hold back. Because there is a fear of being kicked out of school, being embarrassed, or not being taken seriously. This is mostly due to the honor code at each school that can influence students to keep quiet on things that they feel they can’t let out without major consequences.
Although I understand this is a major contribution to so many situations, overtime I’ve come to understand that it can be so much more than that. I’ve realized in the last year and a half that not being believed, or facing consequences I didn’t deserve wasn’t what kept me quiet. It was the guilt that too many are conditioned to feel from too early of an age within the church.
At the time of my assault, I had worked in the Executive Office of the university for almost two years. I worked with administrators and executives that I had come to love. If I would have said anything about it, I have no doubt they would have stopped at nothing to make sure I received justice.
Unfortunately, I realize this is not the case for most victims of assault, and too many are not taken seriously. However, that was my case. And the reason I never went forward was because I felt guilty. From such an early age I was taught that it was my job to keep priesthood holders worthy. They held the priesthood, and to show respect, we should keep them worthy enough to have it.
The words this man had whispered into my ear as he broke me played over and over again, “What did you expect?”
What did I expect? Should I have expected to give up my right to say no? Was it actually my fault? I did not expect to have my dignity ripped away from me by a man I saw as a friend.
I am going to say it, I have never met anyone more entitled than a mormon man who thinks God made him untouchable. Some of the worst, most terrifying men have come from the LDS church. I say this because it’s the men we are taught to trust that are developing these behaviors. It’s terrifying because I was taught to see priesthood holders as good men, and then I trusted one and he tore me apart. I still trust and see my priesthood holding friends as amazing, and worthy, but they do not see themselves as untouchable, immune. It is, maybe the few, but too many other men who are blinded by their conviction of superiority. There are groups that justify each others’ actions with the mormon culture they believe is doctrine. I know “not all men” and the next person that says that to me I’m going to egg their house.
The point I’m getting at is that there are too many.
That night I ran home, I prayed. And I said I was sorry. I was sorry. For something that shouldn’t have happened to me. After normalizing this behavior for so long, the harm was so completely done.
I was too afraid for too long because of the idea that I was in trouble. Because of a culture that shames those who don’t want to stay quiet about things that are happening anyway. This is so dangerous. This mormon culture surrounding sexuality, marriage, and women is so dangerous. Let it die. Just because you’re uncomfortable with the fact that entitled men never receiving consequences doesn’t fit your idea of the perfect church you love, does NOT mean it doesn’t exist.
Are you aware of what this culture is capable of doing? Are you aware that the things so many of you ignore are causing so many of those you claim to love to rot from the inside? Are you going to keep turning away from this conversation because it makes you uncomfortable?
I want to reiterate this to you just one more time; I told Heavenly Father that I was sorry.
Because of someone who I trusted, someone that I saw as a good priesthood-holding young man, I was broken. I felt betrayed. I spent so many nights under scalding hot water, letting it turn my skin red because it felt like I was cleaner. I still spend Sundays zoning out because I remember more details about that night in a boys apartment. I feel cheated out of something I put so much work into. After the assault, I decided to go through the temple. I threw myself into the church because maybe if I did, I could be complete. I did everything I was supposed to do. I studied every scripture I could, I gave my testimony in church, I taught classes, paid my tithing, and I prayed. And as much as I begged myself to feel complete, I never did.
Because after that night, I began to look more closely at those around me. I saw the toxic culture being taken as truth, and I noticed how so many people around me were oblivious to the faults within this ungodly thing they worshiped. They were more concerned with pleasing an institution than being human beings.
I tried. I really did. And like some of my friends have already told me, no, I did not distance myself from the church because “I fell for the temptations of the world” or because a bad man ruined my testimony. I distanced myself because after already questioning the harms of a culture and the teachings of an institution, I saw the ugliest side of something I once though was beautiful.
We talk about “causes of sexual sin”, we argue about the credibility of victims. We talk about how to prevent it, how to defend ourselves, but when are we going to talk about the amount of perpetrators? When are we going to discuss the narrative that makes them think this is okay? When are we going to stop acting like this isn’t a big enough deal? Especially in recent months, the conversation has become larger and louder, but it’s just not loud enough. We are just not doing enough.
To the good men that respect the women they date, the women they’re friends with, and any woman they come across, thank you. But we need you to do more. We need you to listen to us, to believe us, to help us. To yell with us.
It’s not enough to just be a good guy. You need to start a conversation as well. Talk to and educate your friends, roommates, brothers, classmates, and remind them that their behavior isn’t acceptable. Educate one another, and be an advocate for women. This is not just a conversation for victims, but one for those who are willing to listen.
Support us. Support every woman and man who will come to you seeking comfort. Do not let this culture that you’ve grown used to restrict your right to speak up. Don’t let it make you believe that you are less than you are. Let yourself get angry about this, then do something about it. Don’t let that anger sit with you, but put it towards changing the narrative that allows this to happen. This is just too common, and it doesn’t need to be.
There are too many men I’ve had conversations with that think this idea is radical. When I speak up about this terrifying and growing issue in the church, I am radical. When did the notion that your sisters in the gospel deserve to be treated like women of God become radical? When did men who wear white shirts once a week become untouchable? When did questioning the culture forced by people, not a gospel, become apostate? When did conforming to fit the ideal in a toxic culture become more important than having faith in Christ?
I know what too many of you are going to say, “this is not a common thing, there’s just a few bad eggs making a bad image for everyone!” Stop. That reasoning is why it is still happening. Brushing it off because it’s not big enough for you is what is making it bigger.
This behavior and this culture of being untouchable and ignoring the voices of hurt or concerned women is not taught by the gospel. It is taught by entitled men to others.
I am adding this paragraph due to the comments from members of the church stating I let one man ruin my relationship with God. He did not. If anything it brought me closer to God than ever before. I do not blame the priesthood, I do not blame God. I am pointing out the culture of the church that makes some men believe they are immune from consequences. The culture that has conditioned young women to feel responsible for things they shouldn’t be responsible for. I love my God and Christ and I have felt the comfort of Him in my worst times. My testimony of them is not reliant on my testimony of an institution.
I am not radical. I am not apostate. I am not overreacting. I am desperate for others to listen to so many people who have been hurt and silenced. This church is not perfect. The people who lead it are not. Your bishops, leaders, and teachers are not perfect. I have been taught too many times that things the common man teaches should be taken as gospel. But that is what got us here.
That is what got me here.
I would also like to add that this is not the end of my contribution. I’m not done telling these stories, or participating in this conversation. To the brave women and men who came forward and inspired me; thank you.
To the men that have taken me and so many women for granted, harassed us, assaulted us, made us afraid, and kept us from speaking; this is not over. I hope the fear that you will not always be free to walk away from your decisions sits with you. I hope it forces you to see yourself for what you really are. I hope what you have done rots you from the inside, like it has to us. We are not done with you yet.
And as for me, I don’t know if I will ever be brave enough to say his name out loud. He knows exactly what he did. I confronted him, and he mocked me. He still finds ways to contact me, to . patronize me. I understand why it is so difficult to say their names out loud. It was terrifying. But I am no longer afraid of him. I am no longer as angry as I used to be. And although he walks free, and he fools everyone with a pat on the back on Sunday afternoons, I know exactly who he really is. And I think deep down inside, that scares the shit out of him. Maybe this is why the men that are too many, continue to become more aggressive. They get uglier, sneakier. It becomes a common behavior, because if it happens more than once it’s no longer a mistake. The cold, holy exterior hides the fact that they are exactly what they swear they are not.
And because he seems to find me no matter how hard I try to hide from him, I have a strong suspicion that this incredibly ugly man will eventually find this article. So I dedicate this last bit to him.
I won’t try to convince a jury or an institution that you are not who you say you are, because I have found peace in a better justice.
The God you think made you untouchable, is the same one that is going to remind you that you are not.
14 thoughts on “Why I Have Decided to Scream”
First off, I’m sorry for the terrible experience you had. No man should ever do that to a woman, and no women should ever feel taken advantage of, used, or mistreated. It’s simply disgusting.
With that said, I’d like to comment on a few points you made within this blog post in regards to your faith, not to disregard your experience or belittle your story, but to offer a different perspective, and to also ask some questions that I have.
First off, you wrote “Some of the worst, most terrifying men have come from the LDS church.” I guess I’m confused by this statement. What makes some LDS the “most terrifying” men? I’m just curious as to what you mean by this.
Secondly, God does not expect you to be dismissive and weak. You focused more on what people around you would think, even people in the church, then what GOD thought. Had you focused on God’s opinion, you would have never felt guilty. Instead, you felt shame and guilt for something that you did not do. You felt shame and guilt for harm that someone else caused you. Do you truly believe that Heavenly Father saw you as the abuser, and not the abused? Do you truly think he had no sorrow for you, that he somehow thought you were a terrible person for what had happened to YOU? You felt shameful and guilty – but I can guarantee you that God did not think this of you.
That leads me to my next point. You let your testimony be replaced by a terrible event, that although was scarring, could have lead you closer to God rather than further away. This man’s actions do not define the love Heavenly Father has for you. Yet, for whatever reason, you chose to see a foolish guy’s actions as Heavenly Father’s actions. It seems you think that Heavenly Father did this to you. That Heavenly Father hurt you. That Heavenly Father abused you. And that’s just not true. The church did not do this to you, Heavenly Father did not do this you, and YOU did not do this to you. An immature college boy did this to you. Just becuase he was a priesthood holder does NOT mean he is perfect. Again, he is not Heavenly Father, yet somehow you believe that if a man holds the priesthood, he MUST be good, perfect and righteous be default. That will never be the case during this mortal life. Sucky people exist, sucky choices are made, and it is not the church’s, God’s or the priesthood’s fault. None of those things teach that assault is okay.
Sorry to be be blunt. You are free to decide what you believe and don’t. But to leave something you once loved so dearly because someone associated with the church hurt you? You’re letting HIM win by doing that. Yes, he took something physical and emotional from you, but he did not & could NOT take your spirituality away from you, no matter how terrible the act. YOU decided to let that go. You let a terrible, hurtful situation that should have never happened destroy more in your life than it needed to. Everyone has terrible things happen to them, but it’s how we react to those things that matter. Unfortunately, you chose to let it take much more away from you than (as I mentioned) it needed to.
The church does not think sexual assault is ok. Most importantly, God does not think sexual assault is ok. I’m not sure what lead you to believe that Heavenly Father is okay with ANYONE doing such a thing, but it’s simply not true, and it’s written all over the scriptures, made clear in the temple endowment, and through many other forms. That doesn’t mean a priesthood holder won’t make a stupid decision. We are imperfect humans, and some of us make mistakes that harm others in a disgusting, terrible way. But that does not mean Heavenly Father is okay with it.
And one more thing in regards to your last sentence. God never made us to be untouchable. He gave us weaknesses, flaws, battle scars, wounds & fears because without them, we would perfect human beings who had no reason to come to earth. He MADE us everything BUT untouchable because if it was any other way, we would never need the Savior. We would never need this earthly life.
Again, I am sorry for the terrible act of assault you had to endure. But please consider that maybe you did not lose your testimony – you chose to let it go. Not becuase of what God did to you, but because of what man did to you.
Your choices are yours, but do not blame anyone for the way you feel about God and the church but you. God was next to you all along – you simply paid more attention to the one who wronged you then to one that loves you.
I wish you the best, and hope you find the peace you need, wherever it may be.
I did not let him diminish my testimony. As I stated I tried very hard. It did bring me closer to god. People like you are blinded by the shiny things the church says it offers. People like you are the ones who dismiss the hurt the church causes because you don’t like that very real things don’t fit your ideal. My testimony of god stands. The church ruined my testimony of the church. And in regards to my last sentence: there are men who think they made them untouchable. Don’t you dare tell me how much it took away from me because you cannot begin to understand. I loved the idea of the church. And I’m not sure if you actually read it, but I did not blame god OR the priesthood, but mormon culture. I know god did not think anything bad of me, but mormon culture made me think bad of myself. Please reread this as you seemed to have not grasped the concept. None of my guilt came from god. I never said that once. And the fact that you choose to tell me I am things and I felt things that I didn’t is disgusting and exactly why this issue persists. I will pray for you tonight.
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I guess you made my point even more clear, then. You blame the Mormon culture, yet the culture is not the church and the is not God. Why let something so imperfect, as the culture, take you away from a perfect and loving God? I will be the first to admit (as a convert) that the culture has flaws. But our testimonies should not be in the culture, it should be in God.
I re-read the post several times. Your opinion stands, and I acknowledged that. I also acknowledged that you went through a terrible situation that obviously should not have happened.
However, I did not say anything that you didn’t say yourself. You said you felt guilt. You said God made us untouchable. You said you distanced yourself from the church becuase of an event that happened with a man. I never put words in your mouth – these were all your words.
I think you took my comment as hateful, spiteful comment when it was not written that way. You have the right to your opinion and I have the right to mine. I do not dismiss what you went through. I am stating my opinion and whether or not you
agree with it should not and does not matter. Your opinion matters – this is your story. But that does not mean everyone who disagrees with something you said and states it is a terrible person who simply wants to hurt you further and make you upset. We all have the right to share our opinions when something is posted publicly like this, and how we respond to those comments and opinions says a lot about us and they we tolerate opinions.
You can see my comment as hateful or mean. That’s up to you. But know that it was not intended to be that way. It’s okay for us to voice different opinions and disagree.
And girl, please do pray for me! I am not perfect, and never claimed to me. But that doesn’t mean I can’t use my voice & share my opinion. We all need to pray for each other in this crazy world 💗
The culture is more of the church than people realize. Nothing took me away from God. I never let my love for him go away. The church is not god. I didn’t lose my testimony of Him. I’ve always had trouble with the church but this event opened my eyes to much bigger issues. You know nothing about me or my struggles. I’m sorry I didn’t try hard enough for you. Keep you critiques of others testimonies to yourself, you know absolutely nothing of the work that went into trying to keep myself together.
This was not up for opinion, this was a real experience I had. You came in and critiqued a traumatic event that you deemed not enough of a struggle to turn into something as big as leaving the church. God is perfect, but the church is not. And I do not believe in it. It is not your job to police the validity of others feelings or experiences.
I do not owe you anything. This was my experience and you have no right to take away the hurt I felt because it does not fit your ideals. Stop commenting. You sound incredibly ignorant and you have only furthered the points I made in my writing. Have compassion and empathy because at this rate I worry for those around you who might struggle.
I added and clarified somethings. Please feel free to read it again or choose not to do so. Regardless, you have no right to police my testimony of the things I tried my best to believe. I hope you are able to listen and be of help to those who need you, rather than speaking over them. I understand your right to your opinion, but my trauma is not up for debate. It does not define me, but it did a lot of damage that I had to work very hard to repair. I am using my voice to start a conversation and to change peoples mind. Not to convince people to leave the church, not to convince them to believe the same things I do, but to see the world and this culture for what it really is.
This is all I have left to say to you.
I wish you and those you love a happy life.
To the commenter above, I get what you are saying. When I first read it, I felt defensive, too. No, his righteousness does not justify what he did. However, just because you have never faced discrimination at church does not mean no one else has. No one has ever told you what you are is wrong. Growing up, we had lessons on Sunday in Young Women’s about being good homemakers. The young men had twice the budget we did for their scouting activities, and went to scout camps and high adventure in the summer, etc. Luckily, some things are changing. The new Come Follow Me Curriculum is excellent. Young women in my stake at home get to go on High Adventure now. The temple endowment was finally changed last month to be more inclusive to women. Just because you have never had this kind of experience, does not mean that someone else has not. Temple, I am sorry if anyone ever told you to dress modestly for a man’s sake. That’s wrong. I am sorry if anyone made you feel responsible for someone else’s worthiness. That’s wrong. The church needs to more actively confront specific problems instead of giving blanket statements about how women are valuable and needed. Yes, people in power used their authority to abuse women and children. Yes, there are sexist views in church culture (not based on do time) that need to be identified and publically condemned. Thank you for being brave enough to share your experience, despite the critisism of well-meaning people who are unknowingly part of the problem. If church is a toxic place for you right now, you have every right to take the space you need. What you experienced is horrible, and society at large needs to look at themselves and ask what we can individually do about it.
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Thank you so much for your kind words. I would never want people to feel like I am bashing their belief. I was not. I was bashing the culture. Not the gospel. Not god. Not the prophet. The culture that is perpetuated by people within the church. Again, thank you.
You are so strong and so wise, Temple. I stand with you.
I hope that he and the others like him get what they deserve.
I hope more people who have been injured come forward, and more people really listen and take a stand, so that we can stop these disgusting people and this destructive culture together.
Thank you so much for your kind words. I hope mine can do some good and encourage others to join the conversation.
I agree with Nicole! I stand with you too.
There’s a lot we can do about the situation by being vulnerable and honest about concerns or experiences. I ya is for speaking up about yours.
I’m sorry that happened to you. It really makes me sad that it happens to anybody.
God be with you as you continue to heal, and overcome this!
Theres power when we stand together, so girl I stand with you!
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Thank you! Hopefully I can continue to contribute to the conversation
I’m so sorry you had to go through that Temple. What an awful thing. I am sorry I had no idea. I hope you find peace in yourself and the healing that is necessary. My only concern is that you haven’t reported this man? I wouldn’t want him doing that to anyone else if you know what I mean. Or marrying some poor girl. We need to protect each other as women and if he is a threat, I would like to know if I was a single girl in his ward. His behavior and the way he keeps talking to you in unacceptable. I am also keen to let you know I am grateful you have such a good relationship with God right now. Hold to that, but also remember that God comes from a source. And your knowledge about Christ comes from what you learned in the church. Abandoning it leaves you without the rock with which you built your testimony of Him. Remember the church gave you the precious gift and the understanding of Christ and our Savior. You mentioned you dove into the church afterwards, “clinging” in a sense to avoid trauma. We mustn’t cling, we need to hold fast continually. I know God loves you, but please Temple, don’t let the exhaustion of overzealousness mixed with extremely imperfect cultural stains kick you off the path. It’s just… a distraction to turn you towards bitterness in this highly imperfect world. Anyways… I love you, and I hope the best for you. ♥️ Maybe we can see each other soon.
The church as an institution has a lot of work do do. God never turned his back or let me down, but the church did and it’s too much to take at the moment. I’ll never permanently “leave” the church or become an “ex-mormon” because it is part of who I am, I just had questions for so long that I unfortunately found answers to.
That’s the way to do it. My whole family is like this. My father, both brothers, sister, and step-mother believe the same as do