Thursday, April 16, 2015

She Was Just a Girl


As the LDS Church continues to emphasize the importance of Religious Freedom, it is worth asking whether or not the LDS Church grants religious freedom to its own students at BYU — since most students who lose their faith do not choose it.  Instead, for many, a loss of faith is often the result of sincere academic study.  It is also worth noting that one’s status at BYU is not jeopardized in any way if he/she coverts INTO the LDS Church while a BYU student….only if he/she converts awayfrom the LDS church. To many, this feels like hypocrisy.  Source

I'm choosing to speak out because this is part of my story as well.  As an 18 year old I was led into a "confession" for an incident in which I was victimized.  According to the legal definition I was raped and when the perpetrator confessed in the mormon church, he gave my name as a participant and I was called before a middle aged man I'd never spoken to before and asked to "confess."  I didn't believe I was guilty as I had said No three times during the attack so I didn't want to "confess."

The mormon bishop I was meeting with threatened my membership in the church and my ability to stay at the school, including almost a years worth of credits (BYU-Idaho) if I did not  show "supplication" and apologize for the act.  My mom was cleaning a house in addition to her full time job in order to help me a little each month get through school.  I was keeping almost perfect grades in order to retain scholarships because it was the only way I could afford college.  My mom told me regularly how important this education was.  I really felt that the only way to protect my education and my family's investment was to apologize and live in a type of shunning for the coming year.

I did not lose my faith as the students in this meeting were illustrating, concerning religious freedom.  My mormon community was everything to me and I loved it.  That's why I chose to attend a church school.  I did however lose my sinless status because of this young man's confession and that was enough to threaten my education.  This is not religious freedom.  I was not allowed to protect my dignity.  I was not allowed to have any kind of victim support or a female perspective anywhere in the process.

I admire people standing up for their rights.  But I hope they'll remember to stand up for the rights of the weakest among them as well.  Rights are not just a luxury for the dominant and comfortable.  If they are a human right they should be for ALL humans.

They are just imperfect men

I've told very few trusted people about this part of my history this year and every one that is an orthodox mormon has replied with sympathy to the male church leaders involved that they are just men.  The LDS church has no paid clergy at the local level, so any member can end up being an ecclesiastical leader calling a young girl to confession as I was.  For this reason, in addition to (sometimes) sympathy each mormon hearing this story (including an LDS mental health professional two days ago) has reminded me to forgive these men for that reason.  I'm a forgiving person and I plan to.  But I haven't yet.  I forgave the young man who hurt me much much easier than I'm facing forgiving the men who shunned and exiled me from my community and threatened my education that I had sacrificed so much for.

I do agree they are human.  But also important to point out is that I was too.  I was a young girl away from home and living in fear from a traumatic situation in the first place.  I could have used some mercy, some grace, or even a hug from a woman.  I've yet to hear that young gay teenagers are "just kids" and so shouldn't be shamed into believing they are better off dead than living a gay lifestyle.  If middle-aged men in religious authority are allowed to make mistakes and not be held accountable could we show some of that grace to the kids?

No one else will say it.  But I will say it to myself.  She was just a girl.

4 comments:

  1. You *were* just a girl, and I'm so so so sad to hear this story, and to hear of some people's responses. What happened to you was deeply traumatic, and it wasn't okay--the incident itself or the way it was handled. And you're absolutely right--we should be showing grace to those on the lower end of the power differential as much as, if not way more than, those with inherent power. Thanks so much for being brave and vulnerable so that we all can gain deeper understanding of how to help those who are hurting.

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  2. I am so truly sorry that you had this terrible experience. It makes me so sad. I know that sounds trite written out in a comment post, but I mean it genuinely from my heart. <3

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  3. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Saying it out loud is an important step for you, but also a vital service to the rest of us. We need to hear these kinds of stories in order to take the necessary steps to ensure that they will not continue to happen on our watch. Best of wishes for increased peace and healing as you continue to move forward. And thank you for your brave example in daring to speak up.

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  4. That was awesome! Thanks for sharing. It makes such a great point. I'm sure that was hard to be open and public about but the more these stories get told the more people will know there is a need for some change to make the world a more fair and kind place. <3

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Thanks for your comments~!

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