Tuesday, April 19, 2016

BYU Honor Code and Rape

I have words that need to come out and when that happens this is where it happens.  I inhale words through book and exhale writing.  Read if you choose :).

I have written before about this part of my past but thanks to a brave girl currently in a similar situation people are taking notice.  I want to add my voice as a witness to hers and any other victim who may have felt alone in this challenge.

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 young man confessed as part of his mormon mission, he named me as a participant.  He was in another state but phone calls were made between male leaders (all my friend's dads I'd grown up with for what its worth) and I was called to speak with a man who was my bishop at BYU-Idaho.  I had never met him and he started the meeting telling me he already knew about it and asked that I "confess."  I had never believed I was guilty of that incident and I told him as much.  I had said No three times and so I told this man that.

First of all can I say how humiliating it is to be an 18 year old dressed up in your Sunday best, go past all your church peers into an office behind a closed door with a 40 something man who has been told through a string of three other people about ways your body was assaulted?

His response to my unwillingness to take responsibility for this act was to tell me that I would spend the upcoming year pondering what I did to cause this.  He said, "This WILL happen again in the future, so you need to make a plan for how you'll prevent it next time."  After that meeting he drafted up a letter I was to carry with me outlining that I couldn't pray in public, at a church meeting, I couldn't take the sacrament, and couldn't teach or hold callings.  I was to present the letter to the bishop of any ward I was in (I went home for the summer, could potentially move apartments, etc.) so that they would not unwittingly involve me in their worship, not knowing of my unworthiness.

One thing that stung the most is when he reminded me we had just taken a ward temple trip the week before (which I had enjoyed) and he was so disappointed that I had entered the temple in that state and defiled it.  I defiled their temple, the beautiful sacred place, for having something happen to me.  I couldn't make sense of that at all, but I believed as I was taught that his authority was god given so I must have been guilty and in denial.  He also said that according to the "Honor Code" of the school I could be sent home and lose all of my credits, but that he was going to let me stay.

He did me that favor so I spent my shamed embarrassed time at church in Idaho trying to figure out where I went wrong, what touch felt good, how I could somehow stop myself from that sensation so I would never be touched in the future.  I tried to figure out if I could change the way I dress to make me less deserving of force in the future.  I really couldn't figure anything out, because as a hypervigilant young woman I was already dressing the standards for endowed members (knee length skirts, nothing sleevless, etc).  The bishop kept telling me how the holy spirit was not with me and that I would know I was forgiven when it would come back.  I never understood because I still felt it.  I never felt like God was disappointed with me.  I continued to feel his love.  I decided that must mean I didn't understand the spirit correctly.

I have never felt the same level of feeling of God's love since my punishment ended.  I was told I was forgiven by another 40something man.   I thought I'd feel relief.  Instead I felt confusion and an immediate desire to abandon that experience forever.

Surprisingly enough, that didn't happen again.  The boys I dated later did not rape me.  I thought my future husband had massive self control because I told him I was waiting for marriage and he was too.  No problemo.  So I wanted to add that side note that even though that bishop prophesied a second attack, it did not happen because of other people's choices, not some special idea I thought of.  It really created a mental connection in my mind that I was somehow destined as a victim, for reasons I would never figure out.  I really hate that he taught me that.

I was able to successfully repress for a good 20 years.  And then at the onset of some stressful events and illness anxiety and panic attacks took over my life until I started to address these things one by one.  I only started to make the connection when I had successfully stopped having panic attacks everywhere but church.  I went to tell my bishop about this struggle, because I was afraid the attacks would be a problem as I taught children.  I brought up this episode from my past, as flashbacks were triggering some of it and his response was that I must have not properly repented (ie. I was STILL guilty for my assault and now at fault for giving myself panic attacks).

That was a few years ago and so much healing has taken place.  Panic doesn't rule my life, I have a lot more peace and joy.  But.  I'm still going to be honest about these things and share with whoever will listen.  Because the only way it will stop or get fixed is if people know.  All my successful repression for decades helped no one and kept me from the peace I enjoy today.