November 29, 2017
by Andrea Smardon
Sexual abuse survivors say notions of modesty and patriarchal authority make speaking out difficult: ‘There’s a lot of pressure to forgive and to not rock the boat’
When Carol was eight years old, she was baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon church. But she refused to stand up in front of the congregation and bear her testimony – to make a declaration about how she knew that God, the Heavenly Father, loved her.
Her father punished her by raping her.
Carol only remembered this years later, in her 20s, while working with a therapist who specialized in childhood trauma. She gradually came to realize that she had been abused since she was a very young child. Her father justified sexual abuse by using an example from the Bible.
“He told me that Mary was impregnated by God the Father. That’s why Mary had to have sex with God,” Carol said.
Now, at age 56, Carol (not her real name) has watched her Facebook feed fill up with messages of women saying #metoo. She thought these very small words held huge stories. As she read others’ experiences, she decided to write her own post.
“It’s almost impossible to describe how heinous this crime is, especially when perpetrated against a child. There’s a reason we call these crimes ‘unspeakable’ … I have no sweeping answer about how to stop the violence. But I have this voice. And I was born to tell the truth,” her post read.
Telling the truth about sexual abuse is hard for anyone, but it has particular challenges in the conservative, Mormon community of Utah where Carol was raised for most of her life and where she now lives. Carol, who identifies as a Mormon feminist, sees a parallel with powerful men in Hollywood and those in the Mormon church.
“It’s men in power taking advantage of their positions of authority,” she said. “In the LDS church or any patriarchal religious community, it’s even more condensed and insulated, and there’s a lot of pressure to forgive and to not rock the boat.”
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