To: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Re: A Simple Request
My name is Mikelle, and I have been a faithful member of your organization for most of my life. I have put my faith and trust in God, in you, in your leadership, and in every single one of your members since I was a child. I was baptized at the age of eight-years-old, meeting the standard of many of your members; I paid tithing. I spoke in church, I bore my testimony, participated in Baptisms for the Dead, prayed, served my neighbors and community, and offered my love to all. Every ounce of faith I had, I put towards your religion, and I regret every second I wasted serving what I now realize is just a company.
When I was seventeen, I was raped. I did not know that word, nor did I understand what it was. All I knew was that somehow, in some way, I had committed a sin and I needed to be forgiven. My young heart took myself to the bishop of my local ward, hoping and praying that he would find forgiveness in his heart and in Gods. I told him everything that this fellow LDS member had done to me. To my body. But what I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t okay for a man to ask me the details I was asked, alone in that square, dimly lit room. I didn’t know that it wasn’t okay for that man I was confiding in to be explicitly touching himself under his desk, to every word I was speaking. I didn’t know that it was wrong for that man to push me up against that prickly, rough wallpaper and touch me in a way I swear I had just been repenting for happening just days before. I thank God that I was so close to the door, and was able to swing it open so quickly, in order to make that man stop. But I should be thanking myself, my body, my heart, my mind for keeping me together and knowing the quickest way to get me out of that situation.
I never fully understood what exactly had happened to me in those short few days. But I knew how it had made me feel and what it had done to my mind and heart. It caused me to lose faith-faith in the leadership of the church, who I thought were put there to lead and guide me; faith in authoritative figures in general: faith that I was deserving of goodness and love. But the biggest thing it eaused me to lose was myself, and the respect I should have had for myself. It jolted me down a long road of pain, suffering, and the loss of will to persevere. I blamed myself. I blamed not having strong enough faith. I blamed not paying enough in tithing. I blamed myself for not knowing any better.
By the time I was old enough to understand and realize what exactly had happened to me and just how wrong it was, I felt that it was too late to have a voice. I looked at my options, explored the steps I could take: all I wanted was to share my story, and have the individuals) that wrong me held accountable. I didn’t care about anything but the accountability. I finally found an out-of-state attorney. who was willing to take on my case and help me investigate my legal options. I was counseled to file a legal claim against your organization, and with little to no hope of anything come of it, I pursued.
I waited months and months for a response from your church, until one finally came. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was anything but your condescending reply. Your organization offered me the option of free counseling services through LDS Family Services. Honestly, props to you for even considering that I would even think about undergoing this option-subjecting myself to the possibility of even further abuse from your organization. Not only was this confusing to me, since I had stated in my claim that I had been undergoing professional therapy for the past 34 years, but it was even more insulting that you had given any thought to having me return to any sort of services or environment that you have in place. The funny thing is-_this wasn’t your only offer. A quiet offer of $5,000 was slid to me under the table, but only if I dropped all claims against your organization and signed over every single right that I had to my story-rebuking any sort of legal right I could or would have regarding the trauma I was put through from your very own leadership and members.
How dare you. How dare you think that taking someone’s rights over THEIR OWN story, their own experience, is okay. How invalidating can you be? Are you scared? Does the voice of one single individual in the world scare you that much, or are you just so extremely power hungry that you must take over every ounce of control possible?
The point of me sharing this, is not to condemn, but to raise awareness. No one- no organization, no individual, no religion, or company should ever think it okay to take away the voice of someone that they hurt. I want to raise awareness of the wrongdoing in the world, that I am sure many are already aware of; raise awareness of the happenings behind the closed doors of your organization (and many others): raise awareness of my own experience, because I know that I am not alone.
And so. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have one simple request: acknowledge the pain and hurt; acknowledge the error in your judgement, and the mistake you made by trying to silence individuals who you have wronged. Acknowledge, validate, and fix your mistakes. Do better. Be better. Because although my faith is gone, you are leading a world-wide community of individuals who are putting just as much if not more-faith into your church, as I once did. Use the power you have for good; not to punish people who have been wronged by you. Use your power the right way. Stop validating the perpetrators within your organization and start validating the true survivors.
An Un-Silenced Survivor