I was raped by a Mormon priesthood holder.
I was in the Police Academy at the time.
I had a past relationship with my abuser and due to its violent nature I ended it.
My abuser refused to accept I’d had enough and when I went into the Academy he’d try to see me there. However, after multiple visits where he would lose his temper, I asked the gatehouse to prevent his access.
The night I was raped, I rang my Bishop who did the right thing and counselled me to go to the police ~ which I did.
Unfortunately for me the station I had to go to I had just done practical experience at.
There is irrefutably stigma in being a victim of abuse, but it was all the more stressful giving a statement to and being questioned by colleagues I’d just worked with.
I was taken straight from reporting to the Queen Elizabeth hospital to undergo a rape kit.
As a true believing Mormon and recently returned missionary this was extremely traumatic event.
I believed it would have been better if I’d died rather than have my virtue tainted and remain alive.
I had read view that from Mormon prophets it was very familiar to me & reinforced by the popular chewed him object lessons.
Mentally and emotionally I was in a bad place. The hospital refused to discharge me after the rape kit for fear I would harm myself or take my own life.
I remained in hospital for two weeks after that.
When I returned to the academy to complete my training everyone knew what had happened to me.
I felt greatly responsible for what transpired because 1. I was of no more value than chewed gum you peel off the bottom of your heel after accidentally stepping on it and 2. I had breached the restraining order by seeing my abuser.
I had however, made it very clear to my abuser that we were not getting back together.
My abuser acknowledged that, and plead with me to just meet as friends so he could show me how sorry he was. I believed that I should show love & kindness and forgive past injury cuz that what Jesus would do, right?
My abuser assured me a mutual friend would be there and we would all go out together and that it would be harmless. I trusted this was true.
But it was, of course, all lies.
No mutual friend showed up.
Nevertheless, once rape charged were laid, I believed that was the end of the traumatic event.
A short while after I’d reported the rape, my Bishop called me at the Academy and advised me that a Church Council would be held.
What is that I asked?
The Bishop explained a little about a church council and told me when and where it will be held and that I was required to attend.
I immediately spoke to my Snr Sgt about leaving at the designated time to attend the Church Council.
The Snr Sgt was outraged that the church would subject a rape victim to such a process.
Of course I defended the church’s action as any good Mormon would.
I later attended the Church council as required, but I wasn’t prepared either emotionally or mentally for being in a room with all older men interrogating me about my past relationship with my abuser. It was confronting and uncomfortably intrusive.
I answered all their personal and intrusive questions honestly and openly and with as much kindness as I could muster.
I was accused of engaging in consensual sexual intercourse with my abuser which was not accurate. I had never engaged in consensual sexual intercourse with anyone.
In fact much later, the police reduced the charge of aggravated rape to aggravated sexual assault because the rape kit revealed my hymen in tact.
There was sufficient tearing and bruising to support the revised charges and ultimately my abuser was convicted and sentenced to time in prison in consequence.
Neither the Church Council, nor I was aware of that at this stage and the 8/10 priesthood holders deliberated and ruled to have me disfellowshipped. They said it was because I was a return missionary and must be held to a higher standard.
Higher standard than what? A rapist? A violent abuser? What standard are Mormon men who commit such crimes held to?
Of course I dutifully accepted the Councils ruling as God’s will.
I note that my accuser did not attend the council hearing.
In fact my accuser and my abuser was never called to account at all.
No disciplinary council was held for him ~ just me … to answer erroneous accusation that I advised them was false.
That event was more traumatic than giving my 3hr statement to police colleagues & undergoing an intrusive rape kit.
My punitive sentence continued each Sunday that I was refused the sacrament, galvanising in both mind and soul my utter unworthiness to God and the congregation I viewed as family.
Of course people were kindly but they knew I must have done something evil to be refused the sacrament and have my calling status revoked.
Well to be fair, that was on me that I viewed my self-worth to be of such little value.
Unfortunately it was the result of lived & learned experience that demonstrated to me that lack.
To remain functional and face each day, I had to isolate that part of my thinking from the rest of me.
I needed to do that to hold ground and graduate and become a valued professional asset.
Prior to the rape I was well on track for dux of my course. After, I was thankful to simply graduate.
Within the course of my professional work, I had many opportunities to support women, youth and children victims of violent crimes (rape and sexual abuses).
Supporting other victims strengthened me.
I completed my ecclesiastical punishment/sentence and returned to good standing in the church.
I was much more able after that and filled my life with an attitude of service to others in both policing and in church.
I wanted God and the church to again value me.
Imagine my shock, horror and visceral disgust when I learned the church was not what it claimed to be.
I often wonder how different my life would be if I did not bear the unreasonable expectation of one-sided forgiveness.
I’m not just talking being at peace internally but feeling obliged to accept those who’d do you harm into your life and into your home again.
And show that acceptance through word and deed.
As a police officer tasked to repeat incidents of domestic violence – I literally handed out my business card and advise victims of abuse to call me if they felt weak and a desire to return to their abusers.
Giving people permission to abuse you is not a healthy path to walk for anyone.
Nevertheless, we all make our choices and must live with the consequences.
I think because of my years policing, a number of women, youth & children over the years have reached out to me for support ~ whether for their personal experiences with violence, sexual assaults or rape, and I’ve done all I can to support them.
Ironically many of these victims of abuse were Mormon women, youth or children.
One woman contacted me a few years ago after her daughter was raped at a youth camp by a priesthood holder chaperone.
The mother reached out to her Bishop who advised her to call Kirton & McConkie, the church’s law firm. She did this but did not get the support or counsel to assist her with her daughter. They did not advise her to report the rape, seeming concerned more with potential litigation and liability.
I told her if my daughter had been raped I would not engage with the church’s legal representatives as they have one job & that’s safeguarding the church from legal/litigation exposure.
The wellbeing of the complainant and her daughter were not within their interest.
We talked about her daughter who refused to report the matter to police. She was highly traumatised. We talked about getting her daughter counselling & support.
The legal system is weighed unjustly against women & children. The legal system is a patriarchal institution.
Despite much progress, women who are raped must face character assassination, are questioned about the degree if provocation they offered their abusers. This stigma is challenging at best to counter. All the harder if you are a child.
Most rapes occur without witness and often little evidence and results in a he-said/she-said dynamic. It’s a traumatic event for both victim & perpetrator.
In Australia just 1.5 per cent of cases of sexual violence result in conviction. That’s the reality. It’s not easy for a victim of sexual violence to come forward and there is very often little justice found in doing so.
– Sue Given