Sunday, September 25, 2016

Preventing, Protecting and Healing Abuse in the LDS Church

Part 1: My Story

At church I am in the Primary Presidency. Bishops are supposed to talk with those that work with the children and youth twice a year. I recently had this meeting with my Bishop. My Bishop talked to me about preventing and reporting child abuse. At the end of this meeting I told my bishop that I know a lot on this topic, as I was raised in an abusive home.

As far as I know none of my teachers or leaders at church suspected the abuse. I did have a teacher at school who told me 13 years later that she suspected there was something going on in my home life.

No one knew about the (verbal) abuse going on in my home until I told my Seminary Teacher when I was 18. She had been my seminary teacher for about 7-8 months at the time and I had learned that she was someone I could turn to and trust. I didn't tell her much that day, but she felt prompted to ask me if my dad ever physically abused me, I told her no. She then asked if he verbally abused me, I told her yes. She then told me that I needed to tell my bishop. I was scared. I didn't want to talk to him. Because I trusted her and knew she was doing what was best for me I went to my bishop's house and talked to him. His advice to me was to leave when my dad got abusive. Since I was over 18 and my dad wasn't a member of the church there wasn't much else my bishop could do or say. Things stayed the same over the next few months. When my dad got abusive I would leave. However, my dad caught on to this and then kept me from leaving.

Things got to the point that I couldn't handle everything going on. I turned to self-harm to try to cope with my feelings and emotions. My best friend encouraged me to once again turn to my bishop. I made an appointment with him and told him about the problems I was having. Things at home were worse then he thought. He suggested I go to counseling.

A lot of times, especially in my family, there are a lot of negative stigmas and stereotypes associated with "counseling" or "therapy". At first I objected. There was no way I would do that. It took me a week or two to come around on the idea of it. I finally concluded that it couldn't make things much worse. At the same time I was scared to death that my parents would find out.

It was hard for me at first. I couldn't open up to my counselor. I didn't know how to talk about how I was feeling or what I was going through in my home. After being in counseling for 3 months my counselor expressed how she didn't know how to help me since I wasn't opening up to her. Even though I couldn't verbally express things to her, I was able to write about everything. At our following visit I gave her 3 pages I had written. In it I explained to her how hard it was for me to open up, my struggle with self harm and about the verbal abuse my dad was putting me through.

Things changed after that. She she knew of my struggles she knew how to help me. A month and a half later I finally had the courage to take my Bishop and friends advise and I moved out! I did 3 more months of counseling one on one with her before I started a counseling group for all women who had been abused. That is where I really blossomed. The 12 week group focused on the Atonement, forgiveness and healing. By the end of it I was no longer this closed up, broken shell of a 19-year-old.

I wish my story ended there, but it doesn't. I got married in the temple to a wonderful man. Not long after getting married I knew something was wrong. It took several months to figure it out, but since getting married and becoming sexually active it triggered sexual abuse that had happened to me as a teenager. I had completely blocked it out of my mind and had no memory of it until I was married.

(Part 2)

No comments: