While this post does not go into detail, it does deal with the mature issue of sexual assault, and may not be suitable for all audiences. Reader discretion is advised.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three women and one in six men will experience some sort of sexual violence in their life. Nearly two-thirds of college students experience sexual harassment of some kind and 51.1% of female victims experience sexual abuse or rape by an intimate partner and 40.8% by acquaintances. The unfortunate fact is that members of the Church are not immune to these terrible acts. I know because I am a survivor of sexual abuse from an 8-month long manipulative relationship.
I grew up naively assuming that because I was part of the Church, I was protected by a bubble from all of the bad things in the world; that nothing bad would ever happen to me. However, I was not exempt from the dark world that we live in—and sadly, it was a member of the Church who assaulted me.
The world is a scary place, but we are fortunate enough to have the gospel to help us get through this or any kind of trauma. I know this with certainty because it’s the only thing that truly has gotten me through my own healing process. It is frightening realizing that even men who are members of the Church do these things to women (or, though it’s less common, that women in the Church abuse men). Of course I need to clarify that not every Latter-day Saint man out there is like this, but I do want to help the women of the Church protect themselves from those few dangerous men who claim to be part of the Church, but entrap us with their manipulation or give into their sexual temptations and make us the unwilling victims of their struggles.
The guy I was in a relationship with was a returned missionary with a great family that was active in the Church. He would go to the temple and would often do sessions with me. It was extremely deceiving. Yet even with all of that, he still manipulated me, emotionally abused me, and sexually assaulted me several times at the end of our relationship. Master manipulators can manipulate ANYONE. You are not weak if you fall under the spell of a manipulator. They are very good at what they do and know how to get people to do exactly what they want.
After my entire experience, the one thing that I consistently noticed was that Heavenly Father was there for me every step of the way. In the early stages of the relationship, I would always pray to Him asking if I was making the right decision dating my now ex-boyfriend. I felt mostly at peace about it, but would likewise feel a certain hesitancy as if He were telling me that I could be there for my ex because he needed someone, but that I should also be careful. When the semester at school ended, the apartment I was in previously had filled up, so I had to move to a different apartment that was outside of my ex-boyfriend’s ward for the next semester. This actually ended up being a blessing because I wouldn’t have to see him at church the next semester.
As I said before, throughout our relationship, my ex-boyfriend and I consistently attended the temple together to do sessions. Even before the relationship started to go downhill, I started to get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever we would sit in the celestial room together—but the person he created in me made me ignore that feeling. When he visited my home, he never assaulted me. (That is a huge blessing because I am able to feel safe in my own home now and not have it be a triggering place for me.)
Near the end of the relationship, my mom told me that my family fasted and prayed for an entire month that my ex and I would somehow break up. We almost broke up three times while this was happening. Finally, Heavenly Father was able to convince my ex-boyfriend to break up with me because mentally I could not get myself to do it even though I wanted it so badly. After that, my ex-boyfriend completely discontinued all contact me with me, which helped me to become free of my attachment to him.
Throughout it all, Heavenly Father was truly there for me. He even put the idea in my mother’s hairstylist’s head to pass on the reference for a therapist that I was able to go to before I realized how bad things truly were for me. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had my therapist to help me through everything that I experienced, especially after I went back to school.
Heavenly Father was always there, every time. Even during that dark, dark time when the assault kept happening and I felt too ashamed to even pray to Him, He still helped me.
I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for loving me enough to help me through that challenging time in my life. I’m also grateful for that experience because now I know what it’s like, and now I know how and what I can do to help others who might be going through a similar experience.
Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all that is unfair about life will be made right. We are all strong children of God, and He loves us so much. It pains Him so much to see us go through such difficult times, but I know that He believes in us and is helping us as much as He possibly can.
Look for those lifelines that He’s trying to send out to you, and reach out to grab them.
To read more about this author’s experience and her tips for surviving sexual assault and abuse, visit her website at youstillhaveworth.com.