When I was fifteen years young, I was sexually assaulted by a guy that I thought I was friends with. I didn’t tell anyone until I came to college, especially no one in the church. I do not write this post to divulge the horrible details – instead, I write to recount the teachings often taught within the church that are painful and sometimes even degrading for those who are attacked. I do not speak for all people who have been attacked. I speak for myself and I write of a few of the teachings that I still struggle with, and especially struggled with right after I was attacked.
“Squashed Cupcake” Young Women’s Analogy
If you haven’t ever had this lesson (and be very grateful if you haven’t), let me just detail briefly what it is. The Young Women’s teacher during a chastity lesson describes a beautiful cupcake, with frosting and sprinkles (usually this happens on a Fast Sunday, of course). She talks about this cupcake and how wonderful it tastes when you finally get to eat it. But what if that precious little cupcake was ruined? What if it was run over by a car and squished? No one would want that cupcake anymore. It would be contaminated. Then, everyone is told that what is like when you ‘break the law of chastity.’ You are a squashed cupcake. No one will want to marry a squashed cupcake.
I had always hated this analogy. But of course, it became an uncomfortable feeling during this story right after the attack, versus one of hate. For a long time, I blamed myself – something I know is not uncommon. I couldn’t get that out of my head. I mean, my Young Women’s president said it. Guys wouldn’t want someone that had already been “used.” I felt like a squashed cupcake. Chastity lessons usually led to me leaving to pace in the church bathroom, scared for my eternal future.
Any guy, I learned as I got older, who had a ‘no-squashed-cupcake’ mentality, wasn’t worth my time, nor anyone else’s.
The second Bishop that knew about my experience had a little interview with me one day. I walk in, expecting that we will be talking about my calling.
“I heard what happened.” I cringed, feeling uncomfortable, since I didn’t tell him, but my previous Bishop did. I stayed quiet. He leaned over, closer, furrowed his brows, and asked me, he seriously asked me, “What were you wearing?”
What? Excuse me? Even if I had been wearing a short skirt, that doesn’t give anyone the right to violate me. The excessive modesty talks always imply that modesty would never lead to being raped and immodesty, on the contrary, is an open invitation to anyone. I was wearing jeans and a tee-shirt – so does that mean in my case I was a victim and my friend, who was wearing a minidress – isn’t? This is flawed logic. Immodesty is never a justification for someone being violated. Ever.
“Get Closer to the Lord and Forgive”
This one is still especially painful. It seems like people feel that if we’re ‘close enough’ to the Lord, our pains all disappear. This is not true, of course, but many times I’ve heard people tell me that. “If you’re still feeling bad about it, just get a little bit closer.” I find this not only rude that someone is judging my spirituality, but I can pray as much as I want and it certainly won’t ‘erase’ a traumatic incident. For me, getting closer to the Lord has helped me heal, but something like this doesn’t just go away with a few scripture readings. I can be close to the Lord and still be struggling. Everyone can, with anything.
Forgiveness doesn’t happen in a day and it still hasn’t happened for me. I don’t even feel near ready to forgive and I have established peace with that. I think often this is associated with ‘saving our souls’ but there’s no point in pushing people to forgive when they aren’t ready, since that doesn’t accomplish anything. I firmly believe that the Lord would never want us to pretend to forgive anyone.
Stay Away From Those Bad Situations
In a recent chastity lesson, my bishop brought this up. “Stay away from bad situations,” he said, after reminding us if something happened where we were violated, it wasn’t our fault. This, for me, goes along with the modesty issue and sheds blame. The girl who was attacked at a party was still attacked – but with the undertones of ‘bad situations’, it lessens the validity of what happened to her.
Also, during this lesson, there seemed to be wrongful assumptions that this happens usually if you’re a) under the influence or b) running down the street with headphones on. I stayed away from being under the influence growing up, so I wouldn’t ever get into a ‘bad’ situation and always practiced ‘safe running’. The people that I was taught to watch out for never hurt me. It should be taught that most attacks are from people the victim knows, not always some guy in the dark alley.
The second bishop I spoke to mentioned that to me too. He asked me where there were other people. He asked me if I was alone. Why does that matter? Does it matter if I was at a party or leaving mutual? Does one have a higher bearing on another? Really, anyone can classify any situation where someone gets attacked ‘bad’. No situation qualifies any rape or assault less ‘legitimate’ than another.
In my Young Women’s, I didn’t so much as hear the word ‘attack’, much less ‘assault’ or ‘rape’. This was a silent thing, and at least in my ward, no one even danced around it. The chastity lessons were full of ‘do not do these things, insert list of things not to do’ and that was it. Were there church resources? I was fifteen and I sure as heck wasn’t going to get on the computer and google it. There needs to be conversation about it, especially as it gets more and more prevalent in the church. We cannot afford to be quiet about it. I’ve read very few talks about sexual, physical or emotional abuse, but not very many, and some even chastise the victim. Words are power. Someday, when I teach a Young Women’s lesson, I will say what no one would dare say when I was in Young Women’s.
Do I still struggle? Everyday. But I am determined to make sure that young women in the church don’t find themselves believing teachings that degrade them. The belief for me that my Savior loves me overpowers the stupid cupcake teachings, but it certainly didn’t always and I can’t say I don’t get offended or upset. I believe in change. This too can change and I’m determined to make it happen, even if it’s one ward at a time.