I was reading the newly revised “For the Strength of Youth” at the lds youth website. It reminded me of an article I read a few years ago at Mormontimes.com about Virginity Pledges. Both articles stirred up some difficult memories for me which took me back to my childhood, because I was sexually abused as a child. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when it first started, but it lasted for most of my childhood. I have memories of things happening before I entered first grade and I lost my virginity about the time I was baptized at the age of eight.
Many things about my life of abuse are hard to explain with mere words. Inwardly, I spent years in a fog, simply struggling to survive. All my life I felt so much shame and guilt. I was unclean and impure. I was different than every person I knew. My heart’s desire was to be clean, pure and normal. Outwardly, no one would have suspected the emotional trauma I was going through. I hid my pain well by pretending to the world that I was a happy and normal Mormon girl.
At the age of twelve, I entered Mutual. My teacher was a very nice woman and made an effort to connect with the girls in her class. But one class stands out in my memory as very traumatic. Her Lesson focused on Chastity and how important it was for us to be morally clean. She told us that our most treasured possession was our virginity. She asked us to make a covenant to remain a virgin until we got married. She said that we should never do anything that compromised our most precious possession. For my ears, this was devastating. It was too late for me. I was already impure and had lost my virginity years before.
Then, she told us something that I will never forget. She said that our virginity was so precious that if someone tried to take it away from us by force, we should kill ourselves to protect it. She testified that our virginity was more important to us than our life. Hearing these words cut through my heart like a knife. The abuse continued for a few more years and every time, in addition to the shame, I now felt guilt for not having the courage to take my life. My pain was devastating and my heart’s desire was to be free from shame and guilt.
About fifteen years later this was still my heart’s desire. I had come no closer to finding any relief from my pain. There was nothing more important to me than gaining forgiveness. My desire was to be clean and pure like everyone else I knew. It was then that I turned to a book written by my Prophet Spencer W. Kimball called “The Miracle of Forgiveness“. Here, I just knew I would find the answer to my pain. Instead, I found more guilt and a reinforcement of what my Mutual teacher had told me. I read:
“Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation where there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.”
My pain was so intense I would have committed suicide had I not had two little daughters who needed me. And, it was these two little girls that helped me to realize the abuse hadn’t been my fault. As their mother I could see that these little girls had no interest in sex. I started reading about sexually abused children and I learned that children are victims, not willing participants. I myself had survived each ordeal by pretending I was asleep and trying to pretend it wasn’t happening to me.
Surprisingly, realizing it wasn’t my fault did not release me from my feelings of guilt and shame. Maybe it was because of my Prophets words that it would have been better that I had died in defending my virtue. I still felt morally unclean and impure. I was a defective and broken woman who did not know how to become whole and clean. A few years later I left the Mormon Church and about a year after that gave up on what I thought was Christianity in general. I pretended that my feelings of guilt and shame were gone, but they weren’t. I tried convincing myself that the God who created our world didn’t care about me or my pain. But I was wrong! And oh how thankful I am that I was wrong.
Jesus came and rescued me even though I had given up on Him. God sent a Christian into my life who told me that the God who created our world actually loved me! He didn’t care that I was broken and guilt ridden. This loving God led me to the truth and gave me the desire of my heart! He told me that through Jesus I was clean and pure! At thirty six years of age I learned that in God’s eyes, I was as pure and clean as a virgin! All because of Jesus! In fact, John the Beloved testified to me that everyone whose hope is in Jesus is as pure as Jesus himself! (1 John 3:3)
I have had lots of difficult things happen to me in my life but nothing has affected me more deeply than the sexual abuse. Today, even at fifty-three years of age I still struggle with emotional aftereffects from it. But, I praise the Lord that through Jesus’ blood I have been cleansed! My most treasured possession is the forgiveness of all my sins. I live my life devoted to my Savior who freely won it for me. And, I learned that my life is more precious to Him than my “virtue”.
Now, my heart’s desire is to share what I have been given with you. If you were sexually abused and have had to sit through a Mutual class like I did, my heart goes out to you. If you don’t know how to become whole, trust in the fact that your Savior has made you clean and pure with His blood.
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-12)