After seeing my Bishop for abuse in my marriage and disclosing some details ONLY to him, I started hearing rumors about myself going around in the ward that contained these private details. I was able to track the source and it was a woman who the bishop is extremely close to. This woman is NOT his wife. I have also never had a conversation with this member. I have since become aware of several of other members who expressed similar concerns that this woman and the bishop are sharing private, confidential information. Their actions have defamed me and have since caused a tribal shunning because of what is being said. It was a huge betrayal of trust and has effected me greatly.
This story was published on the Exponent, link HERE.
I sat in front of my bishop, sobbing after sharing my secret. Cautiously, I poured out details of daily verbal assault, physical intimidation, financial control, and sexual endangerment by my spouse. I felt relieved, but it did not last. My bishop was someone I trusted and needed. He looked at me and said, “I don’t believe you.”
The realization hit me like a wave of nausea coupled with a heart-stopping moment of shock: the implications of his opinion will escalate these things. I needed to be prepared for that when I got home. What about my children? Will they have to continue to see this? How can I get help? If my bishop doesn’t believe me, who will? He was someone I counted on to be God’s hands on Earth. A judge in Israel. A representative of Christ. And he said to me, “I don’t believe you.”
I knew things would escalate. And they did.
I hold my bishop very accountable for NOT holding my husband accountable.
For telling me I was not being honest.
For telling me to go home and be a better wife.
For telling me it is normal to be called horrific names by my husband.
For telling me that I was the problem.
For telling me my feelings of fear were not real.
For telling me I was too controlling.
For telling me that I was just trying to get my husband in trouble.
For telling me that I must have done something to deserve this.
For telling me to stop being selfish for having aspirations to further my education.
For telling me I was failing in my job as a mother.
For telling me I needed to focus on my husband.
For telling me this behavior is normal in marriages.
For telling me everyone loves my husband.
For telling me that I just needed to get over it.
For telling me to stop making my husband mad.
For telling me that I just needed to trust my husband after he’s had multiple affairs.
For telling me that no one believes me and no one would believe me.
For telling me that I needed to be better.
It took me months to even start to recover and heal from my husband's abuse AND the abuse by the bishop. I suffered multiple PTSD-like symptoms because of the ecclesiastical abuse I suffered when seeking help.
Story Published On Sisters Quorum, link HERE. Edited for length, Read the full account here.
When my friend visited me and showed me a black eye inflicted by her husband, I was concerned for her safety. She told me about the horrific abuse she had suffered for years and said the psychological abuse was worse than the physical abuse. As a Stake Relief Society President at the time, I had recently attended a regional training session where we were taught that the Church did not condone domestic abuse. I encouraged Rachel to meet with her bishop and felt confident he would help her.
I was wrong.
Her husband, a former bishop, was well-liked in his stake. Instead of her bishop comforting her, he condemned her. Her bishop told Rachel that she had fabricated the abuse, even after she showed him doctor’s reports of past injuries. He told her she must stay married, remain silent and tell no one of her abuse.
Eventually, the abuse became life-threatening and she left. She was shunned by her friends and family members, who believed her husband’s lies. A former football player, her husband convinced their friends and family that my friend, who weighed less than 100 pounds, had precipitated the fights. He also asserted that she was delusional and her abuse claims were false.
After the divorce was finalized, she lost everything: her home, family, and friends. Her children, whom she adored, sided with her husband and her bishop, and told her she had destroyed her marriage. Her husband, a wealthy, charismatic, powerful man in their community, hid his assets and hired five prominent attorneys. She was left almost destitute.
In an attempt to help my friend, my husband and I contacted her stake president, who dismissed us, and then the Area Authority, outlining the physical and mental abuse she had suffered and asking him to review the case. We told him that physicians had detailed reports of her injuries and that they could validate her claims. We hoped that this would at least help her reestablish the relationships she had with her adult children and her grandchildren, whom she adored.
Instead of helping her, we hurt her. She was called in by her bishop and disfellowshipped for not heeding his counsel. My husband and I were called into the office of our stake president by her stake president. Her stake president was enraged that we had contacted the Area Authority and told us if we lived in his stake, we would be excommunicated.
Unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon. I have seen it play out over and over again in various forms in the Church. For instance, a close friend was molested by her bishop, who came to her home when she was very ill, knowing that her husband was on a Church assignment. When she and her husband reported the abuse to their stake president, they were threatened with Church sanctions and she was accused of being a liar. Another childhood friend was groomed by her branch president while she was working at his resort. She became pregnant by him and was excommunicated for two years. He was disfellowshipped for nine months. All of these women I have described remain active in the Church, but each carries deep wounds from ecclesiastical abuse.
My son-in-law, a bishop and a respected physician, reports that he treats numerous survivors of abuse, some of whom are married to members of bishoprics and stake presidencies. These women have no ecclesiastical recourse and are victimized further by the Church, a place that should offer healing and comfort to the afflicted and broken.
Abuse in the Church is more systemic and problematic than many realize. Unfortunately, as I understand it, the Church’s legal department has survivors sign non-disclosure agreements when they report abuse by Church and Boy Scout leaders, so the full extent of abuse cannot be determined. However, if even one survivor is dehumanized, marginalized, or defamed by Church leaders, that is one woman too many.
Women should never be forced to suffer in silence.
The shaming and blaming of abuse survivors in the Church must stop.
I told my bishop of my husband’s infidelity. My bishop had known my husband as a child, knew his entire family well, and didn’t believe my husband capable of my accusations (his confessions). Bishop insisted that his family was strong; his parents had very important, powerful callings in the church. All his siblings were faithful. Maybe this was just a misunderstanding.
I felt very strongly that God told me to divorce my husband. My bishop gave me a sad smile and replied, “That is not God. He would never tell you to break your temple covenants. Pray more.”
I tried to trust my bishop’s wisdom and keep going, keep functioning, but inside I was in turmoil. I felt guilty for failing to please my husband enough for him to want to be monogamous, and worse, for being so blissfully ignorant of my failings. How did I not realize I was such a terrible wife? In desperation, after a huge fight, I took a straight razor blade and sliced my shoulder three times in neat, careful, parallel cuts. The precision gave me comfort. As the blood oozed down my arm, I remember telling myself that it should hurt. It should really hurt. Yet I felt nothing–only the warm blood trickling down my arm.
I was wrenched back to reality by a baby crying late in the night. I robotically wiped up the blood and went back upstairs to nurse my tiny, less than ten-pound one-year old child. Despite my constant efforts, she wasn’t thriving. As I rocked her, I told myself terrible things. Dark things. It was my fault that my family was breaking apart. It was my fault the baby wasn’t gaining weight. I had failed her and failed my husband. All the things he pointed out to me were true. I did have a temper. I wasn’t nice to him when we fought. I didn’t praise him. I was lazy and slept more than I should. He was better off without me. Maybe my bishop was right–he wasn’t the monster. I was. He didn’t want to live with me, and I couldn’t live without him. I should kill myself and make it easy.
My doubts and fears engulfed me. Every time I attempted to talk things through with my husband, he played the victim, blaming me for his unhappiness. Hopeless and trapped, I lost my sense of purpose. My mood swings were drastic.
I told to my husband, “I can’t live with this pain. I’m ending it.” He nodded and rapidly assured me that it’d be okay if I died, he’d make sure the kids were taken care of, and said a few other things that are now a blur. What stands out now is his eagerness to agree. So quickly. As if he wanted me to go through with it. The one person who could throw me a life preserver instead pelted me with rocks.
Something inside me split open. He wasn’t going to talk me out of it. I cried–full body shaking, wracking sobs that wouldn’t stop for hours. All my heartbreak and pain and anger and rage and desperation came pouring out of that reservoir I had been holding back for so long. When I finally stopped crying, I looked in the mirror, saw my puffy eyes, and said, “Enough.”
I went to the only person I felt I could trust, someone who I knew would be interested in helping me, and only me. I went to my physician. I honestly don’t know what I was expecting. I only knew that I desperately needed help. What I ended up with was a diagnosis of hypo-thyroidism and anemia. It was then that I realized I’d accepted undeserved blame.
I wasn’t lazy. I was an exhausted mother with an unfaithful, abusive husband. A husband who tacitly agreed suicide was a good idea. A husband who wanted to avoid the consequences of his poor actions.
Eventually, I worked through my depression. I saw a counselor. I got help for myself and later tried to get counseling for my marriage. I had to find the conviction, despite what several bishops and a couple of stake presidents told me, that God did tell me to get a divorce. I had to ignore the warnings about ruining my eternal family and breaking covenants and focus on the safety and well-being of my children and myself. I came to the realization that there was no amount of temple attendance, prayer, or defusion techniques I could practice that would keep me safe from my abusive husband, and I found a safe way out.
My marriage didn’t survive, but I did.
My husband was not paying the support ordered by the court during our separation. He still held a calling and temple recommend. I went to my bishop asking for help for my 4 children. I only needed some food. He said he spoke to my husband who said I have enough food for my children. My bishop wrote me an email stating that I was being dishonest and trying to rip off the church. I was so destitute and had maxed out every avenue I could before even asking the for church assistance, I donated plasma in order to make ends meet. It was simply awful to be treated in such a way at a time when I needed simple temporary support.
I went to my bishop after finding out about sexual betrayal of my husband. Bishop refused to allow me to come into the confessional interview with my husband, but I was permitted to come in after he was done. When I went in, the interview with my husband and I turned immediately into what I had done to make my husband choose other women over me. My bishop stated I needed to be a better mother and better wife. He said I was selfish for having career aspirations. He said I needed to trust my husband because what he did was not that bad. I objected and stated that I was concerned about my husband's daily verbal abuse of me, as well as several other things. My bishop said he "barks" at his wife and she doesn't like it, but to him its funny, so it is ok. I assured him that this is not what is going on in my situation. I also was horrified to hear that my bishop behaved this way towards his own wife. He ended up telling me that I was taking up too much of his time, then proceeded to actually stand up and yell at me about him having so much work to do. I felt like a burden, shamed for reaching out, and left in a state of shock and bewilderment.
I had decided to initiate separation after several year of abuse by my husband. Upon doing this, my husband's abuse escalated and he got physically with me, assaulting me in front of our children. I got a restraining order for myself and my children against him, because I was extremely worried to see his escalating behaviors. I went to the bishop a few months later to describe what had happened and the bishop stated he didn't believe me. I told him I have evidence, photos, witnesses and documentation of the abuse and that I really needed support for my children at this time. He refused, stating I was just trying to get my husband in trouble. I walked out of his office, alarmed that he would not even want to make an informed decision about my situation and that he blatantly refused to even acknowledge what happened to me.
I remember getting the courage to talk to my bishop at 14. I had been sexual abused and physically abused for years by a parent and another family friend. After breaking down in his office, he told me that my case “wasn’t that bad,” because I seemed “mostly okay,” and approved two visits to an LDS therapist. After two visits, the therapist told me she works with cases much worse than mine and that I should be “grateful” I wasn’t as bad as some people. My bishop agreed that my case wasn’t as bad as others he worked with and so they sent me on my way. I felt numb. It wasn’t until years later, when I saw another LDS therapist because I was experiencing anxiety during grad school, and he echoed a similar sentiment, that I realized the problem wasn’t with me - it was with them. Their poor assessment that because I was “successful” in my marriage, academically and professionally, that I was somehow okay. Since then, I’ve seen non-LDS professionals to discuss my anxiety (not surprisingly stemming from years of abuse) and I’m grateful I broke away from the very broken LDS therapy system. I thought for years I was being too sensitive, until I had so much anxiety about going on the subway, or taking airplanes that I realized I needed real help, not assurances from LDS therapists that praying would make my anxiety go away.
I have an audio recording of my Bishop chastising me for going to the police even my daughter said her father did inappropriate sexual things with her. He told me he would "be pissed" if his wife did that to him. He also swore at me & yelled at me in his office when I challenged him for believing my ex's lies. He printed off Ensign articles on forgiveness for me to read (my ex had been physically, emotionally & sexually abusive for 15+ years). My bishop got angry with me for insisting I would only talk to a trained psychologist that understood abuse regarding my marriage. The Bishop wanted to meet weekly & clearly did not understand abuse. He told me I needed to move back in with my abusuve husband (who is his friend), in order to give my children a "normal life". He shared private conversations I had with him with my abusive spouse. He once texted my spouse giving him advice on how to 'get me in line' and take control of the situation. He told my ex to delete the text so I wouldn't see it....not realizing it was a group text and I saw every word. I wouldn't believe a Bishop would do these things if I hadn't experienced it myself. I have audio recordings of all of this because I was recording my husbands lies. Needless to say, I cut off all contact with that Bishop. I've had other bishops that were AMAZINGLY supportive & told me I did the right thing by leaving & protecting my children...so it's 'luck of the draw' with some church leaders.