Caught

September 26, 2012 | 30 comments
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I’ve been reading news stories about people dealing with addiction and depression, people who have committed secret transgressions that finally broke out of their control and caused public ruin and shame for the sufferers and their families.

There is so much pain and heartbreak, both for those innocents who must bear the consequences and for the troubled secret-keeper. Which is worse? To learn that the one you love has kept their struggle and pain secret from you, or to be the one striving, but failing, to make it right so you don’t hurt those you love?

One of the most fundamental of human needs is to be known, recognized, accepted, loved.

But this runs up against our need to hold part of ourselves secret and the ultimate unknowability of others. Occasionally my spouse of fourteen years and I still surprise each other with revelations, some pleasant (my husband is good at karoke, really?!?) and some more uncomfortable (my blogging has sparked some interesting conversations on the home front).

We keep secrets from even the people we know and love best, and they keep secrets from us. Maybe it is through neglect, or perhaps we dismiss some things as unimportant, or we feel shame. And don’t we need to cultivate some privacy? But every once in awhile, one of these secrets will rise to the surface; the truth will out, often as a shock and sometimes with pain that ripples uncontrollably out of our grasp.

We want to be known and loved, but we also want to keep our secrets, our private shames to ourselves. Sometimes we want to keep it from ourselves, to ignore or forget our faults and weaknesses. If we don’t dwell on them, we hope, those undesirable aspects of ourselves will atrophy and disappear. But we can’t always ignore them. They nag at us, like a dog at a bone. Do we keep them hidden to protect others or to protect ourselves?

In some way, we are like the pharaoh who faced off against Moses. In the KJV text, we read that God hardened pharaoh’s heart. The JST amends that to say that pharaoh hardened his own heart. Either way, after a certain point in the narrative, pharaoh couldn’t have chosen to act any differently than he did because his course was already set by his prior choices. The die was cast, and he had cast himself in that role.

And then there is God. The One who does know us completely, intimately. In some ways, this idea is terribly appealing; He already knows us perfectly; we don’t have to say anything, to go through the painful process of revelation. On the other hand, it is terrible; there is no place to hide, no refuge from the clear light that reveals us as we are. And caught, as we are, in our shame and sorrow, it is hard to believe that examining light would be cleansing, not excruciating.

Even when we want to get out of our hole, we can’t seem to help but dig ourselves deeper. So it is a relief when someone finally shines in a floodlight and takes the shovel away from us. Much as we fear discovery, and take pains to avoid it, once it comes upon us, there is a kind of catharsis in having our secrets laid bare. We then have the time of reckoning; we no longer compound our debt upon ourselves.  Thank God we believe in some kind of atonement that gives us hope that our feeble efforts at restitution are not in vain. May God forgive us as we forgive others, may we forgive ourselves.

30 Responses to Caught

  1. Cameron N. on September 26, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    I was the former for a long time, to my eternal chagrin. Often, we can’t get back missed opportunies in mortality. To answer your question, though, I don’t know who it’s more difficult for. In some ways I feel the significant other has it worse off.

    I find it interesting that scriptures on the sabbath say we should confess our sins before our fellow disciples. Not quite sure how that is supposed to work other than with tact, but my personal feeling is that the contemporary obsessiveness about privacy has much to do with wanting to (and thinking we are justified in) trying to mask our every flaw and sin by being in some tangible ‘incognito’ mode.

    Of one thing I’m certain. Secrets between spouses are never a good idea.

  2. Thomas Parkin on September 26, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    I like the response to “He is ever with you”, “even in the bathroom?”

    One of the strangest things about the ritual, for me, is the fact that even in the final resting place we are still wearing our kitchen bibs.

    Really, what this post discusses, this desire to remain hidden – I think it’s as important a thing as I’ve ever read on an LDS blog. Thank you for maybe a surprising thing: this reminder that Mormonism goes to all these places. I feel less alone in my religion right now than I’ve felt in months.

  3. Sonny on September 26, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Wow. This is excellent, Rachael.

  4. April on September 26, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Well said, thoughtful, compassionate and beautiful. Thank you Rachel. I’m not really sure what its like to be the secret keeper of something that would cause another person tremendous pain but I have been on the heart/hope shattering, foundation thrashing receiving end. I am teaching my children that if they feel the need to hide something they are doing then that is how they can know that it’s wrong. Secrets have no place in a healthy marriage unless you’re throwing your spouse a surprise party.

  5. Anon on September 27, 2012 at 1:45 am

    As a teenage son of a father who was in one of these situations, I felt devastated and didn’t know how to deal with it. On the other hand, knowledge of the hidden secrets explained most of the family disfunction that was keenly felt but never talked about or and that seemed incomprehensible. Knowing what was going on had a horrible, but clarifying power—it seemed to explain everything. I felt then and still feel that knowing the truth is better, even if knowing causes more suffering. My father does not feel this way.

    I am interested if others feel that knowing is better than not knowing. What if my father had cleaned things up before it became a legal issue? Would I have wanted to know? I think so for me, but I can see the argument against family members knowing.

  6. Kaimi on September 27, 2012 at 2:16 am

    Wow. Thanks for this, Rachel. Thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis, as usual.

  7. themormonbrit on September 27, 2012 at 2:25 am

    Incredible. Very insightful indeed. However, I must temper my approval of being open and honest with others, with the recognition that often there are things that other people just do not need to know about, and doesn’t need to be broadcasted to the world. I once was in a testimony meeting when a woman stood up and thanked the congregation for their prayers as she struggled to overcome an opium addiction. While I don’t think such failings ought to be hid, there is a time and a place for all things, and if there really is no need to bring up your sins, I’m not sure we should. Sometimes it is more loving not to make our transgressions a public affair.

  8. NewlyHousewife on September 27, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Your spouse is there to help you, stand by you, and listen to you. If a person chooses not to be that spouse, or allow their spouse the opportunity to be one, then they really aren’t much of a spouse. Within marriage full honesty is expected. Anything short is lying, which in turn means breaking covenants.

    Confessing sins with children around though is a no-no.

    I think it would help if the OP said what sins we were talking here. A husband cheating? Buying meat on Sunday? WoW?

  9. Paul on September 27, 2012 at 10:28 am

    The pain for innocent bystanders is awful, as alluded to by Jacob in his sermon to the Nephites (Jacob 2).

    But you open your post discussing addiction. The pain for the addicted is not only also great, it is out of the addict’s control. Until the addict seeks help, he cannot deal with the addiction (and he may never “overcome” it in the way we typically think of overcoming sin).

    One thing people learn in recovery circles is that addiction is a family disease; family members are in need of healing as much as addicts. And their healing comes not because of their addicted loved one’s changes, but because of changes they — the family members — make in their own lives. It is counterintuitive, difficult to accept, but undeniably true.

    Outstanding post.

  10. anon for this on September 27, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Very personal…I am the oldest girl(woman) of ten children, nine boys. I NEVER felt like I fit in my family, EVER. Wished I would have been born in my cousins’ family – nice LDS parents, nice house, Nice clothes – you get the picture. So I went to BYU, married, sealed in the temple, had nine kids. I was DIFFERENT from my family of birth, by choice. I visited now and then but my parents not once came to visit me.(They had two Downs Syndrome sons at home so I understand, sort of). I divorced X, sexual abuse was ramponat in our look-good-on the-outside marraige – took me 29 years. Later I married a wonderful NOMO (whole new story). A few years ago my mother called me, which is rare for her. Seems she was looking at her life and trying to confess/make amends for her “sins.” And she had something to tell me. Now I alreday knew from an aunt that my parents were preganant when they married – mom was 16 and dad was 19. I also knew from the same aunt that my mom miscarried. I was born two yeras after their marraige so I always wondered….Anyway, my mother is sobbing on the phone as she tells me she did a horrible thing to me as a newborn. I am listening breathless, having no earthly idea what is coming. She told me when she would wipe my cord with alcohol, she also wiped my vagina with the alcohol, just to hear me scream. I cannot write in words what happened in my gut and in my heart. I was crushed, gut-punched, beat up. I did not cry. I barely said anything except “I’ts ok mom” (it’s not!) and “I forgive you” because that’s what she wanted to hear. But inside, in that instant, I KNEW WHY I always felt like I didn’t belong. So, in telling me her secret, my mother absolved her sin but left with an almost unbearable burden, that to this day i don’t know what to do with. Yes, the secret made sense. I sometimes wish I never knew. I feel her burden was shifted to my shoulders and I ache for myself as a tiny baby, little girl, and teen who was unloved by her parents.

  11. anonlds on September 27, 2012 at 11:48 am

    There are lots of reasons we keep secrets. I agree that the more we are known, understood, and accepted, the less necessary it is to keep secrets. (You can be loved, but not accepted)

    Take an example of a girl who hides the fact that she is dating a particular guy from her room mate out of fear she will pick him apart and make comments about the weird way he holds his fork or whatever. She isn’t keeping a secret out of guilt, but out of protection.

    The posts introductory paragraph mentions both depression and sexual transgression. I think including both of them muddies the water. It is difficult to discern the motivation for why someone keeps something secret.

    Take a convert who occasionally drinks green tea and doesn’t share that with her husband who was born into the church. Does she hide it because she feels guilty or does she think it doesn’t have caffeine or tannic acid and many doctors praise its health benefits and she bought into those benefits before converting and therefore is ok, but she knowns her husband doesn’t feel the same way and she doesn’t want to be judged as sinful even though she doesn’t feel she is sinful.

    I’ve never suffered from depression, so I’m doing my best to empathize. I do think each case is different. I am hesitant to throw depression in with sexual transgressions, even though both may feel guilty. In general I think people who cheat on their spouse should feel guilty. In general I think people who feel depressed have some biological or not their choice social issue that is the root cause and shouldn’t feel guilty about it. If a depressed person has gotten counseling and doesn’t feel guilty about it, that doesn’t mean they are willing to share, because they may still fear being judged by others even if they no longer judge themselves harshly (or they may be somewhere along a continuum). If they are willing to share their experience with others, that is a sign of a healthy relationship with whoever they are sharing with.

    I think when someone isn’t willing to share, generally the bigger portion of blame goes to the person/community that isn’t being shared with rather than the secret keeper. Secret keepers want to be accepted as they are, but the person/community makes it feel emotionally unsafe to share.

  12. wreddyornot on September 27, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Thanks for this posting and discussion. I’ve been working on a novel exploring American privacy — well, it tries — so these thoughts relate to the dynamic my characters experience.

  13. Edmund on September 27, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    “And caught, as we are, in our shame and sorrow, it is hard to believe that examining light would be cleansing, not excruciating.”

    This reminds me of a scene from C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Eustace the dragon was trying desperately to rid himself of his scales, but to no avail. The real Eustace was hidden beneath a dragon exterior, but only Aslan knew his potential and could see who he really was, and only Aslan with his claws could tear off the dragon skin and free him (http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/1591). Sooner or later Aslan will approach us all with his sharp but loving claws. Sooner or later the floodlight will shine and “all things which are hid must be revealed upon the house-tops—” (Mormon 5:8)

  14. jennifer reuben on September 27, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    the heart touching examples of confession that actually transfers the burden to the receiver and the public discussion of private sins made me ponder why we keep secrets and why we confess them. The why of both events are so important, often more important then the secret. Isn’t that true of so many events.it is the intent of the person that counts most. short example; We have a family member who is gay. We became aware of this fact by second hand information. He has never shared that fact with us. He has not “come Out” to the extended family and we understand why he has made that choice and will honor his privacy. Sometimes keeping a secret is an act of love.

  15. Notmetoday on September 27, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    I have dealt with my family’s secret for years. I was the oldest, and the one my father molested for eight years. I was the one belittled and emotionally abused, so that no one would believe me if I told. I was the one beaten to keep me in line. That does not mean that the rest of my siblings weren’t attacked. They were, but I was the weapon he used.

    A secret is a very powerful weapon. If you tell children that one of their siblings is crazy, and watch out because you might be to, then all of the children are worried and afraid. If you are worried that you might be crazy, you are willing to accept lots of truly crazy things, as long as you are told that doing so proves you are not crazy. If an adult says, you might be a devil because you look like a devil, then you will be ashamed of how you look and try to deny who you are.

    I worry so much about the members of the church. Even in the comments of this thread, I hear the whispers of fear coming out. Why shouldn’t someone thank their ward for their support while overcoming opium addiction? If the person knows their struggle, and the ward knows their struggle, then there are no shadowy places for opium to sneak into the life of the woman struggling. She obviously needs, and appreciates, the support the ward gives her. There are obviously ward members who are not ashamed to have a friend who has an addiction, and I would bet that the entire ward is proud of the progress that she is making. Opium is terribly addicting. It is wonderful that she, and her ward can move forward.

    I think that much of our fear comes because we have bought into the idea that perfection can and should be attained on earth. The progression from that false doctrine is that if perfection can be attained, then we SHOULD have already obtained it. Since we have not attained it, we are scared that we are the only ones who are unworthy. Because we are scared of being the only ones who are unworthy, we pretend we are worthy, and we surround ourselves with other people who seem perfect to us. (They aren’t of course, they are only pretending to.) By surrounding ourselves with people who are pretending, we believe that we can fool the rest of the world into believing we are perfect. By living our lives this way, we teach our children to distrust themselves and their perceptions. We teach them that pretending to be good is as good, or better, than being good.

    Children know when something us wrong or not true. Anonforthis knew that she did not fit in with the rest of her family, and I am guessing that a lot of other people did as well. I have no idea if there were other mitigating factors (abuse, mental health issues) that contributed to her mother’s actions, but it seems obvious that it was a deep secret for her mother and everyone around her. I have no idea if her mother would have gotten help, but as long as it was a secret, she didn’t have to. Secrets simply hold the pain in, try to rename it, and continue festering for years.

    I think it is incredibly sad that someone in the church would not know what depression is and feels like. With more than 20% of adults having more than two depressive episodes, no one will go through life not knowing a number of people who have had them. You don’t have to feel it yourself to see the devastating impact it has on lives, you just have to be close enough that you are mourning with those that mourn. Without my friends and visiting teachers, I never would have made it through my last one. My current visiting teacher doesn’t suffer from depression, but when I told her it was something that was episodic in my life, she shared several experiences with friends and family members, and THEN asked me what my symptoms were like, and how I preferred to be helped if I get depressed. We then worked out a code word that I could text her if I needed her. I haven’t had to use it, but if she had waited for me to start a “real” conversation, it never would have happened.

    In the church we say things like, rape isn’t the victim’s fault, victims shouldn’t feel ashamed, we mourn with those that mourn, the atonement can heal all wounds, and repentance is nothing to be ashamed of. Then we do the exact opposite. The fastest way online, or in real life, to stop a conversation is to say, “I am an incest and rape survivor.” No one knows what to say, and if they say anything it is usually something banal like, “Isn’t it great that you are over it.” In RS lessons we talk about chastity, and then congratulate ourselves because our modest dress has protected us from becoming objects or opening ourselves up to being sexually assaulted. We have lessons about temple sealings and are insulted if someone asks if there is a way to not be sealed to abusive parents. A survivor does not need to hear that everything will be perfect in the next life, so just keep quiet about bad family dynamics until then.

    My siblings don’t talk to me, and if my mom tries to talk about me, they tell her to stop or leave. None of them wanted to be involved in the disciplinary counsel of my father, more than 20 years after he stopped molesting me. They don’t think I am lying, they think I should NOT be talking about it. They refuse to let their children talk to me at the few family functions I attend. They have sibling reunions without me, and congratulate themselves for being the sane ones. They are mad that mother hasn’t forced me to shut up. They don’t want anyone to know that they were raised in an incestuous family. They don’t care that children who weren’t molested are still at a higher risk for many psychiatric issues, drug abuse and child abuse. They don’t care that counseling for them, and their spouses could drastically reduce those risks. They don’t care that I didn’t choose to be molested at 4 years old. All they want is to keep the secret hidden.

    I talk to my children about it. Not in gory details, but they know that their grandfather isn’t safe, and that is why the judge ordered that no contact be allowed between him and us. They know what kinds if touch are appropriate and which aren’t. They know that anyone who asks them to keep a secret is not someone to trust. They know that they need to tell someone if someone starts talking about secrets. They know that it isn’t okay to pretend things are okay, when they are not.

  16. anon for this on September 28, 2012 at 11:01 am

    nonamefortoday – thank you for ackowledging my pain. I had hoped that several people would comment on my comment and offer me support. It is HORRIBLE to bear the “secret” burdens so many of us bear and NO ONE wants to hear about. I feel your pain too. And I have so often wondered WHY we don’t want to hear/deal with each others pain at church, when it is so much a part of us. I suspect many of us carry secrets. My X was sexually abusive to me, which is why we divorced. On accasion I talk about it, FB about it, etc. One of my daughters recently took her kids – my g-kids – off my FB because I was apeaking ill of their g-pa. Well, he WAS a rapist to me, he WAS abusive to me and I am sick of keeping his secrets. I hate being ostracized in my ward because X was remarried in the temple while I married a NOMO. I wish there was a support group for those of us who are brave enough to quit keeping them. If you want to contact me I think there’s a way to as I gave my email address.

  17. Bryan S. on September 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Anon for this and notmetoday,

    I cannot personally relate to you as I have never experienced anything close to what you have gone through. I have a close friend who was also molested as a child by her father and I couldn’t ever contribute anything to her beyond just listening if she wanted to talk about it, and so that’s what I did.

    I do not wish to belittle your experience or try to attack you, I just personally think that there is a middle ground between keeping a secret and publicly announcing before a congregation (or Facebook) your secrets. The latter to me has always been a very awkward situation. When I think of having support in the church I think of the personal relations I have in at church. I would hope that I could go to those who I know and consider friends and build lines of support at church but I don’t feel it would be appropriate to use Sunday School or Testimony Meeting and expect a whole congregation to reach out to me afterward.

    I am sorry if this comes off callous, that is not my intent. I have never been best at expressing ideas in writing.

  18. Rachel Whipple on September 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    It’s a hard question. How can we bear one another’s burdens if we don’t know what they are? We must help each other, but less often stressed is that we must allow others to help us. I personally prefer to not ask for help, to keep my cross to myself. The few times I have asked for help were both difficult and humbling. Even now, if I talk about my pain and struggles, it is generally only ones that I have already found some resolution on; instead of seeking solace I am trying to show others who have or are suffering as I have suffered that they are not alone. I’m not brave enough to talk about current wounds, and others’ sympathy generally makes me feel uncomfortable.

    For the anonymous commenters on this thread, I am so sorry for your hurts and sorrow. I don’t know what the best way is to address these types of injuries. On the one hand, public statements raise awareness and may thus help others. But for some people shining that kind of attention on their broken vulnerability compounds the original injury. And I am afraid of cheapening these profound pains by making them common. I hope you are able to find at least one sympathetic person to offer understanding and support, that you find comfort.

  19. Notmetoday on September 30, 2012 at 3:33 am

    Bryan,

    I had intended to leave this conversation here, until I got an email from a friend today. The content of the email has nothing to do with this topic, but how I met her does. In the middle of a horrendously tumultuous time in my life, I went to stay with a nonmember friend in Colorado for a week. The peace of her home was a balm my soul needed, and by Sunday I was grateful to be able to fast, and to have found a meetinghouse 20 minutes away where I could go to sacrament meeting.

    I had intended to go to the 9:00 am service, but we all got up late, so instead I ended up at the 11:00 am one. About halfway through the meeting I had a clear impression that I needed to bear my testimony of the Atonement. Since I didn’t know anyone, I ignored it, and continued listening. About 15 minutes before the time for sharing testimonies would have been done, the stand was empty. After five minutes, I knew that no one was going to get up until I did. So, I went to the front and shared my testimony of the healing of the Atonement. I did not have to go into great detail about being raped or molested, and I only briefly explained that part if my struggles came from the misunderstanding of my bishop that led to me being put on church probation when I was raped. My testimony focused on how the Spirit can bring comfort, how the Atonement heals wounds that no man could, and that complete forgiveness is a lifelong quest, not a short term goal.

    All of the details don’t matter, but the woman who is now my friend, was sitting in the back of he chapel that day. She, and the entire ward council, were fasting for her to be able to find a way to heal. After fifteen years of struggling with an assault by another church member, she was asking her leaders for support in leaving the church. She had decided that the fifteenth anniversary of her rape was the right day to mail her letter if resignation. She was there on that Sunday at the request of her bishop, who had told her that the entire ward council was praying for her to find a way to feel the love of The Lord.

    If I had been too embarrassed to talk about my history of being abused, had wanted to keep people comfortable by leaving the details of my spiritual journey out so that no one needed to feel uncomfortable with the details, my friend would not be a member of the church. I honestly believe that she would have killed herself by now. If I had worried that I was talking to long, taking up the rest if another ward’s fast and testimony meeting, I might have missed the chance to pass on some of the healing that Christ has graciously given me. If I had worried that my testimony was inappropriate for children, I would have stayed in my seat. I certainly do not share these details every time I share my testimony, but if I feel prompted to, I do.

    I didn’t know the full story, or impact, of that 10 minutes for quite a while. My friend talked to me a little after the meeting, mostly asking a lot if questions about my personal journey. At the time I really didn’t have a clue why I had at least ten women standing or sitting next to me, or why so many of them were crying. At the time I was worried that I was keeping so many people from Sunday school. When the bishop came and found me, and asked me if I could meet with him briefly, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. It was not bear hugs from him, both if his councilors and two stake high councilors. I got a very brief run down, basically that they had a sister in their ward who had been raped, and that some ward members had been fasting for her. I have them my contact information and permission to share it with the sister I had been talking to, and any ward member who might have questions.

    Several months later I got my first email from my friend, and since then she has shared quite a bit if the back story, from her perspective. Almost six months after my trip to Colorado, the wife if the bishop (who had since been released) called me to ask if I would be willing to answer some questions. She was going to be leading a fifth Sunday discussion on the Atonement. My friend’s story was well known, and my testimony seems to have almost become folklore in that stake. She asked me to share my back story, how I happened to be in their ward, and why I had shared that testimony. I am not positive about why the ward taped the conversation, but I treasure my copy of it.

    I hope that this doesn’t sound self agrandizing. The Lord is the one who know what was needed. I fought the prompting, and did not expect it to have an impact on anyone but me. The glory belongs to God. I am humbled that he would choose someone as imperfect as me to help someone else. My point in sharing it here is to hopefully help those who have no experiences with these issues to see that wonderful things can happen if you step out of your comfort zone enough to acknowledge and talk about issues that are usually keep hidden.

  20. Abigail on September 30, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    There are secrets we keep because we fear judgement and then there are stories we simply choose not to share because we want to allow a place for repentance.

    “The more widely a sin is known, the more difficult the repentance or change.”

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2003/10/the-atonement-repentance-and-dirty-linen?lang=eng&query=repentance+dirty+linen

    Just a thought.

  21. Rachel Whipple on October 1, 2012 at 9:03 am

    Good thought, Abigail. It’s never simple, judging another person. There is so much we cannot know. I am thankful I’ll never be a judge in Zion and have that responsibility.

    Notmefortoday, thank you for sharing your story. I’m glad that you were able to respond to the prompting of the Spirit and unwittingly be an instrument of help and healing for others. Your comments, and some of the others, bring up the distinction between the role of victim and perpetrator in some of these shameful secrets. It is unfortunate that we still attach the stigma of shame to those who have been abused. I think it must be because we are so uncomfortable with the situation itself that we want to distance ourselves from all players in it, even those who were innocent and desperately need our support and love.

  22. SilverRain on October 1, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Thank you, Abigail. One of the reasons I continue to blog semi-anonymously under a pseudonym is because of the nature of the things I blog about. There is no benefit to my ex husband or my children in labeling them, but there is a great deal of benefit in talking about my experiences, especially because they were so mild on the scale of abuse.

    People need to understand, not only the dramatic aspects of abuse, but also the roots, the beginnings. If we were less tolerant of the behaviors that abusers exhibit in the beginning, they wouldn’t have permission to escalate. This is why I believe i have been prompted to share my experiences and healing process.

    But that doesn’t mean I have to risk labeling HIM wherever he goes. That would not help him back to Christ.

  23. Notmetoday on October 2, 2012 at 3:17 am

    Rachel, Abigail, SilverRain, etc.-

    I share your struggle of what to keep semi-private, private, or open. A lot of it comes down to following promptings, for me, and I have found a great freedom in that.

    Where I don’t think anonymity belongs is between us and our leaders. If bishops, stake presidents, etc., don’t have full and complete information, then they can’t make good decisions. I still hold myself partially responsible for not following up on information, when I didn’t see any action taken.

    I also feel the responsibility to be open with other survivors. There is so much shame attached to being a victim of abuse, that I feel an intense debt to Christ for the emotional healing that the Atonement has brought into my life. For many years that has meant one on one discussions and attending and leading support groups for survivors. I still am active in some of those groups, although a move over a year ago means that I no longer live close to as many groups. Only one is within a half hour drive, and I have felt prompted to find other avenues to go after “lost sheep.” Three years ago, if you had told me that I would share my experiences online, I would have chuckled and walked away. It seemed so outside the realm of possibility I wouldn’t have even argued.

    I had been involved in political blogs of one type or another for years, and have had several personal blogs too. As silly as it seems now, I checked out a few early LDS blogs and set them aside as not much different than Sunday School. I actually found LDS blogging again when one of the men I was mentoring told me about a post on an LDS blog that basically said homosexuality led to molesting children. It then linked childhood sexual abuse to abusing later in life, and came to a basic conclusion that men who are abused will abuse in the future and become homosexual. Because he had such great respect for the bloggers on the site, he was suicidal, thinking that killing himself was the only was not to become homosexual and hurt other children.

    It was trying to understand that blog, and others, that led me to the “Bloggernaccle” in all its variety. I was relieved to find a lot of progressive voices on most blogs I visited, but I was sad to see so many things being said that would be hurtful to a sexual abuse survivor. I am not saying I can do much to change some of those messages, but understanding them became important to helping those in my sphere of influence.

    I do understand why most rape and sex abuse support sites are closed. Having them be open to whoever walks through would invite language and thoughts that are not helpful, and potentially VERY damaging. The unintended side effect is that those not part of a support network may take longer to find it, and many people never know they exist. That also means that the voices of survivors are often hard to find, their stories difficult to hear.

    I think that being partially anonymous is a choice that lots of survivors, who are strong enough to step out of the cocoons of their support structure and community, find to be safe. I think the challenge becomes keeping ourselves safe, but still making our stories real. I worry though about whether we are also making it too safe for those who abuse and rape. Can they really repent if they don’t have to admit what they did and deal with the consequences?

    If your ex is remarried, are you doing him, and any future wives or children a favor, by letting your story not include his name? Did I do anyone a favor by not prosecuting my father or my teenage rapist, so that I didn’t have to go through a trial? Am I helping others as much as I could? I don’t have definitive answers to my questions about myself, so I would not even guess at answers to questions about you. I am just at the point where I am asking questions beyond, how do I keep myself safe? Not an easy answer in site, I am afraid.

  24. SilverRain on October 2, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Notmetoday—One of his many girlfriends during and immediately after my divorce approached me on her own to talk to me, and find out the real story. I did not say much, and she did not believe me entirely, but she was savvy enough to be cautious with him. That experience taught me that those who want to know will see for themselves, but that I do no favors to him OR others by broadcasting his name. All it does is make him more cautious and careful, and make me look like a crackpot. He is very believable at first. But time will always out the truth, as it is doing with his current wife, unfortunately.

    I can make myself available, and talk openly when occasion permits, but there is too much of an “angry ex” stigma to abuse survivors to take a more proactive role. Meanwhile, I can share my story without looking like I merely want to hurt him. It is the lesser of evils.

  25. Bryan S. on October 2, 2012 at 10:38 am

    NotMeToday,

    Thank you for sharing your story and taking the time to respond to me. It seems the conversation has changed and I hope this doesn’t sound flippant.

    At first we were talking about sharing experiences to gain support from others and how it was disappointing that sharing in fast and testimony meeting did not spark a reaching out of members toward the victim.

    Now we seem to have taken a shift and we are talking about sharing experiences to reach out to others who have been raped or abused and need support and healing. To me I see a world of difference there and I pretty much completely agree with you. Thank you.

  26. Abigail on October 2, 2012 at 11:05 am

    I agree that following promptings is the key as is having pure intent. The question I ask myself whenever I am inclined to share is “Why am I telling this story?”

    Also, I think it’s noteworthy that the Savior rarely condemned sinners by name. In contrast, He often named those who were healed. Telling how I’ve been healed has been right for me. Telling the details of how others sinned hasn’t. I realize those are flip sides of the same coin but I think, again, it’s a matter why we share.

    PS SilverRain, I only recently started blogging again. It’s taken a while to feel safe enough to speak our story, even anonymously.

  27. SilverRain on October 2, 2012 at 11:17 am

    I am glad you have, Abigail. Your prose is heartfelt and beautiful. I think in sharing stories, we not only bind together in suffering, but we are also able to purge the poison left behind when others wound us, and better learn to forgive.

  28. Abigail on October 2, 2012 at 11:21 am

    NotMeToday,
    I think it would be irresponsible not to tell some stories to people who need to know, in the right time and place, and with the right motivation. I also think no one other person can tell you when and where all those conditions align.

  29. Notmetoday on October 2, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Abigail,

    As I said, “I don’t have definitive answers to my questions about myself, so I would not even guess at answers to questions about you. I am just at the point where I am asking questions beyond, how do I keep myself safe? Not an easy answer in site, I am afraid.”

    I am not trying to give you, or anyone else an answer. I just hope that more of us are asking ourselves questions beyond keeping ourselves safe. I had leaders and bishops teach me by their actions that they were not safe people to share with. A lot of other comments in church classes also taught me that they were not safe to share my experiences. It took me almost 20 years to stop worrying about the backlash to me. It is my responsibilty to do those things I am prompted to do. I am not proud if how many times I ignored promptings out of fear. I have no way of knowing what promptings another person has or has not received.

    Bryan,

    I agree the conversation here has changed. I can only hope that it will change in our classes and sacrament meetings. I hope that there will be more people who will reach out to mourn with those who mourn, and that sharing experiences with ward members will bring more understanding.

    Even without using my name, there are enough people who know me and my story, that I have received many emails about this thread. A number of people have asked me what they can do for me. My response has been, look for someone in pain, and love and care for them. If you don’t know me, or think I am full of it, please love someone, in protest. ;-)

  30. Abigail on October 2, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Notmetoday,
    I completely understand. I’m not sure if it came across but I was agreeing with you. Some things have to be said.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.