Thursday, August 23, 2012

My personal legitimate rape

The scene when I was 12 years old was dark and dank.  We were up in the rafters of a chicken house, in a make-shift loft with crappy old blue carpet.  We had climbed bales of hay like steps to get up there, and being drunk this particular time made it no small triumph.  It was the middle of the night and there were at least five of us, but I think there may have been two other people that I don’t remember as well.

I hadn’t ever been drunk before then.  Once when I was littler I tasted my brother-in-law’s beer, but was instantly turned off.  The booze my cousin gave me this day was Mad Dog Purple Passion-flavored and tasted much better than beer.  I have no memory anymore of how much alcohol I actually consumed that night.  I remember sitting in Mike’s house looking at the bottle, then I remember climbing to the loft and all that happened up there.

Martell was 15 or 16 then, and he wanted to get in my pants.  We had made out quite extensively the prior summer and, though it had been fun, I didn’t want to continue that this summer.   I had started getting much more interested in the boys back at home in Orem, so Martell’s charms weren’t as effective this time around.  With my hindsight I’d bet money he didn’t like that, but at the time I was 12 and naive, so I didn’t know anything was awry.  He came on pretty strong once we were up in the loft.  Alan was all over his girlfriend, Mike was somewhere, and I think another couple was going at it too.   Martell kept trying to open my legs up with his hands but I had pretty strong legs and I imagine he didn’t want be too forceful.   He found that if he kissed me I would melt and be submissive and he could manipulate things much more easily.  In between kisses I said “No” several times, but wispily and airily and definitely not sternly.  I only remember him working around down there and kissing me just like we kissed last summer.  It wasn’t so bad!  All of a sudden I had a sharp pain in my crotch as Martell thrust into me.   Even in my drunken state I knew what was happening and I couldn’t believe it, but I just kept kissing and it was over very quickly.

I rolled away from him as soon as he pulled out of me and I crawled to the opposite side of the loft.  I pulled up my pants (or shorts, or something) and fastened them.  Mike started hitting on me, trying to maybe getting something started.  I kept my legs tightly together and forcefully told him no, even though I had been more interested in him at the beginning.  Martell called to Mike, telling him to try kissing me, to see if that would do the trick.  It didn’t.  Not this time.

I did not know I was raped.  I was a member of the LDS church, and I knew right from wrong very clearly.  I also have a very strong will and an outgoing personality, so I know if I had felt victimized I would’ve pushed him, screamed, and fought back.  This was sex.  This was not only a mistake I made, but a sin I committed.  It was clear.  I had chosen to consume alcohol and smoke cigarettes.  I chose to be there in that setting.  I held that belief, that guilt and that shame for 6 years, all the while knowing someday I would have to confess my sins.

I never even wrote in my journal about the experience, though I faithfully wrote throughout most of my teenage years.  Only my very close friends knew of this experience.  I dove into the LDS church within the next couple of years, loving the doctrine and learning about the forgiveness my Elder Brother, Jesus, offered me. Six years later I got the courage to talk to my bishop about it.  Here is what I wrote in my journal then, Sunday January 14, 1996, when I was 18 years old:

“I pray for Christ’s Light to encompass my life.  I’m so weak & I know I need only His Spirit to survive. Today I have an appointment to talk to Bishop ****** about my life and my repentance.  I can’t believe that over six years have past and now today is my resolution day.  I’ve been in tears since I got home from church. … Today, I face my fears, lose my cloak of pride & humble myself before my Father in Heaven.  I’ve always thought I lived righteously – and yet as I look back there been no time of absolute humility or Pure Love of Christ.”

I went to the appointment that afternoon, and I currently only have one memory from that appointment.  A very poignant memory, but still only one: after listening to my story, Bishop ****** looked at me directly and said, “Laura, you were raped.”  I can’t even remember my response to his words.  I remember being confused by what he said, but I don’t think I believed him.  Here is what I wrote after the interview.  I was writing about a boy named Derek I was interested in at the time.  

“… I also told him about my bishop’s interview and what the feeling of forgiveness is like for me.  What a burden lifted!  I can leave it behind me from this point on.  Today I felt the presense of Christ next to me.  I told Derek once – while in hysterical tears – that I love Christ but I need something to hug, something tangible.  Today Christ’s hand held mine and let me know that He IS tangible if only I will open my heart.  I know exaultation is within my grasp if Christ is beside me.  Today is the start of a new life, a clean slate, so to speak.  I’m forgiven and I want to live that way for the whole of my life.

My Brother, my Savior, my Friend, HE IS MY KING!!  Let my voice forever proclaim it.  I need Heavenly Father’s strength with me as nothing else.  I’m so weak.  I pray continually for guidance and cleanliness of thought – for that’s where I find myself mostly slipping.”
That’s it.  No mention of how the bishop put the R-word into my mind.  It's scary how many times I call myself weak or talk about submission.  After it was clear that Derek wasn’t interested in me, I started to give up on myself and my faith.  My journal entries started to decline very quickly; within 2 months I was saying I could visualize myself not going to the temple, and I started habitually going on the internet chat rooms.  3 months later I was head-over-heels for a complete loser living in Georgia, divorced, 3 kids, no job.  I was seriously thinking of moving there!  4 months later I met a much more decent guy online and uprooted my entire existence to be with him in North Carolina. 

I believe the decline happened because the mere idea that I had been raped was too traumatic to acknowledge.  I had programmed the event into my brain-archive as a sin I committed, so I blurred the facts of being only 12 years old, being out of normal control due to alcohol, forgetting that I didn't want to even kiss Martell that particular summer, etc.  I did what most people do - I blamed the victim.

Now I’m 34, and I have a beautiful daughter who is 12 years old, and I’m finally addressing the fact that I got raped when I was her age.  It's only now that I'm starting to be able to call it for what it was, instead of protecting Martell or blaming myself or minimizing the impact.  I was raped when I was 12.  He took away my virginity in a non-loving, aggressive, uninvited way.  The fallout has been my 22-year journey to find my personal self-value and learning to let myself be vulnerable and non-controlling.

I will not give power to my perpetrator any longer by denying what it was!  I will not feel guilty for something that someone else did to me!  I will not sit idly while ignorant misogynists misdefine rape and attempt to keep the dark dark!  My new personal motto:

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Psyche! We got you. We didn't really mean it.

Let's pretend I am a faithful Latter-Day Saint once again, just for fun.

In my youth I read several accounts, and was taught by several authority figures, that we must listen to the prophet and must trust that what he says is coming directly from the Lord Himself. It is up to us to prayerfully ask Heavenly Father if what we have heard is what we should believe, just the same as we ask Him about the truthfulness of the BoM. But the expected result will be that Yes, indeed the prophet is speaking God's Truth, just the same as the certain response that Yes, the Book of Mormon is indeed what it says it is.

It seems like leaders of the 2012 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have forgotten this, and whenever a new prophet or apostle comes into play, we are supposed to wipe our memories of the past "revelations". To quote the official spokesperson (Michael Purdy) for the LDS Church:

"For a time in the church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent...It is not known precisely why, how or when this restriction began in the church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago. Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding."

We have documentation of the "some" whom Purdy is referring to: Brigham Young, Joseph Fielding Smith, George Q. Cannon, Mark E. Petersen are just to name a few. These men were Prophets or Apostles, Seers, and Revelators at the time their "speculations" were offered. These men were not mere BYU Professors, speaking beyond their station. At the time they spoke about the doctrine (yes it WAS doctrine) regarding the black mark of Cain and the curse on his descendants, they were not speculating, they were explaining and enlightening.

Along comes the revelation in 1978 from President Spencer W. Kimball, where it was announced that all worthy men would be eligible for the Priesthood. Not long after that revelation, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said the following:

"Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world."

Oh, I see. Well as a faithful LDS member, I have to say that this would concern me. How can I trust what the current prophet is saying if the next one might completely contradict them and tell me to forget what the last one said? If they are just speaking merely as men and not as mouthpieces of God, how are the people to discern at the time?

There is a reason why religions use a sheep as a metaphor for the faithful followers. I'm just saying. Okay it's not fun pretending anymore--I'm glad I'm out.