Can you keep a Secret?

Here's a little, dirty secret for you that you might not like:

LDS culture is rampant with childhood sexual abuse. 

Shock and horror, if you are feeling squeamish after reading these sentences, I am sorry, but sometimes the Truth is Hard. And this is a Truth that needs to come out. I feel inspired today by a friend of the blog whose post, The Courage to Heal, really got me thinking. 

This topic is always close to my heart. I'm just going to put it out in the open and say my sister and I are both survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I have always been "lucky" in a way, because I was young enough when it happened that my memories of it are limited. My sister was not so "lucky" and has struggled so intensely to overcome the shame, the feelings of worthlessness. Even with limited memories, I also feel that shame, that fear of loss of value. And as I read my friend's blog, I recognized a fear I've often felt. That paralyzing fear of speaking out, of  "breaking the silence...breaking the power that it has over me."

Ah Ha! That's it! This dirty, little secret, it has such a power over me, a power I don't want to admit to. A power I didn't agree to. But why? Why? I mean, I have spent years educating myself on this topic, been an activist with my local Children's Justice Center. Studied and written countless articles on this topic in my schooling... and it all comes back to the power of The Secret. Was I alone, though, was this phenomenon peculiar to me?

For the answer to this I turned to a friend, a therapist here in Salt Lake for LDS Family Services. I asked her about childhood sexual abuse, was it rare? Did she see many clients who had experienced this? Was I alone? 
"Oh no, " she said sympathetically, "the majority of my caseload is usually those affected by sexual abuse and incest. We even have several groups in LDS Family Services just for those who have survived this exact thing." In further conversation with her, we talked about how this wasn't a new phenomenon within LDS culture, 
that their services had been overrun with those seeking shelter from this storm for decades, since it became culturally acceptable to admit such things, even if only to your therapist. 

Why is this so rampant in LDS culture? Admittedly, it is rampant in the US, where 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused. But LDS culture seems to be an amplified microcosm of the problem. Fair warning, what follows is my personal musings and interpretations. I believe that LDS culture has a widespread problem with childhood sexual abuse, partially because LDS culture makes it easy to Buy into The Secret. When we don't like something, when it's too shameful to make a good conversation starter in Sunday School , we sweep it under the rug and pretend like it doesn't exist. Polygamy, bah. *sweep sweep* Mountain Meadows Massacre, old news *sweep sweep*. Childhood Sexual Abuse, ooohhhh *steer conversation away faster than you can say "CTR"*. Why does this work so well for sexual predators? 

Out of morbid fascination, I spent a significant amount of time in my undergraduate degree learning everything I possibly could about pedophiles, about their mentality and methods. I felt like I needed to understand their methods, so that I could make sure that the same thing Never Never Never happened to my children. Most pedophiles abuse victim after victim because they train those they are hurting to keep the dirty, little Secret. They make their victims feel like it is their fault, and they shame or threaten them into silence. And it works. In some cases it works so well that the abused carries the Secret that warps their soul until they become the abuser. It's horrible, it's sickening, it's completely unpalatable for the rest of society, a dirty, little Secret that they can't bear thinking about. And THAT is the problem, because by not thinking about it, by not talking about it, we feed into it. We Keep the Secret for the Abuser. We make it so that those who have been hurt can feel the Power of the Secret that we are also buying in to. We want to believe that it will always happen to "other people" never to someone we know, but that just isn't true. I don't have all the answers, but I know that something in our culture needs to change to fight the silence. I know that people have to speak out. The Secret can't continue, and somehow, some way we've all got to figure out how to make this right. Ideas???


  1. I think that by speaking the Secrets we can help shed light on it. I was never sexually abused, but I find myself not talking about my physical and emotional abuse for fear of hurting the feelings of my abusers. But, it's not my secret, it's their shame. By speaking it cleans my soul and holds those who did it accountable.

    I really think speaking it the best way.

    1. I read a quote once that helped changed my perspective.

      "You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better."

  2. Oh momma you make my heart swell and my eyes water!! I love your sweetheart!

    I am not speaking abt the abuse with must family/mom. And rarely ever bring it up to my dh. But slowly...its out there.

    Thanks for being you!

  3. Oh mate, if I could hug you right now I totally would. What fascinates (and I don't know if this happens to you too) is that i'll pootle along fine for a while and then WHAM! something will take the wind out my sails and steal all the energy from my body. You are not alone. We feel such a responsibility to protect everyone but all we can do in reality is educate and hold perpetrators accountable.

    1. It's such a terrible feeling, like someone knocked you off your feet...I do understand! And I do think you hit the nail on the head, that educating ourselves and others is so important to creating safe spaces.

  4. I am so sorry to learn of your pain. Please know that I can relate. I know of only one person that has been there for me. I am certain you have found him also. I have such a difficult time imagining that he felt your pain and my pain, both in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cruel cross. I know He knows me. I will pray for you. My pain has abated a great deal over the last few years when I decided to seek His face directly. You might, if you haven't already, get a copy of The Second Comforter. My journey to see him directly has relieved the greatest amount of my pain and anger.

  5. Thank you for sharing this! I had never thought about how society is contributing to the "secret" by not speaking about these issues. I'm going to keep that in mind as I seek to help others who have suffered in this way.

  6. I have struggled with this in an intense painful way...I was born into a family that had this secret. I was abused for at least 4 years (I can't remember all of it)my abuser Raped my grandmother and she was forced to marry him...and the abuse never stopped, not until he died.

    Regrettably the church did not help me as a child, the church did not help me when I started remembering the abuse, but reading posts like this and sharing my story when I can is changing the culture.

    We are changing the culture by sharing the secrets, talking and challenging the parts of the culture that are harmful is the only way to change it.

    much love to you sister, I hope we all find the strength to break the silence.

    "Secrets keep you sick"