From the July Ensign
This month’s Ensign contains an article written by the parents of a young woman who was date-raped by an LDS young man (“A Hole in Her Soul” July 2006, pp. 16 – 19). Rape not an easy topic to discuss — I don’t think I ever had a lesson or talk about it when I was a teenager — but this article is worth applauding for several reasons.
1. By addressing date rape, it stabs at the myth that rape is a crime largely committed by strangers.
2. The perpetrator was “a Church member” who “introduced her to his family and even took her to meet his grandparents. He was tall, smart and charming.” She was 16. They were going on a group date. In other words, she was doing everything “right” and was still the victim of a violent attack. Of course, had she been 15 and sneaking out alone with a boy, it would be an equal tragedy. However, I think there is sometimes a naiveté in our youth that if they follow the rules – that if they date “nice” boys — they’ll be safe from harm. I certainly felt that way: standard teenage invincibility garnished with divine promises.
3. In a culture that prizes chastity, this young woman hid what happened for a few months because of feelings of shame: “that she was not a virgin – that she felt dirty – that she no longer felt worthy of Heavenly Father’s love.” The authors try to knock over these theological myths that can feel like emotional truths — and their daughter (luckily) had people she could talk to who would believe her and support her.
4. The authors note that the police got involved, thus emphasizing that date rape is a crime, even if, in this case, it couldn’t be prosecuted because of evidence issues. The side-bar bullets reinforces this: “If you have been assaulted, immediately seek help from the police or a hospital. Call your parents, and seek spiritual help from priesthood leaders and professional help from counselors.”
5. The article made distinctions between the support provided by the bishop and the help provided by professional counselors. There was no quick fix. No “forgive and move on.” No “Why aren’t you over it yet?” The parents describe years of professional therapy — years of pain — on the path toward healing. They note the signs of emotional trauma and describe their daughter’s substance abuse and emotional changes in the context of her larger pain. They write, “It was crucial that her father and I let go of former hopes and expectations so that we could accept the new person she needed to evolve into. We knew her reinvention needed guidance of loving parents.” Wow. A moving reminder to parents and leaders to love past the “bad choices” to examine the emotional roots of shifting behavior patterns.
The ending felt a bit truncated (met a returned missionary, learned to trust again, hole filled), but I guess it leaves room for a subsequent article on how sexual abuse/assault can affect trust and sexuality in a marriage. Also, I hope a version of this article appears in the New Era.
What do the rest of you think? How are we talking about this issue with our daughters and ourselves?