Guest Post: Open Letter to the MTC abuse victim and the LDS Church #MormonMeToo

To Our Dear Courageous Sister:

I have not been able to post about this so far because the only words I had were incoherent, soul-wracking wailing. But today I say:

I BELIEVE YOU.

I BELIEVE YOU.

I BELIEVE YOU.

I KNOW that his confessions are true.

I KNOW that you are one of manymanymanymany who have been betrayed and abused and silenced and broken.

I KNOW that the church’s practice of believing powerful men over victimized women is pervasive, and longstanding, and evil.

I KNOW that the forces gathering to shame and discredit and harm you are legion, and powerful, and vile.

I KNOW that manymanymanymany of our sisters are watching how the church and its people will respond as they decide whether to finally tell their stories. And I KNOW that we are failing them, and failing spectacularly.

I KNOW and I am so deeply, truly sorry.

I REPENT of my own complicity in keeping silence about abusive, powerful, dangerous Mormon men who have harmed me and others. I REPENT of the ways I have enabled and hidden those abuses. I COMMIT to speaking out about the abuses I have seen and will see, and to never again letting concern about my standing in the church (I am so ashamed as I write those words that I am brought again to tears) prevent me from shouting those abusers’ names from the rooftops.

To my Mormon friends who have not read or listened to the confession–please read it.

Do not trust the words of those who would minimize or excuse or deny this man’s testimony of his abuse of multiple victims, his “confessions” on multiple occasions to high church officials, the utter lack of church discipline or accountability for those actions, his blatant conscious manipulation of the faith of innocent girls and women to irreparably harm their bodies and their souls. Do not listen to those who would explain away the conscious betrayal of at least two women by church authorities, and the deliberate, self-serving, gaslighting dishonesty of the church’s official statement and their church-owned newspaper.

READ and LISTEN and BEAR WITNESS to this evil. Do not allow your heart to be distracted by those who would excuse the vilest sin. If we ignore or deny this epidemic of violence against the bodies and minds of the daughters of God, we (WE, each of us) enable this evil to continue.

I am so sick. I am so angry.

I pray that this shatters wide the secret combinations of abuse enabled by power and misogyny and the sinful ghosts of Mormon polygamy. I pray that it burns clear through to the very heart of the church and purifies the rotten festering core of misogyny and power and lust and greed.

Finally, to my silenced suffering sisters: I BELIEVE YOU TOO. I believe you. I hear you. It was not your fault. NONE OF IT was your fault. It has NEVER been your fault.

IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.

I support your decision to speak, or to stay silent. To do what you need to do to stay safe.

If you choose to speak, I will amplify your words. If you choose to stay silent, I will make space for your silence.

I BELIEVE YOU.

And to the members of the Strengthening the Members Committee (or “members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles” or just “church leaders” whatever you think best, I don’t have a preference).

You are running out of time. You are losing the chance to protect this church from becoming only a church of elderly straight white men.

If the church wants to be a church that cares about women, if you truly believe that the church does actually care about women, then you must FIX THIS NOW.

NOW.

NOW.

NOWNOWNOW.

YOU ARE HARMING US. YOU ARE LOSING US. YOU ARE LOSING OUR CHILDREN.

If you care about the pain of God’s non-male children, you MUST stop insisting that a structure that will always, by its very nature, harm girls and women is from God. A structure which keeps men separate from women, which never allows women to be seen in any position of real authority, and which cultivates relationships of reciprocal trust only between men while casting any interaction between men and women as dangerous, as inappropriate, as always leading to sexual “temptation,” will always harm the church and the women in it. Such a structure will always assure that men believe other men instead of women, that men see victims of violence as “accusers of their friends and priesthood brethren” instead of human beings who have been harmed by abusive men.

Mormon men, in general, cannot imagine a scenario in which they would be sexually assaulted by a church leader and then repeatedly blamed for that assault. Mormon men, in general, can much more easily imagine a scenario in which it is alleged that a family member assaulted others and they personally have to experience the shame and embarrassment that accompanies that knowledge. This is why men protect men. And this is why an all-male power structure will always disproportionately harm women. And this is why this power structure must now finally be changed.

Fix it.

Fix it NOW.

You MUST stop believing that God is willing to sacrifice the safety and health and LIVES of women and girls on the altar of male priesthood and male ego (“but men won’t come to church if they’re not in charge'”) or male inadequacy (“but women are naturally superior and therefore men need to be in charge to LEARN how to be as spiritual as women etc etc etc”) or whatever “explanation” we are peddling this year.

GOD DOES NOT THROW THEIR DAUGHTERS UNDER THE BUS TO GLORIFY/IMPROVE/JUSTIFY/EXCUSE THEIR SONS.

Man does.

YOU MUST FIX THIS.

We are dying inside. We are fleeing the church for our own survival. We are taking our children with us for theirs. If you care, if you want us to believe that we matter, if you want us to believe that you are listening to God, if YOU believe that you are listening to God, listen to the cries of God’s children.

Fix. This. Now.

If Mormon men do not see women acting as their equals, they will never see women as their equals. It will never happen. You MUST change these structures that enable and ensure that women and girls will continue to be abused, continue to be disbelieved, and continue to suffer at the hands of well-intentioned, “God-serving” men who cannot and will not hear their cries.

This fire is going to burn through all the rotten hidden oozing places of the church’s secret shame. This might be your last real chance to save the church from these sins. To assure that there is anything left after the fire to save.

Please listen to us. Please listen to her. Please listen to our Heavenly Mother and her daughters who are pleading with you to finally change these things that wound us, body and soul. We need our daughters to be safe to stay. We need you to make the church a place where we can believe that they will protected, and when they cannot be protected, a place where they will be believed.

This might be your last chance. You are running out of time.

Olivia Meikle was born and raised in Utah and now lives in Colorado where she teaches Women’s Studies at Naropa University, hosts the women’s history podcast What’sHerName  and authors the travel website Around the World in 80 Diapers which empowers parents to travel internationally with their children. 

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8 Responses

  1. Marilyn Hawes says:

    I am so sorry for any woman that has force used against her , but all Mormon men are not that way at all.

    • The OP never said that all Mormon men are rapists.

    • Olivia Meikle says:

      Of course they’re not. But we are now seeing that many, many, many well-meaning, “God-fearing,” trying-their-best men have ignored, disbelieved, silenced and blamed victims of abuse because of the exact structure of the church. As long as men are in charge and women are “support staff,” as long as men work exclusively with men and form friendships exclusively with men and see leadership exclusively by men, women will continue to be harmed. The church can acknowledge and fix this, or they can continue to ignore the harm that they know is happening in order to preserve their “reputation” (which is starting to be severely tarnished by all this ignoring) and/or to preserve the power of male leaders.

      I’m pretty sure I know what Jesus would do.

    • AuntM says:

      With this comment, you invalidate the lived experience of so many people who have suffered from the systemic failures of the church. You are mistaken if you frame this discussion as one about individual men. Systems than excuse, conceal, minimize, and otherwise enable abuse are the heart of the matter. #NotAllMormonMen thoroughly misses the mark.

  2. alice says:

    Any Mormon man who supports the patriarchy and misogyny that continue to let Mormon women be vulnerable to this kind of abuse and dismissal is part of the problem.

    If anyone doesn’t like hearing that it doesn’t make it any less true.

  3. Wendy says:

    Such a powerful piece, Olivia! Thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking truth to power.

  4. Chairoscuro says:

    so much of it comes to this -“believing powerful men over victimized women”; the structure of the church definitely perpetuates this evil. thank you for using your voice to name our institutional shame and invite change

  5. Ziff says:

    Thanks for expressing this so powerfully, Olivia.

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