#MormonMeToo: Why Didn’t She . . . ?

By B Alvaraz

I have been sexually assaulted twice in my life. Both times by Mormon men. Both times on BYU’s campus. Unless you’ve gone through an event like this, it’s difficult to understand the mosaic of emotions that you encounter. “Well, I wasn’t *raped.*” “Am I just overreacting?” “It’s my fault for not getting him off me faster” “My friends will treat me differently” “Was it my fault?” “No one will believe me. . . .”

The first assault happened during work on BYU grounds. My coworker was someone who made me feel uncomfortable and nervous. He reached out while we were in the work truck with 3 other male coworkers present, looked me in the eye, and groped me. I was so stunned I barely reacted. I was surrounded by people! Maybe I’d misunderstood? Maybe it wasn’t so bad? The more I thought about it, I realized it was definitely intentional. His hands, his disgusting hands touched me, kneading in an invasion, a perversion of an intimate act.

I went to my boss, a female supervisor. I told her what had happened. “Oh it was probably an accident. I’ll talk to him.” I begged her not to; I was embarrassed and scared. He scared me. I didn’t know what he would do if he knew I’d gone to her. She talked to him anyway and told me that he’d said it was an accident, that he couldn’t avoid “brushing” my chest.

He was fired one week later for making a swastika in the snow in front of the Wilk.

The second assault occurred in the HFAC. I had a crush on a boy I’d met on a camping trip who was friends with my roommate’s coworkers. He was performing in a musical piece. I went with my roommate and her coworkers to the concert. Halfway through, I had to use the bathroom and went up to a different floor. One of my roommate’s coworkers was waiting outside of the bathroom. I joked about something and then he grabbed me in a weird hug, swung me into the wall, and started thrusting his hips into mine from behind while holding me down. I got him off me and yelled, “What the hell?!” He shook his head and said, “What are you upset about? I’m the one who has to go and talk to my bishop!”

I was so confused, embarrassed . . . guilty . . . and thought, “What the hell is wrong with me?” This was only 4 MONTHS after the last incident. I got through the rest of the night with tight smiles, trying not to act weird, but careful to put distance between him and me. On the drive home I told my roommate what happened. She invited him over to dinner that weekend. I told her that he made me feel uncomfortable. She invited him over to watch general conference the next week. He walked in the room and sat on top of me. He said I needed to lighten up.

Two years later when I told my mom, she cried. She too had been assaulted by a friend of her sister. He raped her in her living room.

A year into my marriage, I told my husband.

Seven years after the assaults, I wrote about it, without specifics, in a blog post. I shared it on Facebook, pleading with anyone who read it not to vote for someone who casually references sexual assault. Too many did anyway.

Believe women. Believe Mormon women. Believe women of color.

B Alvaraz is a lover of nature, otters, enchiladas, chocolate, science, and compassion. She has one master’s degree, one husband, and one baby.

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7 Responses

  1. Diane Villafane (author Anaya Roma) says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have had my share of experiences, too. I think it’s a good thing women are speaking up and speaking out. Confirming a person who is in doubt to the SCOTUS is a mistake. However, the only way to change this cultural phenomenon where men think they are entitled to any woman’s body, over her objections, is for mothers to teach their sons that it is not acceptable.

  2. Mary says:

    Why didn’t she? I’ve been raped by my former husband. I was too weak, at that moment, to fight him off and he was refusing my “no” by making it sound like he was doing me a favor. In reading Slut Walk posters and what rapists say to their victims, it isn’t unusual for them to make it sound like they are doing their victims a favor.

    So, I thought of the obedience covenant that he meant well, even though this effort was bone headed. I didn’t consent. I said, “whatever”. I was too weak at that moment and acquiesced using the obedience covenant as a means to get the moment over with. My former husband knew I didn’t want it and did it, anyway.

    In hindsight, my former husband has admitted to me he would commit rape in certain situations. I no longer view that moment in time as his clumsiness. I think it was intentional. His “clumsiness” was an act that was part of his charm and that incident was one of those situations where he would commit rape.

    So, I think we need to teach young women not to marry rapists. Not to make an obedience covenant to a rapist. Never get sick. Never be under the effects of medication. Never have an asthma attack, never have a broken limb. Just don’t ever be weak around a rapist.

    Personally, I think we need to get rid of the obedience covenant. I think we need to stop teaching obedience and sweetness as divine virtues. I also think we need to place this squarely on the perpetrator’s shoulders and no place else.

  3. Ziff says:

    I’m sorry that these awful things happened to you, B Alvarez. I’m so glad that you–and so many other women–are speaking up now!

  4. SC says:

    Your title gave me the CHILLS. “Why didn’t you . . . ” is exactly what I heard when I finally came forward with my *two* abuse reports–one against a neighbor and one against a church leader. It is as if being too terrified to report back then has now nullified my account today. Watching LDS members and government leaders saying the same thing about Christine Blasey Ford has triggered all that pain for me all over again!

    I believe you. I hear you, and I know how this feels. I am so, so sorry that it happened to you and that it is happening for so many of us. I wish that our church were more responsive and sensitive to those suffering the horrific lifetime stain of abuse. If there were a church out there that did more for abusive survivors, I would be there, but alas I am not finding any. I was raised LDS, so I keep hoping and praying that my own faith will one day get this right . . .

  5. Risa says:

    People need to stop asking why sexual assault survivors don’t come forward sooner unless they’re prepared to believe them.

    And they need to stop believing that those who do come forward will get any modicum of justice or restitution.

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