Click here for Part I.
Our Anonymous Guest Post continued…
A couple years later I finally followed the therapist’s advice and held a family meeting. I was feeling worried that my abuser was still out there and nobody knew what he had done. What if there were other victims? What if he was still abusing children? I went to my bishop in my ward and told him about it and asked if he could find anything out. He found that my abuser was in good standing in the church and he was married with 3 kids. He said he had been through the repentance process about it. He wasn’t allowed to work in the primary or nursery or have a calling with kids. He said the church leadership did not want me to go to the police about it. They didn’t want him to not be able to support his family. That he was a changed man but that I should do whatever I needed to to heal. This was hard for me to hear. It was more proof that he was worth more than me. I understand and believe in the repentance process but what about restitution? What about obeying the laws of the land? I wasn’t out for vengeance. I just wanted to do all I could to make sure history wasn’t repeating itself with other victims. It was hard to not feel betrayed by my church, but I knew that Heavenly Father loved me and I was doing the right thing.
We had our family meeting with all the adults in my family. This was very cathartic and healing for me to hear my family say how sorry they were for what happened and to feel like they were on my side. We decided as a family to call the Police Department and report the crime. This was in December of 2010.
In March of 2011 the police called me in to investigate the crime. I gave a wonderful detective, all the details. He read my journals, he called my friends and family members, past counselors, and church leaders and got all the facts and decided it was a strong enough case that he could turn it over to the State. The State of Utah charged my abuser with 5 1st degree felonies 5 2nd degree felonies for sodomy on a child and aggravated child abuse. He was looking at a possible lifetime in prison if he was convicted. I was just the witness and victim in the case. I was so scared and nervous to testify! But I tried to be brave because I wanted to do the right thing. By then I was pregnant with our sweet little girl and wanted to make this world just a tiny bit safer for her.
My abuser got a good attorney. He didn’t want to go to jail or lose his nursing license. He works as a surgical nurse. He was willing to bargain though and was willing to take some responsibility. They did a psycho-sex-evaluation to determine if he was still a threat. It is basically a lie detector test and that has a blood pressure thing connected to his genitals to see if he gets aroused by certain scenarios or pictures. It showed that he wasn’t a threat and that I was the only victim and that he was very remorseful for what he had done. It also showed that he had been abused as well by his own brother and he had used me to help him work through what happened to him and that he had recently started therapy. With that information and with the fact that the only evidence the jury would have is my testimony of crimes that happened 20+ years ago, we decided to do a plea deal. We were very lenient. we let him take two 3rd degree felonies of child abuse. He had strict probation rules and had to be in a treatment program and he had to pay for my therapy as well for the next 3 years. But he still got to keep his Nursing License. He had to do some community service and pay $500 to the court as well and write me a letter of apology. During the sentencing hearing he did apologize to me there as well and sounded very sincere and remorseful. This did help me. Not many victims get that from their abusers. It still doesn’t change that it happened, but it did help. At the sentencing hearing I was supported by my husband, my best friend, and my sisters while my mom watched our daughter for us (I didn’t want her anywhere near him!) I was so terrified to be there but they helped me be brave. This was 12/12/12. It took that long to go through the system!
In the midst of all the legal processes going on I felt impressed to let my husband’s family in on what was happening at one of our girl book clubs. My heart was pounding so hard in my chest, I knew I was supposed to share my story with them. I’m so glad I did because a couple other people in the group came forward and admitted being abused as well, never having told anyone before even though it had been decades. Also my Aunt (who is a victims advocate and works a lot with abused women) was able to put me in touch with an amazing counselor who helped me so much! Finally someone I could connect with! She helped me trust my instincts again and get rid of those damaging beliefs I formed as a child. She had a few sessions with my husband there as well to help him help me and help our relationship as well.
In June of 2013 just, 6 months after the sentencing hearing, the prosecuting attorney called me and said my abuser wanted to change his plea from Child Abuse to Obstruction of Justice because he was would lose his license as a nurse if the law code didn’t change. She said he would still have the same probation and all that but just the name would change. She asked if I would give my permission for that. At first I said okay because I was trying to please and thinking that is what a forgiving person would do. But I had a horrible night and was extremely anxious and stressed out about it. It still bothered me that during the psycho-sex-evaluation he lied about his age. He said it went on when he was 13 until he was 16. We didn’t even move to Utah until he was 16. When he was 13 I was a 1 year old living in Montana. So I worried he had been able to lie about other things and he really was a threat. I didn’t want to give permission for him to have access to sick kids (even though I am told he strictly works with adults and is not allowed access to kids). He also so far had not been paying for my therapy. I had been sending my receipts to his probation officer but still hadn’t gotten a dime from him after I had already spent over $1300 of our own money. From the beginning I wanted my abuser to be on the sex offenders list. We didn’t get that. Now it wouldn’t even say anything about child abuse in his felonies? Would people even know he was a potential threat to children? So I called back the next day and withdrew my permission and I wrote a letter to the judge expressing my concerns. He was granted what he wanted and was able to change his plea anyway but I ended up being at peace with it since it was out of my hands. The judge did order him to immediately start paying for my therapy costs which was a huge help.
Luckily the Utah Victims of Crime also stepped in to help pay for my therapy costs! I am so grateful to them. My abuser still has to eventually pay but in the meantime they are stepping in and helping me afford to continue going to therapy. I’m so glad we have a system like that in place!
During that same month in June 2013 I saw my abuser at a church store. I thought I would be terrified. I have had so many nightmares about running into him somewhere and waking up in cold sweat. I mostly just felt revulsion and then comfort that everything would be okay. Luckily I had already made my purchases when I saw him so I could make a hasty exit.
Today I am still a work in progress. I am still healing. My therapist diagnosed me with a few anxiety disorders, mainly PTSD. But I think I have changed so much and have grown by leaps and bounds through this process. With the help, love, and support of my Savior, my spouse, my family, my therapist, and my friends I know I will be just fine. A few years ago I couldn’t imagine telling even my brothers and sisters about my dark secret. Now I can tell the world because I know I have nothing to be ashamed of. It wasn’t my fault, it was his. I don’t need to be embarrassed anymore. I hope this post helps someone else out there who may be struggling and feeling all alone. They say 1 in every 3 or 4 women is sexually abused and 1 in 7 men. Those statistics are scary. We live in an evil world. I hope we can keep our kids safe and beat those statistics. Knowledge is power. We need to be aware of the danger out there to protect our little ones and fellow brothers and sisters.
I’m actually taking a break from therapy right now since I have been feeling so great. I have a few sessions saved for later when my daughter is older. When she reaches the age I was when I was abused, I might need some more help if it triggers more PTSD. Luckily my therapist taught me a lot of healthy coping mechanisms in the meantime.
I hope I didn’t mislead anyone in thinking that I turned away from my church because of some of my feelings of betrayal. I love The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and my testimony has not wavered. Without the gospel, I don’t think I would have much happiness in my life or even be alive. I love my church leaders as well. Heavenly Father wants to protect his little ones too, but loves all his children and gives us the gift of agency. However I do think the Church does need to be more supportive of abused victims and less so of the abusers. My first bishop and stake president should have reported my abuse when we came to them when I was 12 even if I then told them no. It would have saved a lot of time and ripple effects of pain. We are all of infinite worth. I have received so much comfort from my Savior and know that he is healing me and making me a stronger and better person. No pain, no gain, right?