Quick Exit

Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Jade was brought up as a Mormon. She was sexually abused by male members of the church and by her mother and stepfather.

She was also subjected to emotional abuse by church members who asked her embarrassing and intimidating questions and pressurised her when she was pregnant.

When Jade was 12 years old, she was sent to her first ‘interview’ with the bishop of her church. These interviews continued to take place every six months.

The bishop asked Jade if she had any ‘same sex feelings’ and if she masturbated. These questions made her feel ‘embarrassed and shy … at 12 years old I didn’t even know what masturbation was’. She was shown a film about abortion which began with a boy and a girl ‘petting’ and ended with ‘limbs and body parts going into a black bag’.

Jade recalls that she ‘didn’t understand why they were asking all these questions’ and that she left the interview feeling ‘guilty and ashamed’. There were no other adults present at the interviews and Jade says she ‘couldn’t not go’.

When she was 13 or 14, a group of about 10 men in the Mormon church began to sexually abuse her. The abuse took place during ‘bible studies’. Jade remembers going to the chapel in the morning, and she and other children would be taken into separate rooms by men who she describes as ‘very much into indoctrination’.

These men would read scriptures aloud and sexually abuse her. She says the abuse had a ‘ritualistic’ element to it and describes an attitude from the men that ‘I can abuse you and you can’t do anything about it’. After the abuse she would be taken home and she would go to school from there.

On one occasion, when Jade was 15, she was sexually abused by her mother. Soon after this, her mother’s then husband also began sexually abusing her, telling her that it was what ‘Jesus wanted’ him to do.

Jade says ‘There were no boundaries, no moral code, no safety ... no way of ever questioning anything ... you just didn’t know how to deal with it.’

With the abuse taking place both at home and in her church, Jade had no one to tell or turn to for support. Her behaviour at school became problematic to the point where she was nearly expelled but, she says ‘No adults asked me “why are you behaving like this?”.’

Jade was sent for family therapy with a psychologist at one point, but her mother and stepfather were also present at the sessions, so nothing helpful ever came from them.

She recalls feeling that ‘In the eyes of God I was worthless ... dirty and unclean ... I hated myself.’

When she was 15, Jade moved to a different part of the country and moved again three years later. Throughout this time, she was still a member of the Mormon church but there were no further episodes of abuse.

However, she says she still felt she couldn’t fully trust any of the leaders of the church so she kept the abuse secret. She describes her fear that if anybody found out that she had not ‘kept the law of chastity’ she would not be allowed to worship at her local temple.

Jade reports that the sense of worthlessness she felt continued into her adult life and says she has never been able to form healthy relationships. The relationships she did form were often characterised by domestic violence.

In her 20s, she became pregnant and took the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy. In hospital, prior to the termination, she was haunted by memories of the film that she was shown when she was 12. Her distress was compounded by a visit from representatives of her church, who told her she must carry the baby to term and have it adopted by a member of the church, or she would be excommunicated.

Jade went ahead with termination and as a result, was barred from her church and then disowned by her family. Following this, Jade entered what she describes as her ‘worst depressive episode’ and took an overdose.

She had been diagnosed with depression at the age of 12 and was having suicidal thoughts when she was 15. She remembers ‘scrubbing myself a lot’ while praying as a young girl.

Jade has since been diagnosed with PTSD and still experiences flashbacks, dissociation and nightmares.

Talking about the people who abused her, Jade asks: ‘Do I hate them? Actually, I’ve forgiven my mum ... I wish she had protected me, but they were as indoctrinated as I was.'

She describes conflicting feelings about the Mormon church. She continues to have strong religious faith but feels ‘guilty and dirty’ whenever she enters a church. She adds: ‘It’s affected me for years and years and years.’ She struggles with the effects of what was done to her and feels that she was ‘lied to from day one’ by institution. But she adds: ‘I actually miss the church … I miss the friends.’

Reflecting on her younger self she says: ‘That child ended up not being a child anymore, I was never really a child. The worst thing you can do to an adult is abuse them as a child.’

Jade is clear that she does not want to feel ‘bitter and twisted’ about what happened to her. She is paying for counselling, which she finds helpful, and emphasises she would like to see a choice of therapies available at no cost to people who have experienced abuse as children, particularly within religions.

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