Thank you donald trump

Four years ago today was one of the worst ones I’ve known. I had woken up early, sometime before my alarm usually went off at 4:45 am to go to the gym, and saw the news headlines that I never thought would be possible: donald trump was the 45th POTUS.

I admit, I was so cocky. I’ve been politically active since high school and I thought I knew how it was going to go. I thought I had voted for the first woman President. I was wrong. I spent November 9, 2016 in bed crying and eating my weight in cookies. In 2017 I did a “healthy eating challenge” with my husband for his CrossFit box and lost 12ish pounds. When people noticed I would say I lost my “post-election depression weight.”

But I digress.

I have to thank donald trump for that day in 2016. Those of you who know me will be shocked. Why would Risa ever thank a narcisstic melomaniac?

Because on that day I made a very important decision. I had been toying with the idea of getting my Masters in Social Work for a while. I earned by Bachelors of Social Work degree in 2007 and had been in the field for 9 years when DJT won. But in 2016 I was 38. I liked my job and the people I worked with. Preventing pediatric abusive head trauma and supporting and finding resources for families is right up my alley. Grad school sounded like a lot of work and sacrifice.

But on November 9, 2016 I decided to apply for grad school, which I did in January 2017. I scrambled and studied very hard and very quickly to take the MAT entrance exam. Rounded up 3 letters of recommendation from my current supervisor, former supervisor, and a favorite former social work professor (he still calls me one of his star students). I wrote a huge essay and went through a rapid-fire interview. The program I applied to was cohort style and they only had so many spots. And in March 2017 I hooped and hollered as I read my acceptance letter via email and celebrated with my fellow coworkers.

I worked full-time the entire time I was in grad school (a part-time program) while raising 4 kids with my CrossFit loving husband. I showed up to as many lacrosse games and parent-teacher conferences as I could. On top of working full-time, I did a 16-hour a week practicum internship where I got top marks from my supervisor and worked with a lot of really great people. It was there that I fell in love with Medical Social Work.

And why did I do this? Because I knew when trump was elected that in four years when I graduated there were going to be a lot of hurt people who needed help. Mr. Rogers told children to look for the helpers in times of trouble. I decided to BE one of those helpers.

So thank you donald trump. Thank you for being such a racist, xenophobe, white supremacist, misogynist, homophobe, transphobe, ableist, sexually assaulting, lying, criminal embarrassment.

I went back to school for my BIPOC friends. My LGBTQ friends. My immigrant friends. My disabled friends. My friends who are survivors of sexual assault. For my socio-economically disadvantaged friends. And all of my friends who have been bullied or taken advantage of.

The election and administration of this weakling sociopath of a man inspired me every step of the way through school. And even your epic mishandling of the coronavirus epidemic couldn’t stop me.

I graduated with a 4.0 and passed my licensing exam the first try.

Now that you’ve been humiliated out of office, the work will continue. Because you see, you were just a symptom of the deep rooted problems of this country. You may have given permission to be openly racist, but those racists were always there. As a white woman I am committed to following the Black women/enbys, and W/EOC who have always shown up to make this country better. I’m not a leader in this movement, but a follower who must use her privilege to get to the front and step aside for their stronger and more important voices.

You awakened a fire in me mr. trump. All that I’ve accomplished in the last four years is a credit to how awful you are and it is, without a doubt, the biggest FU I could ever give you. FU forever and in perpetuity. From an Iron Daisy to the most fragile man I know. The end.

As soon as…

Recently I lost a dear friend, Jenny, unexpectedly to complications from Type 1 diabetes. Her loss was shocking, tragic, and utterly unfair. It was unfair to the people who loved her and her children who will always need her.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the last 2 weeks since her death is to put all of my “as soon as”es on a shelf. I kept telling Jenny “as soon as” I finish grad school, finish my practicum, have a free weekend, as soon as, as soon as, as soon as, I’d make the 3-hour round trip to come take her to lunch. Now I realize that I can’t put off making time for important friendships like that because those “as soon as”es run out.

And let me tell you, I had very good excuses for the as soon as. A year ago I started working on my Masters at the age of 40 while working full-time and raising 4 children. In August I added a 16-hour a week practicum to that already full schedule and that will continue until the end of this Spring semester. Even in all of that I still found time to go to her funeral. What I wouldn’t give to have spent the afternoon talking and laughing and sharing a meal with her instead. I will never get the chance to do that again.

If you have a friend that you’ve been talking about going to lunch with for forever, or going and do this activity but you just haven’t got the time, because life is busy, just do it. You can take a few hours out of your hectic schedule to see this friend. Because you never know if the next time you have to carve time out of your schedule for them will be at their funeral.

And the thing is, I know that there is a finite amount of time we all have on this planet. And that every trip around the sun is a gift. I knew that when I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer. But it wasn’t until I saw the text telling me Jenny had unexpectedly died that I realized my “as soon as” with her had run out. She and I had just been talking right before she went to bed that night and never woke up again. I could have never known that would be the last time we would laugh about something funny together, what I called “our thing.” If I could take the last month back, I would have spent one of the days off I had at Christmas with her instead of organizing my closet.

One thing I’ll always be grateful for is that I didn’t “as soon as” a book Jenny kept begging me to read. We were/are both voracious readers and I trusted her recommendations. I was going to “as soon as I graduate” this book, but instead I checked it out from the library and spent a few weeks reading it each night before bed. Jenny was thrilled when I told her I read it. We spent a good amount of time discussing it. I almost put off reading it. I’m so glad I didn’t.

I’m always going to regret I didn’t make the time to visit Jenny within the last year of her life because I was too overwhelmed with school, work, and practicum. I had once said to Jenny that I would usually only go to her county under duress, but I’d go there for her. I’m just so heartbroken that the last time I went there for her was for her funeral. The only thing I can do to make it up for her is to never take a friend like her for granted again.

No more “as soon as.”

I kept a New Years Resolution?

elle woodsEvery year I make the same New Years resolution – to work out at the gym consistently the entire year. Now, I’ve been very consistent with exercise for about 15 years now. After my asthma doctor told me that regular cardio could help build my lung capacity, I bought a cheap elliptical machine at Sears. Then I started training for 5k races and even a half-marathon at 30 years old.

However, something has kept me from being consistent with exercise throughout an entire year. It would usually happen in the Fall when the kids went back to school, the days are shorter and the nights are longer, and it’s really hard to go to and leave the gym in the dark. Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder kicks in and I just want to sleep, not get up early and be one of the first at the gym when it opens.

But not this year…I was consistent with a gym routine this entire year. I think there are a few factors that might have contributed to this.

  1.  The best way for me to rid my body of anxiety is through cardio. It just is. I’m not a meditator. I’ve tried. And deep breathing can relax me in the moment I am on the verge of a panic attack. But consistent exercise is the only thing I have found that keeps a handle on my anxiety.
  2. One reason my anxiety level was so high in 2019 was grad school. Adding grad school on top of working full-time and raising 4 kids was hard. Adding a 16 hour a week practicum Fall semester on top of working full-time and raising 4 kids was damn near impossible. Going to the gym kept my stress and anxiety at bay all year long. I credit this self-care routine to me earning a 4.0 all three semesters I was in grad school in 2019.
  3. For a lot of the year I’ve had a work-out buddy. A friend I met in grad school just happened to have a membership to the same gym as me and was willing to go with me at 5 a.m.  It’s really easy to let yourself down at 4:30 a.m. when the alarm goes off and you just want to sleep. It’s much harder to let your friend down who’s counting on you to show up. Thanks friend!
  4. I bought myself a FitBit with my Holiday bonus early in the year. I’m very competitive with myself. It’s the reason I’m an overachiever, take on all the things, push myself to do better, relentless, kind of person. It’s funny, because I’m not competitive with other people because that’s just too much work. Tracking exercise, daily steps, and sleep has been a miracle to me this year. Just being able to track my sleep patterns has made me real honest about the amount I’m sleeping and has me committed to a routine bedtime.

Exercise for me is a reward. It hasn’t always been. I think a lot of us want to punish our bodies with exercise because so much is reflected back to us in our culture that we’re not enough. Once I changed my mindset about a decade ago to one of exercise as a reward and part of a healthy self-care routine, my relationship with exercise has completely changed. There are a lot of health benefits to exercise that have exactly nothing to do with the shape and mass of your body. They are:

  1. It’s true what Elle Woods says. “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. And happy people don’t shoot their husbands.”
  2. Exercise has been proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety in anxious people like me.
  3. Exercise helps build and maintain strong muscles and bones, something that is majorly beneficial as we age. I may have an old lady bedtime, but I don’t want old lady brittle bones.
  4. Exercise boosts your energy. I know for me this is absolutely true. If I don’t start my day out with some cardio, I don’t have the energy to get through the rest of it.
  5. Regular exercise can help you relax and sleep better. Studies have shown that 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week can provide up to a 65% improvement in sleep quality.

My love of exercise would be shocking to the version of me that is younger than 25. I’m not athletically inclined in the least. I have no amount of grace. I don’t like playing or watching team sports. But put me on a spin bike and I can hang with the hardcores. Sixteen-year-old Risa who came home from high school every day to a bowl of cheetos and reruns of the first four seasons of The Real World would laugh herself into an asthmatic coughing fit if you told her at some point in the future she would be willing to wake up before the sunrise to be at the gym by 5:00. Truth be told, forty-one-year-old Risa is kind of in denial that she does this every day as well.

All this to say…I kept a New Years resolution…a really hard resolution…and dammit, I’m proud of myself.

Eating crow while on the verge of another war

My younger brother turned 18 just three weeks after 9/11. As part of being male and now a legal adult he was required to fill out a draft card in the event the United States would ever institute another draft. My mother freaked out. I remember her practically having a panic attack begging him not to fill it out. She had lived through her generation’s youth being sent to Vietnam to fight a meaningless and failed war that left many men dead, disabled, and suffering from PTSD. Of course, those of you old enough to remember, following 9/11 American patriotism was at an all-time high and my brother proudly declared that he would be happy to serve his country.

I remember thinking my mom was being a bit (to use a sexist term) hysterical in her reaction to my brother registering to vote and registering for the draft. In my 23-year-old mind with only a 4-month-old baby I thought she was over-reacting. My brother never joined the military, and like most Americans, our lives weren’t that much impacted by the “war on terror” because we were never asked to serve or sacrifice in any meaningful way. Instead the burden of war fell to military families who were deployed over and over again. And also, of course, the 4,000 American troops and 32,000 innocent Iraqi citizens who were killed so GWB could prove how big his dick is.

And now I sit here 18 years after 9/11 eating crow. I now understand the panic and dread my mother felt just 3 weeks after the twin towers fell. Because our psychopathic, amoral, narcissistic president decided to kill Iranian Major General Qaseem Soleimani aggravating a country that has, you know, nuclear, chemical, and technological weapons, and a penchant for retaliation, all so we can forget that he’s been impeached and his criminal family won’t go to prison. And then last night in class I got a news alert saying that Iran launched missile strikes against two Iraqi military bases that house U.S. forces in retaliation for the airstrike against Soleimani. trump is a coward, spineless, weakling of a human being who doesn’t care how many people die as long as he stays in power. As Roland Scahill said on twitter last night – “Innocent people are going to die thanks to a guilty man.”

And why is my heart in my stomach while also racing a million miles a minute? Because that 4-month-old child on 9/11 is now a legal adult. My oldest son just turned 16-years-old. And I’ll be damned if I sacrifice any of my children to trump’s power grab. My children are not going to die so trump can prove how big his dick is.

So all of you who voted for trump can now sign up to join the military. The rest of us who knew he was going to damage this country and take us to war should be able to live our lives peacefully while wearing our “I told you so” t-shirts. The people who have already died due to the trump’s policies, whether it’s immigrants that have been separated from their children and locked in cages, Syrians and Kurds, and now maybe our own troops and Iranian civilians who have nothing to do with this escalation of violence, dear trump voters, their blood is on your hands. We warned you. We told you this would happen. This is the reason why the day after the 2016 election I stayed home from work crying and crying and crying all day while eating my weight in cookies. We had the wisdom and foresight to see this reality TV show host and failed casino owner for who he is, and you told us we were overreacting and being “hysterical.” We were right and I’ve never hated being right so much in my life.

I’m writing this so it goes on record for my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren (you get the jist, my descendents) will know that I opposed this criminal administration from the beginning and I am against war. Whatever the fallout may be I can only say, “I did not consent,” and will protest the hell out of this.

George McGovern

Now She Takes her Place among the Angels

“At times I’ve tried to wring the waters of my first baptism out of my clothes, shake them out of my hair, and ask for a do-over in some other community where they ordain women, vote for Democrats, and believe in evolution. But Jesus has this odd habit of allowing ordinary, screwed-up people to introduce him, and so it was ordinary, screwed-up people who first told me I was a beloved child of God, who first called me a Christian. I don’t know where my story of faith will take me, but it will always begin here. That much can never change.” -Rachel Held Evans (1981-2019)

Rachel Held Evans

Like a lot of us in the feminist, progressive Christian world, the news of Rachel Held Evan’s death was a shocking blow. She was a guiding light to so many of us who still remain Disciples of Christ while rejecting the patriarchal and hierarchical structure that Christ’s church has become.

Like Evans, I went through a faith crisis that ultimately led to me leaving the church of my baptism and embracing a theology that is much more radically inclusive and gathers and embraces those at the margins. When I first read the above quote in Evans’s book Search for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, it hit me to my core and I wept. Even though Evans was raised Evangelical and I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the similarities between what she was taught, and the teachings I received, are striking.

My faith crisis has been a grieving process for me and one of the hallmarks of grief is anger. I will admit I have been so angry with the Church. I’m angry at doctrine that would exclude my non-member father from being with my family in heaven. I’m angry at rhetoric that tells me Women Are Incredible! While at the same time excluding me from being a witness to sacred ordinances. I’m angry at the policy of exclusion being rescinded, but then the church coming out against the Equality Act . I’m angry that those who have advocated for equality and the protection of children have been excommunicated and silenced. I’m angry that I’m expected to be obedient to imperfect men instead of following the dictates of my own conscious.

Even considering all of that, Evans helped me reconcile my Mormon heritage, and the claiming of that heritage, with my feminist, pro-LGBTQ, pro-child protection, values. I have ancestors on my mother’s side who left their countries and families for their religion. Who pushed handcarts across the Great Plains. Who sacrificed everything they had to worship their God in the way they wanted. I honor that heritage and it is why I will always consider myself a Mormon. Evans gave me permission to embrace the faith that allowed me to know God, while also embracing the fact that I never really fit in. My beliefs of radical inclusion will never align with the beliefs of a church whose disciples push vulnerable people to the margins, just like Christ’s disciples did to the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28).

I credit Evans with helping me find my way after my faith crisis. Evans vocal journey out of Evangelicalism and into the Episcopal church gave me the courage to continue my relationship with Christ after I knew my values and beliefs conflicted with the LDS church. She helped me realize that there are other ways and other churches to worship in, than the church of my origin. That I could still call myself a Disciple of Christ while no longer considering myself a Latter-day Saint. Rachel Held Evans was a light in the darkness for me and so many others. The world is a little less bright without her. Now she takes her place among the angels.

This post originally appeared on The Exponent II

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Blue pinwheels
Blue pinwheels for Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. If you happen to see blue pinwheels in a park or on the lawn of a courthouse this month, they represent every child who has been a victim of child abuse within the last year. It’s a staggering sight and is a reminder of a very sobering statistic.

As a social worker I’ve dedicated the last few years of my career working toward the prevention of pediatric abusive head trauma and volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) with foster children in Northern Utah.

In my line of work, approximately 25% of abusive head trauma victims die. Most of them are under the age of two years old. I’m inundated every day with information about babies who are abused, with a quarter of them succumbing to the injuries of that abuse. It’s work that hurts my heart and my soul, but meeting survivors, especially adult survivors, and their caregivers, gives me the strength and inspiration to continue on in this much needed, if not soul crushing, work.

If you’re wondering what does this have to do with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, let me educate you a little. A Gallup poll conducted in 2013 found that 60% of Utahns identify as members of the Church. That would be a majority of this state, but probably the lowest majority since 1847. I know there are many more citizens who no longer identify as members, but were still raised as members or whose family are still members. I would say, having lived in Utah my entire life, that most people either are members, have been members, or have been heavily influenced by the church.

But did you know that 1 in 5 Utah kids will be sexually abused before the age of 18? According to the organization, Prevent Child Abuse Utah, that’s four times the rate of the national average. That would mean, according to the Gallup poll, a majority of those children are members of the church. In every CASA case I have worked on, the families involved all identified as LDS in some way. In Utah, both girls and boys are sexually abused almost equally. Statistics indicate that 54% of reported child sexual abuse victims are girls and 46% are boys. Because of that Utah taxpayers pay approximately $1 billion annually on child abuse. This equates to just over $2.7 million per day for Utah tax payers.

However, most children do not report sexual abuse. In fact, 88% of adults who were sexually abused as children stated they never reported the abuse. It is estimated that only 1 in 10 victims will report abuse. What most people don’t realize, is that 90% of the time a child will be abused by someone in their circle of trust, not a stranger. It’s not the boogey man in the bushes – it’s that trusted person in your life who you thought would never abuse a child.

In the last year we’ve been hearing more and more about men in positions of authority in the Church who have abused either children or people they had stewardship over – people in their circle of trust. Just last week Sterling Van Wagenen was charged with 1 count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child in connection with a girl between the ages of 7 and 9, which occurred between 2013 and 2015. Those were the years the Church hired Van Wagenen to produce the temple videos. This was after he admitted to his Stake President in 1993 that he molested a 13-year-old boy that year. Maybe you believe in forgiveness (I do too) but I also believe protecting children should come first before giving second chances to child molestors. If only 1 victim in 10 comes forward about sexual abuse, we can extrapolate from those statistics that for every 1 child that comes forward, there are 9 who are silent. I doubt this boy in 1993 and this girl two decades later were Van Wagenen’s only victims.

The latest statistics show that in 2015 there were over 20,000 investigations of child abuse and neglect. The state population in that year was close to 3 million. During 2015 the rate of child abuse was 10.5 per 1,000 children, and those were just the cases reported to the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Out of those 41.1% were physically abused and 21.1% were sexually abused.

Child abuse happens in every demographic you can think of, including religion. Child abuse is not unique to the LDS Church, but as a citizen of this state and a person who was raised in the Church, the child abuse statistics hit a little closer to home for me. In my position at my non-profit I track all the publicly reported cases of infant abuse in the country and we have seen a rise in infant abuse in Utah since the beginning of 2019.

My purpose in writing this is not to accuse the Church of anything, but to wake up those members who don’t believe child abuse happens in our community. It does. It absolutely does. Unfortunately what I see in LDS circles is a lot of burying of heads in the sand because people are either in denial that child abuse, and especially child sexual abuse, could be a problem in their community. It’s a problem in every community. And when known child predators are being asked to produce videos for our holiest of places, we need to stop and demand better of our leaders. I’m sorry, but we do not have the gold standard in protecting against child abuse in the Church. Just the child abuse statistics in Utah alone prove that.

During this month, I’m asking all of you what you can do to help eradicate child abuse in our communities. The motto for us CASA volunteers is “I am for the Child.” Can you please also be for the child? Can you put the safety and welfare of children ahead of your loyalty to family members, friends, church members, and institutions? In Utah, all adults are mandatory reporters of child abuse. The National Child Abuse Hotline to report child abuse in the United States if 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

And remember, when you see a blue pinwheel on a lawn, know that that precious young person could have been spared abuse, and possibly death, if only one person had spoken up and had been for the child.

This post was originally featured on The Exponent II

To be a Witness

Easter has always been my favorite religious holiday. I relish the messages of re-birth, renewal, and hope that Easter brings. I love the reminder that my redeemer lives. “What comfort this sweet sentence gives!” [Hymn #136]. Jesus may have suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and died on the cross for my sins, but his resurrection demonstrates that through his Grace I can be forgiven and also live again.

In preparation for Easter this year I am observing Lent. For the past few years of observing Lent I have given up a habit that is very difficult for me; but, I’ve also taken the opportunity to read the four Gospels during these 46 days. Over the last few years I have connected with the verse in John 20:16 that testifies of Mary Magdalene as the first to witness the resurrected Christ.

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”  (which means “Teacher”).  (NIV)

This verse never stood out to me until the first time I observed Lent. That year I was asked to give a talk in Sacrament meeting on Easter. It’s no surprise to any Latter-day Saint that Easter is not often a celebrated and special holiday in the church. I’ve attended many services on Easter where Easter was never mentioned. In fact, when I was asked to speak that Sunday, I was given the topic of self-reliance. Being the rebel I was, I decided I was going to speak about Easter so that I could testify of a living Christ. I wanted to be a witness of Him. (I found being given the topic of self-reliance ironic considering Easter is all about Grace.)

Mormons do not worship the cross. We are not interested in the crucifixion of Christ because we believe he paid for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. Because Jesus began to fulfill his mission in the Garden and then completed it when he was resurrected, you would think that Easter would be given much more emphasis in our church meetings.  There are only three hymns in our hymnal dedicated specifically to Easter. To the larger Christian world, Easter is the most important Christian holiday and one that is given much outward displays of ritual and celebration. Easter is the heart of Christianity. Without Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the entire doctrine of Christianity fails.  Jesus has risen! This is the “good news” of the Gospel.

With how important Easter is, I have to wonder why it’s merely a blip for Mormons. There is no observation of Lent. There is no Holy week celebrations. There is no Good Friday services. In most wards, there is barely a mention of the sacredness of this day most Easters. A Bishop and Ward Chorister really have to go out of their way to create a significant Easter program for sacrament meeting.

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus’ apostle were not whom he chose to be the first to witness his resurrected body? Many accounts list “the other Mary” or “the Mother of James” and Joanna as two additional witnesses. The Jewish Law of Moses required at least two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6), a practice that is still in place to witness any saving ordinances for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I have to wonder why Easter is not more significant to Mormons. Is it because we focus more on obedience and works than Grace? Or is it because it was a woman, or three women, who witnessed the resurrected Christ, and not his apostles, that it fails to be more significant to us? Women are never allowed to be witnesses of sacred ordinances in the LDS church. As a mother, I was not allowed to be a witness for my children’s baptism. Blessing an infant isn’t even a saving ordinance, and I was not allowed to be a part of it. Women cannot be a witness to baptisms for the dead or sealings inside the temple, our most sacred place, the Holiest of the Holies. If we embrace and observe Easter and speak about whom Christ chose to be his first witness(es) after his resurrection, will we have to reconcile our doctrine, which keeps women out of performing the duties of a witness?

If Mary Magdalene was holy enough, worthy enough, in a time and place where the status of women was lower than cattle, to be the first person to witness the resurrected Christ, why can’t I be a witness to sacred and saving ordinances? How am I different than Mary Magdalene? Does Christ see the women of the LDS church as fundamentally lacking in honesty and integrity to be a witness to the ordinances that will bring the children of our Heavenly Father back to him for exaltation? And if that were true, why would Jesus choose to make three women a witness to the most important event in Christianity and human history?

This year while I sit in Easter worship services, I’m going to think about and honor those three special women Jesus chose to be the first witnesses to the Resurrected Christ, and know that I can be a witness for Him as well.

Originally posted on Exponent II

I was sexually harassed while working at LDS Family Services #MormonMeToo

I worked at LDS Family Services in Ogden, Utah from 2007-2013 as an Adoption/Birth Parent caseworker. I first started there as a practicum student while earning my Bachelor’s degree at Weber State University in Social Work. I was hired two months after I graduated, and became licensed, because of the great work I did as an intern. I loved the work I did there and the clients I worked with.

In 2009 I was called into my Adoption supervisor’s office. I believe that he is a good man, but also a man who bought into the patriarchal modesty standards of the church. He let me know that a secretary (or a couple secretaries, I was never sure which) complained that when I folded my arms my cleavage would show. At the time I was an endowed member who wore her garments in the correct way. I also have a larger chest, which is nature-given, by the way.

LDS Family Services

I was shocked that this was being brought up. He told me that the secretary(ies?) were concerned about my modesty. I assured him that I was wearing my garments in the correct way and as long as I’m wearing garments then I am being modest, and professional in my dress and appearance. I was befuddled and confused that fellow women would care so much about my cleavage, and if they were that worried about it, that they didn’t speak to me directly. Bringing my supervisor into the conversation felt like I was being disciplined.

He then went on to tell me that even though we don’t work with them, a lot of men come to our agency for counseling for sexual issues. He said if one of those men caught sight of my shapely body or cleavage, were sexually stimulated, and then went and raped someone it would be my fault. He assured me that he knew I wouldn’t want that to happen.

I was stunned that a man who was licensed in marriage and family therapy actually believed that my body could entice another person to rape someone. I was so stunned I didn’t know how to respond.

Later the next week we were discussing in staff meeting an inappropriate comment the agency director made toward one of my fellow caseworkers. She had gone to Human Resources about it and it became “a thing.” I was so angry on her behalf and mentioned how inappropriate it is for anyone to talk about other people’s bodies in the workplace. I made mention that if anyone talked about my body or my breasts again I would go directly to Human Resources and talk to an attorney (who is my sister, but she’s still pretty amazing and qualified).

No one ever brought up my body, what I was wearing, or my breasts again and I continued to work there for another four years.

Now almost a decade later I regret not going to Human Resources about this incident. It was completely inappropriate to be talking about my breasts in the workplace, but the secretaries felt entitled to because we often discuss womens’s bodies in the church and how they do and do not measure up to our standards of modesty. It was inappropriate for those concerns to be brought to someone in charge of my employment and not to me directly. And it was completely morally and professionally unethical for my supervisor to say that my body or breasts could cause someone else to violate another person.

Discussing my breasts and saying that I would be responsible for rape because of them is sexual harassment. It happened to me while I was an employee of the church by other employees of the church. This is my #MormonMeToo moment.

Cross-posted as a guest post at The Exponent

Sex Abuse, the LDS church, and Utah

The month of April is designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month .

To say I think about child abuse on the daily wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Currently I am a social worker working on the macro level to prevent and educate against pediatric abusive head trauma. I also volunteer several hours a month as a court appointed special advocate (CASA) with foster children in my community.

As part of my ongoing continuing education as a CASA, I recently attended an in-service training at a local Children’s Justice Center. The CJC is a center were law enforcement officers interview children who have been abused in a safe environment. They use a multidisciplinary team approach to address individual cases in the most effective way possible.

I was at this training the day after the Elder Joseph Bishop scandal broke and rocked the LDS community. At least for those of us who believe victims. I don’t want to get into the specifics of this individual case, only because it’s been written about many times over and I don’t feel entitled to retell Jane Doe’s story without her consent (unlike Mormonleaks).

Every time I learn a new statistic about child abuse, I am shocked to the core. Which is pretty ironic considering I spend more than 40 hours a week immersed elbow-deep in horrific child abuse cases. During the CJC training, we learned that according to Prevent Child Abuse – Utah, nationally 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 and that Utah’s child sex abuse rate is 3 times the national average.

Yes, you read that correctly. Utah has the highest incidences reported of sexual abuse of children per capita than any other state in the United States.

sexual abuse

So, I am not shocked by this Joseph Bishop story at all. Sexual abuse, assault, and rape is an epidemic in Utah. This state claims an LDS church membership of about 60%. That means the majority of the citizens of Utah identify as LDS, so it’s not a hard extrapolation to assume that majority of children sexually abused in this state and the majority of their perpetrators are LDS.

I could probably write a dissertation in which I analyze how our repressive sexual culture leads to sexual abuse, but I’m sure someone has already done it and done a better job.

But I will say, as still a member of record, I am disgusted that the LDS church claims on one hand to have “zero tolerance for abuse” and that they have the “gold standard for protecting against abuse” when for the last decade and a half I’ve been involved in the Mormon feminist movement I have read over 1,000 stories from (mostly) women about how they were abused either as children or adults and were not believed by their priesthood leader, or were abused BY their priesthood leader.

I hate to tell anyone’s story that’s not mine, but I feel like since this story was shared in public and there is no pending litigation regarding it, I’m going to share it here now.

In January 2007 I started my internship as an Adoption/Birth Parent caseworker at LDS Family Services in Ogden, Utah. As part of my internship my supervisor asked me to attend the Adoption Educations classes we were, by law, required to give to our potential adoptive couples. I enjoyed these classes immensely. On the 3rd or 4th week, the teachers of the class organized a birth parent panel, where 4 different young women shared their stories of relinquishing their baby for adoption.

One story especially stuck out to me and still sickens me to the core 11 years after hearing it. When Jane* was a 17-year-old Laurels President in her ward a returned missionary asked her on a date. Jane didn’t want to go, but felt obligated because LDS girls are conditioned never to say “no” to a priesthood holder. On that date, John* raped her. As any good LDS girl has been taught to do, she immediately went to her Bishop and recounted her story hoping that Joe would be punished. Instead the Bishop called her to repentance for being a liar and told her that a returned missionary would never RAPE someone and she must have seduced him. She was not allowed to take the Sacrament for several weeks. In that time she found out she was pregnant and went back to the Bishop. The Bishop parroted to her what it says in the Handbook, which is when an unwed pregnancy occurs every effort should be made for the couple to be married. So, essentially this Bishop encouraged Jane to marry her rapist. She and her parents were outraged and went to their Stake President. The Stake President backed up the Bishop and encouraged Jane and her parents to obey their priesthood leaders or else face eternal consequences.

At the behest of every adult Jane had been taught to trust her entire life, she married the 21-year-old man who raped her. When she was close to delivering her baby, her new rapist husband left her. I guess being a family man isn’t as much fun as raping underage girls. The stress of the situation put her into labor and she ended up delivering her baby. In the hospital she decided, because she had no visible means of support, to relinquish her child for adoption.

I sat there on that cold January night listening to Jane’s story with my jaw agape with total horror in my heart. I went to my supervisor with a total “wtf” look on my face and asked what do we do when as clinicians bishops give our clients completely wrong advice. Not just wrong advice, but damaging, abusive, gaslighting, spiritual detrimental, commands from a place of ecclesiastical authority? He told me he usually calls them and talks to them one-on-one. In my 6 1/2 years at LDS Family Services I talked with many Bishops and more than a few discounted any direction or training I tried to give them because I’m a woman and don’t hold the priesthood.

I actually ran into Jane just last year. We talked about how she is doing 12 years after relinquishing her child and how she’s dealt with the PTSD from both that and the rape. She’s doing well, but not as well as she could be if at any point in her life SHE WAS BELIEVED.

And this is just one in a thousand stories where a victim was not believed by their trusted ecclesiastical leader that I have heard in the last decade. I’ve heard so many that I’m not shocked anymore. I’m not shocked anymore by the patriarchy that covers up abuse and promotes predators within it’s priesthood ranks. I’m not shocked, but I feel so malignantly betrayed. I could tell you several more from people I know personally, but since they were not told in public, but just to me privately, I will not repeat them. But let’s just say, men can be victims of predatory priesthood leaders too.

Recently I had a Facebook friend post a #humblebrag about the “awesome” Bishop in her ward who requires the Young Men (ages 12-17) in his ward to text him every time they masturbate.

Excuse me, what?


Let me tell you right now, I have a 14-year-old son. If he had a Bishop who required him to text him every time he masturbated, right after I got through throat punching this man, I WOULD CALL THE POLICE. I would report him to child protective services for sexting with underage teenage boys.


I get it my fellow LDS peeps — we’ve been indoctrinated and told that it is perfectly normal for our Bishops to interview us about our worthiness, and part of that is if we are chaste. I’m here to tell you, it is never okay for an adult man to sit alone in a room with a CHILD and ask them about their sexual practices. What if that were their coach? What if that were their teacher? What if that was Bob from down the street (who is basically your Bishop – a random, every day Bob assigned to be your spiritual leader for 5 year)? In those instances you would be horrified and you should be horrified now.

I don’t know what the answers are. I know that sunlight is the best antiseptic and we need to expose the rampant child sex abuse and also sexual assault and rapes that happen to LDS people if we ever want to clean it up. For those of you who want me to just shut up about this I will tell you one thing – you are only as sick as your secrets (the church being the “you” in this scenario) and I refuse to be sick with anyone. And I will never shut up when a child needs protecting.

The last two weeks I have sat and reflected about Joseph Bishop and the coverup of him being a sexual predator by the LDS church and all the other stories I know, and the stories I don’t know, and am so glad that four years ago I made the decision to never to return as a practicing, believing member of the LDS church. And I’m debating about whether I will stay as a member of record lest I be complicit in this tolerance and acceptance of abuse. I can tell you that none of my children will ever have the experience of being sexually abused or assaulted and will go to a Bishop to be blamed, shamed, and not believed. THAT will never happen, and I’m so eternally grateful for that.

My dear LDS friends, you can no longer point fingers at Catholic Priests,

You can no longer point fingers at the FLDS,

You can no longer point fingers at the archaic notion of a rapist in the bushes,

You can no longer point fingers at any group as the one with the problem of sexual abuse in their ranks.

The LDS church is also the problem.

And it should end now.

It will end when you rise up and demand that your leaders act like the Men of God you believe they were called to be.

To report child abuse in the state of Utah please call 855-323-3237

To report child abuse in the United States please call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

*Names changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.


Favorite Quotes

“I’m not going to betray my heart and sacrifice myself on the fires of your expectation.” –C. Ara Campbell

Photo by Natalie Grono

C Ara Campbell