For most Americans, premarital sex is a personal decision made between two consenting adults and has few (if any) community repercussions. But for those who practice the Mormon faith, sex before marriage is seen by most members and virtually all leaders of the Church as one of the gravest sins.
According to the Church, chastity is highly regarded, especially for women; modest clothing is considered foundational to abstinence. The Church teaches women that their “chasteness” and “virtue” is the most important thing about them. That means, when Mormon women are sexually abused, that abuse can lead to feelings of shame—shame that they have no reason to endure.
Mormon Beliefs on Sexuality are Damaging to Women Who Have Been Abused
These types of antiquated beliefs and hardline rules about sexuality have left thousands of practicing and former Mormon women with undue psychological distress after enduring instances of sexual abuse.
The male-dominated faith preaches to its members that they are not sexual beings until their wedding day. Sex is something to be celebrated once members marry, but any sexual acts prior are severely sinful.
Crossing the Line at an Early Age
Because sex and sexuality are taboo topics within the Church, this rigid belief system works against victims when church leaders commit acts of abuse. However, the Church begins the indoctrination process at an early age and often treads heavily into inappropriate territory.
Under what’s known as “the law of chastity,” many bishops conduct interviews with children as young as eight years old, asking probing questions about intimacy and sex. Many of these highly inappropriate and insensitive interviews lead to feelings of guilt and confusion, and can make it incredibly difficult to speak up against abuse committed by Church leaders.
While some bishops avoid asking questions about sex, that is not the common approach. Interviews are often conducted with no other adult present—children are left alone with bishops and asked invasive questions. These discussions typically occur around the child’s twelfth birthday and once per year into adulthood.
The Lasting Impact on Women Within the Mormon Church
Many of the Church’s teachings present women as subservient to men and teach that any sexual acts before marriage are impure. These beliefs are often the root cause of feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, according to Elizabeth Smart, arguably the highest profile case of documented sexual abuse within the Mormon community.
While Smart’s abuse was at the hands of a religious fanatic, the beliefs that were a part of his fanaticism came directly from the Church. Chapter nine of the Book of Moroni describes rape as a depravation of “that which was most dear and precious among all things, chastity and virtue.”
It is the shame of sexuality and sexual “impurity” that creates an environment of fear within the Church—which enables abusers to keep victims silent. Bishops also often encourage victims to forgive their abusers and create the illusion that there is no way to seek justice against them.
But that is far from the truth.
Seek Justice Against Your Mormon Abuser Today
No victim of sexual abuse should fear seeking justice. However, we understand that it can be incredibly painful and difficult to confront past traumas and to draw attention to your pain. We’re here to help.
Know that you can file a claim against your abusers—without leaving your church community. We will do everything within our legal power to help you remain anonymous in your claim so you can safely practice your faith among your community and support group.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for your free consultation. We represent more than 4,000 survivors of sexual abuse and can help you confidently seek justice against those who have harmed you.