According to statistics from RAINN, the United State’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, someone in America is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. One in six women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape and nearly one in two women will face another form of sexual assault in their lifetime.
These horrific statistics affect us all, including members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here is what leaders and members of the LDS Church have said about both sexual assault and recovery from such a tragedy.
We condemn most strongly abusive behavior in any form. We denounce the physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse of one’s spouse or children.
Chieko N. Okazaki, “Lighten Up”
We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. It’s our faith that he experienced everything- absolutely everything. Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don’t experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer- how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced Napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism.
Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize. On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. His last recorded words to his disciples were, “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He’s been there. He’s been lower than all that. He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.
Elaine S. Dalton, You Can Return
Some of you have been abused and are victims of the sinful acts of others. . . . Please know that because of the Savior’s Atonement, healing is possible. You are not to blame, for you have not sinned and repentance is not required.
Joseph F. Smith, The Wrongful Road of Abuse
I can not understand how a man can be unkind to any woman, much less to the wife of his bosom, and the mother of his children, and I am told that there are those who are absolutely brutal, but they are unworthy the name of men.
Gordon B. Hinckley, “Behold Your Little Ones”
The whole tragic picture is one of beatings, kicking, slamming, and even of sexual assault on small children. And akin to these are those vicious men and women who exploit children for pornographic purposes.
No man or woman who is a professed follower of Christ or a professed member of this Church can engage in such practices without offending God and repudiating the teachings of His Son. It was Jesus Himself who, while holding before us the example of the purity and innocence of children, declared, “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones … , it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Could there be a stronger denunciation of those who abuse children than these words spoken by the Savior of mankind?
Elizabeth Smart, My Story
You be happy, Elizabeth. Just be happy. If you go and feel sorry for yourself, or if you dwell on what has happened, if you hold on to your pain, that is allowing him to steal more of your life away. So don’t you do that! Don’t you let him! There is no way he deserves that. Not one more second of your life. You keep every second for yourself. You keep them and be happy. God will take care of the rest.
Richard G. Scott, Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse
Know that the wicked choice of others cannot completely destroy your agency unless you permit it. Their acts may cause pain, anguish, even physical harm, but they cannot destroy your eternal possibilities in this brief but crucial life on earth.