Victims speak: Sexually shamed as a child, LDS man struggled with self loathing
(KUTV) -- Kip mustered up his courage as a 13-year-old teenager and confessed to his LDS bishop, who he didn't know well, that he had accidentally discovered masturbation in the shower.
The clergyman of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked him how frequently he did it. Then, out of the blue, the bishop asked him if he was masturbating with other boys, Kip recounted.
Kip said he didn't believe the bishop meant any harm, but the insinuation outside of the scope of his confession had a long-lasting impact.
"I was shocked. No, I was not (masturbating with others.) I didn’t want anyone else to know I did this. About that point in the conversation, I felt horrible and I don’t remember the rest of what he said. I just remember feeling very small and very dirty," Kip said.
When he first heard of Sam Young's effort to get the LDS Church to stop behind-closed-door interviews, he wasn't sure if that alone would help. But when hearing about Young's desire to eliminate sexual questions from the interviews, Kip was on board.
"I firmly believe that youth can’t distinguish between the statement of 'you’re not worthy to go to the temple' and 'you are not worthy,' " he said. "That comes from speaking to family members and their children. I just heard them as 'you’re not worthy.' It had an effect for a very long time."
After the confession, Kip's bishop summoned his father into the office. He then made him confess again to him.
"I felt humiliated! I stopped talking and listening, and the bishop had some conversation with my dad while I sat mute," he said.
Kip was then taken home where he was instructed to confess again to his mother, by this time he was sobbing uncontrollably.
Later, after a move, another bishop gave Kip information on ways to stop what experts agree is normal behavior in the form of a printout, written anonymously, but attributed to late LDS Apostle Mark E. Peterson.
In the paper called, Steps In Overcoming Masturbation, Kip learned about aversion therapy where he was to : "think of having to bathe in a tub of worms, and eating several of them as you do the act." It also instructs people to tie their hands to bedposts, not to wear pajamas that provide easy access and never to spend time with others who masturbate.
Kip said he tried such techniques repeatedly.
"They were extremely damaging to my sense of self and planted in my mind the idea that I was disgusting and awful," he said of his childhood pain.
Kip has battled depression, felt self loathing yet stayed active in the Church. He said most of his life he has exercised his faith by serving in leadership positions including alongside his adult ward's bishop. But the deep-seated pain was still there and has affected his life.
"My lack of self-worth had a significant impact on the relationship with my wife and was a contributing factor in our eventual divorce," he said.
Kip has left Utah and lives in a rural area. With therapy, study and introspection he is finally gaining some self compassion and empathy.
He has spoken with some of his bishops from his youth and said they don't feel like they have done anything wrong.
"They kind of thought that is the way it is," he said.
"My kids will not get the same treatment that I received," he added.
For Kip, the Protect LDS Children movement has been useful for his own mental health.
"Definitely the whole thing (Protect LDS Children) has helped me. It has a way of validating people’s stories and their pain. Those messages are very healing," he said.
Editor's note: Some of the quotes in this story come from a written account about Kip's experience, produced before speaking with KUTV. They are used with Kip's permission. KUTV in accordance with other news organizations including the Associated Press, does not name the victims of sexual abuse. We have also not named the accused. The accounts given happened during childhood and cannot be independently verified.