Victims speak: Shame haunts woman for decades after bishop interview

Jaimee was shamed for decades as a result of sexually explicit questions in a bishop's interview. (Photo: Larry D. Curtis / KUTV)

(KUTV) — As a teen, Jaimee's own fit, healthy body repulsed her.

"I thought my body was evil. I could hardly look in the mirror at myself."

Jaimee, 42, wants one-on-one interviews between leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and minors to stop. She stepped forward to add her voice to the cause of Protect LDS Children that says such interviews, including sexually explicit questions, must stop.

She grew up as an active member of the Church. She was also a cheerleader who had been baptized into the church at 13. In Salt Lake City, she spoke at a gathering of members and former members Sunday, Aug. 12, led by Sam Young who is on a hunger strike for the cause.

At least three different bishops interviewed her during her teen years and she says all of them asked her questions about her sexuality, including masturbation. At 15 years old, she reported an interaction with a boyfriend that was followed by questions from her bishop on a different level of invasiveness.

"The one at 15 was more explicit. He was talking about how many fingers did he use and I was only talking about French kissing. There was digging, and digging, and digging."

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She still worries about the man she confided in, who may have been 60 at the time, and doesn't think he meant harm. She didn't want him identified but she does want two adults present for religious interviews. If it was up to her, the worthiness interviews would end altogether.

"Why is a 60-year-old man telling a 15 year old that she is beautiful, all alone, behind closed doors?" she said.

Speaking openly about her personal experience last Sunday was exceptionally difficult for her.

"I was trying not to vomit for the previous 24 hours," she said. "I felt I was finally able to publicly speak the truth and shine a light on this dark pit of shame that I have been feeling for decades."

The meeting with that bishop, reinforced by other meetings with other bishops, caused a lot of harm, she said.

Those experiences were explained by a therapist who spoke to KUTV about the harm she sees among the LDS population.

"Most women in the Church have had questions about modesty, what type of influence that will have on the male gaze. That is what we call, in the mental health community, rape culture," said family and certified sex therapist Natasha Helfer Parker.

"I have grappled with shame for the better part of my life," Jaimee said. "He told me I was beautiful and I would be responsible for the virtue of many men. He told me, a 15 year old, that Satan would use everything in his power to use my body as a weapon against the righteous."

"Here I was a cheerleader wearing skirts to seminary and I despised my body. It turned into a loathing of the way I looked. My own reflection repulsed me," she said.

Jaimee was in Salt Lake City, from her home in Virginia, to visit family. During her visit, she embraced the opportunity to speak publicly, despite being scared to support policy changes that would end one-on-one interviews between minors and LDS Church leaders.

You get better. From the outside it looks like you are fine. Inside in those dark moments, you think about those experiences and this shame overtakes you. In my life I feel like I have risen above it and am happy; In those quiet moments there has always been the gut-wrenching shame. To be able to speak my truth and to literally speak into a microphone my deepest, darkest secrets was powerful for me. It was the definition of cathartic. The air smells sweeter, even though we have this crap air right now. It was really healing.

NOTE: KUTV, in accordance with the policy of other news organizations including the Associated Press, does not name victims of sexual assault unless they identify themselves. In these victims' stories we have also not named the accused. KUTV has no way to verify these accounts that were reported from victim's childhoods.

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