Survivor of Sexual Abuse and Mormon Church’s Cover-up Speaks Out | Ep. 1509

A strong trigger warning leads off this special Mormon Stories episode with our guest who prefers to be referred to as “Rachel ” for this interview. We discuss Rachel’s father being called as a mission president, the abuse she endured, and the subsequent cover-up from those in positions of power in the LDS church.


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Show notes and links:

Timecodes (for video):
00:00 Intro
3:30 Why Rachel is doing this interview
10:00 Mormon Story begins
16:20 What factors might have contributed to her dad being abusive
21:00 Parents relationship
23:30 Father being called as mission president
30:25 Adjusting to life post mission and abuse begins
40:31 Verbal abuse, changing behavior
41:47 Why Rachel didn’t speak up earlier, purity culture
47:50 Mom seeing signs of Rachel’s depression, starting therapy, everything coming out
59:00 Not involving law enforcement
1:02:10 Feeling supported by her mom, father confessing to bishop
1:05:00 Epidemic of abuse, father’s punishment
1:11:00 Pressure to keep quiet
1:16:20 Therapist not speaking up
1:18:50 Boundaries, being stalked in own home
1:32:06 The effects of Rachel not being taken seriously, acting bratty
1:36:45 Callings in the ward, telling her brother
1:46:45 Breaking the silence in Mormonism
1:55:40 Effects into adulthood
1:57:10 Telling a bishop in her early 20s
2:01:00 Can the atonement change and cure everything?
2:07:00 Bishop coming into Rachels work, feeling a connection to other abuse survivors
2:10:32 Leaders feeling guilty?
2:16:20 Rachel realizing things are complicated
2:19:50 Who you disclose to, support system
2:22:16 Privilege, victims finding healing
2:33:14 Isn’t there abuse everywhere?
2:39:00 Atonement theology, can we endure to the end?
3:01:08 Rachel going inactive, marrying a non-member
3:03:50 Joseph marrying a 14-year-old girl disturbing Rachel
3:14:30 Having her records removed from the church
3:23:30 How Rachel decided to come on Mormon Stories
3:29:18 Calling the church, speaking with Dan McKonkie, doing better
3:42:05 The church cares more about protecting pedophiles than children
3:49:20 Closing thoughts and thank yous

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  1. This was such a powerful interview. And I very much appreciate it. Thank you Rachel. She mentioned that she uses a book with her children. What is the title of the book? Thanks again!!

  2. I haven’t gotten through half the interview yet, but find myself emotionally exhausted. This is raw and gut wrenching. What this woman had endured in her family is heartbreaking. The thought that keeps coming to mind is all the people going through the same things in their own families right now, either as kids or grownups now with the memories they are still living with. Two standouts for me so far with this interview. One is that she had the courage to say to her father, “Why are you doing this to me if you love me?’ The other is her understanding Mother who fully supported her and shared what she was going through. I suffered emotional abuse at the hands of my father. My mother defended him and yelled at me when I tried to talk about it years later I contemplated suicide and at one point and had a hunting knife over my wrists to end it because I was miserable. I understand what it is to suffer inside with no one to talk to, not even in your own family.

    1. LaDean Johns Johnsonon

      Documenting and testifying about sexual abuse is the only way the Mormon Church will change.
      My mother enjoyed beating me from the time I was Ellen years old until I ran away for five years. The beatings happened at leash twice a week. She would stand back and laugh after beating me!
      She continued relentlessly all of her life. She even shot and killed her next door neighbor’s geese. She lied and denied the shootings!

  3. InnocentgirlWomannow

    I believe we will never know the epidemic of parental sexual abuse and misconduct within families with siblings. It is insidious and brutal to those it happens to.
    I am one of these people and have worked my entire life to recover from its effects on my mind and soul.

    Thank you for stepping out of the shadows and sharing your story. May you find healing and never give up on yourself!

    With love B

  4. I, too, am a survivor of sexual abuse within the home. As Rachel said so wisely, “Every experience is unique,” and of course mine was different from Rachel’s. Stepfather, not father. Not a Mormon family. I never told anyone until I was much older. My abuser never confessed, ever asked forgiveness from anyone. And so forth.
    But. At the heart of all abuse stories there are commonalities and these rang so true as Rachel’s voice was strong and determined, honest and vulnerable.
    She is so correct when she says that secrets are what allow these things to happen and secrets are what prevent healing.
    I went to a survivor’s group for a few years and I was very surprised to observe that so many abusers come from a church background. Not just church-goers but ministers, deacons, men in highly regarded positions in different churches. I think that religion and pedophilia make a perfect match- who would suspect a man of god of such vile behavior and if accused- who would believe the victim?
    But really, I just wanted to say that every time I hear another survivor’s story, I am able to view my own story with sharper lenses. I am sixty-seven years old, my abuse physically ended when I was about thirteen, I have had wonderful therapy and the most supportive of friends and family and yet…every day I come up against something that I know is a direct result of what happened to me. And oh yeah- my abuse “wasn’t that bad” either. By the way- my therapist told me that one of the most deeply affected clients she ever had was never even touched by her abuser (her father). He “merely” allowed her no privacy at all. No locked doors, no closed doors. He was just…always…there. Watching. Thank you, Rachel, for helping people to understand that abuse takes many forms and all of them cause incalculable pain and damage. That’s just all there is to it. And thank you, John and Carrah for making this incredible woman feel comfortable to be able to speak so truthfully about her experience. You are right, John- her story will help thousands. At least. Even at my age and after all of my healing, it has helped me.

  5. My ex wife was sexually abused by her father who had been a bishop several times and even in a stake presidency. It happened when she was 18. She never told me about it until we were married for 8 years and 12 years after it had happened. After telling me, she finally told her mom and her mom blamed her for it because her dad got to her mom first and I presume he twisted the story to make is seem my ex was complicit or to blame because she didn’t stop it or prevent it. How is a child of a father supposed to know how to act in that situation even as an 18 year old?!?! We took it to the stake presidency and he had a disciplinary council and…..NO DISCIPLINE! Why?? Oh, because ever since he had moved here he’s been involved and such a great asset to the wards and branches he was in and so many members look up to him (even to this day. He is currently in a bishopric). And his background back in his country of being bishop and in stake presidency, etc. He is a very charismatic person. His image of him and his family are of extreme importance. He charmed his way out of it.

  6. oh Rachael,
    I’m almost 70 and am still unpacking all the negative messages that I was raised with. I was in my 30’s and in therapy for many years when we stumbled upon the fact that I couldn’t say the two-letter word “NO”. This caused suicidality and depression for many years.
    You are so brave!!!!!
    The church is no place for kids

  7. Kristen Phillips

    Rachel’s story was incredibly moving and powerful. She exhibited strength, passion, wisdom, grace, empathy, and love. I wish her the best continually on her healing journey. Her story and power can change the Church, if it so chooses. I hope fervently it will.

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