Sunday, August 15, 2010

...Leave A Trail

Sitting on my kitchen window ledge is a plaque, and on it is written a quote. I bought it on clearance at Home Goods a couple of years ago. I decided a long time ago that I would put nothing in my house unless it meant something to me. I would never put up decor just for the sake of decorating, it had to speak to me in some way. And this little plaque spoke to me. It spoke to my soul. Everyday, as I do dishes, I read it. On my robotic, get-things-done-in-a-hurry kind of days, the words don't sink in. They don't compute, as I'm running through my mental to-do list and talking to the kids. But there are days when I read it, ponder it, and my imagination takes flight on what it means for me. It reads,

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead to where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have always loved Emerson, and right now, this quote speaks to me more than ever.

I've started this new blog to write about deeply personal thoughts and experiences in dealing with my childhood sexual abuse and what I'm about to embark on. I've wanted to do this for awhile now, to write freely and openly about these things, but I have always been held back by the fear of what my family would think and how other members of my church would respond. I disagree with a lot of decisions my family has made and the actions my church has taken. When you're Mormon, it is frowned upon to disagree or question decisions of the leadership, and I very much disagree with how they handled my abuser and how they've handled my concerns. I also think that my family has taken a lot of the gospel principles and twisted them to justify their decisions.

I am writing this as an active member in the Mormon church. I love the gospel, but am disappointed in how certain things are handled and I disagree with a lot of the culture of the church. Things should be changed. I have received countless emails from people just like me, who have endured sexual abuse by other members of the church, and who have been treated poorly, ignored, and even ostracized, while they watch the circle of fellowship and love surround their abusers. I really hope some reform will be done soon and I need to express my voice and my beliefs on this matter.

I’ve seen, first-hand, in my church culture and in my family that they believe if a child molester has “repented” then we have no right to judge him. We should treat him as if nothing has happened. We have no right to keep our kids from him because that is saying that we don’t believe he has repented and is better now. No matter that he is an admitted pedophile.

In the Mormon culture, we make monsters of those who express anger and outrage, when sometimes anger and outrage is exactly what is needed. Don’t believe me? Then read the Bible. There is a concept called righteous indignation and Christ expressed it when he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and made his anger known. I believe that a pedophile, who has never answered for his crimes and who may have more victims, is deserving of some outrage.

I know the path expected of me. It is that I get over my abuse, let my abuser live his life without penalty, and to forgive by their definition of forgiveness. I have tried their way. But now I am going where there is no path and leave a trail.

I have forgiven my abuser. I have a great life with a supportive husband and amazing kids. I live in a beautiful place and live in a home I adore. I feel like my life is magical and wonderful. I do not walk around, all of my days, in anger. I live in peace. I forgive, but believe justice is called for and reform needs to be made.

I am taking my next step. My journey is now what can the state of California do after all this time? And if they can do nothing, what do I need to do to pursue civil litigation. I know this leaves me exposed to people in my family and my church to vilify, but I refuse to take any of the critisim for the steps I now take.

And so I start this blog…to chart my journey through this process. I am now leaving a trail.


  1. Good luck with everything! I'm behind you 100% you have such courage and strength! XOXO

  2. Again, you are amazing! You have a lot of people in your corner, remember that!

  3. I feel like when it comes to justice vs. mercy, many times, people in the church believe that mercy has more value. Which then puts the entire burden upon the person who was victimized. The innocent.

    I work with victims of sexual abuse. I had a mom, who was also abused as a child, tell her teenage daughter, who had been raped by various family members to "Get over it. Everyone is abused." It's so tragic.

    Good luck, Alyson! I admire you so.

  4. I agree with so much of what you have to say, but there are moments that I so wish I could just sit down and talk to you,...having "been there". I do NOT disagree with the "righteous indignation" or having punishment for the abuser, or stopping them from even more abuse. That is a given as far as I am concerned. I am just asking you what can it do for your life now if you have forgiven? Does it not keep those difficult feelings on the surface to relive if you persue things? For me (and that is NOT to tell you how to handle this...just give food for thought) I had to let it go from MY life in order to go forward. If you do decide to use legal ways to go forward, can you take all the questions and proof that goes with that?
    No matter what, please know that you are supported and prayed for!

  5. Wow – I love the Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation, perfect name for this blog. In cutting a new trail, you create a path for others to follow. I admire your strength.

  6. Kristina - Thanks so much! And I agree with what you say about our feelings on mercy vs justice in our religious culture.

    Donna - I know you have the best of intentions in saying that, but believe me this decision was not flipantly made by me. This is not a whim. This is a well thought out, prayed about, analyzed, talked about decision. What bothers me more than anything is to do nothing. It will not bother me at all to have to "deal" with these things of the past. I've been through therapy, I am in a very healthy place. I actually feel better about the whole thing when I am taking action. This man has had callings in my church with the youth! That is not supposed to happen (it's church policy). I don't believe I am the only victim and wouldn't it be a shame if I didn't speak up and save someone else? I have had my prayers answered, and I KNOW I am supposed to do this. I do not yet know for what purpose. Only God knows. I know you are trying to be helpful, but it is actually very hurtful to be questioned over and over about what this can do for me. That's what a lot of religious people have asked me, because they think it's wrong to get embroiled in the legal system and they wrongly think this is all about being vengeful. Your heart is in the right place, but I feel amazingly at peace with this decision. Thank you for your concern though.

  7. Thank you both, Val and Sarah! I love that quote. I actually plan on using a lot of Emerson's quotes in this blog because they have been inspirational to me through all of this and through my life.

  8. I am so overwhelmed Alyson,
    I am filled up with the spirit and my eyes are brimming with tears. I just knew there was something that drew me to your blog out of the thousand plus over at MMB back when I joined up there. I thought it was that you lived in such an exotic place compared to me. ;)

    I have a blog for this exact same thing. I have found the most incredibly supportive community of bloggers. We call ourselves Thrivers. Welcome and I am so incredibly proud of you. YOU are just shining all over the place, I can feel it from here in AZ.

    My other home is
    I have been there for a little over a year now and I can't tell you the support that is out there.

    My heart is just drawn out to you and I am here for you.


  9. I support you in this Alyson. I love you and miss you!

  10. When I confronted my dad 2 years ago, he confessed that he lives in fear every day that there will be a knock at the door and some officers waiting to take him to jail for "something one of you kids have said to someone--a bishop or therapist". But then he continued "but I don't think I did anything that merits jail time. I repented and did everything the church told me to do, and I know I've been forgiven. Now you just have to forgive me."

    In that moment, I felt sorry for him, because his life has been his hell. Losing the chance to be in my life and have my kids in his life is his punishment. I never had any wishes for him to be incarcerated...and I actually do believe that he did change his WAYS and feels bad about the past. I think I've forgiven least I've forgiven him for for an hour or a day...but I still can't have him in my life. That hurts him worse than anything else.

    Those were my thoughts till I met with my therapist, who pointed out that my dad and brother absolutely would have served jail time for their actions. Getting the victim to side with the plight of the perp is one of their tactics. They may not do it consciously, but pedophiles groom their victims to side with them, to "protect" them and keep the secret. I was really good at that...always putting my dad and brother's needs above my own needs. But no longer.

    I'm finding peace, like I wrote about today. And I'm glad you've had a confirmation about the path you should take. Knowing is SO much nicer than being confused about what to do. When I cut off contact with my parents and brother, it was painful. There are still feelings of concern there, and I don't know what the future holds. But for now I know I'm learning and growing in ways Heavenly Father is pleased with. Sounds like you are too. Way to Go!!! ♥

  11. Just wanted to come by to give you a big hug and tell you how much I admire your courage and strength! You are amazing! xo

  12. Welcome in the virtual world of thrivers and winners.
    A few weeks returned form the old prilgrimage to Santiago der Compostela ( Way of St James) In SPain they say, there is no way, you create it by the thoughts of your mind and tears of your heart. For me it was mediatating with my feet. I sucessfully worked through my abuse many years ago. not wotrked through however was the emotional abuse from my mother, who never wanted to have me and delievered me to the abuser. Not even born I felt unwanted... That is my issue I am working on. I will over come this too. This virtual world of bloggers here is supportive and inspirational. Love form my heart to yours.

  13. I need you to know I am so sorry I caused you a moments hurt.. I did NOT want to do that...only help you from possible more hurt. Please forgive any miscommunication or thoughtlessness. There probably is not a thought you have that I have't and if you only knew how much alike our situations sound....
    I DO understand and very much do CARE about this. I agree, if it can spare anyone else trouble, it is worth it. I found Blue's blog a few weeks ago too, and it is magnificent. I had no idea that she too, (from today's post)understands in a "been there" kind of way. I think there are more out there who have been through this kind of life long trauma than we begin to know.
    Again, so so sorry!

  14. Hi, Donna! It's ok. Don't worry about it at all. It's just when you hear people in your life questioning you over and over about a really hard decision like I have with this one, you can get a little sensitive. So, I just wanted you to know that this isn't about revenge and it wasn't made without years and years of thought and prayer. I'm 34 and all this has been going on with my family since I was 19. It has been a lot of years of trying to work out how to handle everything, and with every decision I've made it has been analyzed to death by me. I always question my own motives and I pray non-stop about what the Lord would have me do. I've had endless discussions with my husband. We've been planning on going the legal route for a long time, but I didn't want to do with when my kids were little. All of my energy needed to go to them. My fourth child (my youngest child) is now starting kindergarten and I now feel I can give some of my energy to this.

    And even though many of us have the similiar situations, there are a million ways to handle them and I feel like the answer varies with each situation.

    Honestly, I was never upset with you, I just wanted you to be aware of how seriously I was taking this and that we should all be careful of questioning our fellow survivors decisions in any way because it can be painful for the person. I really do appreciate your support and thanks so much for sharing what you have with me. No hard feelings at all, Donna! :)

  15. Vicki - I've so appreciated all the comments you've made on my posts! I'm so glad there is a community for us all to support each other. Thanks for reaching out to me! xx

    Donna - Ditto! It's weird to not have you in Connecticut. Thanks for always being here for me.

    Blue - What your therapist said is so true! I've always been more concerned about protecting my family and abuser than doing what was supposed to be done. When I finally realized they were wrong, I felt like I had been deprogrammed from brain washing. It was amazing. Some of my family are still perplexed by what I've said. They really do believe they've been supportive and think I'm a bit crazy for thinking otherwise. But the fact that no one stood up for me when he was at family functions and I couldn't be is extremely hurtful and painful. They just don't get it. My brothers (except one) hang out with the man that abused me for 7 years. They text him. They joke with him and send their daughters to spend the night at his house. It is all very disgusting. I wouldn't be surprised if one of my nieces comes out with her own story of abuse about my brother-in-law.

  16. Kristen - I've always appreciated how supportive you've been with me about this! Thank you!

    Paula - Thanks for your welcome! It's a shame that there even has to be a community for us survivors, but unfortunately there will always be abuse in the world and it's so important that we are here for each other.

  17. Alyson~

    I love this post and admire your honesty and bravery. I can't wait to read future posts.

  18. You're amazing Alyson, and so very strong. I will support you and your journey how ever I can!

  19. The same quote hangs on my wall, and Emerson holds a special place in my heart as well. I am a member of the church and agree whole heartedly with your assessment of how things are handled. I applaud your actions and offer my full support. The Savior is the example we must follow, and you are right for saying that outrage is sometimes called for. Keep blazing that trail!

  20. Hi there,
    I just stumbled upon your blog...
    In the Articles of Faith it clearly reads that we believe in obeying and sustaining the law. This is not an either or situation. It isn't repent OR go to jail..
    Go get 'im sister!

    A Fan

  21. Hello Alyson,
    It was good to see you today. I hope that this blog is healing to you. I pray you feel empowered and not diminished or vulnerable anymore. If you would like some unsolicted advice then here goes.....Expect to be rejected for the things you are stirring; so you will not be blindsided by the lack of support and understanding. Very few will ever choose to hold another's pain, although I am sure you will encounter a few special souls, just know that most of them will not be related to you. Try not to look to your family for your dignity and validation. Your validation has to come from within and from God. Stay strong and may you be inspired in all you are doing and will yet do.

  22. This blog is a sign that you are healing Alyson. It's a sign of tremendous courage and strength, and I admire that so very much.

  23. There is a conflict with religion (mostly in LDS culture) and abuse. We are always taught to forgive but if what you went through happened to me, I'd find it soo hard for me to forgive. And I'd be so frustrated if my family so easily welcomed my abuser back so easily. Child molestation is more grievious an act than pornography (save child pornography). You are amazing and brave to be sharing your story. you are an inspiration to so many who have endured what you have. God bless you, Alyson!

  24. Thank you, everyone! It's amazing to have so much support from all of you! Just to think that you all have taken the time to comment and show love, amazes me.

  25. You dont know me. But I know what you are going through. The path is more like a climb. My abuser died before there was any kind of justice. I have pondered more than once what would justice have been? What punishment or depravation would have sufficed church or civil judgment...I cant think of anything. However, I can imagine Mercy. Please look closer at the true definition of Mercy.

    Church court or discipline is not Judgment Day. We have to make judgments everyday to survive...the church is not against making judgments...only was that are foolish or wrong. so you are right to make judgments as to your personal saftey and for the saftey of your children.

    Sometimes the truth we have to tell is that Evil is real. Like those burned to death in the Bof M, their lives were a testimony as to the evilness of others. You will have your day to stand and tell the truth and it will be a just court.

    When considering Civil action, think about the damages you incurred. Civil Judgments are about monetary value(money) A $ amount is assigned to an award. Criminal is more about the physical and emotional justice, but only brought on by the State in which crime was committed. Also the evidence is different betweem the two. Call BYU law school, they will refer you to an LDS BYU grad that practices in that least they will understand on a spiritual level. Most attorneys in this area will give free consultations. Or look up on Martindale Hubble.

    Good luck, Stand for Truth and Righteousness and open a can of kick ass.

  26. Alyson, I haven't been blogging for a couple of months so was not aware of this endeavor of yours. We all have trails to forge in our lives. They are not easy. It hurts when at times we do not get the response we have been hoping for. You and I have lived parallel lives. Fought similar battles. We both have a testimony and that testimony is what will help you through this. The Church is true. The people in it are fallible. I am proud of you. Hugs!