Sunday, September 24, 2017

trying to think of a fitting title and coming up with "this is one reason why i have a difficult time attending sacrament meeting."

content warning: rape, sexual assualt, somewhat graphic descriptions, ptsd. 

for the past month or two, i've been clenching my teeth at night while i sleep. i wake up with a sore jaw, teeth that feel like they are falling out, and headaches. recently, i asked a friend who is a massage therapist if she has any suggestions for why this is happening all the sudden and how to deal with it. her reply surprised me.
"you probably have something you want to say, but haven't. maybe if you say what's bothering you, the clenching will stop."
i immediately knew what it is that i haven't been saying but have wanted to, and this post will hopefully get that out so i can stop clenching my teeth and ignoring the pit in my stomach and catch in my throat that seems to be there a lot lately.

disclaimer: because this is the internet and a disclaimer is necessary since you can't see my facial expressions or hear the tone of my voice. this post is going to talk about the lds church, baby blessings, and my own personal experience. this is my experience every time i attend sacrament meeting. also, to my sisters in law whose baby blessings i recently attended and refer to in this post, i love supporting your babies, please don't think this means i don't want to support your babies. please don't feel like you need to apologize for my stuff/past/struggles; i am happy to come and support. (it is likely that in the future, i'll just leave right after the baby blessing) this is my experience, and since this is my corner of the interwebs, it's about my side here.  love to all. 

my alarm wakes me at 7am on sunday morning. for a moment i'm confused about why i'm forcing myself awake on a sunday morning, and then with dread, i remember.
i'm going to church today.
while i shower and get ready, i listen to my favorite music. we make sunday morning waffles, i ignore the pit of doom in my stomach and admire how cute remy looks all dressed up.
when i choose my outfit, i overthink everything completely.

too much cleavage, don't want to make anyone uncomfortable.
why do i care if i make someone uncomfortable, as long as i'm comfortable, collette.
because walking pornography, collette.
but i don't subscribe to that anymore, collette, so pick a damn dress.

i opt for something sleeveless to please the side of me that wants to prove to myself that i don't think i'm a wily temptress for showing my shoulders, but that also covers my chest to please the side of me that feels extreme shame for daring to have cleavage. okay. lipstick on, one last hair check, stop stalling, time to go.

i think longingly of stopping for coffee, to have that warm beacon of hope/defiance to cling to while i try not to burst into tears during the long hour of sacrament meeting. the baby blessing i attended a month earlier, i did stop for coffee. i was stalling, and almost missed the blessing altogether. i walked into the chapel with a beans and brew cup and understandably received a few looks from the older folks in the ward. i settle for my coffee flavored hard candies tucked away in my purse.

we get to church, walk into the foyer. i smell the familiar smell, hear the organ playing familiar prelude music. i think i'm going to be sick. sitting in the pew, watching the boys and men on the stand prepare for the meeting. my legs are crossed and i'm tapping my foot. remy immediately finds his cousins and is content. i sit quietly next to travis and feel the storm building in my stomach and throat and numb hands as we sing the opening song, hear prayers, announcements, watch the ward raise their arms to the square to sustain new callings. the baby blessing is sweet, and i'm honored to have been asked to transcribe it for memories.

then it is time to prepare for the sacrament.

i see the priests going about their duties and in my mind i'm taken against my will, back to the sunday when He, the neighbor boy with dark hair and a black dress shirt, who had sexually assaulted me a few months earlier, was ordained to bless the sacrament of which i was unworthy to partake that day. for a moment, i'm not in a chapel next to my husband and family for the blessing of my niece, i'm sitting in my home ward next to my parents and brothers, who are going to watch me pass the bread and water by, without being able to take one, because i'd told the bishop it was consensual.

i didn't exactly know what had happened, didn't know i could tell someone it wasn't consensual, because what would happen if i told and He found out what i said. saying it was consensual was much safer. i just didn't know He was going to lie and then continue on His spiritual progression of ordination to priest. didn't know He would call me a liar and then sit above me on the stand, while our congregation, good people who i loved dearly, held their arms to the square and sustained Him as a priest. while i, the slut, the dirty whore walking pornography licked m&m, looked at my shoes and pretended to disappear. i remember the first time someone called it rape, when i was 27 and sitting in my therapist's office. i had told her a little about what happened, told her i couldn't remember all of it, just flashes, told her that two gynecologists had diagnosed me with vaginismus because i couldn't tolerate any touch down there for years. i labeled it "sexual assault" and she corrected me.

then i'm jerked back to the present moment when the deacon holds out the sacrament tray to me. why did i have to sit on the end.  i watch my hand approach the bread and i am taken back. to knowing that i wasn't worthy, knowing i was contaminating everyone around me. knowing i had let everyone in my life down, that i was ruined, that no amount of repenting could ever fix this. i didn't deserve forgiveness, didn't deserve love. taking the handle without first eating the bread, the body of christ, for the first time in my life and passing it on, and feeling the shame ooze around me like black sludge.

every time i've gone back to church since officially leaving, i have taken the sacrament as a way to show myself, look! it's okay, you're allowed to have it. today, i choose not to partake and maybe that will feel different, better.

the silence is broken by crying babies, yelling toddlers. i concentrate on exercises i learned in therapy.  think about the sounds you're hearing. think about the coffee candy you are tasting. what do you feel with your fingers? think about how it feels to sit on the hard bench beneath you. 

this doesn't work. i barely hear the prayer for the water. as the deacon holding the water tray makes his way toward me, i glance desperately back toward the door and see that it is shut. again, i'm flashed back to the past.

i'm in the basement. he shut the door behind us. his hands are all over me and i'm staring at the closed door in desperation. 

the water reaches me. again i pass. i feel numb, but also like there is something about to explode in my throat. travis touches my arm and whispers, "you are tapping your foot a lot, collettie."

the second that the doors are opened and the sacrament is over, i mumble an excuse about needing the bathroom, and quickly walk out, hoping no one sees the tears streaming down my cheeks. i find refuge in the bathroom and kneel over the toilet to dry heave. i'm pacing, hoping no one comes in. i try looking at myself in the mirror, try jumping jacks, try sitting, but i can't stop moving. something is crawling all over my body. i drink water, pace some more. i walk outside into the hot air and feel the sun on my face. hyperventilating, i do laps around the church building until i feel like i can control the anxiety.

i stop one more time in the bathroom to check that my eyes weren't too telling. deep breaths. deeper breaths.

slowly, calmly, composed, i walk back inside the chapel to sit with demons.


  1. Oh man Collette, I'm so sorry this happened to you and that it's something you are still fighting. I wish I could go back in time and sucker punch that jerk right in the throat for you.

  2. Collette, I am so sorry for all the hurt and pain you have experienced. You are a strong, courageous survivor and I applaud you finding and using your voice to say what you need to say. I, too, am a survivor of sexual abuse. You are not alone.

  3. My dear friend, I felt the pain in your words and came to a greater understanding of who you are. Let me tell you what I see: you are pure, clean, and blameless. I see you dressed in white and it becomes you. I see a beacon of hope and light for all who have felt the pain of a church who allowed one of its own to fall through the cracks and disappear. You are a light to me. You found me in ones of my darkest hours and showed me that not all is as it seems. There is life after rape. There are smiles and laughter and joy. Rape does not define us. Our parts shape us but we are not our pasts. Thank you, Collette, for being this strong. You, my dear friend, are extraordinary!!

  4. We don’t know each other but I just came across your Instagram, which led me here. And for whatever reason this is the first post I have read. I cannot tell you just how much the clothing conundrum resonates with me. And now I have daughters and it’s just a lot. But anyway, I guess I just wanted to say thanks for even sharing this. I can imagine it was extremely hard to press “publish” and if you don’t mind I’ll be following along on your Instagram, and here too. XO, Bryanna ❤️


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