Mentally Hellish.  

Posted by Jessica in , , , , , ,

Have you ever heard someone describe your life or events in your life? I have and it's weird. Many of you know that a few years ago my sister and I filed a lawsuit against the Mormon Church. If you didn't know, you can read about it here. Since the jury awarded us $4.2 million dollars, I have done numerous interviews. Interviews on the radio, television, in magazines and newspapers. In fact, I even did some anonymous interviews before it went to trial.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a writer with the Seattle Weekly and asked to give an interview. Of course I said yes and the article he wrote was printed today. You can read it here. It's quite long, terribly sad, gut wrenching, and heart breaking. Most of it contains the stories of other people, but my story is towards the bottom. I've copied and pasted the bulk of the article related to me below.

Just to clarify, I do not attend BYU-Idaho and haven't since 2002. I did graduate from Ricks College and BYU-Idaho in 2001 and 2002, respectively. And no, I wasn't kicked out! I think the writer got confused and mistook Idaho State University for BYU-Idaho.

In case you are wondering, I wasn't active in the Mormon Church from approximately spring of 2002-until last month. I do now attend Church, although I attend with friend of mine at her ward. And while it is no one's business, I haven't been subject to any Church discipline for my lawsuit or my words during and after the trial.

My feelings about the Church, including its teachings and its culture, which comprises the structure, its leaders and all of that, are complex. I don't know that anyone could characterize my current Church activity and beliefs in any particular way because my situation, my feelings, and my current position are incredibly unique.

I find deep and significant problems with how the Mormon Church handles complaints of abuse. I have heard too many stories to think otherwise. In my opinion, the Mormon Church, often times, engages in criminal conduct related to child abuse. THIS HAS TO STOP. The innocence, safety, and protection of children override any constitutional rights to freedom of religion the Church claims, any rights to priest-penitent privilege, and any other legal argument the Mormon Church has used, uses, and will use.

This isn't a uniquely Mormon problem. It is a problem with many religions and organizations.
I hope that by speaking out, I can bring awareness to the problem in our own backyard here in Idaho, and that other victims will feel empowered and unafraid to speak out.

Seattle Weekly cut and paste:

To hear it from those who have gone to the trouble of suing the Mormons, the reason the church has garnered so little negative publicity is not because it's purged itself of the sin of pedophilia but because it's extremely good at repressing its victims.

Sisters Jessica and Ashley Cavalieri won a $4.2 million award from the church in 2005 for abuse inflicted by their Mormon stepfather in the early '90s in Federal Way. Theirs is a case example of why we haven't heard much about pedophilia in the church: The amount of hurdles the girls had to clear to get their voices heard is staggering.

Because living in modern society while also obeying the church dictums is so hard to do—drinking and premarital sex are strongly discouraged, as are caffeine, violent music and movies, and an unbalanced diet—Mormon culture is necessarily insular. "They're trying to live so differently from the rest of the world, almost like the Amish," says Jessica, now a 26-year-old student at Idaho's Brigham Young University. That means, she says, the first move when it comes to child abuse isn't always to involve the cops. "The police are outsiders. They don't have the 'true gospel,' so they don't understand things like we do."

The Mormon bishop does understand, however. He's presumed to be competent enough to oversee a ward, a land division much like a political district. The church acknowledged its bishops' roles as proper receptacles of child-abuse information when it created its 1-800 help line, which only church officials can use. If the bishop decides a victim's tale of woe is compelling enough to pick up the phone, he can talk with "professional counselors" (according to the church's Web site) who will rattle off a list of protocol questions and perhaps refer the case to a church lawyer.

Jessica, who's seen the questionnaire, describes it as containing a lot of "risk-management" inquiries—"Did the abuse happen on church property? Did it happen during a church-sponsored activity?"—which made her feel as if the church was already preparing a defense against her claims that her stepfather was touching her at night and offering her money for sex.

The bishop can also do nothing, as was the case for Jessica. When she was 12, she told her bishop about the abuse. He sent her out of the room so he could chat in private with her parents and then dismissed the family, who went home without a word on the subject. Jessica took it for granted that the bishop had told her mother about the molestation and that her mother didn't care. Only after her stepfather confessed, five mentally hellish years later, did Jessica learn the truth: The bishop just told her mom that the two weren't "getting along" and suggested they needed to spend more time together in spiritual study. "He didn't have very much psychological training," says Jessica, "and didn't really understand that child molesters aren't something that can just be treated and cured with prayer."

When the Cavalieris finally decided to pursue their case on a nonspiritual plane, the Washington state judiciary, Jessica says two bishops she had told about the abuse denied ever hearing her tale of woe. Her best friend testified that she was "a complete psycho," while her Mormon neighbors, outside of court, called her "evil" and told her she needed to repent.

Since Jessica's story appeared in the papers, she says she's heard from approximately 50 Mormons with similar horror stories. "I think it's an epidemic," she speculates.



I am the person the interview is about and have been following your blog. You are an inspiration to me. I hope one day to have my life as whole as possible, though as you know these court cases are grueling to say the least. I did not expect to exposed this way nor have this article go global. Anyway, just wanted you to know that I read your blog and find your messages uplifting.


Thank you so much for your comment. I found strength in your story and I know that we are all capable of overcoming anything. I have read some great books that have helped me cope with certain things. You are welcome to email me anytime jessicazi at aol dot com.

Best of luck with everything. The best is yet to come.

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