In the first post of this series I shared what I feel Mormon bishops could do to best support an LDS woman surviving abuse. In the second post I addressed the ways bishops can make errors in attempting to help women survivors. In this third and final post I will address the things the survivor can do to give the greatest chances of success to her interactions with her bishop.
This is very difficult. Think of where the victim is coming from, the person she devoted her body and life to, took that trust and completely violated it. Now we’re asking her to go immediately in to council with a man she doesn’t know well enough to know if he’s trustworthy, in a room, just the two of them.
A survivor can take a friend with her to talk to the bishop. (The bishop can not take offense.)
A survivor can email, text or write if it is too difficult to say these things aloud. (Bishops, please promptly respond!)
A survivor can pray for her bishop; that the Spirit will prompt him to give the counsel she needs.
Ask for a blessing.
Go to the temple if it isn’t too painful for you. If it is too painful, don’t feel guilty for not going. Same goes for lessons on sensitive topics.
Always consistently practice loving self care – body, mind, spirit.
Give the bishop enough advanced notice of temporal needs that arrangements can be made to get the help you need.
Seek services and help from public agencies if it is available. The LDS Church is just not enough to help a woman through these great changes. All resources should be enlisted to help you. If your bishop sees you making even little efforts towards your well-being he is likely to be more motivated to help you.
Write down what you want to talk to the bishop about so that nothing is left out and you make the best use of everyone’s time.
Even if you are not considering leaving your abuser I would encourage mental health treatment. It can help untangle the confusion and manipulation that the abuser is perpetuating to control.
Interact with men you do trust, that have earned your trust. They will help you regain your belief in the goodness of men, which will improve your relationship with your Heavenly Father and bishop.
If he makes a mistake and apologizes give him a second chance. You are likely gun shy, meaning that you’re so traumatized that at the first sign of trouble your gut tells you to run. This is your bishop, if he makes a mistake or does something that hurts you, tell him. Give him the chance to apologize. If it still doesn’t go well and you don’t feel emotionally safe, seek counsel elsewhere. My stake president has been a great blessing.
I wish that abuse survivors knew real love. Real love isn’t destructive, it’s ennobling and enlarging. If you could feel real love, consistently, I believe you would not prolong the situation you are in. This is why I believe that supporting survivors in healthy ways, even long-suffering mourning with those that mourn, can be a huge help. It may not physically remove you from danger, but it will help you see that you are worthy of love and care. You will feel hope for the future and take the steps necessary to keep yourself and your children safe.
Remember that God loves you and does not want any of his daughters to be abused. That includes you. He will help you as you make good choices and try to move forward. It is a scary and difficult time, as if you are always standing on the edge of the cliff, but he is there, always ready to catch you. Be brave, sweet girl, good times are coming for you.