The Confessional and Rape by Fraud

DEBORAH: The year my daughter was a high school senior, she fell in love with a sexual predator from a nearby ward and was raped by fraud. I use the term “sexual predator” because this is how priesthood leaders described him to me, knowing his sexual history as they did. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “raped by fraud,” it is applied to sexual activity which is consented to under false pretenses. Suffice it to say, my daughter fell in love with a bona fide liar, the kind of person who is every parent’s nightmare because he will do and say whatever it takes to achieve sexual conquest. This man-boy (then a college student) isn’t my subject today. Instead, I want to share how my daughter’s priesthood leaders treated her once her sexual conduct became known.

Initially, her treatment was about as one would expect. She discussed her situation with the bishop, who directed her to speak to me, which she promptly and tearfully did. My heart broke for her pain, but please understand, at this point, neither she nor I understood the young man’s deception. I’m not sure what our bishop told her because their conversation occurred in solitude and behind a closed door. However, I know what he told me later: the perpetrator had a long sexual history and had not been the virgin my daughter still believed him to have been before their encounter. He told me that the young man’s bishop and the Stake President had long been “working with him” and then used the term “sexual predator” for the first time. Admittedly, I think our bishop broke confidentiality by telling me this, as may have the boy’s bishop and/or the Stake President in sharing the information with him, but I’m grateful because it was done in order to impress upon my husband and me that the young man was not what he represented himself to be. At the time, I didn’t know the term “rape by fraud” (sometimes called “rape by deception”) or I would’ve been shouting it across his desk.

Instead of being treated as a victim, my daughter was treated solely as a sinner, even though the priesthood leader who set her on a repentance track understood clearly that she’d been deceived. Instead of getting her counseling for the emotional and spiritual trauma she had experienced, she was reprimanded, denied spiritual blessings, and barred from admittance to the church school of her choice.

On the one hand, I understand all this because, yes, she gave consent to conduct she knew would have repercussions in her Mormon world. But in the aftermath, when reality came crashing down, none of us—not her priesthood leaders, youth leaders, or her parents—were educated enough about rape by fraud to give her the professional support she needed. The training our leaders receive is woefully inadequate, coming as it does from other leaders who are not professionally qualified to give advice, much less provide counseling. At the very least, her repentance track should have been modified and crafted with great sensitivity.

In reality, her repentance experience was made harder because of her partner’s villainous behavior. I learned too late that my daughter had been required to re-confess the sexual encounter, in detail, multiple times, not only with her bishop, but also with the Stake President, a man who was a complete stranger to her. Our bishop later excused the Stake President, indicating he repeatedly interrogated my daughter in order to “get” the perpetrator. (Make of that what you will.) When I verified these extra confessionals with my daughter, she told me she thought I’d known about them all along, adding “I don’t understand what they want me to say. I’ve told them everything.” I was outraged at these men. You bet I went directly to our bishop.

At our meeting, the bishop admitted the Stake President had “visited” with my daughter several times. He seemed clueless my daughter had been needlessly humiliated and demeaned.  I demanded an explanation and he offered what I’ve noted above.

“But you’re her ‘judge in Israel,'” I argued. “Not the Stake President! What’s the point?”

His response (and I quote): “The church believes in the principle of two-deep.” My jaw dropped. He said the visits with the Stake President were to provide him (the bishop) with back-up, a second witness so to speak.

All the swears in all creation cannot express this mother’s horror at that moment. I asked him how in the name of sweet Jesus the principle of two-deep applied. Two-deep is meant to protect the powerless, not those in power. Two-deep would’ve meant my daughter had an ally in the room, not that she had to confess in isolation to two different men, in two different locations, and on two (and more) separate occasions. You can bet all your money there wouldn’t have been any meetings with the Stake President if I’d been informed. My young and naive daughter had never been given any reason to believe that, at church, she had a voice that could say “Stop. I’m leaving. I’m not going to talk to you.” I had failed to teach her this, but I repented, making sure I told her she had that voice and that power of self-determination.

And she needed that newly found voice. Several months later, her sexual experience was once again brought up in a private meeting with the same bishop. But she didn’t sit for it. She stormed out of his office, and I drove her home, telling her how very proud of her I am. That may have been the last conversation she ever had with any bishop. It’s a wonder to me how she managed to stay active in the church for as long as she did. She tried. She really did. But she no longer identifies as a Mormon.

Every Sunday that I see the man who had been our bishop, he asks me, with such concern in his eyes, how my daughter is doing. It takes every sinew in my being not to slap him the moment her name falls from his lips.


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7 Replies to “The Confessional and Rape by Fraud”

    1. Absolutely. Slap him. Then when he breaks your jaw, you can bravely tell the judge how you were just standing up for your daughter by assaulting someone inquiring after her welfare.

      Maybe the bishop and stake president were wrong. (Your story alone isn’t enough to tell, but maybe.) But it’s a sure thing that your self-proclaimed advice to your daughter helped to drive the wedge between her and the Church. Your daughter fornicated. You chose instead to focus on the fact that her fellow fornicator said he was a virgin — as if that made a particle of difference.

      Shame on you for abandoning your daughter to your own foul emotions. She was a woman-child, and perhaps can be partially excused for her sinful conduct. You have no such excuse.


  1. First of all, great post. Understanding rape by fraud is very important, and it’s definitely not fully understood, particularly not in a patriarchal institution like church. I had a college roommate who suffered rape by fraud from a married man with children. He had proposed marriage to her to get her to comply.

    “Two-deep is meant to protect the powerless, not those in power.” Hmmm. I doubt that this is really true. “Two-deep” is used by the boy scouts, which is where I think the church gets it–the Youth Protection training. I know it’s called “Youth Protection,” but rest assured that organizations want to protect themselves from law suits, and that is generally a primary motivator.

    Your bishop’s interpretation of “two-deep” was doubtless how it was actually explained to him, to keep HIM and the church protected while discussing matters that entailed potential criminal activity of the perpetrator. Bishops are told to call a hotline to consult with the church’s legal department on these matters. I’m not saying it’s right, but even large corporations that are committed to good ethical behaviors and treating people well are also equally committed to avoiding law suits, and they often lead with this in training leaders who are most likely to screw it up.

    Remember that we are led by businessmen, not trained pastors. We get legal advice first, not pastoral care advice.


  2. I am the father of a daughter who was raped by fraud by a serial rapist as per your definition, and I have served as a bishop. While I can empathize with the author, because the bishop we worked with did not do well with the spiritual healing, I at the same time take issue with the author for painting the bishops of the church broadly as bumbling, insensitive, and looking out for the interests of the church rather than the welfare of the individual. There are many, many bishops who handle such situations with love and sensitivity, who understand and help victims understand the power and healing of Christ’s atonement. The role of the bishop with the stake president was not accurately depicted nor was the church’s hotline. The church’s hotline is there to make sure bishops follow legal requirements appropriately and well as protecting the rights of the victim. Sadly, the intent of the article was to take down the church rather than providing honest insight.


  3. Dane, I’m pleased you took the time to comment,but your comment is received at this moment by a woman whose patience is running thin.

    I am a convert to this religion, the kind of convert that seriously damaged family relationships by choosing baptism. I have given my life to this church and I will continue to devote myself to my faith home. Nowhere, I repeat nowhere, do I extrapolate this story to all bishops. Nowhere do I challenge the authority of the church. To presume my intent is to “take down the church rather than providing honest insight” is sinful on your part. It is judgmental, cruel, and ignorant.

    Can you not see why women are afraid to tell these stories? If you were my bishop, I’d be in danger of being called apostate because I’m pointing out that we need to better utilize professional counseling. You just publicly accused me of wanting to destroy the church. Repent, good sir, and examine your own motives instead of challenging mine,

    You seem (though I cannot know) to have fallen for the idea that all things are either good for the church or bad for the church, and that things that are deemed bad are designed for its destruction. No. That thinking is, in itself, a deception. There isn’t a human being in the world who doesn’t need occasional correction and repentance, nor is there any institution that doesn’t. I suppose, when you speak the hard truth to those you love, you are seeking to destroy them; I suppose doing that means your soul has a canker and is fuil of hatred.

    My point in sharing this experience is to highlight that females in this church are often misused and mishandled, particularly behind closed doors, and we don’t feel we can stand up for ourselves without (hold for it) being accused of intending to destroy the church, or not sustaining our leaders, or of somehow being deceived. This particular bishop in this particular situation screwed up. His allegiance was, in fact, to the stake president and to the institutional church ahead of the damaged, suffering young woman in front of him. No one should defend that. No priesthood holder should defend this. And no priesthood leader should be about the business of condemning the innocent, as you have done here to me.

    I will accept your apology once offered, but word it properly..

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I was in a similar situation, twice. I was molested at 5 years old. Unbeknownst to my parents, my bishop brought me into his office and explained to me that what I did was a sin and I was lucky to only be 5 because when I turn 8 I can be baptised and have the sin washed away.

    When I was 16 I was raped. My parents wanted me to heal through the power of the atonement. They made me go into the bishop to talk to him about my rape. Because of my experience with a bishop when I was 5, i was very reluctant to meet with another bishop. I didn’t have the strength to fight with my parents, so I went.

    This bishop asked me detailed questions about being raped. Where were his hands? Did I like it? was he on top or was I? What was I wearing? What color were my panties? Then he accused me of lying. Told me that he knew I was lying through the power of discernment and the mantle of the Bishop. He then put me on probation.

    That Sunday I went to church numb. I watched the sacrement be passed in front of me. In third hour the bishop came into my classroom where he stripped me from the Laural Presidency calling that I had received two weeks before.

    I stayed in the church when I should have left. What these bishops did was violent. They took my unwanted story of molestation and rape and they twisted it into something even more grotesque. They twisted and gave it back to me where I carried it believing it was the true me. Something innately wrong with me that makes boys hurt me and use my body like a toy.

    Nothing happened to these ym. I’m fact, I found out years later that the bishop when I was 5 reached into the churches coffers and bought my molester a ticket to leave town before my parents had the where with all to call the police.

    My daughter came back home from a mission, early. She too had been raped in high school. When she disclosed to the MTC President, he asked her the same kind of questions that my bishop asked me. He then, after being advised by the churches phsycologist not to, sent her home.

    I haven’t been back to church since she came home. She has left the church. So have 3 out of my 5 kids. And, today my husband announced that he will be moving out of the house in January. He doesn’t like it when I talk about the trauma wounds that I carry because of the bishops. When I do that I’m talking bad about his church that he loves. This is what happens when people say “not all bishops, not all priesthood leaders”

    There needs to be some avenue within the church where we can openly and honestly address problems without being accused of wanting to take down the church. As of right now, there is no such place. It’s not even safe in the walls of your own home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Heather, I ache for you! And your sister! It may be correct that most of our leaders make wise and loving choices, but that should never require us to look the other way when they don’t. There is a grievous problem with the system. People are needlessly being pushed away in order to protect a bad system. It should be the bad system that is pushed away to protect people. Shedding light on this kind of stuff is the only way to truly protect both the individual and the long life of the church I love. Again, I’m so saddened. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know how hard it can be.


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