039: Surviving Sexual Assault within an LDS Community Part 3

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The sequence in this last piece of the interview was spliced incorrectly – so when you think it ends, it doesn’t.  We are working on correcting this as soon as possible.

Natasha Helfer Parker interviews Chelsea Weidmann regarding having been sexually assaulted on several occasions in her life – the youngest being during nursery at church.  They discuss openly some of her experiences – so please be aware that this interview may be triggering to some of those who may be going through their own sexual assault recovery process.  Please also be aware that every recovery process from sexual assault is unique and different.  Things that Chelsea experienced or found useful – may not be things that will apply to everyone in similar situations.  This interview is meant to be an open dialogue about a generally taboo topic in our culture in hopes of helping others who have been assaulted, as well as helping family members, friends and church leaders know better how to respond and support those in their circles.  Comments will be carefully moderated to protect the safe space we have attempted to create through this setting.

Chelsea has a BA from BYU in English Language and Literature.  She recently finished her certification in American Ballet Theatre’s National Training Curriculum and has been teaching ballet for 15 years as well as working as a guest artist with local dance companies.  She’s been married for 11 years and has two children.

The Courage to Heal 

The Courage to Heal Workbook

The Sexual Healing Journey

The Path to Wholeness by Carol Tuttle from an LDS Perspective that some have found helpful

National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1.800.656.HOPE

Many thanks to The Lower Lights for the beautiful bumper music and to James Estrada of Oak Street Audio for audio production of this podcast.

7 comments for “039: Surviving Sexual Assault within an LDS Community Part 3

  1. Cathe Day
    May 6, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Thank you so much for have the courage to speak your truth and tell your story. I could feel some triggers listening to this podcast but didn’t realize how much it brought up to the surface until my husband came home. I began to causally tell him about this podcast, when I began to cry, and then fall apart. The tears, grief and anger came from such a deep place. I know growing in the church I received so many mixed messages regarding my body, boundaries, always being nice. I dealt with years of sexual harassment, and violations of my body, because of the messages I received. I was raised to feel powerless, and voiceless. You bring a voice to so many issues in the Mormon culture and church. I appreciate your honesty and your bravery. I hope your path leads to healing.

  2. Erin
    May 6, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    You are so brave!!! I cannot believe what a survivor you are. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  3. A Happy Hubbie
    June 20, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    I stand in amazement at Chelsea’s willingness to share this part of her life. Nobody can say she does not have an immense amount of courage. Thank you so much Chelsea. Oh how it makes me want to be able to take some of your pain away so it isn’t so much of a burden. I know of no way to do that. What I can do is try and learn from this and share it with other to try within my abilities and sphere of influence to prevent it as much as possible and deal with it better when it does occur.

    As I listened to these and cried many times listening to this, I also thought of how this might wear on therapists that are helping people with these enormous issues. I feel for people like Natasha and I sure hope that the successes that come from helping others is able to offset this as we need more people helping with the healing.

    Thanks again from the bottom of my heart for both of you. My family might not know what I am thinking when I pray, “Please bless those that stand in need of comfort”, but in my heart I will be thinking of you Chelsea.

    • natashaparker
      June 21, 2014 at 1:11 am

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. It is very much appreciated.

  4. Katy Edmondson
    July 27, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Thank you so much for your story. I listened to all 3 parts and I agree with EVERTYHING that Chelsea said. It put all my fears and thoughts to words. I am in the middle of my healing process and am finally not hiding anymore. I am trying to find my place in the LDS realm while healing. It has been very difficult. I truly appreciate listening to the struggles that Chelsea listed because I too am struggling with the same issues-abuse, healing, LDS life, family, flashbacks, every day living. I relate to it all too well am afraid. I now know I am not crazy for feeling what I am feeling. I now have hope. I also like that I am not the only one within the LDS church that trying to deal with abuse and using those teaches/tools to heal, and it isn’t working for me. I don’t feel so bad about it anymore. Thank you again. You have know idea how grateful I am that you had the courage to sharing your story!!!

  5. CC
    September 29, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    This was such an important, powerful and needed conversation. Thank you to you both, Chelsea and Natasha. It really has helped me to validate my own story and also see that others have been there too. I appreciate the candor with which you shared your experiences and the hope that you’ve offered to so many of us that have lived carrying the shame of sexual assault–as though it was our fault, our burden or something ugly in us that made it happen.

    I feel like one of the reasons that people try to make it the victim’s fault or also say that “all these trials are for you, personally and for your good” is to try to minimize the uncertainty and unpredictability of sexual assault and life in general. If we can turn it into something about the victim (they needed this trial or they brought this on themselves) that’s another way of saying, “I can control whether or not this happens to me.” It’s hard to acknowledge that we live in a world where we don’t get to control all the things that happen in our lives, and we try to control our lives by blaming victims. It’s a way of bridging that uncertainty gap, and I’ve seen it even work as a tool to shrug off responsibility to people who are in pain. It’s easier, sometimes, to make it about the victim’s failings than to live with the reality that crap happens and we don’t get to control everything. And something like sexual assault can happen to anyone.

    One point that I’d like to throw out there is that you both mentioned that the police are typically great about being advocates of the victim, but unfortunately that was not my experience. I was sexually assaulted (raped) in Provo as well at the age of 16 by a man who was twice my age, and the detective in charge of the case asked and told me repeatedly that he believed I was either 1. asking for it or 2. that I had wanted it and then felt guilty afterward and was now calling it rape to cover my sin. One of the times he told me that was while I was being examined by the Dr. at the ER. What the detective was doing in the exam room with me during that time, I’ll never understand or know. But as a young 16 year old I believed the detective (that and my dad also alluded to the rape being my fault for telling the man that raped me that the temperature in the room was too warm), and I later went and apologized to the man who raped me. He promptly raped me again and told me that “see, I did really want it and to please tell the detective the truth.” Fortunately, I found the courage to ask to speak to a different detective about my case and he was able to see what was going on more clearly. I’m just putting that out there because sometimes the police can also add to the crime instead of helping the victim.

    And, just as one final thought, it really wasn’t until I turned 32 that I finally believed that the rape wasn’t my fault. There was something about being the age of the man who raped me and looking at 16 year olds with my older, wiser eyes and seeing how naive and innocent they are–that was finally the thing that convinced me that there was no way that I asked for it.

    And FYI, I was wearing oversized flannel pj bottoms and a men’s t-shirt. The modesty thing is a bunch of crap. And I’m still angry that I never got my clothes back from the police department. Those were my comfort clothes, and they were stolen from me too.

    Oh, and Chelsea, just so you know, it does get better. There are always traces and even triggers, and you’ll never know what life would’ve been like if this hadn’t happened, but it does get better. Part of what has helped me is knowing that I’m not alone and that I can be advocate for myself now even though I didn’t have one when I needed it most. Part of what helps is loving my children in the ways I wish I had been loved, and part of it is giving the world the middle finger if I have to and saying “you don’t get to own my story or tell me that I’m less than because my life doesn’t fit in your pretty box.”

    You’re in my prayers and heart. Best of luck, dear sister.

  6. Danyel
    March 10, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Chelsea,

    Thank you so much for having the courage to share your story. It’s made me realize a number of things about my own. I so admire your ability to boldly be who you are, to speak out and not back down from your experience, and to dye your hair purple even though you know everyone won’t approve! I wish you all the best on your journey.

    Natasha,

    Thank you for your work, your professionalism, understanding, and sensitivity. I hope I’m able to find a therapist like you.

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