From Hong Kong where I am researching trauma resilience, I have read the news that two young women have reported sexual assaults by a former president of the Missionary Training Center (MTC). As the stories emerge, accounts assert that several leaders spanning the 80s to more recently were approached for help. I was shocked and horrified that descriptions attest that the incidents happened around the time I worked at the MTC. In the cafeteria in which I worked.
Machelle Madsen Thompson
My job supported my psychology and music studies at Brigham Young University. In between my beautiful experiences in the choirs and leadership positions in my student congregation, I primarily worked the breakfast shift, serving all the missionaries and, at times, their leaders including President Joseph Bishop.
Across my life, I have worked as a trauma specialist through licensed counseling, research, and university instruction. Digging through my memories; I see myriad faces of fresh new missionaries filled with excitement and anticipation of blessings as they prepared to travel the world to serve the Lord through missions. Now, I scan those images, wondering which young ladies might have been those experiencing traumatic pain in dark corners of the MTC rather than the simple stressors of a life change. And I weep.
Back then, I didn’t see you. Were you later in my congregations, my classes? I couldn’t yet recognize the signs of your suffering. I lacked my current understanding of the dynamics of power differentials that can leave people vulnerable to abuse. I did not yet know how to recognize and heal the trauma associated with assault.
My knowledge allows me to see more clearly. When I see evidence of the behavior such as that former President Joseph Bishop admitted to, I do more. I could gently ask how you were doing when I saw your blank stares as you tried to figure out simple tasks such as what side dishes you wanted. As I do now, I could detect unusual, manipulative behavior in my surroundings, and speak up your protection, safety, policies, and fundamental rights.
Then, I did not know how to help when you and other young men and women with abusive life experiences. Now, with my colleagues, those of us who professionally do our best to fight, heal, and prevent the effects of abuse, I can promise to continue working as hard as I can. We are everywhere, an army of peace and healing. You are not alone.
Each splendid moment you become your very best self despite past maltreatment lessens the power of those who harm. It is difficult. But, you will rise supported by friends, family, inner spiritual and mental strength, and positive connections through your activities and community. Brilliantly Resilient.