On March 3, Dr. Andrea Radke-Moss, a professor in the Department of History, Geography and Political Science, presented her paper “Beyond Petticoats and Poultices: Finding a Women’s History of the Mormon-Missouri War of 1838” at the Church History Symposium hosted by BYU.
In her presentation, Radke-Moss shared that, through her research, she uncovered a source indicating that Eliza R. Snow, second general president of the Relief Society, has been gang raped in Missouri, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
In an article for the Juvenile Instructor, a website dedicated to Latter-day Saint history, Radke-Moss said the source of this information is a portion of the autobiography of Alice Merrill Horne.
“Horne was a member of the Utah State Legislature, a board member of the General Relief Society, and a famed art critic and patroness,” according to the article. “Born in 1868, she was the granddaughter of Apostle George A. Smith and Bathsheba W. Smith, the 4th General Relief Society President, who was one of the original members of the Female Relief Society in Nauvoo in 1842, and close friend to Eliza R. Snow and other high leadership of the Relief Society in Utah Territory.”
In the article, Radke-Moss said Horne recalled visiting her grandmother when she was young and listening to her and Snow talk about the Church’s early days.
“It was there, at one of these rendezvous of feminine confidences, young Alice overheard the account of the brutal gang rape of Eliza R. Snow,” Radke-Moss said in the article, quoting from Horne’s autobiography. “‘There was a saint—a Prophetess, a Poet, an intellectual, seized by brutal mobbers—used by those eight demons and left not dead, but worse. The horror, the anguish, despair, hopelessness of the innocent victim was dwelt upon.’”
Radke-Moss said Horne’s autobiography also attributes Snow’s infertility to the rape, according to the article.“My paper sought to address the history of how women experienced the violence in Missouri, particularly as victims of sexual violence,” Radke-Moss said in an article for the Juvenile Instructor, a website dedicated to Latter-day Saint history.
Radke-Moss said history shows that male voices are more likely to be believed than female voices in regards to sexual violence.
“You have an elderly female confiding to a younger woman 40 years after it happens,” Radke-Moss said. “The way that women convey information, the way that women tell stories is not being accounted as a legitimate source, but all these military leaders say, ‘Well, of course, my men would never do that.’ That’s being seen as a legitimate source, but the women who experienced it are still being discounted. That’s rape culture. It happened then; it happens today.”
On March 15, Idaho state legislature passed a bill requiring medical clinics to collect DNA evidence for all reported rapes and to send the evidence for testing unless the victim requests otherwise, according to The Associated Press.
In response, Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland told Idaho Falls TV station KIDK the measure is unnecessary because he believe most reported rapes are false and said lawmakers need to allow officers to do their jobs, according to the AP.
“They need to let us decide if we’re going to send the kit and when we send the kits in,” Rowland said to KIDK. “Because the majority of our rapes — not to say that we don’t have rapes, we do — but the majority of our rapes that are called in, are actually consensual sex.”
Radke-Moss said this is a perfect example of rape culture and victim blaming.
“And to make that connection between the wartime gang rape 180 years ago and rape culture today, it’s because the burden of proof is still always on women,” Radke-Moss said.
Radke-Moss said she thinks the information about Eliza R. Snow will change the narrative for victims of sexual violence because it humanizes victims.
“Now, sexual violence in Missouri has to be part of our official narrative about Church history,” Radke-Moss said. “We tend to highlight male narrative about male imprisonment and male escapes and male war and male violence, and yet here you have women that are experiencing this violence in overt ways. That should help to create a larger empathy for not only what our ancestor females went through, but also for what could be around you. If you can humanize a victim of rape in the visage of Eliza R. Snow, then that allows you to see the women in your ward differently, it allows you to see teenage girls differently and how they’ve been victims of rape, it allows you to humanize and personalize that notion that this is a real crime.”
Lance Revoir said we need to learn to talk about sexual violence, instead of letting it be a taboo subject.
“It’s a hard topic,” Revoir said. “There are so many thing that we want to solve, but we just don’t want to tackle it because it’s hard to do or think about.”
Bronwyn Challis, a junior studying English, said there needs to be better education about sexual violence.
“It’s a crime of violence and dominance,” Challis said. “It has nothing to do with the woman’s behavior, how she’s dressed, her alleged ‘come-hither’-ness. It’s definitely more about the person raping and their need to feel in control.”
In her article for the Juvenile Instructor, Radke-Moss said she worried about whether or not to reveal her research about Eliza R. Snow but decided she should.
“If we seek to conceal this crime against her out of some kind of protective impulse, I believe that we are perpetuating the idea that rape brings shame to its victims.” Radke-Moss said in the article.
Radke-Moss said she hopes her research will help start conversation about rape and sexual violence.
“Rape is real,” Radke-Moss said. “It’s a crime that has been committed against women throughout the history of the world. It happens, and it happens today. It happens here at BYU-Idaho, even though we so often hear that law enforcement claims that it doesn’t or that all the women who are raped are not really raped but just regret having consensual sex.”
Radke-Moss said even if some women might be using a rape charge to cover a consensual sex act, there are far too many women who are suffering in silence.
“Without reporting their rapes, because they know that they won’t be believed, that the burden of proof is on them, or that they will be shamed for coming forward.”