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'Gum-chewing' doctor confronts Utah's culture of abuse and assault • Salt Lake Magazine

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documentary Chud gumis in post-production after winning the DocPitch 2022 Audience Award and a $45,000 grant, exploring the culture of silence around sexual and domestic violence in Utah communities. Filmmakers now want more audience support to complete their films.

For the production of the documentary, director Alana Maiello Chud gum And sexual assault survivors themselves have found what the official logline calls “a buried epidemic of sexual violence in Utah.” Based on the director’s personal experiences, this documentary explores how survivors of sexual and domestic violence are silenced in Utah’s religious communities.

Sexual assault survivors share their experiences in documentary ‘Cudegum’ (Courtesy of Alana Maiello)

Maiello was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he decided to attend Brigham Young University in Provo. She dreamed of playing golf in college and BYU hired her. “In her first semester at BYU, something happened that changed everything for me,” she says. Maiello was raped at a party. Maiello was drinking alcohol at the party, which violated BYU’s strict code of ethics, so she decided to keep the rape a secret.

“I’ve heard stories of other girls reporting rapes and being sent to the Honors and Regulations Office and expelled,” she says. She “didn’t report because she didn’t want to lose her place at BYU on the golf team.”

Maiello, who suffers from PTSD, says he’s been having trouble sleeping and participating in golf less. So when her LDS missionaries came to her door about a year later, she was ready to hear them. “They promised me that if I was baptized, I would be healed of anything. I decided to join the Mormon Church,” Maiello says. She has been with her LDS church for over seven years and has served a mission in the Philippines.

Ultimately, Maiello realizes that she has never really faced the rape and trauma surrounding her. She decided to start over, she left the church and left Utah. If Maiello hadn’t come across the article in the newspaper, she might have ended the story. new york times A woman who reported rape to BYU was expelled by the Bureau of Honor Regulations.

“When I saw this article, it was the first time I had seen proof in print of how many other women there were besides me,” she says. ’” Maiello returned to Utah and began building Chud gumSince then, she has met many victims of sexual violence from the BYU and church.

Chud gum It seeks to expose religious cultures that “systematically threaten the safety and well-being of women” and silence survivors of sexual violence, Maiello says. “I feel a deep responsibility to accurately tell the stories of these survivors without waging war on the church or being passive,” Maiello says.

“The Buried Epidemic of Sexual Violence in Utah”

Rape is the only violent crime in Utah with rates higher than the national average, according to data from the Utah Department of Health and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Nearly one in three women in Utah will experience some form of sexual violence in her lifetime. More than three-quarters (78.7%) of all sexual assault victims in Utah report being sexually assaulted before the age of 18, and more than one-third of these survivors ( 34.9%) said they were assaulted before their 10th birthday.

Among the risk factors that may increase the incidence of sexual violence in the community, the Ministry of Health included “adherence to traditional gender norms” and lack of “gender equality”.

“I feel it is really important to understand the context of this issue. Women’s common experience in Utah, including the lack of equal pay, all relate to and contribute to these issues.” “I’m sorry,” says Maiello.

These numbers are likely to be even higher because cases of sexual assault are underreported. Only an estimated 23% of rapes or sexual assaults were reported to police in 2016. Some sources suggest that the reported rate of child sexual abuse cases is even lower.

culture of silence

Chew Gum Director Alana Maiello looks up at the Salt Lake City temple for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Courtesy of Alana Maiello
The Salt Lake City Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in “Tude Gum” (Courtesy Alana Maiello)

“When we released the trailer, we didn’t know if it would resonate with people,” says Maiello. Not all survivor stories are the same, but as more people reached out to her, a pattern began to emerge, Maiello says. say. “And this culture of silence was so ingrained. I needed someone to articulate what we were going through.

One of the most common things Maiello heard from survivors was that many of them were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. assault on police. “From an early age, we learn that the bishop is like a father figure to Ward, whom he trusts deeply,” Maiello says. “And they [survivors] There was an experience when a bishop called for repentance. ”

“I think one of the things that makes this film different from other films is the extremity of the survivors going through not just the initial trauma of the assault, but the secondary trauma,” said producer Liz Yale. Marsh says “They are even more traumatized by the response of their religious leaders. That’s the crux of the film.”

From her discussions with mental health researchers and victims, Maiello learned that if a victim tells someone about assault and receives a negative response, it’s safe for the victim to discuss assault again. “It can take that long to come to terms with being assaulted. We’re increasing rates of domestic violence and assault,” Maiello said.

Dr. Amber Choruby-Whiteley of the University of Utah has published research on sexual assault in the Latter-day Saint faith and is being interviewed for a documentary. The study asked, “What are the gendered messages of femininity received by survivors of Latter-day Saint childhood sexual abuse? And what impact do these messages have on recovery from sexual abuse?” did you give it?” Messages that influenced study participants and encouraged victim-blaming included: “A woman’s worth is related to her virginity,” “Women are responsible for men’s sexual desires,” and “People of color Females of the species are not considered victims”, “Sexual guilt is next to murder”, “If you feel guilty, you must repent”

Choruby-Whiteley noted that participants’ interactions with church leaders varied in level of support, suggesting that bishops and other church leaders should be encouraged to respond appropriately to trauma survivors within the congregation. “These individuals, often well-intentioned, are forced to rely on their personal perspectives on trauma, blaming victims and raping them.” “We may be getting information from the larger social system of the mythology of

“I hope that if Latter-day Saint leaders can hear and hear these stories, they will guide them to create comprehensive training for bishops,” Maiello says. Without trauma education, how would you advise a woman going through it?”

“Consent education is a huge part of this,” says Marsh. “Survivors do not have the language to understand that they have been assaulted because there is nothing more than a message of abstinence only.”

Child Sex Abuse Survivor Advocate points to Bishop’s LDS Church’s policy of reporting cases of abuse to a “helpline” instead of the police, saying it perpetuates a culture of silence and complicity against abuse is doing. Report the bomb and suggest that the policy should be re-evaluated and fixed.

“chewed gum”

Screenshot from the Chudgum documentary
Young woman in church dress from the “Chewed Gum” documentary (Courtesy Alana Maiello)

For some, the term “chewed gum” is reminiscent of a story told by Elizabeth Smart at a Johns Hopkins University panel discussion in 2013. A factor that discouraged her from running away was that she felt worthless after being raped. “We had a teacher talking about abstinence,” Smart told the panel. “And she said, ‘Imagine you’re a stick of gum. And if you do it over and over, you’ll be old gum, and then who’s going to want you? , I was thinking ‘I’m that chewed gum’. No one chews gum again. you throw it away And that’s how easy it is to feel worthless anymore. Your life is no longer worth it. ”

For others, the “chewing gum” metaphor was already familiar from childhood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “It is used to explain the law of chastity in many lessons given to young men and young women. [the church’s doctrine on sexual purity]’ says Maiello. “Hundreds of survivors have reached out saying they have learned that lesson. is it my fault?”

Participants in Dr. Amber Choruby-Whiteley’s study shared similar object lessons they received in church, such as ‘licked cupcakes’ and ‘picked roses’. Choruby-Whiteley cites such lessons as another area in which the Church of Latter-day Saints could improve. “The church makes use of lesson plan manuals. The current messages within these manuals about the law of virginity and chastity can create a culture of victim-blaming.” , that the Church compile lesson manuals to “include explicit instructions for teachers to permanently discontinue object lessons on virginity,” and that lessons on chastity include “what is abuse, abuse never survives.” And that you don’t have to repent for being a victim of abuse.”

Choruby-Whiteley has also made efforts to make the Church of Latter-day Saints more “trauma-savvy,” including launching a website for abuse survivors and their families, friends, and church leaders. I admit that

“Cudegum” Documentary

Chud gum is currently in post-production, and Marsh has said that the producers are “still actively raising money” and seeking grants to complete the film. “DocPitch has helped move the film forward, but much of our ability to complete the film is also dependent on funding.”

They hope they can start filing Chud gum Premiered at a film festival at the end of 2023.

“We want our documentation to be a resource,” says Maiello. “To say ‘I don’t want this to continue’. Reform is possible. There is a better way. If I am to be bold, the church needs to reform the way it treats and supports women.”

“We are in a moment, nationally, where we are talking about conservative patriarchal religion,” says Marsh. “Utah is the epitome of what’s happening to women within conservative religious patriarchies. It’s more important than ever for these stories to be heard.”

For more information, Chud gum To donate to the documentary and film fundraiser, please visit

For help, call Utah’s Toll-Free 24 Hour Sexual Violence Helpline 1-888-421-1100.

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