#MeToo and #ChurchToo

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It seems almost daily that we hear the story of another influential person, a politician or celebrity, who has been exposed and faces allegations of sexual harassment or abuse. As Melinda Gates points out in a recent article in Time magazine, this is not a new issue, but one that is finally being recognized, voices long silenced are being heard. And it’s not an issue out there, it is also among us.

A new hashtag out there #ChurchToo, has grown out of the #MeToo movement. As director of Safe Church Ministry, I hear similar stories from much less powerful people, those who work for the church, preach from the pulpit, attend Sunday school, or sit in the pew. And I’ve heard even more stories recently as people are being emboldened to speak out. Those who have experienced sexual abuse and harassment are finding their voices.

Here’s just one story that I heard recently, which is shared with permission.

This morning I woke up to the news that Matt Lauer was fired from the Today show for sexual harassment. I then listened to Savanna Guthrie say how hard it was as Matt was a colleague and friend for twenty years but she also hurt for the victim. This brought back memories of my own. 

Years ago a colleague made this statement after seeing my picture in a magazine: “Think of all the men who are lusting after you now.” There was nothing sexy about the picture. This was someone in a leadership position in the CRC. 

Fast forward to another incident with a close friend. As he hugged me his hand landed on my breast. An accident? Maybe. Then he did it another time. This was intentional. I didn’t do anything because I didn’t want to make an issue. 

In retrospect of these two incidents I wonder if I should have addressed the persons offending me. How would I have done that? How does anyone deal with sexual harassment and abuse? How do you separate the person from the act?

With all of the cases coming to light, we need to be ready to support those who have been assaulted as well as find a way to help the perpetrator. This is not a problem just out there it is in our homes and churches. Let’s work together to find a way to help the healing. 

We’ve seen various responses to these stories of sexual harassment and abuse, in the political realm and in the celebrity realm. What about in the Church? What will our response be? How will we move forward from this watershed moment?

Please pray for the ministry of Safe Church and especially for volunteer safe church team members who work within congregations throughout the U.S. and Canada. May our congregations become safer places, where stories can be shared and where healing can begin with the Lord and with his people.

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Bless your heart Bonnie...  I want to honor and encourage you as one of TIME's People of the Year!

this was announced yesterday!  http://time.com/time-person-of-the-year-2017-silence-breakers/

 You have been using your voice long before 2017 and I want to recognize how the LORD is using you to help break the silence regarding abuse in the Church... I know it's not an easy calling and often not appreciated, but know that you are making a difference!

So Sister, stay strong in the Lord and in His mighty power!

 

Thank you so much Bev for your encouraging words.

What about all the men who have been sexually abused or harassed by women?  Why no mention of them?  Do we not talk about it?  Posting an attachment that implies that only women can be abused is offensive to men who have experienced this.  As more and more women assume positions of power, abuse of men by women is going to become more prevalent.  Is our denomination prepared to deal with this?

Thank you for your comment. You raise a very important issue. This article does not in any way imply that only women are sexually abused or harassed. However, it acknowledges that we live in a culture that generally devalues women. I won't take time here to get into all the ways, or site all the evidence for that fact; suffice it to say that men still hold far more power than woman do. Patriarchy has been the law of the earth since the fall in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:16, which wasn't the original plan, but praise the Lord, we have been redeemed, able to live in mutual respect and partnership according to the original design). In church culture in particular, we see that there are places where women still do not have the privilege of even voting or holding office. Context is important. The overall context is that men hold much more power in our culture (in church and outside of church) than women do - that is the context and that needs to be acknowledged and taken into account. It impacts the way abuse and harassment are experienced. That in no way diminishes the severity of abuse or harassment for any person, man or women. The dynamics however are different, In fact, the same toxic masculine culture can make it even more difficult for men who have suffered abuse to come forward and talk about their experience. It's admirable to witness the courage of the men who have also stepped forward in the "#me too" movement. Statistics tell us that 1 in 6 men have suffered sexual abuse. Safe Church includes resources on our website for men, including a link to the website  https://1in6.org/, Safe Church works toward creating communities where the value of each person is honored, and where all people are free to worship and grow free from abuse or harassment. And where harm has occurred, may our churches be places of compassion and justice that foster healing. Pray with us toward that end. And thanks again for your comment.

An article entitled "Male Rape in America" and dated April 29, 2014 claims that a new study reveals that men are often the victims of sexual assault and women are the perpetrators.  In fact, in asking 40,000 households about rape and sexual violence, the survey uncovered that 38% were against men.  The article points out that the experience of men and women is a lot closer than we might think.  And we need to completely rethink our assumptions about sexual victimization and especially our fallback model that men are always the perpetrators and women are always the victims.  The article also points out that a recent analysis of the Bureau of Justice Statistics turned up that 46% of male victims reported a female perpetrator.  That is a far different statistic than the 1 in 6 you claim.  Another source claims that for men who were abused as children, 38% were women.  You present as fact that we live in a culture that generally devalues women.  To some extent, that may be true.  But studies also show that men are often degraded in movies and television, especially sit-coms in which men are often portrayed as bumbling idiots.  This, too, is a fact of our culture.  You also have to admit that more and more women are assuming positions of power.  And as the number of women in power increases, so is the number of men who are sexually harassed and abused by them.  You imply that you don't want to diminish the severity of abuse or harassment for any person, man or women.  But your focus primarily on women as victims, and men as perpetrators who abuse power,  does, in fact, diminish the severity of abuse of men by women.  Will the CRC in general, and Safe Church specifically, be ready to respond appropriately to men who are abused by women?  Not if it diminishes, denies, or deflects the truth that it is happening already.

 

Thank you for your comment. Safe Church offers resources to increase awareness about facts and what is really happening. We must not put our heads in the sand and pretend that all is well when sexual abuse is so prevalent among us. Safe Church offers links to numerous reliable sources for information to help increase awareness, such as this helpful infographic from the Centers for Disease Control. And you'll notice the term "made to penetrate" is used, as definitions of rape have changed to include the victimization of males. The 1 in 6 website previously mentioned is a great resource, I hope that you've looked at it. 1 in 6 refers to the number of men who have been victimized out of the entire population of men (Yes, a different statistic than the percentage of male vs. female perpetration within that group). 

Safe Church Ministry works toward creating communities where the value of each person, regardless of gender, is honored, and where ALL people are free to worship and grow free from abuse. And where harm has occurred, may our churches be places of compassion and justice that foster healing for ALL who have been victimized by abuse, regardless of gender. That is the goal that we are working toward. If this is something that you are also passionate about, please feel free to join us in our work. Contact Safe Church for details about how to become more involved in the growing Safe Church movement. 

It may also be good to note that Safe Church Ministry has many men who serve as safe church team members throughout the U.S. and Canada. And our second staff person is also a male, Rev. Eric Kas, Safe Church Associate. It is our hope and prayer that we will be prepared to minister with both men and women who have suffered abuse; and that we may be agents of change in our culture to end sexual abuse. 

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