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.