A volcano of sexual abuse and assault stories are erupting in the public domain. The Weinstein expose has blown the lid off.
Two words - “ ME TOO” - flooded social media, as multitudes of woman revealed they have been violated. Within a 24 hour period after the Weinstein story broke, Facebook declared there were more than 12 million posts related to the outcry with 45 percent of users indicating they had friends who posted "me too."[i] It’s not over either. Today, when I went to the news, three of the top five online stories in USA Today were sexual assault stories. Now men are sharing their assaults.
It’s shouldn’t be surprising. It’s been building for years. And just like the Weinstein violations, a very high percentage of sexual exploitation have been occurring in work related relationships. While the number of allegations in Hollywood is increasing every week, this isn’t just a Hollywood issue. News sources have been regularly citing sexual exploitation in government, military, business, sports, churches and schools.
Note a few statistics:
"One study of employed women found that 38% had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace (Potter & Banyard), 2011".[ii]
Pentagon study finds 50% increase in reports of military sexual assault. [iii]
Texas has the largest number of teacher sexual misconduct cases in the country and reported allegations have increased by 27% over last 3 years. The surprising number is the number of cases involving female teachers with underage students.[iv]
What should my response be as a Christian? A few thoughts...
Let’s not minimize the problem - Many of us work in places where harassment, assault or abuse hasn’t’ occurred…or at least we don’t think it’s occurred. And that’s a part of the problem – awareness. It’s happened more than we know. While it may not be something we encounter on a regular basis, when it does happen, the impact can be devastating. One single act of sexual exploitation can be traumatic and have a damaging impact on even a mature person for a long time...and certainly more so on the young and innocent.
It’s been disturbing to me to see some men respond to the “ME TOO” outcry with minimizing comments or placing the blame of male misconduct on the indiscreet clothing of a woman. Regardless of what a woman is wearing, sexual harassment, assault and abuse is wrong!
Cultivate wholesomeness in our work relationships – We should all seek to establish respectful boundaries with co-workers of the opposite sex. There’s a line between laughing and “playful” joking with a co-worker and being “provocative”. Affirming someone is good… suggestive flirting is not. We should also be watchful and use propriety regarding “touch”. What one person perceives as harmless may be experienced quite differently by another.
Be a “safe” person to come to - If a co-worker or employee has been violated, are we the kind of person someone would come to in confidence? Would we be sincerely empathetic and be willing to walk with them through their turmoil? This may involve standing with them through the process of restoration and probable confrontation of the abuser with the help of others.
Pursue redemption and healing – Perhaps you’ve experienced sexual assault or abuse. Even if it was a long ago, it would be good for your soul to share your story with a trusted friend, pastor or Christian counselor to help you pursue a pathway of God’s redemption and healing.
Just posting “me too” on social media will never be enough
Ignoring what happened… burying it inside…or trying to forget it are not spiritually healthy ways of addressing assault or abuse. Jjust posting “me too” on social media will never be enough. Unaddressed trauma will show up in how you relate to others. It will affect you in the important relationships in your life. You may not see how it's affected you, but others will feel it. Some of the ways unaddressed abuse shows up is through bitterness, resentment, anger, sarcasm, contempt, inability to trust, loss of joy, etc.
We were never designed to carry relational abuse in isolation. When abuse is relational, God’s providential plan is for healing to occur in a healthy relational community. John Eldridge exhorts, “Don’t waste your pain.” Find help. God designed the Body of Christ so that we can help carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
Likewise, if you have actually done something that violated someone else, seek a pathway of redemption and forgiveness. No matter how serious the offense was, God’s grace is more than sufficient to cover what you’ve done wrong. So, be assured, “With God, your pain never has to be purposeless and your hurts never have to be without hope.”[v]
The Bible is not silent regarding stories of both those who were victims of sexual exploitation (Potiphar’s wife exploited Joseph) and those who used their work related positions to exploit others (King David with Bathsheba and her husband Uriah). Even in the area of harassment, assault, exploitation and abuse…
God’s redemption shines brightest in the places of our lives that feel the darkest.