In October 2017, an explosive movement of empowered voices swept through social media. Many watched in astonishment as seemingly endless stories and memories of sexual harassment, coercion, and assault emerged; others gathered strength and resolve in recognizing that they were not alone in their own experiences of abuse. The shared narrative of sexual violence emboldened survivors to tell their stories through an interconnected network of strength and solidarity, as millions of women and men collectively shouted: #MeToo.
This movement requires us to acknowledge the glaringly malevolent social ideologies, practices, and paradigms that contribute to the national statistic where at least 1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males in the United States will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. The impetus of the #MeToo movement makes room for survivors of sexual violence to break their silence and speak out about their experiences.
In the wake of millions voicing their truth of sexual violence, the response from the Church is two-fold.
First, local communities of faith must shift their identity to where they become a safe haven for survivors of abuse or sexual violence. Sexual assault therapist Catherine Raley contends, “The first place of disclosure almost always impacts how a survivor of sexual violence handles their narrative. The first person to whom a survivor of sexual violence discloses makes or breaks their journey of recovery. It is vital for a survivor to hear and know that it was not their fault and they are not to blame.” For many Christians, their local church is a main source of reassurance, emotional support, and validation. The #MeToo movement has become a tidal wave of mass disclosure that does not show signs of abating. As survivors continue to come forward and speak their truth, the Church must become an educated and compassionate place where people feel safe to disclose, be connected to appropriate resources, and ultimately healed.
First, local communities of faith must shift their identity to where they become a safe haven for survivors of abuse or sexual violence.
Equally as important, local communities of faith are to confront the sinful patterns of speech, behavior, and stigmas that contribute to a culture of sexual violence or abuse. Dr. Mimi Haddad’s watershed article on sexual violence in the church rightly emphasizes implicit and explicit schemas that promote abuse, causing church leaders and laity alike to examine their practices. The #MeToo movement creates an opportunity for believers to assess their misconceptions about sexual violence and work toward the elimination of systemic abuse. By participating with the Holy Spirit, the church becomes a place where believers transform into a new community that uplifts and empowers people who have been abused or oppressed. Let us speak truth to power as the Spirit gives us utterance. May the Church’s cry of solidarity break survivors’ deafening silence so that they may finally embrace their voice.
By participating with the Holy Spirit, the church becomes a place where believers transform into a new community that uplifts and empowers people who have been abused or oppressed.
To those who have experienced sexual violence in any capacity:
We hear you. We believe you. We stand with you.
If you have experienced sexual violence, assault, or any type of abuse and are living in Polk, Hardee, or Highlands County, contact Peace River Center at https://peacerivercenter.org/services/victim-services/ or call Peace River Center’s Domestic Violence Team at one of their Crisis Lines: (863) 386-1167 (Hardee/Highlands) or (863) 413-2700 (Polk). You can also find your local center for your county at http://fcasv.org/find-your-local-center
Co-written by Lauren and Catherine Raley