Every 98 seconds, an American experiences sexual assault. Raped my freshman year of college, I joined the 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) who experience rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. As a victim of sexual abuse, I joined the many women who spoke out in the #MeToo movement.
After last October, when the #MeToo movement went viral, I posted on Facebook and Twitter. It felt empowering to think—others struggle too. This wasn’t the first time I posted online for the whole world to see about my abuse. I’m a blogger who often writes about my abuse. But for the first time, others joined me in speaking out. Friends I had known for years, speaking out for the first time. Friends I could connect with and share how Jesus had healed me from the emotional destruction of sexual abuse. However, #MeToo has created more than cathartic relief.
The movement has sparked discussion, called men to higher standards and put people behind bars. The example of Bill Cosby perfectly shows the power of the movement. During his first trial only one woman was allowed to testify. After #MeToo went viral, he had a new trial, six women spoke and the result found him guilty of three felony charges.
When I first read about the movement, I believed it was only an issue about sexuality. In my ministry, I fight for more dialogue about sex in our churches. If we fail to talk about sex—we shame it. We have to use proper terminology: sex, penis, vagina, and orgasm. We have to help our disciples form a theology of sex and understand that God designed sex and created us as sexual beings. Preaching biblical sexuality can heal wounds and prevent future sexual scandals, but it fails to fix everything the #MeToo movement represents.
At first, my experience with the movement was blinded. I lived behind the lens of white privilege, failing to see that the #MeToo movement was also about race, privilege, and power. All of these issues intertwine, creating multiple layers that need unpacking.
The #MeToo movement is an issue of race.We cannot talk about #MeToo without also talking about systemic racism in our country. Click To Tweet
In 2006, Tarana Burke first used #MeToo to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse among women of color, particularly within underprivileged communities. Yet the movement did not gain momentum until the Trump and Billy Bush tape leaked and white women started using the hashtag. Our sable sistas have been crying out, begging for help, and what did white evangelical women do? Nothing. Why did it take a white woman to tweet #MeToo for people to stand up and speak out?
Unlike my story, some women fear sharing their #MeToo stories because they still live in bondage to their abusive partners. Stuck in the house, unable to escape because they have no means of financially supporting themselves or their children on their own—these women remain silent.
The #MeToo movement is an issue of privilege.
We cannot talk about #MeToo without also talking about privilege.
Unlike me, many minority women lack the finances to afford counseling and doctor visits. They suffer in silence—most vulnerable to abuse. After my abuse, I went to the gynecologist and obtained testing for STDs. Others may not have this option. After my abuse, I went to counseling and found healing from the trauma. Others may not have this option.Not only do victims fail to receive the emotional and physical help that they need, they also have to watch their abusers draw a “get out of jail free card.” #MeToo Click To Tweet
We make excuses for celebrities and men in power and elect presidents who, “Grab ’em by the pussy.”
81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump. They excused sexual misdeeds in favor of their own party. This number still causes pain and anger for people of color today who feel like their brothers and sisters turned their back on them—ignoring the issues of race in the church and in politics. Yet the church fails to talk about privilege and politics when we talk about sexual abuse.
The #MeToo movement is an issue of power.
We cannot talk about #MeToo without also talking about power.
Read the names of the accused: Bill Cosby. Donald Trump. Roy Moore. Harvey Weinstein. Bill O’Reilly. Matt Lauer. Andy Savage. Bill Hybels. Powerful men in powerful positions—inside and outside of the church.
White men of privilege, who set up the evangelical tradition, have power, but lack accountability, creating opportunities for abuse. The month after the #MeToo movement went viral, the #ChurchToo movement went viral highlighting and stoping sexual abuse that happens in church.
Instead of comforting the victims, we applaud the abusers. In January 2018, pastor Andy Savage received applause from his church after confessing that he sexually assaulted a teen twenty years earlier while serving as a youth pastor and apologizing for his actions.
What should we do now?
We need to ask ourselves: How do current power structures in faith communities enable, perpetuate, or even create abuse? Who keeps pastors and elders accountable in churches? Why does the Church not seem to know how to apologize when caught in sin concerning sexual abuse? Where does a woman turn to report sexual abuse in the church if all elders, deacons, and core leadership team are men?
7 Ways to Empower Women During the #MeToo Movement
1. Speak up. Talk about race, privilege and power in our world and churches. God calls us to defend, protect and rescue the weak and powerless.
2. Believe the victim. Research consistently shows that 92–98% of sexual assault accusers tell the truth. Yet we fail to believe the victims because we have a misplaced trust in powerful men and institutions. We more often believe the high-profile person over the less powerful person.
3. Report it. If someone does something illegal (e.g., rape, child porn), the church has an obligation to report it to the police and have a third-party investigation. To report it, we must understand what constitutes abuse and harassment.
4. Christian brothers, step up. We need you. This is not a woman problem. This is a human problem. Do not retreat behind the #BillyGraham rule for “safety.” Instead, learn how to have friendships with women and take responsibility. Train young men to respect women and to not follow the “boys will be boys” message.
5. Develop a theology of women. What messages do we preach on women in the Bible? Are we victim-blaming and wrongly sexualizing? Read books, like Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible to gain a greater understanding of women in the Bible.
6. Create a game plan and tell the church. If a woman reports abuse at your church, what will you do? When do you involve authorities, investigations and elders? Tell the church the answers to these questions. Have a plan in place to minister to the victims and the abusers. The church cares for the sick and the broken—how can we minister to both?
7. Remain hopeful. God remains in control. God knew the #MeToo movement would happen during Trump’s presidency. God knew pastors would get fired for sexual conduct. God knew the brokenness that exists in the evangelical community. God has the power to restore the church.
Statistics from RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) https://www.rainn.org/