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Well, me too. How ‘bout that?
It’s a subject I notice Christians seem to be skirting around, not addressing from any aspect, let alone a scriptural one.
So…me too. I’m one of tens of millions, probably more. For women in this lucky country…Australia…the figure sits at a disturbing one in five women. Look around you. Yes, you! In Church. Look around you. One in five females has been a victim of sexual violence. That’s not counting every-day, garden-variety sexual harassment. If we factor that in, I reckon the figure is more like one in one. That’s all of us. Married. Single. Engaged. Divorced. It doesn’t matter. We’re all ‘fair game.’
The ‘Me Too’ campaign has erupted in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein expose. In case you haven’t caught up on the news this fortnight and don’t know who Weinstein is, I’ll briefly recap.
Harvey Weinstein is a vastly successful, renowned and widely lauded movie producer. He is, of course, also immensely wealthy. That goes with the territory.
So too, it seems, does an enormous sense of entitlement that underpins the ugly underbelly of the current climate of rampant narcissistic machismo that sets the tone for our entertainment industry. He has, seemingly without reservation, propositioned, touched, threatened and downright sexually assaulted (let’s call it for what it is…raped!) huge numbers of actresses…sorry ‘actor is now the politically correct term. But the ‘actors’ he targets are all female. So far he’s been accused by around 50 women and that figure is escalating by the day.
Some of his targets have tried to report his actions. Others have been cowed. The overwhelming complicity from other men in the industry is, possibly, even more disturbing (and I’ll never watch another Matt Damon movie again. And then there’s Tarantino, not so much of a surprise but a bigger disappointment, given the sway he holds in the industry. He’s sorry now, but hey, too late). They knew. They observed. They were told. But they did nothing. It would compromise their careers if they did. Actually, I have that wrong. They did more than nothing. They actively worked to cover up Weinstein’s sexual abuse and harassment. And so, these women were left unprotected…un-championed. Disbelieved. And so they were shut up.
The real ‘shock’, however, (not to me) is that women the world over…ordinary women with ordinary jobs and lives and families, experience the same humiliation and degradation that well-known actresses are only just now feeling safe enough to expose. Think about that. Wealthy, ’perfect’ women in privileged positions, living fairy-tale lives, are only just now gaining the fortitude and courage to tell the sordid stories that are part and parcel of their daily existence.
Their stories have been enormously triggering for women and girls the world over. Add to that the widespread lack of empowerment the average woman experiences, even in this so-called enlightened age, where women are supposedly valued and equal…and you have a seething, boiling, wave of anger and resentment that is gaining momentum with every ‘me too’ posted on social media. Many of us don’t know what to do with the pain that is rising to the surface; pain we bury deep in order to survive just being female in this world. We desperately hope the whole thing doesn’t just fizzle and die, and yet, it may well do.
I have absolutely no idea how I would navigate life with its everyday experiences that include, for me as for so many, the degradation and humiliation of being reduced to an object of little value; something to be judged, sentenced, tortured and humiliated by the very beings God put on this earth to protect me and provide for me - I do not know how I would have survived so far without Jesus. I truly don’t.
I’ve worked in a Christian counselling environment wherein I was entrusted with the files and stories of hundreds of people, right here where I live, in this small, conservative, and overwhelmingly Christian city. If you’re under the illusion things are vastly different in Christian communities, please think again. The complicity of the Christian hierarchy mirrors that of the secular world. In many ways, it’s worse. There’s more than just a cover up. There is enablement through lack of condemnation for the perpetrators’ actions, a noticeable absence of any consequences and a widespread hushing up of victims.
Overall, there’s still a distressing tendency for the blame to be placed on ‘Eve’. Where there is seduction, she (the woman), is all-too-often deemed the temptress, even if she has rebuffed the advances. If sexual harassment has taken place and is made public, it’s overwhelmingly the woman who loses face, support and fellowship within the Church. She is far too often cast out of the community…while ‘he’ remains in leadership and worship positions. He is forgiven and allowed to continue his spiritual life, without missing a beat. She is left floundering, wandering alone in the desert…to pick up the threads…start a new life…somewhere else where she hopes they know nothing of her past.
Yes, I have witnessed it. Yes, I have experienced it. Not just harassment (as if that’s a trivial thing?) but sexual abuse and rape. I’m here. I’m raw. I’m telling it like it is.
I’ve experienced it first hand, and through the stories of hundreds of others.
So, yes. Me too. I have a tender saviour, who holds me so gently, and yet with such power and strength. In the final analysis, I’m okay.
But the Body of Christ has the distraught and damaged spirits of many of its women to answer for. We cry out for understanding and help. We reach out, mostly, to each other – other women who feel our feminine pain.
And yet…it is not yet enough.
I don’t propose to have the answers or the expertise to suggest a course of action but I do feel compelled to bring this issue before you all; to ask the question; to open the dialogue. We have an opportunity to be part of a massive wave of change and healing that will benefit the entire Christian community. Half the body of Christ is deeply wounded…and floundering.
Let’s go to Jesus with that, shall we? Men and women alike.