Why 'Me Too' Stories Matter In the Church
These two words have been a rallying cry for women around the world to share their stories of sexual assault just two weeks after the New York Times published an article detailing decades of sexual abuse allegations against powerful Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization issued a statement saying, “RAINN stands with the courageous women who have come forward to share their story and make their voices heard. We look forward to working with the industry to ensure that nobody ever has to face the situations that Weinstein subjected them to.”
The sad reality is that every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S. but only six out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison. The numbers are particularly alarming for women and children:
- 1 out of every 6 (about 18 million) American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
- 9 out of every 10 victims of rape are female.
- About 60,000 children are victims of sexual abuse each year.
- 55 percent of sexual assaults occur at or near the victim’s home.
What’s even more concerning is that there are many more women in various industries who have yet to come forward with their own stories of sexual assault. Churches and Christian leaders are not exempt from accusations of this nature. According to a recent article in Relevant Magazine, for the past five years, “child sexual abuse has been the No. 1 reason why churches or religious organizations have ended up in court.” They also note the role of patriarchy in creating an endemic of sexual abuse in the church.
As Christians and as women, we can’t afford to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to what is happening at this crucial moment in our society. We must engage in these dialogues about patriarchy and abuse, and find meaningful solutions for women in our community. The good news is that the Bible is not only rich in spiritual truths but “the good book” also provides a frame of reference on how to approach sexual abuse. In 2 Samuel 13, we find another “me too” story about a woman of prominence who survived a brutal sexual assault. By highlighting her story, we can offer empathy, support, and healing to other women. We can tell them:
Your Story Matters
Her name was Tamar and she was a princess. She was the daughter of King David, but that didn’t stop her from being the victim of a brutal sexual assault. Amnon, a son of King David lured her to his bedroom under false pretenses. He told her father that he was sick and that Tamar, his half-sister was the only one who could comfort him. Once they were alone, he raped her and then sent her away. At the time, Tamar may have felt alone but her story was included in the Bible as a warning against sexual abuse. It also shows us why this kind of behavior should not be tolerated in any society. It was an unjust and inhumane attack that affected David's entire household. Similarly, when women are harassed and attacked, it affects every area of our society. Also, this act was considered evil in the sight of God and Amnon's deed did not go unpunished.
It’s Not Your Fault
Often in cases of sexual assault, the conversation turns to questions about the woman’s role in inciting the attack. Donna Karan went on record recently to suggest that sexual harassment victims were “asking for it” by the way they dressed. Victim-blaming is one of the many reasons why women don’t come forward to report sexual harassment and assault. In the church, victim-blaming and shaming sounds like this: “Ladies, you should not cause your ‘brothers’ to stumble by wearing suggestive clothing.” While modesty is a good idea, it does not offer any real protection against sexual assault and remember that your choice of clothing is not an invitation for anyone to “lay hands” on you. This also applies to the places you choose to go such as the “club”, “the bar”, or any other public or private place.
While we should use discernment about where we go, it is important to remember that most sexual assault cases happen at or near the victim’s home. Tamar was not only a virgin but she was in her father’s home and in her brother’s bedroom of all places. She was sent by the King to take care of Amnon in his Illness and then "everyone" left them alone in his bedroom. She didn't go there alone but she ended up alone. It was not her fault and it is never your fault or any woman's fault when a man decides that he "has to have her." Amnon was responsible for his own depraved actions, not Tamar.
Your Voice Is Your Biggest Weapon
Absalom, Tamar’s brother, sought revenge on Amnon for what he did to Tamar. Their ensuing battle brought death and destruction to David’s house for many generations to come. Likewise, Harvey Weinstein was fired from his company and kicked out of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. While it is tempting to take matters into your own hands, God will have the final say in the lives of the perpetrators. In the meantime, it is best to let the authorities do their job. Don’t be afraid to tell the police, a pastor, or human resources personnel that you have been assaulted. It may take some time but don’t become weary in pursuing justice or in speaking out against sexual abuse. Keep raising your voice and telling your story. Also, choose to forgive your attacker even while pursuing legal action. Forgiveness does not let your attacker off the hook but it releases you from the guilt, shame, and regret of the abuse.
You Will Heal In Time
While we don’t know what happened to Tamar after the attack, we know that If you’ve been the victim of a sexual attack, know that God loves you and this attack was not a part of His will for your life. He can, however, redeem it and use your story to help others heal. In the meantime, focus on your emotional, mental, and spiritual health and seek professional help.