Tag Archives: sexual assault

Listen up men of the church: This is how we eradicate sexual discrimination and abuse

When I was 11 years old I remember hanging out in the arcade at the bowling alley and two men came up to me, leaned in closer than I felt comfortable, and told me how beautiful I was. They offered to pay for my video games and then asked me for a kiss.

When I was 13 years old I was molested by someone I trusted. Someone who was supposed to be a father figure to me.

When I was 14 years old a boy that I liked put his tongue down my throat and it scared me so much I ran to the bathroom and threw up.

By the time I was 15 I started getting cat-calls when I walked down city streets or past construction zones.

Each year, during highschool, I put on a little more weight, got a little bit heavier, until I started to become invisible to the guys around me. I hated being invisible, I hated being the fat friend, but it was better than the unwanted attention.

By the time I got to college the only time boys came to talk to me was to ask me about one of my pretty friends. My dating experience was pretty limited, so you can imagine my surprise when one day this boy followed me into the lady Foot Locker where I worked and asked me for my phone number. I was 19 years old and four years later I married that boy. I guess you can say I got pretty lucky that my first serious boyfriend turned out to be the one. I would definitely say that.

But my early interactions with men had left a lasting impact I couldn’t shake, and as I entered my adult years I had absolutely no idea how to be around men or how to have male friends. My husband and I had very few couple friends in our early years of married life. Most of his guy friendships he’d had from his single days fizzled out, and it seemed the few men I did come into contact with either completely ignored me or made me incredibly uncomfortable with their sexual comments and perverse jokes.

On the flip side I was also very sensitive about the dangers of male/ female friendships. I’d heard too many rumors, seen too many broken relationships. I felt incredibly uncomfortable with the single women who sought out friendships with my husband. Maybe because of this, I closed myself off to friendship, or put off a vibe that I wasn’t interested. Even the boyfriends and husband’s of my girlfriends seemed to only just tolerate, if barely acknowledge my presence.

In my mid twenties I had a male boss who I thought of as a friend for a while, but he told me that I would never be able to reach my career goals because I had chosen to be a wife and a mother instead. And then he sexually harassed another colleague.

By my late twenties I started to wonder if it was possible to have healthy male friendships at all. If I even knew what a healthy friendship with a guy looked like.

So much of my interaction with men left me feeling either invisible or objectified. I just wanted to be an equal. Appreciated for my wit, my intelligence, and my kindness.

Finally, in my mid-thirties I began to find the kinds of friendships I’d thought might be possible, but had mostly been elusive. Brotherly friendships with guys who let me be their equal. Not surprisingly, most of these friendships came through church.

In the last few years I, who never had brothers, suddenly found myself with 6 or 7 dear “brothers from another mother.” And it’s been the most amazing phenomenon for me. I never knew how much I was missing this type of friendship in my life until it happened.

My girlfriends, they are beautiful and fierce, and our relationships are sacred. My girlfriends are my heroes. But my guy friends lift me up in a different way. They are wonderfully blunt in their honesty, and I never worry if they’re just telling me what they think I want to hear. They put me in check when I’m over thinking or over stressed about something I should be giving over to God. And most of them are legit hilarious, and can handle some good-natured, sisterly ribbing like a boss.

But you want to know what else almost all of these guys have in common? They cherish their wives. I see it in how they look and speak of them. And because they love and honor the most important woman in their life, they are able to treat other women with kindness and respect.

And guys – listen up! Men of the church, I’m talking to you now: We need more of this.

Women need to be treated with compassion and reverence. We need to have men show us we matter because we are daughters of a King and sisters in Christ, not because of how we look, sound, or dress. We don’t want to be looked over and ignored because of our femininity anymore than we want to be objectified for it.

First and foremost, love and cherish your wives; we will love and honor our husbands. Let’s definitely safeguard our marriages and put smart boundaries in place.

But then, be a brother and a friend. The women in your church or community need that. Our sons and daughters need to see healthy relationships modeled for them. They are watching.

We can get this right.

We must get this right. It’s so important! If we show our children the right way, then the next generation can eradicate sexual abuse and discrimination.

Are you with me?

For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” – Matthew 12:50

Photo credit: timsamoff Ignited via photopin (license)

Speak your truth

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

Today I read this blog post by a woman named Laura. It’s her story about finally coming forward and reporting the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her grandfather. I cried as I read Laura’s story. I cried as she described wanting to dance on her grandfather’s grave. I cried the moment she and her cousin decided to report the abuse to the police. I cried when they called her sister from the police station and had her give her statement. Mostly I cried at the freedom and validation she felt by having her truth told and acknowledged publicly. Because I know how freeing and healing it is to be able to tell your truth. To no longer hide it, keeping it tucked away deep inside like it never happened.

When I was molested by my step-father at 13 there was no police report filed. There was no public announcement made. I never even got to confront him. I was removed from the situation and taken to live where I was safe (and I’m thankful for that). But I was told that reporting it could ruin his life and his career. I was told that I was confused, that I had misunderstood what had happened. I was told I needed to talk to a counselor – a stranger who sat behind a large desk. There was a lot of whispering behind closed doors. There were awkward hugs and “how are you doing?” from family members. I wasn’t sure who knew and who didn’t. If they did know, most of them never said anything to me, and I was afraid to bring it up.

While no one ever said the topic was taboo, I felt it deep in my heart. I felt like it was too big, too real for anyone to handle. I felt like the only person I was supposed to talk to about it was my counselor, who was the very last person I wanted to open up to. So I pushed down my truth and hid it in a dark corner, under a heavy rock in the pit of my stomach.

There it stayed, only shared with two or three friends for the next 8 years, until I was 21. Out of nowhere the truth came bubbling to the surface and exploded from the years of pressure and subconscious effort it had taken to keep it hidden. I fell into a deep depression for a year and almost didn’t graduate college. But, the good news was that explosion forced me to seek help. It forced me to get the counseling I needed but hadn’t wanted at 13. It forced me to start telling my story.

Over the years, through lots of counseling and prayer, and amazing support from my husband, I learned how to own my truth. I was able to start sharing with other people what had happened to me. The first few times I told my story my hands trembled, my heart raced and I sobbed, barely able to get the words out. Then, with each telling it got easier. With each telling I healed a little bit more; I took another step towards freedom and forgiveness. I began to own my past, not be afraid of it.

With each telling I was met by women who confided they, too, had been molested or sexually assaulted. Every. Single. Time. And I would hear God say, “There are more. Keep telling your story because there are more.”

Then I told my story in the most public forum I could, this blog. To date over 400 people have read that post and because of it I’ve been approached by women who have been molested, or had a sister, a daughter, a grand-daughter who have been there. They’ve sought me out personally, with a sense of urgency, and whispered this in my ear or sent me private messages, still unable to tell their truth out loud, but wanting so bad to tell someone. Some women have confided they’ve never told another living soul, others said only a few very close family members knew. Yet, they were compelled to tell me because it felt safe. I was one of them. And I could see the slight unburdening of their soul as they shared with me.

My sisters (and brothers) there are so very many of us who have been hiding our truth for too long. Thinking we were the only ones. It’s time to end the silence and the fear. It’s time to seek healing and reclaim your truth — reclaim it from your abuser or attacker. Whether you choose to file a report with the authorities, like Laura, to tell your best friend, or share with your Bible study group — don’t be afraid to tell your story. There is no shame in what happened to you. None.

Let God be your armor and your strength. You are not alone and you are loved.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” – Ephesians 6:13-14

[Author’s note: While I believe that telling our truth is a freeing and healing step for those who have suffered sexual abuse or trauma, I also want to stress that doing so may open up a lot of old wounds, especially if you have been keeping your secret for a long time. I encourage anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse to seek out professional counseling to help you work through your past and move toward healing. If you aren’t sure where to start, call this number: 800.656.HOPE (4673) for help finding a local provider that specializes in sexual abuse or trauma.

In 2016 a dear friend of mine, also a victim of childhood sexual abuse, wrote a book called Journey to Heal: 7 Essential Steps of Recovery for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to find healing from the abuse of their past.]