Late last week I scrolled through a list of two-dozen-plus actresses who were opening up and telling their stories of sexual harassment and assault perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein. Careful reading of their stories wasn’t necessary to lead one to conclude that if the allegations are true, this guy has engaged in some deplorable behavior. . . habitually. To be honest, it’s frightening. It’s likely that in the case of Weinstein victims, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.
As of today, it seems that as soon as the lid popped off the full barrel of Weinstein stories, the floodgates opened up for other victims to step forward to tell their stories and begin, we hope, to start the long and difficult process of dealing with the trauma of sexual brokenness and victimization at the hands of sexual predators. You can’t be present on social media today without coming across the #metoo hashtag way, way, way too many times. While the numbers and the stories are discouraging, opening the door to tell the story is the first step towards healing. This stuff wreaks havoc on individuals, families, and entire institutions.
What are we to make of all of this? Here are some non-exhaustive initial thoughts to consider. . .
First, we’ve got a major problem. We live in a hypersexualized world. I don’t think it’s at all a stretch to say that we are reaping what we’ve sown. Sure, sexual brokenness has been present in humanity since Genesis 3:6. Like everything else we have, we are, and we do, our sexuality fell apart at the fall. And, rather than seeking sexual flourishing and Shalom in ways that bring glory to God, we’ve conjured up a culture where anything and everything sexual is encouraged and even permitted. So rather than creating a culture that discourages sexual harassment and assault, we’ve got ourselves a world of our own making where kids who were taught to grow up doing anything and everything, are now adults who are doing anything and everything. Why can’t we connect the dots and start by ceasing to feed these attitudes and behaviors with better perspective and teaching on the front end of the life cycle?
Second, we must realize that hypocrisy is universal to humanity. Many of my Christian friends are pointing out. . . correctly, I might add. . . that the very media machine that propagates the belief in complete sexual freedom without borders and boundaries, is now decrying a kind of sexuality that victimizes as a result of no borders and boundaries. That’s caused me to consider the criticism this group has consistently thrown at Christians. . . that is, that Christians talk a good game that really doesn’t connect with the walk. Maybe we should realize that hypocrisy is a universal malady, with nobody consistently walking their talk.
Third, those of us who live and work on the landscape of youth ministry need to recognize that the problem exists in our world as well. On just one day last week, my Google news feed offered up three stories related to the keyword “youth” where members of our own tribe had been either arrested or convicted for doing the kind of stuff accusers have pinned in Weinstein. Wake up people. It’s everywhere. If you find yourself leaning towards this sort of thing, step out now! And, if you know someone in youth ministry or anyone else in the church who is involved in this, inhale immediately and then blow the whistle as loud as you can.
Fourth, we’re now facing the difficult work of walking people through their trauma. So many have lived for so long in the prison of their silence, with each passing day being one more day of being locked-up yet hoping for escape. Now that the lid’s been blown off for so many, the church needs to get its hands dirty. . . pastors, counselors, youth workers, friends. Our collective responsibility is to listen, love, care, and get them to the help they need. This is not a crisis or movement that can fall on deaf ears. One of the leaders we lean on to help us respond in the right way is Dr. Diane Langberg. She’s done extensive work on sexual abuse and trauma. Her book, Suffering and the Heart of God, and this podcast interview with her on suffering, trauma, and abuse are good starting points that we must all tap into.
Finally, we need to pray for clarity and discernment. This may sound a bit harsh, but as the wave of #metoo posts grows, we can be sure that there will be those who want to get caught up in the frenzy, get some attention, and make some social media noise. . . even though this isn’t their story. In other words, mixed in with the many, many legitimate admissions and cries for help will be those that are stated falsely, based on a desire to simply get some attention. That said, don’t take a #metoo too lightly, but always be on the look out for those that are false accusations designed to give the accuser a platform, a sympathetic audience, and a place to fit in.
To learn more about the dynamics of sexual abuse, power, and healing, listen to this first-person story with Denise Gater.