If you happen to be living in a bubble away from all social media, television or news, let me update you. Harvey Weinstein, a prominent and influential Hollywood film producer and Miramax studio executive, has been front and center of the news. So far, over thirty women have shared their experiences of being victims of sexual assault and harassment by Weinstein. He used intimidation, manipulation, threats and his position of power over his victims. As time keeps ticking, the dialogue has grown more honest. People who once said they were shocked are now saying, “Eh, it’s not so shocking.”
Alyssa Milano, in an effort to raise awareness of how widespread sexual assault and harassment is, encouraged people to share on social media the words, “Me too.” #MeToo Beth Moore, Kay Warren, Shauna Niequist and the list goes on of women who have experienced sexual assault and harassment. I have noticed that few are shocked and more are not.
As I read the stories of the victims, I started getting anxious. I remembered being in college and working on a project in the editing room for one of my classes. I was alone. One of my professors came into the room, closed the door and stood behind me. I was making small talk, but all I could think about was the sick feeling of panic I had in my stomach. Why did he close the door? How could I leave? I did not want to offend him. I kept editing my project and he reached down and put his hands under my shirt and started massaging my back and shoulders. I froze. After what seemed to be an eternity, I said I had to go and got out of the building as fast as I could.
I never told anyone about that event until recently.
I keep remembering other instances throughout my life. The time on a bus in Russia when a man asked my boyfriend if he could borrow me for the night. The time a man grabbed me while on a train. The times I have been cornered by a man who also used intimidation and force to silence me and other women. The sad thing is I thought this was normal or just men being “creeps.” I would never have labeled any of this harassment or assault. If I am honest, I still do not know how to name the incidents. My story is not unique, but for many, the stories are considerably worse. Let that sink in.
Here are some facts about sexual violence: “1 in 5 women will be raped. 1 in 71 men will be raped. More than 90% of sexual assaults that occur on college campuses go unreported. The prevalence of false reporting is between 2%-10%. Annually, rape costs the U.S. more than any other crime ($127 billion).”
Another sad fact, only 1 out of 10 men who have been sexually abused, harassed or assaulted report the incident. Research shows that this is also a significant and heartbreaking issue that needs space and acknowledgment. This statistic shows that men are even more quiet on the issue than women. I wonder about their suffering in silence too. Men, we see you and want to acknowledge your pain.
To say we have a heart problem is an understatement. How did Harvey Weinstein go from being a little boy with dreams of telling stories to the world to where he is now? I realize by even asking this question, I could be standing on a land mine to readers who wonder why we should care? Is this question dismissive of the victims pain? No! Please hear me. I just wonder where it all started. Was he abused? When did he start keeping secrets? When did he feel entitled to crush someone else’s boundaries by using manipulation and power differentiation? He is a broken, depraved man in need of a Savior.
When C.S. Lewis was dying, he said an important message he wanted people to know was the following, “Avoid reductionism.” He was thinking of this on many levels. There is much wisdom from his statement. As far as abuse, we cannot reduce it to clean and simple categories. Abuse is nuanced, devastating, shame-filled, terrifying, causes second-guessing, and fear that can define your steps if not tended.
Paying attention to our stories is important. Where abuse has occurred, I am a strong believer in counseling and a trustworthy support group. I have seen the effects of well-meaning Christ-followers heaping shame on the victim. Some hurtful things could be: asking for details, asking why they didn’t report it, or what were they wearing, or saying it was God’s will. The good news is that we learn and grow and hopefully the next time we speak in ways that are healing and communicate the heart of God to those who have been wounded.
Presence offered is one of the biggest gifts you can give someone who has begun to share their story. Even asking, “What has it felt like to share #MeToo? How have people responded to your vulnerability?” Being curious without being invasive is showing the love of Christ.
Victims of abuse can have a complicated relationship with God when it comes to working through their trauma. “God, where were you? Why? What did I do?” At the same time there can be a comfort that only the Healer can bring. It’s complicated and cannot be reduced to something simple. The wrestling is part of the healing. Give space for the wrestle. Church, silence here is not benign. There is a silence that is helpful and there is a silence that is harmful. We must learn to delineate through much needed wisdom and guidance of Holy Spirit.
Diane Langberg, a beloved counselor, shared about a time she asked one of her clients who had been sexually assaulted to read Matthew 27 & 28. The woman came into the counseling session the next week and before the door even shut she said, “Jesus was assaulted too! They took his clothes, hung him on a cross and he was exposed.” Jesus knows about pain, abuse, assault and shame. He is not one who is far off and removed. He has shared in our sufferings.
Jesus, we wake up again heavy-hearted. We pray that those who have shared the #MeToo on social media or with a trusted friend will find healing. We pray for all who have never uttered a word about the horror of what happened to them. We pray against shame that leads to toxic isolation and darkness. We pray for space, comfort, wise counselors and friends to help aid in the healing. We thank you that our primary identity is never victim, but son and daughter. Where we have a complicated relationship with you, Father, assure us of your great love for us. Assure us that while this is part of our story, it does not get to define our future in ways that are damaging. Help us live in the light and expose the evil deeds of darkness. Help us know how to fight for biblical justice and love in ways that YOU would have us do that…..there’s so much we do not know and are in need of from you, Jesus. Holy Spirit, thank you that you are the way forward here. Thank you that you show, direct, instruct, heal, comfort and that truth & love are who you are.
And Harvey, I am sure you will never read my blog, but if you do, know this, I have a temptation to want to disconnect from the truth that I have been rescued just so I can shame you. I cannot. What you did was and is shameful, but I want to leave you with this – you can sit in rehab all day long, say the right things, and nod in agreement, but you need a rebirth. Confession, repentance and brokenness are three gifts to befriend, not reject.
The Wounded Heart