by Bruce Strom
I am outraged over the continued sexual violence toward women. From sexual harassment to rape to domestic violence to trafficking, it must be stopped. Here are three powerful ways to combat sexual violence toward women.
- Power – Recognize the problem
This isn’t about sex. It’s about power. Perpetrators are overwhelmingly male (99%) and frequently exhibit a lack of empathy, aggressive and controlling personalities, underlying anger and power issues with women. The statistics are deplorable. As I stated in Gospel Justice, one in three women and one in four men will experience sexual and physical violence in their life.
While I don’t know anything about Pokemon, I appreciate them using the characters to convey important messages such as this quote by Harvard professor, Judith Lewis Herman.
Over the last two weeks Roger Ailes, the powerful Fox News Chairman and CEO, was forced to resign under allegations of sexual harassment. The allegations were leveled in a suit filed by former news anchor, Gretchen Carlson. Almost immediately a host of other women came forward including Laurie Luhn and Megyn Kelly. The allegations demonstrate a controlling, manipulative man who used his position to abuse women. But here’s the problem.
Men too often rush to blame the women. Time and again women of sexual violence will say they were afraid to speak up for fear no one would believe them. The most powerful words you can say are, “I believe you.” Sadly one of our Presidential candidates was quick to say how “very sad” it was that women were ganging up on Roger Ailes. When asked how he thought his daughter would react, he replied, “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case.”
Women should NEVER have to forfeit a career or position because of an abusive man! This isn’t about the woman. This is about a man who thinks he is entitled to force himself verbally or physically upon a woman. We have to communicate loudly that is not acceptable behavior.
I have helped hundreds of abused women over the years. My heart breaks for the psychological pain inflicted which is every bit as deep as the physical pain. Until we force ourselves and our sons to view women as full participants in God’s creation. Completely equal. Loved. Prized by Him. We will not see change. Women are not to be objectified. We should treat every woman with the dignity they deserve as a child of God.
Don’t manipulate. Never seek to control. No means no. Treat one another as you would want to be treated. Show honor and respect. If you are married this is simple – every other woman is your sister, mother or daughter. Think of them accordingly. Treat them accordingly.
- Pornography – Recognize a major contributor
I am amazed at how my liberal friends normalize pornography. Many liberals criticized the Republican platform for stating pornography has become “a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions”. I’m sorry, but that’s true.
Porn sites get more visitors than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined! Two-thirds of HR professionals report finding porn on employee work stations. How can any reasonable person believe that objectifying women in private for self-gratifying pleasure won’t impact interacting with women in public? Yet a major report finds teens and young adults rank recycling as more immoral than viewing porn.
Only 14% of young people think porn is bad for society. We need to change that. Pornography feeds into an unhealthy view of women. The industry itself is predatory.
- Preach – Recognize the path forward
We need to preach. I mean that both in the specific use of the word tied to church pulpits and in the general use of the word to “earnestly advocate a belief or course of action.”
The Bible has a lot to say about the violent oppression of women. Yet a major study reveals 33% of pastors rarely speak about it. Given the number of people impacted in any congregation – that needs to change! That same report revealed we don’t do a good job of responding to abuse in the church. A large majority (62%) of pastors surveyed say they have responded to sexual or domestic violence by providing couples or marriage counseling. That’s bad advice.
The key word to remember is “safety”. Make certain a woman is safe in a domestic situation. You can sort through other issues afterward with appropriate professionals. Want a helpful screening device? Create a justice community. A lawyer is a helpful person to meet. We can help.
My teachers are women. Over the years I have listened to the pain, shame, and confusion caused by sexual harassment, abuse, and violence. I have wept until I can weep no more. I have intervened for protection. I have advocated for justice. But I would much rather prevent the circumstances. We need justice. But above all we need to stop the cycle from happening.
You may not have my privileged seat. You may not have opportunity to sit with a wounded neighbor. I encourage you to read the letter of the woman known only as the victim of the Stanford University rape. A courageous woman. Her letter is not G rated. Neither is this subject. It is raw and real.
To the excuse of her oppressor of having drank too much, she poignantly writes, “You realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone? Show men how to respect women, not how to drink less.”
Men, we have a choice. Will we be like the student who thought sex went with drinking like “fries on the side of your order” (her words)? Or will we be like the two valiant men on bicycles who witnessed the abuse and immediately rushed to her aide? Their heroism avoided further abuse. Their action spoke volumes to this woman who now sleeps under a picture she drew of two bicycles taped above her bed. She does that to remind herself “there are heroes in this story.”
There are heroes in every story. Be one of them.
I’ve not met the woman assaulted at Stanford. I have met many in like circumstances. Her concluding words are worth repeating.
“I hope that by speaking today you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you.”
I am with you too. In prayer. In preaching. In advocating for justice. I am with you.