I am one of the women who knows it wasn’t just locker room talk.
Ask me how I know?
I’ve never told—not anyone but a very few who have suffered similarly. We have a solidarity, we women who know what are and are not “just words.” I’ve told family members who deserve to know, like my husband and girls. Oh, I want those girls to know.
I have written some difficult blog posts, but this is definitely the hardest. I don’t want to hurt people I love. I don’t want to talk about what happened. I want to leave it in the past buried. But unfortunately, these things never stay buried. They resurrect at the worst times, tainting your marriage and your trust in people (men) and your memories of good days just when you thought they were dead.
They are never dead.
A family member sexually molested me from the ages of 8-14. I don’t want to name that family member. I love my other family members too much, and they do not deserve the hurt. I was not raped, but I was touched in ways a grown man should never even think of with a little girl, ways a man should never talk about or think of with a grown woman either who has not clearly assented. Ways no one should have touched me until the day I married this wonderful man who has to carry that baggage along with him, too, which is so not fair.
He has been nothing but honorable his entire life. He is a man who has never, once, engaged in or deemed acceptable what we are being told “all men do.” Yet he carries the baggage from another man who considered it his right to take whatever he wanted. Not fair. Not fair. Not fair.
And it isn’t just me.
I personally know four women who have been raped. Not four Facebook friends out of hundreds—four flesh-and-blood people I know and interact with. They are normal women from all walks of life. And those are only the ones I know about. There are more. I see others every day, and I don’t know it. They don’t make it public information, because the shame is so locked down, unwarranted as it may be.
They are Christian women who did not engage in any behavior that “asked for it.” As if there is any such behavior.
One I saw and don’t know may have been you.
The hurt itself, the memories that come unbidden, the nightmares we cannot forget, are enough. To compound them by finding that people we have believed in as brothers (and some sisters) in Christ are prepared to dismiss that hurt? Beyond nightmare.
Jesus had some words for how we are to treat one another in this community of believers. Quite a few words, in fact. Here are just some:
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13.35
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12.10
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15.12-13
Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6.31
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12.9
Love does no harm to a neighbor. Romans 13.10
Brothers, we feel harmed when you dismiss those who have hurt us as “no big deal.”
We do not feel you laying down your lives for us when we hear that “what’s in the past is in the past.”
We do not feel honored when you call sexual threats “macho.”
We feel betrayed. We feel left along the roadside like the man who was robbed and left for dead. We feel angry.
–It’s the sin we brush aside because Christians don’t talk about that sort of thing.
–It’s the horror we accept because some of our own have been guilty, and we don’t dare admit our weakness.
–It’s the evil we don’t want to define because we would have to call so many to account for their careless words, and we don’t want to lose all those people. Confront the words, the jokes, the innuendos, and we risk being told we’re overreacting, it was only a joke. Only locker room talk. All men do it. So in order to keep our people, we don’t judge the talk. It’s just easier.
–Worst of all, it’s the sin we refuse to acknowledge because women are supposed to be submissive, and listening to their stories might empower them to realize that’s a lie forced upon them like so many other things have been.
But — we feel angry.
Don’t forget that last one. We who have a difficult time forgetting what happened to us? We will not forget this, either. We will be stronger than you have any idea, because we know what it is to rise from ashes and live again, stronger than before. We have discovered the reality of Jesus’ promise that evil doesn’t stand a chance against his people.
There are many, many good people standing with us, too. We will keep standing so long as anyone chooses to denigrate the image of God in women into less than He meant for it to be. It’s a turning point we cannot afford to ignore or miss.
Readers, if this is part of your past as well, know you are listened to and heard here. You will not be told to be silent. You will be heard and seen. I know this is a hard thing to have talked about. I didn’t want to. But if there is one of you who feels stronger because I did? That’s a win for me.
I saw these hashtags on Facebook this week from another women with a story to tell:
I love it.
Let’s not be silent. Let’s be strong.