I was a sexually naive, college age, camp counselor. He was a 50-something volunteer. I didn’t know enough to be uncomfortable. He flattered me, told me how pretty I was, how amazing, how gifted, etc. Then the long, tight, full frontal hugs started. A hello hug, a good-bye hug, etc. Maybe he just liked me? One day he pulled me in close for a spontaneous dance.
And that’s as far as it went. Was it actually sexual harassment? I didn’t know enough then to complain…
It went on for a few summers.
Then I got married. As a now-sexually-aware woman, I looked back on those interactions and cringed. They disgusted me. I talked to my husband who had been at camp with me back when we were single. He acknowledged that at the time it made him uncomfortable. I talked to one of the full-time camp staff. He also admitted that it seemed weird to him.
The question is, why didn’t these men step in? Why didn’t they say something to me? To the volunteer?
Our paths crossed again a few years ago. My “admirer” tried to start up the frontal hugs. He always wanted to touch me and put his arm around my shoulders. It was all supposed to be friendly and fatherly.
This time I stopped it.
I looked him in the eyes and told him that he made me uncomfortable. I told him that I didn’t want him to touch me any more. He blustered and made excuses, but I stood my ground. It was awkward, but it was worth it!
For every horrific story of abuse and harassment that has come out because of the #metoo campaign, hundreds of these subtle, uncomfortable stories simmer beneath the surface. It’s not just in the secular world. Horrific stories and subtle stories abound within the Christian community: within churches, and camps, and organizations. It’s not okay!
- It’s not okay that Christians keep young people so sexually naive that they don’t know when something crosses the line. Because I’m not the only one.
- It’s not okay that Christians sweep things under the rug to “protect the name of God” or to “keep unity” or to “prevent the world from mocking us” or whatever other dumb excuse they conjure up. Stop hiding and deal with it!
- It’s not okay that Christians choose to blame women for men’s actions.
- It’s not okay that Christian men don’t stand up for women being harassed and/or assaulted.
- It’s not okay that Christian women are terrified to tell the truth because of the shame and blame they know will come if they are honest.
The Christian community should be a place of safety. A place where women are valued, heard, and protected. We are equally made in God’s image. Sin is sin. Light is supposed to expose darkness. There shouldn’t be any excuses just because you are a man.
That’s not how Jesus acted. He valued women. He protected and supported them.
So, what do we do?
- Stop making excuses.
- Call sin what it is, SIN.
- Stop sweeping things under the rug.
- Blame the perpetrator and not the victims.
- Teach people to stand up for themselves.
- Stop avoiding hard topics.
- Start acting like Jesus.
I know that me sharing this story is just scraping the very tip of the iceberg. Many of you have similar stories and worse stories. I am sorry! It’s not okay! You are loved, valued, and forgiven. It’s not your fault. Feel free to contact me if you want!