writing, talking, working in sexual assault isn't the easiest of business. even with the discussion broken wide open, we are still battling with the topic.
when i wrote at the beginning of this month saying that i want to talk about rape culture and sexual assault, i knew that i would be entering some fragile territory. especially with wanting to first explore sexual assault and the church.
last week, an article ran about a pastor in memphis. he had admitted to his congregation about a "sexual incident" that he had when he was a youth pastor that had recently come to light. te female involved wrote about the experience on a blog. he said he had "dealt with it". you can listen to a video about it here:
he describes this as an "incident". let me tell you why it's not.
1) he was her youth pastor, he was in authority.
2) he offered to drive her home, instead driving to a secluded area and forcing her to perform oral sex. then touching her breasts.
3) he begged her not to tell anyone.
4) she was a minor.
he was in an appointed position, which comes with some steep expectations and levels of trust from the church and from her parents. so much about this bothers me, but i'm not really surprised by it.
we are so easily apologetic of male behaviors, especially when it comes to sex, because we are conditioned to dismiss the voice of women.
this pastor was given a standing ovation by his congregation when he admitted to committing sexual assault on a minor. i hurt for the people in that congregation that have been victims of sexual assault, also by the church or otherwise, and they had to watch their community applaud this behavior.
i can see though, how this manifests in the church. how we congratulate perpetrators. males are seen as the leaders in relationships and the church. females are taught to live modestly and to closely watch their own behaviors to not make men stumble. while i can understand how this belief is biblical, it greatly does a disservice to men and to women. it makes women responsible for the behavior of men, and lowers the expectations and intelligence of men. like, they aren't able to handle themselves. applauding this behavior admires this pastor's ability to overcome his guilt of sexual assault, but it doesn't shed any light on what the women in this assault has had to deal with at all. what are we teaching the younger generations of the church when we aren't holding each sex to the same standards. he was a trusted authority figure in her life, and he took advantage of his position. it's plain and simple to me. and alluding to the woman involved as "not moving past it" is infuriating.
when i first moved back (and i believe that i have shared this story before), i interviewed for a local church position. they knew very little about me, only whats in my resume and my cover letter. i have done a lot of work in sexual exploitation, going on about 13 years now. when i was asked if i was mad at God for the things that i have seen, i said "no. no, i'm not angry with God over the stories i have heard or the people i have met. i'm angry at the church. if the church was doing what it was supposed to do, my job wouldn't exist." we have neglected our jobs as church members and believers by not taking a stand against this type of behavior. (needless to say, i didn't get the job.)
there's comes a point in time that we need to take a bigger stand within the walls of the church, before we start removing the dust out of the eyes in our communities. how can we expect people in our community treat women as valued human beings and to honor our consent, when we allow a pastor to downplay an assault to an incident without hesitation. i've known women to be sexually assaulted on mission trips, by their youth pastors, other youth members, other church members.
my wish is that we, as a church, could have a very open and candid discussion about sexual assault, consent, and what we're going to do about it on church level. people in your congregations are going through this, you know someone.