Over the past year, there has been a social shift that allows victims of sexual assault to be able to tell their stories of abuse, without being blamed for the traumatic experiences. Thanks to many international campaigns against rape and sexual abuse, each and every day, we hear stories of men and women of different backgrounds express their pain they have experienced at the hands of their abuser(s). From the streets of Hollywood to waitresses in your favorite restaurant, people are now more comfortable with sharing their experiences of sexual trauma without the fear of social reciprocations because, as a society, we have begun to create an environment that caters to the needs of survivors of assault instead of shaming them for something the survivors couldn’t help. One place that desperately needs this environment is the church.
Commotion at Wesley Methodist Church in Tshwane. Young women confront a leader of the church about sexual abuse allegations. I just love how the women, victims of abuse themselves, unite in song and drown out the voices of these young women in order to save “God’s Chosen” ❤️ pic.twitter.com/m6udTAzx1R
— ATHI GELEBA 🇿🇦 (@AthiGeleba) January 30, 2018
The reason why the church needs a movement that protects victims of sexual assault is because harm being done by the purity movement. While there is nothing wrong with abstaining from sex until the Purity, movement/culture plays a large part in the sexual abuse issue in the church. From a young age, we are all taught, especially young women, that we are to abstain from sexual acts outside of marriage because that ruins our communion with the Lord. Instead of focusing in on the several issues that come along with sex, as well as the spiritual meaning of sexual intimacy, we are force feed the idea of being Jezebels. If anyone was to touch your body in a sexual manner while unwed, you had a Jezebel spirit on you. If someone has the Jezebel spirit, then they are hyper-sexual and lack morals.
Because of statements like this, many girls and young women are in such fear of stating they have been abused because they will be accused of being hyper-sexual or “ruining their virtue.” Young women who actually get the chance to build up the courage to speak on what happened to them are often shamed and ridiculed and accused of attempting to seduce their abuser, further protecting the abuser and ridiculing the abused. If a young man was to accuse another church member of assault, especially a male member, their sexual orientation will be put into question. Many abusers flock to churches because it offers them a cushion of protection and an easy pool of victims to prey on.
A sexual reform is a desperate need in church because of the fact we have been taught so much manipulative language at young and impressionable ages from older people that we are taught to trust and not question the information given. This damaging language has lead to a mindset that silenced generations both young and old of victims. An environment needs to be created where victims can openly criticize the people who failed to protect, as well as discuss their pain without being shamed. A study conducted by Abel Harlow Child Molestation Prevention found that in churches, over 291,000 incidents occurred, with over 195,000 victims. Their voices and stories have been silenced for far too long and the system that allows this to happen has been in place for too long. There needs to be a reform lead in the church to replace all those who continue to push for the silence of these.
Church is supposed to be a safe haven for all those who have been shamed and damaged from this world and a starting place for the true meaning of unwavering and unconditional love, but far too many times, church has become the first place that people become damaged by those who were supposed to protect us. A safe haven for victims and survivors has become a place overrun with abusers who manipulate scripture to push their victims into the silence of outing them and instead infill their victims in that they will be punished by God for confessing the pain that they caused.
"There are a number of misconceptions I have encountered within the church concerning the nature of sexual abuse. The first one is that time, becoming Christian, or truly repenting and being forgiven heals the sex offender." https://t.co/5pDoeynReO
— Justin Holcomb (@JustinHolcomb) January 31, 2018