A week ago, actress Alyssa Milano went on Twitter and invited women who have gone through sexual harassment or assault to respond with a “Me Too” tweet.
Thousands responded and the hashtag #MeToo went beyond the Twitter-verse. Countless women are writing about their experiences, in the hope of raising awareness about the issue.
I’ve read a few accounts. And it’s been heartbreaking.
I had no intention of hopping into the conversation because any stories I have pale in comparison to what others have gone through.
But then we have a series on this blog where we are talking about sex and intimacy.
I thought of wives who are struggling to relate intimately with their husbands and unmarried women who are turned off by the idea of sex in marriage, because of sexual wounds.
And I so thought to share my view in the hope it encourages someone towards healing.
Good and Evil
When we go through difficulties, like sexual harassment or assault, it’s hard to reconcile the existence of good and evil.
Surely a good and just God wouldn’t allow that to happen to an innocent person? If God is in control of the world, we wouldn’t have all the chaos and crazy?
There are plenty of ways to talk us down the ledge but I’ve learned words can’t explain away our deepest hurts and pain.
We can’t expound it enough for someone to say, “Oh now I get it. Finally, it all makes sense. I guess I can now let go of this hurt I feel.”
Often times, at least in my own experience, it’s not rational thinking that stirs me to healing. It is faith in the existence of a good God; the revelation that there’s Someone greater than what I face, greater than my pain, who is rooting for my healing.
The understanding (however faint sometimes) that He is not sitting back doing nothing about my disappointment and hurt makes the difference.
Indeed, He has already done something, by way of the Cross and resurrection.
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT
The Over-Friendly Man
Two and half years ago, I was walking in downtown Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. It was my first day on the streets of city, after being away for four years and I was loving it.
I was enjoying the morning sun when a man walked up beside me and struck up a conversation. Being on “American-mode” (where I have learned to do small talk) I smiled and engaged him in chit chat.
But it soon became apparent he was after more than small talk so I excused myself and crossed the street. That seemed to take him by surprise. But he got the message and left me alone.
The Unstable Man
A few hours later, I was walking another super busy street when out of nowhere a man of Caucasian origin emerged from the crowd and ran up to me waving flowers.
Now you have to understand the circumstances; downtown Nairobi is predominantly African. Like easily, 95% of the faces are of African descent.
And in Kenya we don’t give flowers to strangers.
The man was unfazed by my polite decline. As I skirted around him, he changed from offering flowers to demanding I accept them.
By then, folks were looking at “us” like we were an item, having a quarrel.
Mercifully, it became apparent his offering was not going to be accepted/his berating wasn’t evoking a change of heart and he dropped them at my feet and stormed off.
The Violent Man
A few days after, I was crossing another pedestrian crosswalk when I felt something land on my behind. I thought someone or something had fallen against me and I whirled around.
And almost bumped into a man. The something turned out to be his hand. At this point I was more livid than shocked. Hopping mad that a stranger would, in public, touch/whack my behind.
I expected he would slink away, shamed by my angry rebuke, but instead of walking he stepped forward and lifted his hand again, aiming to strike somewhere else, probably my face.
I looked into his eyes and saw a haze; he was high on something. I literally skipped across the road and the last look I remember on his face was that of satisfaction.
The reason I am sharing these three stories is not to ridicule my city. (Nairobi is a gorgeous city, filled with kind, loving people..these were just odd happenings.)
I share this because the instances, so close together, rocked my world.
I became extra cautious. I stopped being polite – no small talk, no looking people in the eye. No enjoyable walks in the city. My expectations were shattered. And I was mad and sad.
Again, these experiences (and other past assaults) are nothing, compared to what other women have gone through. But they do paint, albeit broadly, what many will come across in their lifetime.
Overly-friendly men who push the limits but eventually back off. Unstable men who blindside you. Violent men who force themselves and dare you to do anything about it.
And the people watch it all unfold and do nothing.
You feel powerless, blindsided. Hurt, disappointed and enraged.
And now you are reading other #MeToo stories, and the conversations are tearing your heart out again. Or making you lose hope in one section of humanity.
I want to share four things that came to mind when I thought about sexual harassment and assault.
1. Sometimes people do nothing about sexual harassment because they don’t know what to do.
In two of the instances above, people saw me being harassed and did nothing.
I think the reason they held back was because it all happened so fast. But perhaps a bigger reason is because they didn’t want to interfere.
Getting involved in someone else’ business can be costly. Most people are too busy living their own lives, and they feel like they can’t afford another stack on their plate, especially when it’s a stranger.
But then we have people in our lives who don’t mind the extra stack.
I told my husband what happened (he was back Stateside) and he was livid. My sister and mom were shocked. They couldn’t do anything at that point but their sympathy helped me feel like I wasn’t crazy after all.
I read of a story where a stranger assaulted a young woman on her way home. Her family pursued the case until the guy was caught and taken to court.
The whole world might not do something, but there’s one or two people who might. And that’s the reality of life; we live in small communities, (or we should), not in big open social groups.
2. Sometimes it’s easier to stay hurt.
The instinctive reaction when a wrong has been done to us is to camp; we feel hurt and hopeless. We obsess, wonder what we could have done differently.
This place of devastation feels so dark we can’t think of any other place that can be more laborious. But there is. Healing can be harder.
The road to freedom, of putting on the mind of Christ, while very possible, is difficult because you have to be contrary to what you feel and take on an un-natural mindset.
Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT
Un-natural is forgiving when you want revenge. Reclaiming joy when you would rather pull the covers over your head and not face the day.
Filing a police report when all you want to do is forget it ever happened. Confronting someone who might never say “I am sorry” and telling them what they did wrong.
When we expect easier, we might stay stuck. But when we embrace the difficulty of healing, we find freedom.
3. Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation.
As we think about moving past the sexual harassment or assault, we have to consider what forgiveness means and does not mean;
- It doesn’t mean your have to be friends with a person who hurt you.
- It doesn’t minimize what they did to you.
- It doesn’t mean you don’t pursue justice.
- It doesn’t mean complete understanding of the experience.
- It doesn’t mean amnesia. You will remember. But more than remembering the event, you will remember that you forgave when the pain surges again.
- Forgiveness is simply lightening of your load, saying “this thing is not greater than God.”
4. You don’t have to be a victim forever.
I thought about the other reason I didn’t want to join the conversation and realized it’s because I don’t want to look or sound like a victim.
And many women have shared the sentiment, that once you’ve dealt with something, you really just want to move on.
But they understand the collective power in saying “this is wrong” and so they join the conversation.
Out of the large group of women with #MeToo stories, there are those who are still in process. For the most part they are healed. But they’ve been talking about it, and the teasing and stretching has been bursting old wounds.
And so today, I just want to encourage the woman who has started to heal but is currently picking at her scabs.
While it’s okay to process it out, a time comes when you have to value the future more than the past. Not that you can’t ever talk about it or help others who are journeying through it, but you have to understand your own personal limits.
You must respect your tipping point.
Can you share without tearing at all men? Is your conversation still filled with more rage and despair, than threads of hope and sprinkles of light?
Perhaps then, your #MeToo story is not meant for public forums yet.
It’s not wrong to hurt, to ask questions, to be raw and real. But there are better spaces to process our anguish.
Because scab-picking will tip you back to the wound of yesterday. It will break open that which you are hoping to heal.
If you can share your story and still have a bit of Jesus in you, then by all means raise your voice. But even then, do remember not to pick up what you gave to Jesus.
I read this post by Chris over at Forgiven Wife and I think you will appreciate her perspective. Why #MeToo matters
Other posts in the Sex and Intimacy series