Social Media the last several days has been filled with posts with the hashtags #MeToo and/or #IBelieveYou in part to recognize October as Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Awareness month. I was not surprised to see some of the people I know courageously share the fact that they were survivors of sexual assault. However, I am stunned by the sheer number of women and some men who carry the burden of these physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds, and the trauma that results from being sexually assaulted. As a minister, it is even more painful to recognize that many of the survivors are victims of clergy. It makes me ashamed and sickens me to think that those entrusted as messengers of the “good news” may have forever ruined a person’s ability to trust a spiritual leader and perhaps even to trust that there is a God who cares about them.
According to a report from Democracy Now, “…the “Me Too” movement, started about a decade ago by the activist Tarana Burke. She says she began “Me Too” as a grassroots movement to aid sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities, where rape crisis centers and sexual assault workers weren’t going. Burke said “Me Too” was about reaching the places that other people wouldn’t go, bringing messages and words and encouragement to survivors of sexual violence where other people wouldn’t be talking about it.”
To those who have chosen to bring light to this critical social issue by bravely naming themselves as a Me Too survivor, I Believe You. Thank you for your courage and your willingness to be vulnerable and transparent. I hope that bringing this part of your life story to light will be an important part of your healing journey and that others will feel empowered by your truth and find strength in solidarity.
To those survivors who have not chosen to publicly share their truth, I honor your choice and decision as well. Everyone’s path is unique and deeply personal. While what you have endured was completely out of your control, what you choose to do moving forward, and how you choose to live out your truth should absolutely be your choice and in your control. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I pray that you do have trusted family members and friends with whom you are able to tell your story and to feel heard, respected, and compassionately supported.
To those who reach out in support and compassion to survivors, whether in person or through a Facebook post, never doubt the importance of your willingness to be non-judgmental and fully present to a survivor. Your witness and choice to accompany others as they navigate their path to wholeness is critical.
As we gather tonight in the chapel for the annual Candlelight Vigil for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Awareness, I will be praying for an end to the tragedy of these crimes that affect far too many in our community. May all of us commit ourselves to working towards the eradication of this social sin, not only through our prayers, but through our actions of solidarity, education, prevention, and advocacy.