Several weeks ago the phrase “#Me Too” went viral in the wake of sexual harassment accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. “#Me Too” was borrowed from (and properly credited to) a 2006 MySpace campaign by Tarana Burke. Tarana wanted to encourage women of color who had been sexually abused, particularly in impoverished circumstances.
While the rebirth of this phrase focuses on female victims we should add male victims, particularly children, to the sad trend of sexual abuse in our culture. “#Me Too” strikes a nerve in every community and in people of every persuasion. Followers of Jesus should not only care about this disturbing reality, but they should support and participate in efforts to address the problem.
If I may depart slightly from this important issue for a moment, I want to focus on why “#Me Too” is the perfect banner for this cause. In 1960 C.S. Lewis published a book titled “Four Loves”, which studied the subject of love through the lens of a Christian and a philosopher. In it he wrote, “The typical expression of opening friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’”
Perhaps this is why community is so important. When we share our lives with others and reveal our deepest secrets, we realize the fear of exposing our past is a means by which Satan exploits our pain for his purposes. Once we compare notes with others a pattern emerges and the process of healing begins.
Jesus knew something about the healing power of “You Too?” confessions. I use the word “confessions” loosely, knowing that sometimes the things we keep hidden are not our fault. Why, then, do we choose to walk alone? The answer to this question is not hard to discern, but more difficult to admit.
We are embarrassed. When people sexually abuse us we naturally wonder if there was something we could have or should have done to avoid the situation. Sexual abuse has the additional component of highlighting the most private realm of our human existence. Sexual intimacy is a gift from God, but in the case of abuse it can produce misplaced shame.
We are afraid. Sexual abuse often takes place in environments with people who have power over us. A supervisor can influence the trajectory of our career and an accusation that cannot be proven can cost us our job and our future. Without proof, we can be victimized a second time by those who accuse us of lying. Since most sexual abuse takes place without witnesses, we believe our only choice is to suffer in silence.
We are wounded. Victims of childhood abuse often have distorted views of sexual intimacy. If this is our case, we may not understand sexual boundaries because we grew up experiencing the most horrible breach of trust imaginable. Until we are exposed to healthy relationships we may think additional abuse we receive is a part of life or something we deserve because we are “bad” people.
I cannot tell you who to trust or when to say “You Too?” But I am convinced we cannot fully heal from past hurts without community. This is why James wrote, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) Don’t be thrown off by the word “sins” here. I think James is talking about anything that requires healing. It might also be worth noting that one of the most powerful moments in a victim’s life takes place when her or his abuser admits wrongdoing. But whether or not this takes place, when we find believers who are willing to help us process our silent suffering we can finally begin to put down our burdens.
It is good those who have experienced sexual abuse are finding courage in community. Community, and particularly a community of faith, disarms Satan and exposes his lies.
Unfortunately, I still carry around more than my share of personal pain. Why?
Because I am embarrassed.
Because I am afraid.
Because I was under the impression that is the way things are supposed to be.
Now we’re getting somewhere.