DISCLAIMER: Triggers for mentions of sex and sexual violence and abuse. No disparaging comments, please! Thanks.
By now, you probably have heard of the #metoo movement, where women are taking aim at a societal culture that has devalued and often treated them as little more than sexual entities. It is a movement where some women–and probably men too– are sharing their stories about being sexually abused or harassed by people who devalued and/or wanted to use them as little more than sexual playthings. I join and support these brave men and women who are coming forward with their painful and difficult stories in order to make sure this does not happen to anyone else ever again, and to change this culture to one that values all people as divine image-bearers and the preciousness that they are.
I think one of the main reasons why there are so many people doing sexually abusive and demeaning things to others, is because people have long bought into some or all of these following myths about sexuality:
- Myth: You need to have a significant other to be truly happy and fulfilled in life. -Many single people believe or have believed (note to self: guilty as charged) the lie that if they just had a girlfriend or boyfriend, and eventually get married, life would be bliss and they would have no loneliness issues anymore. Married people or people in relationships may also buy into a form of this lie by trying to change their partner into their idealized image of who they think they should be. Truth: You can just be as happy or happier single. I have been single for a VERY long time, and I have never been happier! Though a lot has changed, many parents still think if their children remain single, they will not be happy or fulfilled (what I dub, the “spinster theory”). I am living proof that this does not have to be the case! I am not saying that people in relationships are never happy. However, it is not because of the relationship alone that makes someone happy or unhappy.
- Myth: I need sex or a relationship to feel valued and/or powerful in life. Truth: Sex does not inherently make one feel “valued” or “powerful.” Think of how many women in the sex trafficking industry are treated–as less than animals! Maybe the people that hurt them feel more powerful, but not the day when they are held accountable for their evil actions they have perpetrated against these women! What really can help one feel more valued and powerful is what Jesus said in Matthew 20:27 (KJV)-“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” That is, whoever wants to feel more great and powerful, let him or her serve others. Doing good things for others not only makes you feel good, but you also value people by helping others. However, it must be done with a sincere heart and a good attitude.
- Myth: Children should hug their relatives to show respect for them. Another version of this myth is: “People should hug me/each other to show respect for me/them.” Truth: Children (and even adults) should not be required to hug or touch anyone! Some children don’t hug because they feel squeamish about hugging, and some children even have had some unspoken trauma over the person they are “supposed to” hug. Their bodies should be respected and valued by not requiring this of them. Also, there are other ways for people to show their appreciation and respect besides touch. For instance, we can use our words to uplift and encourage someone, and there are only a few, if any, that would object that to that! Also, we should teach children and others to thank people who do something good for them, and say “Please” if they want something, instead of just demanding that person give it to them.
- Myth: “I need sex to get ahead in life or be successful. “Truth: No, you don’t. What one needs to get ahead in life is integrity, hard work, and compassion. And even if you are not successful, remember your worth is not dependent on what you do!
Here are some ways we should support women and others who have been sexually harassed and/or abused
- Know it’s not just women who have been abused–A lot of men have been abused too. Think of the boys that have been abused by priests or their athletic coaches.
- Accept others’ “No” without complaining or arguing.–For instance, if someone doesn’t want to be touched, don’t try to argue with them about that in an attempt to force them to “want” to be touched. Just accept that they don’t like touch. It’s probably not because you did something bad to them, but just a boundary they have for some people, or even everyone.
- If someone is attacking someone else sexually, stop the attacker if possible.– If your life is in danger or if the attacker has a weapon, this may not be such a good idea. In all other cases, however, you can stop the attack by yelling very loudly, “STOP! STOP” and trying to get the perpetrator off the victim, or by saying nothing but running to get help for the victim as soon as possible. A life could be saved!
- Let the abuse survivor know it’s not their fault, and that whatever they feel is valid.–Do not try to get the survivor to forgive their perpetrator. Yes, there is a time and place for forgiveness, but true forgiveness cannot be forced! What the survivor needs right now is validation and the feeling that they are not “damaged goods” and that they are a valued part of society. Affirm and validate them.
- Don’t listen to or watch things that glorify the devaluation of people.–Music or movies that glorify using women as sexual objects should not be part of your media diet if you really want to support the #metoo movement. Similarly, watching pornographic movies or tv shows doesn’t get you in the right frame of mind to be able to look at others with dignity and value. Resolve today to only feed your mind with media that values others.
- Support or pray for (if religious) organizations like International Justice Mission or A21, who help sexual abuse survivors reclaim their lives.–These, and many other organizations, help men and women who have survived abuse or sex trafficking reclaim their lives. Other organizations like RAINN help survivors as well.
- Teach the next generation proper boundaries and consent.–If you are a parent, teach your child or children proper boundaries and consent. Telling your child, “Keep your hands to yourself” when they touch someone without their permission, for instance, is a good way to start to teach them appropriate boundaries and consent. Also, telling them that if someone touches them inappropriately, they have a right to say something and stand up for themselves, is another good way to teach boundaries and consent and show you value their body and soul.
With many men and women bravely coming forward about their times of pain and heartache at the hands of people that devalued and demeaned them, hopefully the abuse will stop and the perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions. However, we as a society must stop perpetuating a culture where people–men and women alike– are being devalued, and instead we must all strive to create a society where each person is treated as the valued, priceless treasure they are.