To be honest, I’ve heard the stories all my life. The story of an uninvited, unwanted, terrifying touch that wouldn’t stop. The immobilizing fear, the pain and the way it broke her– a child, a teen, a woman, into pieces. I heard it in my middle school years, my high school years, my Bible college and college years. And ever since. I’ve heard women’s stories of sexual assault, sexual harassment and their survival in every place I’ve ever lived. I’ve heard from women of every ethnicity, of every age and stage- students, mothers, grandmothers. Poor, financially comfortable or wealthy. It happened to them anywhere and everywhere, including in the church.
Sometimes I’m the first person they’ve ever told. And it’s years, decades even, after it happened. Trauma does not have a statute of limitations. I’ve held their hand as they’ve wept, sobbed or screamed, as their bodies shook and they’ve tried to not vomit, or when they’ve struggled to breathe. I’ve held their hand as they sat icy still, staring into the distance. I’ve watched them struggle to believe me when I say over and over again “What happened to you was wrong. It was not your fault”
I know I’ll hear more stories. That’s not a prophetic word; it’s a statistical reality.
These women are made in the image of God. Created with talent and beauty and strength and capacity. With potential and purpose. It’s obvious to say but somehow in this cultural moment bears repeating- They were not designed for this.
Yet many carry the stories of innocence stolen, hope and potential crushed, bodies destroyed. They carry it in their gait and hunched shoulders, the inability to look someone in the eyes. They carry it in their (often disapproved of) anger, they carry it in their relationships and it seeps into their legacy. They carry their stories in their voice, or their lack of one.
It’s been a particularly hard triggering week for many .
I believe there is hope and healing for survivors, I believe in a God who restores broken places and redeems our whole lives. Who liberated us and gives us a new story. I believe in a Savior, Healer, Redeemer.
Still, as we comprehend this cultural moment, this cultural earthquake we’re in concerning women:
Will we listen to the voices calling out from under the rubble?
Can we see, really see the women who survived and are emerging from the wreckage? How will we love them, heal them, serve them?
And will we ever clear the debris, unearth the rotten foundations of misogyny and power abuse that have been normalized in our institutions and across culture – and build a new landscape?