Secrets No More: When Sexual Harassment & Assault Happen & How We Can Help

I never told my folks about the hand-shaped bruise he left on my forearm the year I turned seventeen. His anger caught me off guard and his iron grip kept me exactly where he intended. When his unwanted words & gestures ended, I was grateful to be in the backroom at work & not in a parked car or empty hotel room but still, it took only moments for him to take advantage and leave his mark.

Fingertips purple wrapping their way around me as if to claim the skin they lay upon. Whispered demands I refused to meet scattered across the concrete floor.

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Later, he was sorry for it, but I could no longer recognize my childhood friend as he stood before me, only a teenager, yet fully grown into a man that wielded a physical power over me I wanted no part of. I accepted his apology. What else could I do? Tell someone? Create more salon talk in a small town? Embarrass both our families? What was done could not be undone. Trust was broken even if my bone was not. Never again could I blindly afford to trust. And I kept that secret, like so many others, tucked behind the door of my heart. I whispered it to no one & suspicion became my constant companion.

Twenty plus years later I can admit that wasn't the only time unwanted things were shoved my way. Sadly, as a woman, it is commonplace. Lewd jokes, crude gestures, unwelcome touches, and unnecessary references to out bodies are simply part of our lives. More often than not, they come from people we know; people we should be able to trust. And this sick kind of disregard to the holiness of women does not discriminate. It doesn't matter what age, what race or nationality, what physical characteristics you possess, or what social status you have; someone, somewhere will seek to take advantage of you.

No one is immune to the darkness of human nature.

So what can we do when faced with this kind of prevalent, soul stealing work that threatens our friends, our children, and ourselves? Well, for starters, how about we call that sin out for exactly what it is?

A perversion of God's creation.

God created us in his image and gave us bodies in which the Holy Spirit, a gift from God himself, can reside. To take these gifts and strip away a person's ability to control what their body is subjected to is to defile the work of God and in doing so one defiles God himself.

We owe it to ourselves and the people in our lives to stop being silent about the everyday offenses that are happening to us. I would never want one of my children to experience what I did, but as a teenage kid I was not equipped to articulate what occurred. I was ashamed, and certainly didn't want to talk about it. If we want the people we love to be safe then we have to talk about how these things happen BEFORE they happen. They need to know how to respond before the need ever arises. They need to know that with us they have a safe place to fall and that their experiences will not be ignored or marginalized.

We need to stop glorifying a culture that treats bodies as if they are common and disposable. The root of this problem stems from people viewing others as mere objects for their personal pleasure. They are intent on missing the magic of God's glory stored within these human hearts and souls. We are fearfully & wonderfully made but if we want the next generation to live like we are then we will have to raise them upThis means being actively involved with our kids about their views & treatment of the opposite sex. This means we will have to talk about SEX. As in, OUT LOUD, without fear of shame. We have got to be able to explain to them why certain movies, shows, and music are destructive. We need to ban "locker room talk" and explain why it's wrong. We need to be holding our people to a higher standard than the earth sets. If we are followers of Christ then we must take hold of the heavenly standard. We must be prepared for some super uncomfortable conversations that we never expected to have, but here's a thought. I'd rather be having that uncomfortable conversations with my sons now then have a whole different set later with a girl's parents and a judge after he's crossed a line he cannot uncross.

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Finally, we need to be bold enough to give voice to those who have been wronged & support them as they seek justice. For too long we have viewed the traumatized with suspicion or worse we've been active participants in their defamation. "What was she wearing? What did she say? Why didn't she tell someone? Surely, she misunderstood his intent?" The list of the ways in which we drag the character of victims through the sexualized mud of the world is unprecedented. We have to start asking why the aggressor felt their behavior was appropriate? We have to begin to unravel the male dominance of our society that prevents victims from freely seeking help. And we must stand with them, regardless of our differing beliefs, as they try to put the pieces of their lives back together again.

When I look back on who I was all those years ago I can see that the secret I kept actually kept me. It kept me from trusting. It kept me from loving. It kept me captive to the idea that my body was not my own. It distorted my views on friendship & family. It robbed me of my ability to trust myself. The chains of dominance that were wrapped around my arm that day took years to cut away. And because girls like my daughters deserve better I'm not keeping this secret anymore and I'm encouraging you not to keep yours either.

It's never just a word.

It's never just a touch.

When it's unwanted it's a violation. 

When the World is Scary

I have been silent for many weeks, watching the events of the world from my tunneled-out Hobbit hole with fear.  While some have been busy stealing the breath that the Master has placed within us, I have experienced the exact opposite.

My small world is filling with growth and joy.

These are hard things to reconcile and I long to sew a curtain that blocks my view to the outside world. I long to pretend that everyone has a life with healthy toddlers’, moody teens, and excited boys losing their first teeth.

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But they do not.

Violence is ripping across the globe and it leaves precious few untouched.

Each day we hear more news of war, chaos, suffering, and death. The powers that be are never content to hold fast to their corner of the world and instead are fervent in their quest to dominate their neighbor. They intimidate one another with loud speeches and quiet one another with sarin bombs or suicide plots.

This isn’t new.

Warfare is anything but new.

Cain and Abel taught us first what it means to want what isn’t yours. They taught us best what happens when unbridled anger gives way to hatred and hatred gives way to death.

I imagine all of it suits Satan just fine. His plans of devastation and destruction unfold best when neighbors take up arms against one another instead of sitting down to talk.

All of it gets to be more than our hearts can bear. Some days it is all I can do to mutter the name of God, to invoke his presence in a world we have desecrated, to sit on my heels, forehead pressed to the floor, and ask him once again to make his presence known.

How can anyone stop the avalanche of fury that is moving among such angry people? One wants abortion, one wants life, one wants oil, one wants clean water, one wants this country, and another wants this religion and no one, no one wants to listen.

Everyone is content in their own heart to beat their chest and scream at one another, “My right trumps your right.” Sometimes this screaming makes no human noise at all when it takes the shape of bullets, bombs, and machetes.

No one seems to remember who God is or what God can do.

If they believe in God at all.

But the Psalmist sings a different song to us:

“He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

he burns the shields with fire.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:9,10) NIV

 

The one who made the hand that throws the spear will be the one who breaks it. He will be the one who takes that hand and holds it too as he renders both compassion and judgement. At his appointed time, he will return and there will be no earthly kings fighting for power, honor, or land. There will be no more rebels, or regimes, or refugee camps. There will be no more children covered in ash being whisked away by brave hearts covered in mortal skin.

Photographer Abd Alkader Habak rescuing a child in Aleppo after a suicide bomber lured dozens of children with food while they waited for transport buses to safer Syrian areas.

Photographer Abd Alkader Habak rescuing a child in Aleppo after a suicide bomber lured dozens of children with food while they waited for transport buses to safer Syrian areas.

There will be a reckoning the likes of which this world has never seen. And every person from every country will lift his name up in honor as the one true King sets all things right.

But here, now, while the wars rage and the refugee camps rise. While our newsfeed informs us about children starving, Rohingyan genocide, and racial profiling, we bear a responsibility.

We bear a greater responsibility than our human minds can comprehend.

For believers in Christ it becomes a Holy responsibility, a mantle of sacredness sewn to our hearts,

“...Love your neighbor as yourself.”  

These five words carry with them the belief that we will surrender our ideas of who we believe people to be, and instead choose each day to see them as Jesus sees us.

Beloved.

Chosen.

Forgiven.

It means we willingly leave our comfortable zip code protected homes and enter a world that desperately needs the light of hope we carry within us. It means exposing our on-loan hearts so that the glory of the Father outshines any darkness this world can create. It is knowingly choosing to bear our neighbor’s struggles, hearing their voices, and feeling their pain without counting our cost.

This is what it means to love like the Father.

And this is what we were made for.

Not hobbit holes or safe dark rooms where nothing scary creeps. We were made to be the physical embodiment of the Father’s love in the present.

Let me encourage you, dear friends, do not descend into yourself. This is not a safe place to dwell. This is where you will forget that you were made in the image of the Father. You will forget who you really are and what you were really created to do. Instead, take a moment each morning before the day catches you, to “be still and know that he is God.” Then, having centered yourself within the Creator, turn your face directly into the fray and enter in. Never stop being the person who cares about a world full of hurting people. Just keep showing up to love them like Jesus until he shows up in person.

Power Over Addiction

"As Christians, we often want to believe that those with addictions have the power to stop whenever they want, as if there’s a light switch you turn on or off to quit craving your drug of choice. We want to believe that they have complete power over their sin.

No one has that."

Seth Haines celebrated National Recovery Month by opening up his writing space and allowing me to talk about what it feels like to be the person legally pushing drugs and how it affects my beliefs about the patients I care for each day. Click on the photo below to keep reading.

CONFESSIONS OF A DRUG DEALER (A RECOVERY ROOM POST)

Seth Haines is the author of Coming Clean. You can find more of his work and become a supporting patron here.